MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


During the past year, the Graduate Education Office continued its collaboration with Public Relations Services to develop a better understanding of its various constituencies, the services that are provided, those that are needed, and the ways in which we communicate with each group. Our ultimate objective has been to articulate a coherent strategy to shape our interactions and services in order to offer the most appropriate, coherent and complete suite of services.

We began the past academic year with a retreat that focused on analysis of the Graduate Education Office's mission and its translation into the current array of services and programs that we offer. By the end of the activity, a new mission statement was produced:

The mission of the Graduate Education Office is to enhance the educational and cultural experiences of MIT's graduate students. This mission is comprised of seven components. The GEO:

With this mission statement as the backdrop, a core team of staff from the GEO, in collaboration with volunteers from The MIT Libraries and the Graduate Student Council and led by associate dean Blanche Staton, identified twenty-six distinct customer segments, or audiences, and worked throughout the year to develop detailed analyses of how we interact with them. That work was substantially completed by the spring term 1999 and was presented to the committee on graduate school policy at its May meeting for review and comment. Our work was greeted enthusiastically by faculty on the committee, and a number of helpful suggestions were offered for its extension.

Our work for academic year 2000 will be to articulate some specific communication strategies for our primary audiences and to begin developing or/and revising publications and materials consistent with the needs identified within the constituent analyses. This will begin with a series of review and feedback sessions planned for the summer term with representatives from many of the identified audiences, allowing us to refine further our understanding of their characteristics and permitting us to validate our current understanding of their needs.

As we move into the Institute's anticipated strategic planning exercise this coming academic year, we have identified through the communications work a number of strategic operational priorities that will inform the Graduate Education Office's focus for that period.

We are very grateful for the ongoing close collaboration with Public Relations Services, and especially with the thoughtful and incisive contributions of Barrie Gleason, who urged the Graduate Education Office to undertake this project.


The most significant activity this past year was in the implementation of an agreement forged between MIT, the Fulbright Commission of Mexico, and CONACYT, that nation's largest funder of graduate support for students studying in the United States. The agreement with COMEXUS specifies a cost sharing formula that ensures adequate but not excessive funding support for Mexican nationals admitted to non-professional graduate degree programs at MIT. Simultaneously, the agreement helps the Mexican Fulbright Commission to identify first-rate candidates for our programs, assist them in their applications to MIT, and more effectively monitor the financial arrangements to ensure a far greater degree of equity than was possible before. Three Mexican students matriculated at MIT under terms of the agreement this past year, and all associated parties have been pleased with the manner in which the agreement has operated. Some minor adjustments will be effected next year, primarily to further improve the articulation of financial support from Mexican sources and from MIT.


The CGSP experienced a lively and busy year, largely focused on consideration of a variety of proposed new graduate degree offerings.

The department of chemical engineering proposed a new doctoral program in chemical engineering practice. The program would respond to professional development needs of practice school graduates who enter management ranks during their careers and who desire the business degree. The program is designed with three elements: a one-year suite of core graduate subjects within the department and the practice school, a fixed-duration doctoral research project, and one year of management school's MBA program. After spirited discussion of the unique aspects of this program, the CGSP agreed to send the proposal forward to the faculty policy committee for further consideration.

The school of engineering proposed to extend its educational programs in bioengineering and environmental health (comprising a doctoral program in toxicology and an undergraduate major in biomedical engineering) with a new doctoral program in bioengineering. The program would operate with the involvement of faculty from engineering, science, health sciences and technology and would have an industrial advisory board comprised of potential employers of the graduates. Its elements include a curriculum comprised of bioengineering core subjects and a doctoral thesis of traditional scope. The CGSP recommended the program to the faculty policy committee for further consideration.

The department of materials science and engineering brought forward a proposed new master's of engineering degree (MEng) program, adding to the growing popularity of this type of professional engineering degree. The program would a fixed length at 12-months, but otherwise consistent in its outline with other existing MEng. programs at MIT. The CGSP approved the proposal and forwarded it to the faculty policy committee for discussion.

It has been five years since the department of electrical engineering and computer science initiated its innovative master's of engineering program. As agreed at the time of its inception, the CGSP began its review of the impact and performance of the program. Based on a report prepared by Prof. del Alamo, the CGSP heard and debated various aspects of the program during its existence. The scope of the report and the complexity of the academic issues raised and reviewed by the department and CGSP required two meetings for discussion. No formal action was taken by CGSP, and the review was referred to the newly formed graduate strategy group and to the faculty policy committee for closer review. However, it was clear that the department's program would continue and that the presence of analogous programs would grow at MIT, if not necessarily at other engineering schools across the nation.

The CGSP reviewed the developing communications strategy for the Graduate Education Office, following a presentation of its origin and ongoing work by dean Staton and Barrie Gleason, director of the communications office. Suggestions were made for the further validation of customer analyses, for input of faculty from the school of management, and for consideration of some specific strategies to address customer requirements.

My colleagues and I in the Graduate Education Office wish to express our appreciation to the members of the CGSP for their service during the past year. Special thanks are extended to those who will be replaced in the coming year.


In an attempt to promote deeper consideration of policy issues than has been possible in the large CGSP meetings, the faculty policy committee and the CGSP agreed to creation of a smaller group that would focus explicitly on such concerns. The graduate strategy group is comprised of one senior faculty representative from each school, the president of the graduate student council, and the senior associate dean for graduate education. It meets on an as-needed basis and is chaired by the vice-president for research and dean for graduate education. In its first year of operation, the strategy group has considered alternatives to current graduate leave policies and the adequacy of graduate stipends. Several discussions focused on reviewing of the MEng program in electrical engineering and computer science, particularly on its impact on the department's other graduate programs and its impact on various segments of its student population.

By virtue of its size and composition, the group has already proven to be more effective in considering important policy issues, but its ongoing operational relationship to the CGSP and the faculty policy committee will need to be clarified further.


Travel related recruitment occurred in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Atlanta, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and New York. Unfortunately, annual recruitment at the University of Puerto Rico, where there are approximately eight MIT alumni on the faculty, had to be cancelled due to the devastation inflicted by hurricane Georges.. Otherwise, students at over twenty schools were directly reached in a seven week period, in addition to MIT's presence being felt at two National Conferences last Fall as well. Finally, several important national conferences were attended in the spring semester and should lead to additional applicants in the fall.

Recruitment occurred through a mixture of traditional graduate school fairs and specifically targeted recruitment trips. Also, the graduate education office hosted receptions for honors students in science and engineering and sponsored MIT graduate students to attend events of national scope.

Among the national and regional conferences and conventions attended were the American Chemical Society (ACS) held in Boston, MA; The Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) /Minority Biomedical Research Symposium (MBRS) Conference in New York; American Indian Science and Engineering Society National (AISES) Conference in Denver, Colorado; National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) National Convention in Kansas City, MO. In addition, MIT hosted the Eastern Regional Conference of the Caribbean Students Association.

This past year, as in the past, we have continued to rely on close interaction with administrative and faculty contacts nationally, some of whom are MIT Alumni/ae. These individuals work at various Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Colleges and Universities, and a variety of other private and state Institutions.

We are delighted to note an increase last year in the interest of MIT faculty and departments in developing and implementing various collaborative recruitment efforts. Faculty and individuals from several departments attended or planned, with the planning and in some cases fiscal support of the Graduate Education Office. In several cases, faculty directly recruited interns into our MIT Summer Research Program for 1999.


The past year has been exceptionally active and very successful with respect to a variety of recruitment activities.

Monthly seminars and workshops were provided for graduate students of color as a means of exposing them to opportunities for professional development. These forums known as the "Power Lunch" series have included presentations on such topics as financial planning, choosing an advisor, entreprenureship, preparing for qualifying exams, and careers in the public sector. In addition, for the first time graduate students and several of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Scholars were brought together to discuss issues around mentoring and careers in academia.

Beginning last year, a new organization was formed to offer women graduate students an opportunity to share ideas and discuss issues and concerns which impact the quality of their experience at MIT. This group met twice per month. The group operated with the philosophy that "Conflict = Opportunity to Create Positive Change." This group held a year-end retreat this past spring to address such topics as communication skills; conflict styles and strategies; and sources of power in negotiation. The rapid growth of membership in this new group has made clear its value as a new resource for women, and we look forward to its continued growth and development as a tool to help our women graduate students to negotiate MIT more easily.


The thirteenth annual group of MSRP interns were invited to campus last summer for ten weeks of research and encouragement to consider attending graduate school. Twenty-nine students participated, several of whom were funded by the program's newest collaborator, the center for innovation in product development (CIPD). The involvement of CIPD represents an exciting new direction for the MSRP, as an increasing number of departments, research centers and individual faculty members step up their direct recruitment of students from underrepresented groups.


Staff of the graduate education office continue to be active in a variety of Institute and external affairs. Dean Colbert has been a member of the board of a private high-school in Waltham, MA serving the needs of students with learning differences and mild learning disabilities. This past year, he was elected to chair the board and lead the school's capital development efforts for the next five years. In addition, he was re-appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to another five-year term on the board of The Corporation for Business, Work and Learning, a quasi-public state organization that addresses intact worker and workplace readiness issues statewide. That board re-appointed dean Colbert as secretary of the board and vice-chair of its executive committee. In addition, dean Colbert continues to serve as a governor of Endicott House and a stockholder of the Harvard/MIT COOP.

Dean Roy Charles, was afforded a singular recognition this past year by the editors of Ebony Magazine, when he was mentioned as one of "thirty leaders under thirty." The distinction brought attention to a number of rising young professionals of color in the nation whose activities and accomplishments have merited attention. We congratulate dean Charles and look forward to his continued successes.

Dean Blanche Staton participated on several occasions in an early-intervention program within the Boston Public School System this past year. The program introduced young women of color in middle schools to successful female role models, each of whom provided guidance in various academic and life arenas to individual students and small groups.

We gratefully acknowledge several awards and recognitions for the graduate education office and for individual staff members. The national society of black engineers and the black women's alliance recognized the office for its ongoing involvement with and support of their students. In addition students of color awarded a number of black faculty and staff, including dean Colbert, for "Twenty Years of Strength and Support" to the community of color at MIT.


The mission of the International Students Office is to help students to fulfill their academic goals by providing services and support programs that facilitate their adjustment to the new academic and cultural environment. The Office mediates the students' interactions with US government agencies, provides support to their dependents, and promotes interaction and understanding with the MIT community at large.


Although, technically the ISO does not admit students, the Office plays a pivotal role in enabling the international students admitted to MIT, to secure their visas and arrive at MIT on time, before Registration Day. Excluding students who came to MIT only for a short period during the summer, a total of 2,255 international students from 102 countries registered for the academic year 1998-99. Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, with the expert assistance of Carlene Green, has continued to attempt to refine the legal admissions process for graduate students. We are hopeful that by next Admission season we will be able to streamline the process by integrating the ISO database with the Institute Admissions database. Maria Brennan has taken on a large portion of the regular admission processing for graduate students; in addition, she has continued to play an essential role in enabling the Office to meet the needs of the growing number of non-degree students. The ISO has provided advice on immigration regulations, assistance with forms, and support services to Visiting Students (over one hundred), Exchange Students, high school students participating in the Research Science Institute project, mid-level executives enrolled in non-degree programs, and to the students participating in the brand-new Singapore-MIT Alliance Program.


All international students, regardless of their age or degree program, undergo a period of cultural adjustment. They need information on their new surroundings, culture, and community. To meet this need, the ISO has provided individual and small group sessions to the new international graduate students. These sessions, held daily from the middle of August to the middle of September, were complemented by social events open to the international community where the new students could meet other new students and current students. These events included Coffee Hours, presentations by the Medical Department, the Libraries, the Campus Police, and culminated with the Student Panel, the Faculty Panel, and the International Open House, which is co-sponsored by the International Scholars Office. Last August, the ISO was also given main responsibility for the International Undergraduate Orientation. The ISO staff and international upperclassmen worked together to welcome the new students. A pancake breakfast, a duck tour, and a welcome party for students and faculty, sponsored by the Dean for Graduate Education, were some of the events that brought the new students and staff together.


The HISP has remained vital in providing new students with very supportive new emotional and social ties. Kate Baty, the Coordinator of the Program, has contributed time and effort to the development and implementation of new programs and events. Besides the traditional Welcome Picnic for new students and their host families, held at the end of September, Kate and other ISO staff organized a pot-luck dinner for freshmen in November, and another pot-luck dinner for students and their hosts in January. She also organized several outings for undergraduates: a winter shopping trip to Kittery Outlets Mall, a dinner in the North End, a bowling excursion at Fresh Pond, and a Mexican cuisine study-break co-sponsored by the International Student Association. She co-founded the MIT Mentors Program which connects incoming freshmen with upperclassmen before they arrive, and takes care of the social interactions and programming during the first month after the freshmen' arrival. The Mentors Program was implemented last August and it complemented the International Undergraduate Orientation. Kate also organized a Free Bicycle Program through the MIT Women's league, and a Fashion Day, during which good winter and more formal clothing and accessories were made available to students at no cost.


International students, like their American counterparts, are very much concerned about their summer internships and the options they have for employment in the US and in their home countries. In response to this need, the ISO has sponsored a number of workshops covering the laws that regulate the employment of "foreign nationals" in this country, as they relate to work experiences before graduation and to possible careers after graduation. The three advisors and guest immigration attorneys gave presentations on topics ranging from "How to get authorization to work during the summer" to "How to start a company in the US." Taxes are another confusing subject for international students, especially because they are expected to file tax forms even when they have no income. To alleviate the students' concern with this issue, Fred Crowley, the MIT Assistant Controller was invited to give two presentations on this topic; furthermore, all the required tax forms were made available to students in the Student Services Center.


Advising has remained the core of ISO's responsibilities. Thousands of students have received advice on immigration procedures and regulations for travelling, employment, change of visa status, etc. However, often are happenings abroad, in the students' home countries, that affect the number of students who come to talk with the Advisors, the issues that are discussed, and the emotional tone of the meetings. The economic crisis in South-East Asia, civil unrest in Indonesia, nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, the war in Kosovo, the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, all have had an impact on the ISO working routine. Students from the affected areas have come to the Office seeking more information, clarification, advice, reassurance, and protection. Throughout the war, the ISO has kept in touch with the students from Serbia, keeping them abreast of any changes of laws or regulations that could affect their legal status. Currently, we are closely monitoring whether or not the admission of Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, and Russian students will be affected by the Cox Report and a State Department cable restricting admission to citizens of countries on the "Technology Alert List." As in the past, staff members have visited students who had been hospitalized, comforted students grieving the loss of a loved one, and intervened with immigration and consular officers in behalf of students.


In September 1998, the ISO moved to its new location, Room 5-133, and the move has represented a very positive development. Students have expressed their satisfaction with the change and indicated that they feel much more "at home" in the new location. There have also been changes in the ISO staff. Mina Xanthopoulos was hired in August to fill the position of Sr. Office Assistant; Chris LaCava, the Technology Support Specialist for the ISO, left for a new job in Texas; and Wendy Becker, who had been the ISO "temporary" receptionist for almost two years, left for a permanent position. A new temporary worker is covering the receptionist position. Given the large number of students who visit the ISO every day, the specialized nature of their questions, and the time involved in training new temporary workers, it is ISO's and the students' strong hope that the receptionist position will be made a permanent position.


The ISO staff members have been very active within NAFSA: National Association of International Educators, at the local, regional, and national level. Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook chaired and presented a training workshop on advanced immigration regulations for over one hundred International Student Advisors from across the US at the national conference in Denver, Colorado. She designed and wrote the materials for the workshop which will be published by NAFSA to be used in future Advanced F-1 Regulations training programs. She was also selected to present another session at the national conference, this one focusing on international students in trouble with the law. Milena Levak chaired a session at the regional conference; she was also one of the instructors in one of the NAFSA sponsored training workshops, and was selected to participate in a training workshop for future trainers at the national conference. Kate Baty has also made presentations at the regional conference, and has continued to be very active in "COMSEC Open Forum" an informal organization that brings together people from new England who do programming for international students.


We plan to begin the search for the Technology Support Specialist in the very near future, since our work has become extremely dependent on computers and electronic communication. We also plan to bring to completion the project that Chris LaCava began, i.e. to revamp the ISO database and make it compatible with the Admissions and MITSIS database. A new integrated database will eliminate duplication of efforts and hours of tedious work spent in the attempt to reconcile the Institute and ISO information on international students. The increased efficiency and the time saved should allow the staff to focus on developing new services and programs that meet the changing needs of students.

Milena Levak

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99