MIT Reports to the President 1996-97



The past year represented the first full academic year within the revised organizational structure described in the last annual report. Despite substantial changes in roles and responsibilities, the transition proved to be remarkably smooth. Staffing remained stable in both the Graduate Education Office and the International Students Office.


The CGSP continued to operate under its usual structure, even though consideration of alternative arrangements ensued. By the end of the academic year, no decisions had been reached about how the CGSP might be restructured. Indeed, there remains considerable sentiment among members that no change is necessary. We anticipate that this discussion will be revisited in AY98.

An item of continuing interest to the CGSP is the ongoing academic experiment in distance learning, the Systems Design and Management Program (SDM), which was approved in the prior academic year. As agreed, program managers returned to CGSP for an update on its issues and challenges and for discussion about new activities. CGSP continued its approval for SDM's innovations and will seek additional periodic updates.

Consistent with its interest in distance learning, the CGSP also scheduled an extensive discussion with professor Richard Larson about ongoing activities at the Center for Advanced Educational Services (CAES). Academic implications, issues and opportunities were the topic of lively and engaged discussion, and it is clear that the Center is undertaking some aggressive and innovative steps to help define MIT's activities in the distance learning arena.

Among the new programs approved by the CGSP during the past year were a Masters of Engineering in Scientific and Engineering Computation, brought forward by the departments of aeronautics/astronautics and mechanical engineering; and Master's of Science Program in Logistics, sponsored by the Center for Transportation Studies.

In an unusual but most appropriate action, the CGSP approved the posthumous awarding of the M.S. in Health Sciences and Technology to Mr. Benjamin Hammond, an exemplary and gifted third-year student in the speech and hearing sciences program at Eaton-Peabody Laboratory whose sudden death foreshortened his graduate career. By the time of his passing, Mr. Hammond had completed all requirements for the S.M.


Under the leadership of deans Langdale and Tyler, recruitment and outreach activities were somewhat refocussed. In the past, our principal effort has been towards helping departments to identify and contact prospective applicants to convince them to consider MIT's graduate programs. While that effort will continue to be paramount, we saw saw possibilities to further improve how we track these potential candidates through a highly decentralized admissions process.

Because our financial resources for recruitment were modestly increased, we have been able to further expand recruitment efforts. The addition of several telelphone lines made possible a fully year-round outreach project, staffed by graduate student volunteers, that proved its effectiveness in the past year. Dean Langdale introduced a number of measures and techniques that have improved how we integrate student tracking with our daily recruitment operations, so that we can better determine how well we remain on track towards our self-defined enrollment goals. After a year of effort, we are convinced that we should investigate some of the database enrollment management programs available commercially and adapt one to our operation.

MIT Summer Research Program

The MSRP completed its twelfth summer with the largest group of interns ever. Thirty-two students from across the nation participated, and they produced some of the strongest research presentations that we have seen. By the end of the Summer Term 1997, the program will have graduated four doctorates at MIT alone. We are in the process of updating a 1991 survey of all interns, but preliminary data indicate that many other former interns are nearing completion of the doctorate at other institutions.

Continued funding for the program remains a priority, with two issues that guide our consideration. One issue is the prospect that minority centered programs of all sorts will come under greater, hostile scrutiny nationally in the wake of California's Proposition 209. It is unclear how our current foundation funders might react under such circumstances. Another issue is the growth in interest among MIT faculty for participation, which is heartening. There are many signs that the MSRP has become a part of the institutional fabric, in that more faculty proactively seek a summer intern, offer their own financial resources to support a student, and invite students back independently to their laboratories during the academic year. Furthermore, the schools of architecture and planning and of management have expressed interest in accepting interns. While these developments are exciting, our current funding is largely specific to students majoring in science areas. New, less restricted, sources of support will need to be found.


The past year was marked by significant modernization of the ISO's computing and office equipment infrastructure, the first major upgrade of these facilities in several years. In part these upgrades culminated the transition from the undergraduate dean's operations, and in part they were a conscious effort to reposition ISO technology base towards the future. Future improvements will include network installations, a faster file server and acquisition of new software for production of immigration forms.

These changes have been none too soon, given activities on the national immigration regulation scene. The ISO has watched with great concern as the work of the national commission on immigration reform has moved towards legislation. As we feared, the resulting legislative proposal promises to impose significant, new and greatly expanded requirements on MIT to track its international students. We have taken every opportunity, with our colleagues across the nation, to clarify our serious concerns about the added reporting burden and about the proposed requirement that each school collect and forward a mandatory processing fee. Assuming that the proposals will pass Congress intact, it is our hope to have a voice in shaping implementing regulations that might minimize the impact on this office's operations. However, givent he current national climate regarding immigration, it is uncertain that this impact will be reduced, and the ISO may be looking towards further staffing change to accommodate the new federal requirements.

On a more upbeat note, the year was also marked by formal approval for a staff-level position for Kate Baty, who has headed the Host to International Students program for many years. This action has effectively begun to recognize the value of the Host Program to MIT and its many international students, as well as the ongoing effort of Ms. Baty to serve these students and their families. A challenge for the future will be to secure sufficient operational funding for the program, and we are optimistic that this need will be addressed.

Isaac M. Colbert

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97