MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXII No. 4
March / April / May 2010
New Opportunities Toward Nuclear Disarmament: Reviving Faculty Roles?
Is President Obama Reducing the Probability of Nuclear War?
MIT in Action in Haiti
MIT Medical Director Discusses Changes: Community Care Center Proposed
The MIT Medical Department 1901-2004:
A Very Brief History
Academic Integrity
The Chancellor and Student Deans Ask Students to Share "What's On Your Mind?"
Arthur C. Smith
Richard K. Yamamoto
New AT&T and Sprint Nextel Transmitters Promise Better Cell Phone Coverage
Graduate Fellows Build Community
The Foremost Resource Students Need
is Your Time
MIT Center for International Studies:
Student Training and Faculty Funding
MIT Finance Initiating Digital Tools and Services: ePaystubs Available in June
MIT Professional Education: Summer 2011 Short Course Proposals
U.S. News & World Report:
Graduate School Rankings 2001-2010
MIT Publications Online
Printable Version

Graduate Fellows Build Community

Steven R. Lerman, Heather Fry

The Graduate Community Fellows Program, created by the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), sponsors a cadre of graduate students who work on projects that enhance graduate community in unique ways.

The Fellows program represents one of the most recent outcomes of the last decade’s shift toward building graduate community at MIT.

Inspired by similar programs at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, Senior Associate Dean Blanche Staton and ODGE Director of Communications Barrie Gleason proposed an MIT Fellows program. Pilot projects began in 2007 with five Fellows who reported to members of the ODGE’s senior management team and supported a portion of their work. The assistant dean in charge of recruiting supervised two Fellows to assist with diversity efforts; the director of communications created a Fellow position to help administer the Graduate Student Life Grants [], an open request-for-proposal process that funds creative programming to enhance graduate life; the senior associate dean took on a Fellow to support programming for women; and the dean responsible for the International Students Office hired a Fellow to organize programs for international students.

Each of these focus areas expanded over the three years of the program. The Graduate Community Fellows now number 13, served by Program Coordinator Heather Fry and supervised by five different offices, including the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, the Office of Student Citizenship, the Technology and Culture Forum, Organizational Development, and the Community Innovators Lab (CoLab). The Fellows’ projects are both focused and far-reaching.

Diversity Fellow Joy Johnson is building a mentoring program that pairs first-year minority graduate students with postdocs. She also works with departments to identify student “success markers,” which may then be shared with prospective students in order to better prepare them for graduate careers at MIT. Her teammates’ efforts involve building relationships with feeder schools, developing existing programs like the MIT Summer Research Program, and documenting the Institute’s diversity-related milestones.

Through his work with the Graduate Student Life Grants, Kevin McComber keeps in close touch with grant authors who run projects such as the Science Policy Bootcamp, informal Weekly Wednesday gatherings, and the FamilyNet Website. Other Fellows also reach a broad audience through a student mediation program called Resources for Easing Friction and Stress; through graduate student orientation; and by teaching others to use various media to tell their own stories more effectively.

Community Fellows Libby Putman and Annalisa Pawlosky organize the Path of Professorship workshop [], which gives women students more tools and resources to achieve their career objectives. They also conduct focus groups in order to learn about the graduate experience and how it may be improved, and are planning an extensive celebration of graduate women for this spring. Remaining Fellow projects include international student programming and efforts to end violence against women.

The Fellows meet regularly to update one another on their work and to identify areas of collaboration. They also pool their observations, serving as an important conduit for informing the Dean about the needs of the graduate student community.

Fellows receive a monthly stipend in return for a workload of 10 hours per week, and have access to additional funding for such purposes as focus group refreshments or travel expenses for out-of-town speakers.

The addition of a part-time program coordinator has enabled a centralized application process for Fellows and for offices that wish to request support for a Fellow, as well as the creation of an internal wiki to share information and resources, and a collection of reports from each Fellow on their annual body of work. Going forward, the program coordinator will solicit evaluations from the Fellows and from their supervisors in order to further refine the program and identify any unmet community needs.

As needs are determined and funds are available, the program will grow to support Fellows in new areas. The ODGE is always interested in forming new partnerships in the service of graduate life and learning. For more information, see the Graduate Community Fellows Website.

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