Cynthia Breazeal named next dean for digital learning, effective Feb. 1

Rajagopal steps down from dean position to return to full time faculty role

Effective Feb. 1, Cynthia Breazeal PhD ’00, professor of media arts and sciences, will become dean for digital learning, according to a Jan. 26 email from Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma.

Breazeal is head of the Personal Robots group in the Media Lab and senior associate dean in MIT Open Learning.

Breazeal succeeds Professor Krishna Rajagopal who was dean for digital learning from 2017 to July 2021, when he began serving as acting vice president of open learning while Sarma was on sabbatical. Rajagopal will return to his role as physics department faculty full time.

While dean of digital learning, Rajagopal worked to expand MIT’s MicroMasters Program, launch the next-generation platform for MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), and led a consortium of 12 universities in “developing standards and technologies for verifiable digital credentials that allow learners to own their own credentials,” according to Sarma’s email.

Rajagopal also aided MIT’s Residential Education team during the beginnings of  the pandemic by helping transition to remote learning and launch the campus-wide adoption of the Canvas learning management system.

Rajagopal will continue to serve Open Learning by chairing the OCW Faculty Advisory Committee and the leadership council of the Digital Credentials Consortium.

As the next dean for digital learning, Breazeal will oversee various business units and research groups working to develop and deploy digital technologies for learning, such as MIT xPRO, Bootcamps, the Center for Advanced Virtuality, and MIT Integrated Learning Initiative. Additionally, Breazeal will work on corporate education efforts through online professional courses and content as well as lead research efforts for enhancing learning and teaching through the use of new technologies.

Breazeal told MIT News that she is excited “to grow and expand [the teams’] respective programs and to develop new, more integrated, potentially thematic solutions for corporations and professionals.”

Sarma wrote in his email that Breazeal “consistently displays an outstanding facility for leadership and collaboration” and that her work is “increasingly focused on inclusion and agency in the design, use, and education of digital technologies.’

Breazeal’s own research interests include artificial intelligence, social robotics, and human-computer interaction, resulting in achievements such as the Huggable teddy bear used for pediatric care and the Jibo robot and research platform.

Breazeal is also director of MIT Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (RAISE), a cross-MIT initiative on advancing AI education for K-12 and adult learners, which was launched last year.