Siegel: MIT students have become more outspoken

Siegel: MIT students have become more outspoken

Alan Siegel, chief of Mental Health and Counseling since 2002, is retiring at the end of this year. His tenure is marked by an increased focus on serving undergraduates, with the percentage of students visiting mental health rising from 12 percent to 24 percent, according to Siegel. Today, students make up 90 percent of all visitors to MH&C — up from 20 percent in 2002.

“[A]lthough I love MIT and my work, and would want to stay on forever, I wanted to retire at a time that was good for the Institute, my [s]ervice and colleagues, and, of course, myself,” Siegel wrote in an email to The Tech. “So that’s how I decided on December 31, 2016.”

During his time at MIT, Siegel transformed a collection of independent clinicians into an interconnected system that is responsible for the entire community. “It’s shifted essentially from a group practice model to a community health model,” Siegel said in a separate interview with The Tech.

Siegel grew MIT’s community health system by hiring staff members who shared his vision and expanding mental health services into fraternities, sororities, and residence halls. While he acknowledged that his initial attempts to open offices in dorms were not well-received, he said that students have recently begun to want support closer to their living spaces.

Siegel said that he has seen “more of an outspokenness” in MIT students over his tenure, which he considered to be “very constructive.” Whether in matters of politics or mental health, he said this “greater sense of urgency” is better for students, allowing their voices to be heard.

Siegel’s decision to retire comes after a “succession planning” process that lasted four years. These plans are meant to ease the transition of people in important positions reaching retirement age. According to Siegel, this planning is typical for several offices, including MIT Medical, that report to Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz.

At 71, Siegel is still going strong. “I don’t feel like I’m finished,” he said. While he is unsure of how he may work with MIT in the future, he said that he “will continue [his] teaching and supervision of trainees on the faculty of [Harvard Medical School],” as well “maintain a small private practice in [his] outside office.”

Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis ’90 commended Siegel for working “diligently to destigmatize mental health care and improve mental health outreach throughout the MIT community.”

“Through his efforts,” Stuopis said, “service quality and access have improved.”—Drew Bent