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Office of the MIT Dean for Graduate Education


Harry M. Goodwin 1926-1940, Dean of Graduate Students
John W. M. Bunker 1940-1952
Harold L. Hazen 1952-1967
Irwin W. Sizer 1967-1975
Kenneth R. Wadleigh 1975-1983
Frank E. Perkins 1983-1995
Isaac M. Colbert 1995-1996, Acting Dean
J. David Litster 1996-1999, Vice President for Research and Dean for Graduate Education
Isaac M. Colbert 1996-1999, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education
1999-2007, Dean for Graduate Students
Steven R. Lerman 2007-2010, Dean for Graduate Students; Dean for Graduate Education, as of 2008; and Vice Chancellor, as of 2008
Christine Ortiz 2010-2016, Dean for Graduate Education
Blanche Staton 2016- , Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education, Director of the Office of Graduate Education

The position of dean of graduate students was established in 1926 by MIT President Samuel W. Stratton. The dean’s office was to aid students in choosing graduate courses and to aid the departments in the preparation of uniform requirements for graduate degrees. In addition to advising students, the office also secured funds for graduate students to remain in school. The functions of procuring financial aid and maintaining standards have been the principal responsibilities of the graduate school office since its inception.

The precursor to the office was the Committee on Advanced Degrees and Fellowships, established in 1920 to increase graduate study and research at the Institute by procuring funds for students to engage in extended study and to reduce faculty teaching loads so that more time could be devoted to research. In 1923 the number of graduate students was sufficiently large that the committee refined its role. In addition to actively recruiting funding for graduate study and research, it coordinated policies that were developed by committees on graduate study within the individual departments. In effect, then, the Committee on Advanced Degrees and Fellowships became the arbiter of standards for graduate school admission and degree requirements.

In 1926 the chairman of the committee, Harry M. Goodwin, was appointed as the first dean of graduate students. In 1927 the Committee on Advanced Degrees and Fellowships was replaced with the Faculty Committee on Graduate Courses and Scholarships. The new committee was chaired by the dean, and included a representative from each department that offered a graduate program.

In 1940 Goodwin resigned and John W. Bunker became dean. It is likely that the present Committee on Graduate School Policy was created under Bunker; it appears to have been well established by 1953.

In 1953, under the leadership of Bunker’s successor, Harold L. Hazen, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School helped form the Graduate Organization which was governed by an elected Graduate Student Council; membership included all graduate students. That same year the office began publishing the Graduate Student Manual, first an irregular, later an annual publication that provides general information on policies and procedures for incoming graduate students. Hazen’s tenure was notable for the continued increase in government-funded scholarships and for the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the degrees being sought and awarded. Sanborn C. Brown, the first associate dean of the graduate school, was appointed in 1963.

Harold Hazen was succeeded in 1967 by Irwin W. Sizer. Sizer focused on issues surrounding recruiting and retaining women and minority students, the need for graduate student housing, and the continued increase in the demand for interdisciplinary programs. The emphasis on minority recruitment is reflected in the creation of the position of the assistant dean for minority students, filled by Clarence G. Williams (1972-1974). The administration was also expanded to include an assistant dean’s position, which was held by Robert K. Weatherall (1968-1972) and Ronald S. Stone (1973-1975).

In 1974 Kenneth R. Wadleigh was appointed dean. Notable features of Wadleigh’s tenure include the lifting of departmental quotas for graduate students in 1974 and the emphasis on active recruitment of students, particularly women and minorities.

Frank E. Perkins was appointed dean in 1983. The office continued its traditional functions of seeking financial assistance and setting policy and standards. In addition, it was responsible for the Lowell Institute School; the Summer Session Program including the Minority Summer Science Program; the MIT/Wellesley Upward Bound Program; ROTC programs; and the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography and Oceanographic Engineering. After 1987, the Upward Bound and ROTC programs no longer reported to the graduate office. Throughout Perkins’s tenure, there was a continued emphasis on recruiting minority and women students.

Dean Perkins resigned in August 1995 and Isaac Colbert was appointed as acting dean from September 1995 to February 1996. In February 1996, J. David Litster, vice president and dean for research, assumed additional responsibility as dean for graduate education. Colbert was appointed senior associate dean for graduate education and assumed day-to-day operation of the office. Effective July 1, 1999, Isaac M. Colbert became dean for graduate students, reporting jointly to Vice President and Dean for Research J. David Litster and Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow. The Graduate Education Office was also renamed the Graduate Students Office on July 1, 1999. Effective July 1, 2007, Steven R. Lerman, the Class of 1922 Distinguished Professor Civil and Envirnomental Engineering, succeeded Isaac Colbert as dean for graduate students. As of March 31, 2008, his title was changed to dean for graduate education and the office was renamed Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. Colbert championed efforts to improve graduate community, including an expansion of on-campus housing and programming efforts, and worked to establish the Childbirth Accommodation Policy, the first leave policy for graduate students having children.

Effective July 1, 2007, Steven R. Lerman, the Class of 1922 Distinguished Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering, succeeded Isaac Colbert as dean for graduate students. Throughout his tenure, Lerman oversaw a much-needed staffing expansion, streamlined the office’s internal processes to better serve students, and strengthened fellowship support for entering underrepresented students. As of March 31, 2008, his title was changed to dean for graduate education and the office was renamed Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. Lerman was also appointed vice chancellor effective July 1, 2008.

Christine Ortiz, professor of materials science and engineering, was appointed dean for graduate education, effective Aug. 1, 2010, succeeding Steven R. Lerman. Ortiz’s tenure was notable for a focus on accelerating departmental diversity efforts and strengthening support systems for graduate students, including graduate student families. She also brought unprecedented attention to the importance of and need for professional development education and opportunities for graduate students.

Upon Ortiz’s departure from the position in July 2016, Blanche Staton, senior associate dean for graduate education, was appointed interim dean for graduate education. In summer 2017, the office was renamed the Office of Graduate Education, and Staton was named director of the Office of Graduate Education while continuing her role as senior associate dean for graduate education.

Prepared by the Department of Distinctive Collections, MIT Libraries July 1999; updated July 2007, April 2008, February 2010, August 2010, June 2021