2011’s new Institute leaders
Grimson takes the helm of ‘all things students’
The past year saw change and advancement for many holding leadership positions at MIT. A series of promotions, appointments, and step-downs shuffled faculty and staff, resulting in a new chancellor, dean of engineering, director of the Media Lab, and several academic department heads.
The biggest changes in leadership began with the appointment of Eric Grimson PhD ’80 as the new chancellor. Grimson, former head of the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, replaced Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, who stepped down after 10 years in the position and became a senior advisor to President Susan J. Hockfield.
Grimson has been at MIT for 35 years — teaching Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (6.001) for 25 of them — and overall taught about 10,000 undergraduates and advised nearly 50 PhDs. Grimson describes his job as chancellor simply: “all things students.”
Ian A. Waitz was named the dean of the School of Engineering, succeeding Subra Suresh ScD ’81, who left MIT to direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) in September 2010. A committee composed of professors from every engineering department selected Waitz, who previously served as head of the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Waitz won the Innovation in Education Award in 2002 and is an MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellow.
Three departments appointed new heads. The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics top spot, vacated by Waitz, appointed Jamie Peraire, a member of the MIT faculty since 1993 who created a new integrated curriculum on computation engineering.
Grimson’s appointment as chancellor left a vacancy at the helm of the EECS department — the Institute’s largest department — which enrolls 30 percent of undergraduates. This position was filled by Anantha Chandrakasan, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. Chandrakasan still heads his research group and acts as an advisor, but says he also wants to get to know his students better. He can often be found at the Z-center gym in the mornings or on Facebook, according to a Campus Life interview with The Tech. His advice for students? “Really be passionate about something,” he said.
In December, Robert van der Hilst replaced Maria Zuber as the head of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (Zubar stepped down to lead a lunar project). According to the News Office, Van der Hilst says that the best part of the job will be to “work with fantastic faculty, research staff, and students.” Van der Hilst assumed his position on Jan. 1.
Rounding out the academic departments, Chris Schuh, also a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, became the new head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
In April, Joichi Ito was named director of the Media Lab, which had just undergone a major expansion. Ito, who never completed a college degree, sits on the board of the Mozilla Foundation and is an active internet freedom advocate and technology entrepreneur; he was an early investor in web startups, including Twitter and Flickr.
Ito told the MIT News Office that the Media Lab innovates by “abandoning traditional disciplinary divisions,” and that they “[come] up with the type of hybrid innovations that address the complexity and speed of global challenges.”
Israel Ruiz SM ’01 was appointed as MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer (EVPT) by the MIT Corporation, succeeding Theresa M. Stone, in October. As EVPT, Ruiz is in charge of many of the Institute’s administrative functions and resources, from Facilities to IS&T, and also acts as MIT’s chief financial officer. His main goals are “advancing administrative excellence” and “advancing knowledge and educating students in … areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world,” he told The Tech last year.