Institute’s top brass are shuffled around

Provost returns to faculty, chancellor tapped for capital campaign

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Dennis Freeman PhD ’86, DUE.
Courtesy of MIT News OFFICE
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Chris A. Kaiser PhD ’87, former provost.
Courtesy of MIT News Office
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Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80.
Elijah Mena

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: In a previous version of this article, the interim Director of Libraries' name was misspelled. His name is Steven Gass, not Steven Glass. Also, John Charles became VP of IS&T on Jan. 1, not Dec. 10.

MIT’s senior leadership saw sweeping changes in 2013. Dennis Freeman PhD ’86 became the new dean of undergraduate education (DUE), Chris A. Kaiser PhD ’87 stepped down as provost, and Eric Grimson PhD ’80 announced his plans to leave Chancellorship in order to head a capital fundraising campaign. In total, nine of the twenty-six total positions in the senior administration changed or will change.

New DUE: Freeman

On July 1, 2013, Freeman, former Professor of Electrical Engineering and Course 6 undergraduate officer, replaced Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80 as the dean of undergraduate education.

A search committee chaired by Graham C. Walker, formed after Hastings’ Jan. 8 announcement to step down, recommended three to five candidates as the next DUE to Chancellor Grimson, who made the final selection.

Freeman, who previously held the role of the Course 6 undergraduate officer and chaired the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, sees two clear priorities for the DUE position: continuing student and faculty dialogue, and improving residential education.

Freeman recognizes the importance of student involvement in driving faculty decisions. He cites his experiences with the “SuperUROP” program, which he helped launch in Fall 2012. Originally, “People would come out of [the program] having written a paper. That appealed to us, because that’s what we did,” Freeman said. However, after meeting with a student advisory group, it was clear students thought differently.

“The students were much more interested in things that would be good to show on their resume, make them more attractive to Google or whoever they were trying to be hired by,” said Freeman. “So we adjusted the goal. [Super UROP] became more project-based.”

Freeman also wants to ensure that developments with MITx have positive benefits for residential education. Harkening back to his experiences from teaching 6.01, a class which “used MITx-like technology,” Freeman views the interactive component of the MIT education as a key ingredient to improving the residential experience.

Freeman works with the Task Force on the Future of MIT Education to evaluate MIT’s educational model, which released a preliminary report in late November 2013 that included proposals of building more collaborative “maker” spaces and implementing a more flexible curriculum.

Kaiser steps down as provost; Schmidt acting provost

Another important change in the senior administration was the position of provost. Kaiser stepped down as provost to return to teaching and research at the end of October. Kaiser became provost in July 2012 after then-provost Reif became president. The provost is primarily responsible for all of the Institute’s education programs, according to the MIT News Office.

While serving as provost, Kaiser led the development of “working consensus on MIT’s plans” with the Kendall Square zoning petition and was deeply involved in edX.

In order to address faculty concerns about the Kendall area development, Kaiser set up a task force. However, “there was never a full and open discussion of the whole faculty,” said Biology Professor Jonathan A. King, chair of the Faculty Newsletter editorial board, who has been critical of the lack of outreach to faculty. “I certainly hope the next provost recognizes that the faculty are stakeholders in the actual future of the campus, and that radical actions like placing large office buildings in the heart of east campus would be much more broadly and seriously discussed than they have been to date.”

On the edX front, Kaiser worked with Chancellor Grimson to create the positions, director and the associate director of digital learning, which are now filled by Sanjay Sarma and Isaac Chuang respectively. While Kaiser noted, in his letter to the faculty, that he was a “cheerleader” for edX and online learning developments at MIT, he recognized that “administrating and cheerleading are not the same as doing.”

“[Kaiser’s] whole history is basically as a research scientist with hardly any history of participation in socially controversial or economically complex issues. I suspect that he may have been uncomfortable on this provost hot seat,” said King, referring to Kaiser on Kendall and edX.

Nevertheless, Reif thanked Kaiser to his help. “Since taking on the role of provost, Chris has served by my side through a challenging period for MIT, and I am grateful for his steadying presence and sound advice,” wrote Reif in a letter to the MIT community.

Kaiser will return to teaching and research after stepping down. While teaching assignments are made by the department, Kaiser has a few ideas on his mind. “I’d like to do something with online learning, and reactivating my lab is a big deal for me. It’s my first passion — the reason I headed down this path of becoming a professor at a research university is because I love research,” he said.

On Oct. 22, President Reif announced in an email to the MIT community that associate provost Martin Schmidt PhD ’88 would serve as acting provost until a permanent replacement can be found. His term began on November 1.

Grimson to leave Chancellorship to lead capital campaign

Along with the appointment of Schmidt to acting provost, Reif also announced that Eric L. Grimson PhD ’80 would be leaving his role as Chancellor to take on the ad hoc role of Chancellor for Academic Advancement.

Grimson’s new job will be to “[make] the case for MIT’s fundraising priorities with alumni and donors around the world,” Reif outlined in a letter to the MIT community. The role of leading MIT’s capital campaign requires extensive travel, which make fulfilling the responsibilities of Chancellor on campus difficult. The last MIT capital campaign rose over $2 billion in 2005. When Susan J. Hockfield was president from 2004 until 2012, almost $3 billion was raised, though no official capital campaign was conducted.

As Chancellor, Grimson was already involved in fundraising from MIT alumni. “That experience is just going to naturally flow into the new position,” he told The Tech in an interview. “I’ve had the chance to meet alumni around the world, and that gives me a base on which to build as I think of how MIT’s message gets out to our potential donors. We need to persuade them that supporting MIT is one of the best things we can do, not just for this generation of students, but for students and faculty to come.”

During his tenure as Chancellor, beginning in 2011, Grimson led campaigns such as “MIT Together,” which promoted the wellbeing of the community, and helped pioneer MOOCs, teaching 6.00x on edX alongside Professor John Guttag.

Other senior leadership changes

The changes to the senior leadership do not end with Freeman, Kaiser, and Grimson.

Reif appointed Edmund Bertschinger, former Physics department head, to the newly created post of Institute Community and Equity Officer (ICEO) on July 1. According to the MIT News Office, “the new position will focus on matters of community, equity, inclusion and diversity on campus.” As ICEO, his role is to “lead MIT to make practical progress … toward cultivating a caring community focused on MIT’s shared values,” according the Institute’s organization chart. He currently oversees the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor Program.

Also in 2013, Vice President for Human Resources Alison Alden and Vice President for Resource Development Jeffrey Newton announced their intentions to retire. Alden, who began working at the Institute since 2007, was responsible for launching an initiative to inform employees of their benefits and for implementing a more cost-effective pension plan for new hires. She will retire in Spring 2014.

Similarly, in September, Newton announced his intention to retire and continued in an advisory role until January 2014. As VP for Resource Development, Newton secured funding for a number of construction projects, including the Media Lab’s E14, the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the Sloan School of Management E62, and the David H. Koch Childcare Center.

Other new appointments in the past year include Steven Gass as the interim Director of Libraries, John Charles as Vice President for IS&T, and Michael Sipser as interim Dean of the School of Science. Gass replaces Ann Wolpert, who passed away in October at the age of 70. On Dec. 16, Sipser succeeded Marc Kastner, the Donner Professor of Physics, who was nominated by Obama earlier in 2013 to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. On Jan. 1, Charles replaced Marilyn T. Smith, who resigned in January last year.