Visiting Committees were established at MIT in 1875, and their recommendations have had a strong influence on the course of education and research at the Institute for over 120 years. The committees operate as advisory groups to the Corporation and the administration, offering appraisal, advice, and insight on each academic program and on other major activities at the Institute, including the Libraries, the offices of the Dean for Student Life and the Dean for Undergraduate Education, Sponsored Research, and the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation.
The visiting committee system at MIT is among the strongest and most active at a major research university and provides valuable counsel on current activities and future directions. Each of the 31 visiting committees normally convenes every two years for a one-and-one-half day session.
Committee recommendations and ideas are conveyed to the Corporation, senior administration, department heads and faculty through oral and written reports and on-going assessments. Committee members often visit departments on their own time to give lectures or meet with members of the departments.
In determining committee membership, efforts are made to achieve appropriate representation among people from academia, business and industry, and government, while taking into account alumni/ae and non-alumni/ae status, race, and gender; and to identify individuals with a demonstrated interest in MIT and its educational programs who can provide perspective on and helpful evaluations of the departments' programs and issues.
Visiting committees consist of approximately 425 distinguished professionals, including scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, executives, and educators, many of whom are graduates of the Institute. Each committee typically includes 17 members, including five Corporation members, one of whom is chair; six alumni/ae nominees; and six members nominated by the President. Corporation members are assigned each year to visiting committees; many serve on the same committee for several years, providing valuable continuity and insight. Alumni/ae and presidential nominees are elected for four-year terms, and may be reelected for additional terms ranging from one to four years.
Appointment or renewal of the committee membership occurs in the spring each year, in consultation with the Chairman, President, Provost, Secretary, and department heads. All visiting committee appointments are approved by the Corporation at its October meeting.