Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
John S. Wilson Jr., director of Foundation Relations and School Development Services, has been appointed by Provost Joel Moses to the additional position of assistant provost for outreach. The appointment aims to expand the Institute's external relations by strengthening MIT's connections with students and faculty at historically black colleges and universities.
"If you look at demographic trends, there is a growing need to ensure that MIT will reflect the diversity of the next generation of leaders. This appointment will help ensure our present and future capability in that area," Professor Moses said. "Dr. Wilson will generate many opportunities and contacts, particularly through the MIT graduates who serve as faculty members at these institutions, and I look forward to members of the MIT faculty taking full advantage of this outreach program."
"In other university contexts, the term outreach has referred to a wide range of university constituencies, from K-12 institutions through state government," Dr. Wilson said. "I want to understand and strengthen the connections of historically black colleges and universities with MIT. The goal is to attract to MIT more graduate students from these institutions, to develop faculty exchanges, and some curricular exchanges."
In graduate education, he noted, the communication role of faculty is critical. The idea, he said, is to expand the avenues of communication so that a faculty member from a black college or university will know a colleague at MIT, and call up to say, "I've got a senior here you ought to take a look at."
The 106 US public and private black colleges and universities enroll about 20 percent of America's black students, but 40 percent of America's black graduates of colleges come from these institutions. The most famous MIT alumnus who graduated from an historically black college and then came to MIT for graduate study is Ronald McNair, the astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger accident.
"Dr. Vest and Dr. Moses have uniquely candid and aggressive views about building an open and diverse community, and this is a creative and innovative way of exploring how MIT can be even more diverse," Dr. Wilson said.
He believes his work as President Vest's representative to the Faculty Policy Committee and his membership on the Council on Educational Technology will be very useful in his outreach to black colleges and universities.
On the undergraduate level, 6.5 percent of students at MIT are black, which is high for a predominantly science and engineering college. The percentage of black students drops to 2.5 percent at the graduate level.
Dr. Wilson, 39, was raised in Philadelphia and is a 1979 graduate and active alumnus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, one of the most famous black colleges, where he majored in business administration and management and minored in religion and philosophy. He has two master's degrees from Harvard in theology (1981) and education (1982).
Dr. Wilson came to MIT in 1983-84--while he was pursuing his doctorate at Harvard--as a part-time administrative assistant to the Associate Provost, writing and conducting policy analysis on student financial aid policies and sexual harassment. He wrote his 1985 thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on the financial and managerial problems encountered by small, private colleges that are predominantly black or white.
After getting his PhD, he returned to MIT in 1985 as associate in the analytical studies and planning group, where he co-authored a major report on the experiences of black students who attended MIT from 1969-85. A year later, he moved to the Financial Operations Group, where he conducted an evaluation of five areas of financial operations and instituted three management development efforts.
In 1988, he was named assistant director of corporate development, and in 1990 was promoted to associate director of corporate development. In 1991, he became director of school development services and associate director of foundation relations.
Since 1994, he has been director of foundation relations and school development services.
Outside MIT, he has been chairman and co-director since 1992 of Bridging Bridges, an urban initiative aimed at enriching the lives of 400-500 young African-American males in the Boston area. For the past seven years, he has been president of the Greater Boston Morehouse College Alumni Association.
He and his wife, Carol Espy-Wilson, a professor of engineering at Boston University, are associate housemasters at MacGregor Hall.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 4, 1997.