MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


The past year witnessed two significant staffing changes in the Graduate Education Office (GEO). Margaret D. Tyler, associate dean for graduate education, was granted a one-year leave of absence to serve as executive assistant to the new, and the first female, president of Norfolk State University in Virginia. This experience will further expand and strengthen the GEO's ties to historically black universities, while also providing a professional development opportunity for dean Tyler. The GEO warmly welcomed back Blanche E. Staton, formerly of the Pennsylvania State University's Philadelphia Recruitment Center, to serve as interim associate dean for the past year. Having served here with great distinction five years ago, Ms. Staton was the obvious choice to again replace dean Tyler; and we were grateful that she was both available and willing to return to MIT. The second significant change was the retirement of Daniel Langdale, assistant dean for recruiting. Over nearly three decades, Mr. Langdale served MIT in financial aid and admissions activities, with his final service in the GEO bringing additional focus and strength to our minority recruitment and programming efforts. He was replaced by another old friend of the office, Roy Charles, who returned to MIT after serving as associate director of the MassPEP Program.


Graduate student housing re-emerged as a major and positive issue. During the past year, dean Colbert served on a Client Team that was invited by the dean for undergraduate education to develop functional requirements for a proposed new graduate residence hall. The team assembled early in the Summer Term 1997 and devoted several months to consideration of the primary spaces to be incorporated, some general guidelines for design of those spaces, initial parameters for the mix of residential units and dining options, and a preliminary vision of social and intellectual activities and programs for the residence. The overarching concern was that the residence hall and its activities build and support a sense of community among graduate students and faculty, which does not currently exist at the institutional level. Thus, the proposed construction promises to fulfill a long delayed dream of establishing a focal point for graduate life at MIT. When realized, the building will also achieve the long standing goal of providing housing for 50% of the graduate student population. The project is an exciting one that, when completed, promises to add a new spark to the developing northwest region of campus and provide our graduate departments with a wonderful recruitment tool to help draw talented graduate students to MIT.

A more minor focus of activity this past year was on revising and enhancing the orientation program that is organized each year by the Graduate Student Council (GSC) for all new incoming graduate students. The GEO provides funding support for the main activity, which has been a picnic lunch held in Killian Court. Stimulated by questions from Dr. Vest, the GSC established a committee to review and revise plans for fall 1998 activities. Plans were finalized during the spring term 1998 and anticipate a day-long suite of welcoming activities on Kresge Oval and the athletic fields, culminating in an early evening barbecue with music provided by a popular local band. As planned, this revised orientation promises an enthusiastic, hearty and informative welcome to the 1998 cohort of incoming graduate students.


Chaired by dean Colbert and comprised of faculty, staff and students, the Committee on Foreign Scholarships seeks to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to apply for a variety of prestigious opportunities for study, research and cultural experiences abroad. While there are many such options available to pursue, the committee focuses on a number of the more visible programs. Most prominent among these are the Rhodes Scholarship, the British Marshall Scholarships, the Churchill Scholarship, and the Fulbright Year-Abroad Program. While MIT students continue to fare remarkably well in these annual competitions, the overall number of applicants each year remains small. Still, the past year witnessed a new level of success, with our students having won four British Marshall Scholarships, one Churchill Scholarship and three Fulbright Scholarships.

Near the end of the academic year, the GEO completed an historic agreement with the Fulbright Commission of Mexico (COMEXUS). By this agreement, the commission will raise an endowment fund, to be stewarded by the GEO, that will support two or three Mexican students who are admitted to graduate programs at MIT. The commission will nominate a number of top science and engineering students, who will be considered for admission in the normal manner and who will be eligible for three years of support via the endowment. In addition, those Mexican nationals who have formerly received direct, multi-year financial support via that nation's government and industrial consortium, CONACYT, will have those resources channeled through COMEXUS. In doing so, the nature, source and amount of that support will become visible to MIT and will permit our faculty to better direct internal support resources to students who truly need funding.


The CGSP conducted its traditional reviews of degree candidates and end-of-term grades. While no significant policy changes were voted this past year, the committee recognized the need for a thorough review of graduate education policies and practices in the coming year. The review is prompted by anticipated changes in how sponsored research projects will be administered beginning with fiscal year 1999. In particular, tuition charges for graduate research assistants will no longer be recovered from federal research sponsors through the employee benefit rate, as has been allowed for the past thirteen years. A number of graduate policy and practice changes appear to ensue from this fundamental shift. Dean Litster agreed to appoint a select committee to undertake that review beginning in the fall term 1998 and return recommendations to the entire body for consideration.

The CGSP endorsed and forwarded to the Faculty Policy Committee (FPC) a proposal by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to establish an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Archaeological Materials. The program was endorsed with the understanding that it will be reviewed in five years. The proposed program was subsequently approved by vote of the faculty.

The CGSP reviewed and endorsed a proposal by the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences to establish a new doctoral program in Climate Physics and Chemistry. The new program was sent forward to the FPC and was subsequently approved by vote of the faculty.

The CGSP endorsed a proposal from the Department of Humanities to establish a new Master's Degree Program in Comparative Media Studies. This program represents the first graduate level program within the department. The CGSP endorsement was sent forward to the FPC and was subsequently approved by vote of the faculty.

The CGSP discussed a proposal by the Sloan School of Management to establish a Technology Enhanced Evening MBA Program. Following extensive discussion, the proposal was tabled for further consideration in fall term.

My colleagues in the Graduate Education Office express our sincere appreciation to the CGSP members for their service during the past year. We especially thank those long-term members who left the committee and will be replaced. Also, we take special note of all the graduate administrators who work so closely with the CGSP faculty members and who occasionally stand in for them. The monthly luncheon meetings of the graduate administrators, organized this past year by Renee Caso (Cse 4) and Jo-Ann Muray (Cse 7), continue to strengthen the links between the departments and the GEO and enhance the effectiveness of this office.



The Minority Summer Research Program was recast as the MIT Summer Research Program, in order to appeal to a broader group of interested and talented students from across the nation. In the past summer, thirty-one minority students and one majority student participated in research projects sponsored by MIT faculty members. To date, this is the largest group of research interns ever hosted by the program.

Faculty continue to embrace the program and to offer research opportunities to interns. At the end of the summer, two interns, one from the University of Puerto Rico and one from the University of Texas at Austin, were invited to return to their research groups to continue with their work. Both elected to return, one for the fall term and the other for the spring term. The MSPR's current base of foundation grants (from the A. P. Sloan Foundation, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) will be expiring, and a new round of funding proposals is under development. We remain grateful for the ongoing commitment of these foundations to the MSRP and are very pleased that new funding proposals are being entertained. Our next step for this program will be to develop a stronger base of endowment support.

Finally, we acknowledge and thank all those members of the faculty who open their research groups to welcome and mentor the summer interns. Many have worked with the MSRP for years, which is the strongest statement of encouragement and support for this successful program.

The Sloan Minority Bridge Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, completed its third year of operation. Within the participating departments (Physics, Chemistry, Toxicology, and the Parson Laboratory in Civil and Environmental Engineering) the program has provided full or partial financial support for eleven students. The purpose of the program is to provide fellowship funding for incoming minority students who need additional course preparation. The funds replace teaching and research assistantships, thereby temporarily relieving the students of the work requirements and allowing more time for coursework. In allowing the students to strengthen their background coursework, the program seeks to enhance to probability that each student will be achieve the degree objective. Of the eleven students supported to date, only one has discontinued graduate studies; and all the remaining students are performing well in their research and their graduate level courses. Thus, it would appear that the objective of the bridge program is being achieved.


While we remain gravely concerned about legislative and legal assaults on university based affirmative action programs, the GEO remains committed to helping departments achieve and maintain diversity within their graduate student populations. In our interactions with colleagues at other colleges and universities, we are heartened by their collective determination to develop new approaches to pursuing diversity that will pass court scrutiny or that will be beyond the reach of reasonable litigation. Still, most acknowledge the equal determination of certain conservative and reactionary elements to dismantle and discourage existing programs that use race in any way as a factor in providing access to opportunities. The GEO holds tightly to the view that MIT, as a national resource, must make every reasonable attempt to provide graduate education opportunities to every segment of the population, and that doing so requires aggressive, structured and targeted outreach efforts especially to those who have traditionally been under-represented in our graduate ranks. During the past year, many departments seemed to signal their agreement with this notion by stepping up efforts to locate and attract a diverse pool of applicants, with some reasonable success. We gratefully acknowledge the additional funds provided for these and other recruitment efforts by the provost this past year. The increased resources permitted broader involvement of current graduate students, more participation by faculty and additional travel by our recruitment staff.

While we had hoped for some increase in applicants from California and Texas, based on anticipated fallout from Proposition 209 and from the Hopwood case, there was no discernible impact on applications or admissions. Rather, it appears that many minority students from these areas chose employment rather than advanced education. Should this become a trend, the implications for maintaining the rather shallow advances in diversity made in the past few years, both nationally and at schools like MIT, are not positive. Still, the staff of the GEO will move forward, in close cooperation with the departments, in its outreach activities.


Dean Colbert was appointed by the Acting Governor of Massachusetts to a second five-year term on the board of directors of the Corporation for Business, Work and Learning, a quasi-public state organization that seeks to maintain a manufacturing base in Massachusetts. In addition, he continues to serve on the steering committee of the Mathematics, Science and Engineering Network of the Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network. During the past year, dean Colbert also continued as a member of the executive committee of the GEM Fellowship Program, assisting Dr. Vest in his third and final year as president of the organization; as a member of the board of governors of Endicott House; and a stockholder of the Harvard/MIT COOP.

Dean Roy Charles served as advisor and technical consultant to the MassPEP program.

Isaac M. Colbert

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98