MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXV No. 2
November / December 2012
Faculty MIT 2030 Task Force Report Clearly Identifies Key Issues
Report of the Task Force on Community Engagement in 2030 Planning on Development of MIT- Owned Property in Kendall Square
What Students Want From Faculty
Task Force on Community Engagement with 2030 Planning
Graduate Student Life, Research Productivity, and the MITIMCo Proposal
The Millenials@MIT: Discussions on the Generational Changes in the Graduate Student Population
The Office of Faculty Support:
What Can We Do To Help You?
Preparing for a New Industrial Revolution
MIT: First in the World, Sixth in the U.S.?
An Opportunity for Faculty to Help Shape MIT’s Remarkable Graduate Student Community
Faculty Committee Activity: Fall 2012 Update
Progress Report on the Bernard M. Gordon – MIT Engineering Leadership Program
The Alumni Class Funds Seek Proposals for Teaching and Education Enhancement
MITAC: Your Ticket to Cultural and Recreational Activities
Why We Need HumanitiesX
Campus Population FY 1981 – 2012
Printable Version

The Office of Faculty Support:
What Can We Do To Help You?

Diana Henderson

Our name says it all – the Office of Faculty Support (OFS) is here to help faculty in your educational endeavors. OFS staff members assist in developing and coordinating the undergraduate curriculum and educational programming, support our remarkably strong faculty governance system, and provide information and infrastructure related to undergraduate education. We also advocate on behalf of the faculty for improvements to the educational infrastructure and resources.

Specifically, OFS:

  • Supports the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, the Subcommittee on the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Requirement, and other committees related to the undergraduate curriculum
  • Oversees the Communication Requirement and the HASS Requirement, and advises undergraduates about both requirements
  • Manages the Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program
  • Convenes monthly meetings of departmental Undergraduate Officers
  • Distributes grants from the d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education and the Alumni Class Funds, and analyzes their outcomes to help disseminate successful innovations
  • Administers student subject evaluations
  • Gathers and represents faculty, student, and staff perspectives in projects to improve online academic services
  • Provides outreach and communications regarding the undergraduate program generally and the General Institute Requirements (GIRs) in particular, both online and person-to-person

Frequently partnering with staff from other offices, OFS staff members are currently involved in a number of projects including:

  • Fostering curriculum innovation, particularly in the GIRs, in cross-disciplinary areas, and in online education that contributes to MIT students’ learning
  • Coordinating the transition to a new Distribution Component of the HASS Requirement
  • Supporting the experimental HASS Exploration (HEX) Program
  • Moving the HASS Concentration Forms online
  • Designing better tools to help instructors manage enrollments in MIT subjects
  • Streamlining the Institute subject evaluation questions

Support for Faculty Committees

MIT is, in my experience, unique in the persisting strength of its commitment to faculty governance: the “hands on” attitude that we value in our educational programs extends to our role in overseeing the curriculum and helping to run the Institute.  With such involvement comes much responsibility, as well as the need to understand how the varied parts of our curriculum combine to provide our students with an excellent education. To help in this process, OFS keeps track of faculty educational policies and principles over time and supports the work of many committees.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel Hastings created OFS and appointed me director and Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support in 2006, just as the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons was publishing its recommendations to improve the quality and clarity of the undergraduate educational experience. Dan and I served on that Task Force, and several of the members of the new OFS had provided support. OFS worked with the Educational Commons Subcommittee and the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) as the Task Force recommendations were refined, discussed, and voted on by the faculty. 

Among the curricular changes OFS helped implement were MIT’s offering of double majors instead of double degrees and the revised Distribution Component of the HASS Requirement, which is replacing the limited list of HASS-D subjects.

As oversight of the HASS Requirement shifted to a new CUP subcommittee, support for that Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement (SHR) moved to OFS, joining our ongoing support for CUP and the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (SOCR).

At the behest of faculty on these committees, OFS staff often track emerging issues related to undergraduate education, and assist in coordinating work across the various groups. They collaborate closely with faculty members chairing the committees, preparing background materials for meetings and disseminating policy documents and recommendations that result from committee consideration. An important part of the staff work is maintaining committee records, which those involved in faculty governance often find of use subsequently – as when perennial concerns (such as student advising, or pace and pressure) appear on our agenda.

OFS staff also try to assist faculty members in departments as they present curricular changes such as the introduction of new majors or minors. The iterative process that requires presentations to various faculty committees and the faculty as a whole can appear daunting, so recently staff from OFS, the Registrar’s Office, and the President’s Office developed guidelines and a proposal template for a New Undergraduate Degree Program, which are available on the faculty Website at Work is underway to develop parallel materials for faculty seeking to propose new undergraduate minor programs.

For faculty wishing to have their subjects designated as fulfilling components of the Communication and/or HASS Requirements, OFS staff (Kathleen MacArthur for the Communication Requirement and Genevre Filiault for the HASS Requirement)
can provide information on both the criteria for and licensing of subjects. Typically they will serve as liaisons to the subcommittees and assist faculty and departments throughout the proposal process. The subject proposal deadline for both requirements is December 7, 2012.

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Advising for the Communication and HASS Requirements

Because of the overlap between the Communication and HASS Requirements, OFS created a position that provides a single point of advising to ensure that students stay on track in both requirements. Patricia Fernandes, the advisor for the Communication and HASS Requirements, is available to students, advisors, and administrators who have questions about either requirement (as am I).

Staff from OFS and from Information Services and Technology (IS&T) are currently working to move the HASS Concentration process online so that students will be able to submit proposal and completion forms electronically for review and approval by concentration advisors. The forms will also be available for viewing by students’ major advisors.

Curriculum Innovation

Each year faculty can apply for financial support from two funds administered by OFS: the d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education, and the Alumni Class Funds (supported by the Classes of 1951, 1955, 1972, and 1999).  The application periods for the funds are staggered to provide more options to faculty, with applications due in the fall for the d’Arbeloff Fund and at the beginning of spring term for the Alumni Class Funds – all for projects offered during the subsequent academic year. Proposals for Alumni Class Funds are due February 1, 2013.

These grants foster experimentation in residential-based undergraduate education with particular emphasis on the GIRs, the experience of first-year students, interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary offerings, and development of online learning modules for use at MIT.

Selections are decided by a committee of faculty from across the five Schools, as well as the donors. Last year 17 faculty groups received almost $373,000. Five projects received d’Arbeloff awards, while 12 grants were made from the Alumni Class Funds.  Even when a grant is not awarded, we try (within the bounds of confidentiality) to share any helpful feedback or to redirect applicants to other, potentially more appropriate sources of funding or assistance. Please feel free to contact Mary Enterline or myself with your proposal ideas or questions about the funds.

Beyond the funds, OFS supports the efforts of the CUP in licensing educational experiments, and is currently involved in discussions at faculty committees on the impact of MITx and online learning on residential-based undergraduate education.  I sit on the MIT Council on Educational Technology (MITCET) as well. We also collaborate with our DUE colleagues in the Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL) and the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT) to promote educational innovation at MIT.

Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program

The Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program is the newest addition to the OFS portfolio, having become part of OFS last academic year. The program, which honors MIT’s first Dean for Undergraduate Education, is MIT’s highest undergraduate teaching award. OFS staff oversee the nomination and selection process for fellows, who are recommended by a committee of faculty and students for the Provost’s approval.   

New MacVicar Faculty Fellows are honored at MacVicar Day events each March. MacVicar Day also features a program focused on undergraduate education, which is open to the entire MIT community.

Last year we had a wonderful panel of speakers, in a tribute honoring the late Professor and Dean of Science Robert Silbey; the event highlighted the ongoing excellence and commitment of some star teachers. The next MacVicar Day will be March 13, 2013. As well as MacVicar Day, we organize other events for the fellows and for the public.

The MacVicar program provides an opportunity for these dedicated faculty across MIT to learn from one another, share their innovations, and advocate for excellence in our undergraduate educational mission.  We meet several times each year, and I have tried to institute new opportunities for sharing perspectives among and by the MacVicar Fellows, for the benefit of the wider community.

Undergraduate Officers Group and Faculty Outreach

In OFS we see ourselves as a bridge between teaching faculty and members of the administration. During the academic year, I convene monthly meetings of the Undergraduate Officers from all departments, sections, and programs. This is an opportunity both to provide information for the officers to take back to their colleagues and also to get feedback on educational issues and on administrative and infrastructure changes. For example, at a recent meeting, we had presentations and discussions on streamlining subject evaluation questions, changes to the grade-book module in Stellar, and actions to take if you perceive students are highly stressed.  We welcome hearing more from departments about their instructional staff’s concerns and interests, especially as they might help us maintain and improve the education of our MIT undergraduates.  We are happy to put you in touch with people and offices whom you might wish to have visit your faculty meeting. 

Subject Evaluation

MIT’s subject evaluation system moved entirely online in fall 2010 after a two-year pilot which benefited from the experience and perspectives of many departments (including Courses 2, 6, and 16, who had previously set the way forward by establishing local online systems, and have since joined our common system: many thanks!). OFS now manages the Institute-wide system.

This past spring, after consultation with the Officers of the Faculty, I convened a Subject Evaluation Advisory Committee (SEAC) comprised of faculty with expertise in education, surveys, and evaluations from all five Schools, as well as undergraduate and graduate student representatives.

SEAC’s first task was to examine the Institute-wide questions asked on the evaluations. We had continued to use the two sets of 30-plus questions from the paper forms (with slight variations between those for Science/Engineering subjects and those for SHASS/SAP) as the online system was established, so that we could compare responses between the two systems without introducing extra variables. However, following the recommendations of an earlier advisory group, OFS has since worked with the Teaching and Learning Laboratory and SEAC to create a shorter, more universally relevant set of questions. Fewer common questions will make the basic forms less onerous for our busy students while allowing greater customization by Schools, departments, and instructors who are now able to add a limited set of their own specific questions. We hope that reducing the standard set of questions may also help response rates by keeping surveys to a reasonable length.

The streamlined set of questions has been shared with the CUP, the Committee on the Graduate Program, the Faculty Policy Committee, and the Undergraduate Officers. We hope to introduce and test the new set of questions during this academic year with the cooperation of the Sloan School, who could help us become the rare university to have a single set of evaluations.

Summary subject evaluation data continues to be available to everyone in the community while instructors, department heads, and academic administrators can also access student comments.

OFS staff help departments, Schools, faculty committees, and administrative offices analyze the data as they consider curricular questions and policies.  We also stand ready to suggest good practices for encouraging student participation: At the top of the list, perhaps hearteningly, is faculty making a point of valuing the responses, and letting students know that directly.  Many faculty encourage students to bring laptops to class (the MIT Library has loaners if needed) and reserve time for their responses.

Enrollment Management

As part of the Online Registration Phase Two initiative, I am the business lead on a project team that was formed this past spring to deliver tools that support instructors’ ability to manage enrollment within individual subjects. Through these tools, we hope that students will more easily find appropriate subjects in a timely fashion, instructors will be able to accommodate those students with the greatest need in limited enrollment subjects, and departments will be able to improve their advance planning. OFS is providing sponsorship and staffing for this project jointly with the Registrar’s Office and IS&T.

The project team received preliminary input through discussions with faculty groups including CUP, SOCR, and the Undergraduate Officers Group. This past spring, a subset of the team interviewed faculty and staff from eight departments (2, 5, 6, 9, 14, 18, 21L, 21W) in an attempt to better understand the issues departments face with enrollment management. In May, the team administered an online survey to all active faculty and non-faculty instructors, to which 505 people (including 326 faculty members) responded. Some who were on leave may not have received the survey, and if you have additional input do please feel encouraged to contact me directly.

The project team has identified the following items as potentially in scope for the project:

  • Tools for adding, removing, approving, and denying student enrollment throughout the term
  • Capacity to enforce limited enrollment caps
  • Tools to set priorities for enrollment
  • Support for waitlists
  • Capacity to track and enforce pre/co-requisites
  • Tools for managing and enforcing permission of instructor
  • Tools for section management
  • Tracking and managing conflicts within an individual student’s schedule

The team has just begun prioritizing these items. It is possible that some may be addressed in other IS&T projects – and, of course, getting these projects right takes time. We’ll keep in touch as the work evolves.

As you can see, we have many ongoing projects in OFS. At all times, however, our first priority is to support faculty members in their educational endeavors. When you have an idea or a question and don’t know where to go, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re located in Building 12, just off the main corridor, down the hallway by Café 4. Or call (x36776) or e-mail us ( Our Website is It includes links to the program Websites and contact information for the staff. We’ll help you, or try to direct you to someone who can.

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Dates to Remember

MacVicar Faculty Fellows Nominations Due
Thursday, November 15, 2012
End-of-Term Subject Evaluations Begin
Monday, December 3, 2012
Subject Proposals for Communication and HASS Requirements Due
Friday, December 7, 2012
End-of-Term Subject Evaluations End
Monday, December 17, 2012
Alumni Class Funds Proposals Due
Friday, February 1, 2013
MacVicar Day
Friday, March 15, 2013

People in the Office of Faculty Support

Phone: 617-253-6776
Fax: 617-253-6969
Room: 12-127

Diana Henderson
Director and Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support

Deborah Boldin
Administrative Assistant II

Jason Donath
Staff Associate, Faculty Support

Mary Enterline
Associate Dean

Patricia Fernandes
Advisor, Communication and HASS Requirements

Genevre Filiault
Staff Associate, Curriculum Support
Executive Officer, Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement

Anna Frazer
Associate Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support
Executive Officer, Committee on the Undergraduate Program

Kathleen MacArthur
Assistant Dean for the Communication Requirement
Executive Officer, Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement

Brian Nelson
Administrative Assistant II

Lauren Reemsnyder
Administrative Assistant II

Rosanne Santucci
Communications and Data Specialist

For More Information

Office of Faculty Support
Committee on the Undergraduate Program
Communication Requirement
Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Requirement
Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program
d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education
Alumni Class Funds
Subject Evaluations

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