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Office of the MIT Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs

In the summer of 2000 the office was restructured and two new offices created: the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and the Office of the Dean for Student Life (Division of Student Life). Previously both had been part of the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education.


Alfred E. Burton 1902-1921
H. P. Talbot 1921-1922, Acting Dean; Dean, 1922-1929
Harold E. Lobdell 1930-1946
Everett Moore Baker 1947-1950
Dana L. Farnsworth 1950-1951, Acting Dean
E. Francis Bowditch 1951-1956
John T. Rule 1956-1961
Kenneth R. Wadleigh 1961-1969
J. Daniel Nyhart 1969-1972
Carola Eisenberg 1972-1978
Robert L. Halfman 1978-1980, Acting Dean
Shirley M. McBay 1980-1991, Dean for Student Affairs
Margaret MacVicar 1985-1990, Dean for Undergraduate Education
Arthur C. Smith 1990-1991, Acting Dean; Dean, 1991-1995
Rosalind Williams 1995-2000
Robert P. Redwine 2000-2005, Dean for Undergraduate Education
Larry Benedict 2000-2008, Dean for Student Life
Daniel E. Hastings 2006-2013, Dean for Undergraduate Education
Costantino Colombo 2008-2016, Dean for Student Life
Dennis Freeman 2013- , Dean for Undergraduate Education
Suzy Nelson 2016- , Vice President for Student Life

The Office of the Dean for Student Affairs was established in 1902 as the Office of the Dean by a vote of the faculty. Alfred E. Burton was appointed dean and reported directly to the president. The dean was responsible for all students; his duties included cooperating with the president in all matters regarding discipline and the general welfare of the student body; acting as chairman of advisors; generally overseeing first year instruction, student self-government, social centers, residences, and supervising of first year students.

In 1920 the name of the office was changed to the Office of the Dean of Students (ODS) with Burton’s responsibilities including housing, freshman advising and activities, student government, and the Department of Physical Training. In 1921 Burton was succeeded by Acting Dean H. P. Talbot and the office was no longer responsible for the Department of Physical Training. The dean worked closely with the registrar’s office and with the director of admissions; both reported to the ODS, and actively assisted in recruiting efforts throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The jurisdiction of the ODS was again changed in the 1927-1928 academic year. The ODS was made responsible solely for undergraduate students when the Office of the Dean of Graduate Students was created.

In 1947 the registrar and the director of admissions began reporting directly to the president, but the dean continued to work closely with those offices and served as the chair for joint activities between ODS and the admissions and registrar’s offices. The ODS was responsible for veteran enrollment as well as student life and activities, including student organizations, residences, fraternities, freshman activities, athletics, music clubs, the hobby shop, freshman camp, the appointment of faculty advisors to incoming freshman, and student financial aid.

In the post-war period the Institute made strides towards becoming a residential university, and the functions of the ODS changed to reflect these efforts. The ODS introduced professionally-run programs in music and athletics and improved existing guidance programs to include mental health. The ODS was also involved in constructing new physical facilities to accommodate the changes in MIT student life as well as the growing academic programs. During the 1950s the campus was greatly enlarged with dormitories, athletic facilities, a non-denominational chapel, and an auditorium.

During the 1952-1953 academic year, the Student Aid Center separated from ODS and became an independent unit under the director of student aid. The responsibilities of the ODS now included women’s activities, as well as the traditional responsibilities of housing, athletics, student government, and student activities. In keeping with the Institute’s move towards improving student life on campus, ODS pointedly de-emphasized its disciplinary role and increased the emphasis on “community living.” That same year the Freshman Advisory Council was established. In the 1954-1955 academic year, both the Dean of Students’ Council and the Liaison Council were established. Also during that year, the Dean of Students ceased to serve as chair of the Faculty Committee on Discipline and was replaced by a faculty member.

By 1957 the dean defined his role as “an administrative officer whose chief concern is for the development of all the facets of education which occur outside the classroom.” In 1958 the ODS established the system of housemasters in the dormitories, a modification of its predecessor, the Faculty Resident system, which had been in use since 1951.

In 1962 the ODS began reporting to the vice president for academic administration. That same year its name was changed to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs (ODSA) to reflect more accurately the expanding areas of responsibility which resulted from the rapid growth of the Institute’s overall educational program during the previous few years. As housing and extracurricular activities became increasingly important, the ODSA’s responsibilities for the formulation and implementation of policies to further the development of extracurricular educational programs and to enhance their relationships with the formal academic aspects of student life also increased. As a result, the ODSA became more involved in academic affairs. Throughout the 1960s the office worked to develop programs for minority and disadvantaged students and to improve its counseling programs. In 1967 ODSA’s counseling responsibility was, on occasion, linked with its responsibility for discipline, which it exercised in conjunction with the Faculty Committee on Discipline.

Student unrest in the late 1960s and, in particular, tensions on the part of students over the U.S. military draft were keenly felt by ODSA in all of its capacities. In 1968-1969 the ODSA was renamed Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (also ODSA) and, the following year, was reorganized into six functional program areas, each headed by an associate dean: the Living Environment; Student and Community Activities; Athletics and Recreation; Counseling and Advisory Systems; Student Self-Governance and Participation in the Institute Governance; and Information Dissemination and Communication. The office reported to the Dean for Institute Relations from 1969 to 1972.

In the early 1970s the office worked to establish an Office of Minority Education (OME), but disagreements between minority groups on campus and the ODSA concerning such issues as placement of the OME in the administrative structure of the Institute caused implementation of the plan to be delayed until the 1974-1975 academic year.

A review of the operations of the Freshman Advisory Council in 1975-1976 led to the creation of the Office of Freshman Advising, whose director reported to the ODSA.

In 1977, the vice president in the Office of the President, to whom the ODSA reported, undertook a review of the ODSA’s organizational structure. In 1980 Vice President Constantine Simonides’s suggestions were implemented and, as a result, the office was divided into five “service components” or sections: the undergraduate academic support office (formerly the Office of Freshman Advising); student assistance services (SAS), which subsumed the International Student Office, which had previously reported to the Admissions Office; student activities; residence programs; and athletics. Athletics was not, however, to report formally to ODSA, but was to continue close program and staff relationships. The components were managed by section heads who held the rank of associate dean.

In 1982-1983 the residence programs and student activities were merged under the Office of Residence and Campus Activities. In 1985 the Office of Minority Education began reporting to the Dean for Student Affairs,and the ODSA began to report to the Associate Provost for Educational Programs and Policy. In 1985-1986 the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (ODUE) was established “To promote and guide Institute-wide review of academic program, educational content and rationale, balances of emphasis between research and instructional activities and between undergraduate and advanced education activities.” The ODUE and the ODSA undertook some joint activities. In 1988 the Public Service Center (PSC) was established to foster greater awareness and participation by MIT students in public service in the Boston and Cambridge communities. In addition, the Quality Education for Minorities Project was implemented to improve education for minority ethnic groups.

During the 1991-1992 academic year the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA) and the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (ODUE) were merged to become the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs (ODUESA). The purpose of the new office was to coordinate efforts and bring new vitality to a number of programs that supported educational activities of the faculty and, at the same time, to be more effective in providing services to MIT students. Under the merger the ODSA Undergraduate Academic Support Office became the Undergraduate Academic Affairs office whose function was to oversee academic advising and support, curriculum support and innovation, teaching and faculty development, educational studies, and research. The ODUESA also assumed responsibility for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the Independent Activities Period (IAP).

By 1993 the merger of the two offices was complete. The office was organized under “sections” similar to the ODSA. The Central Section, also referred to as the central administration, provided administrative services and facilities support to the office as a whole and housed the Public Service Center. The other sections, each headed by a section head with the position of associate dean, included the Office of Minority Education; Residence and Campus Activities; Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC); Student Assistance Services; and Undergraduate Academic Affairs, which is responsible for both UROP and IAP.

Internal reorganization of the new office was still in progress, however, and in the 1993-1994 academic year, the head of SAS, Robert Randolph, was promoted to senior associate dean in order to focus on a number of tasks which included organizing a revised and comprehensive judicial and dispute system for students and chairing a housing task force appointed by MIT Vice President William Dickson to create a viable long-range plan for the Institute. The SAS section was divided into two new sections: Counseling and Support Services and the International Student Office.

In 1995, in an effort to separate and strengthen the two major elements of the office,–one concerned with student residential life and campus activities, the other with academic affairs–the position of Dean for Student Life was created, reporting to the Dean for Undergraduate Education.

In 1996 an administrative reorganization was undertaken, designed to consolidate most of the functions which support student life and undergraduate education. As a result, the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education (ODSUE) was formed. Its main activities encompassed academic and financial information; academic support services; and campus life services. Rosalind Williams served as dean of this office from 1996 to 2000.

When Dean Williams stepped down in June 2000, ODSUE (along with the Office of the Dean for Student Life) was restructured. Two new positions were established: the Dean for Undergraduate Education and the Dean for Student Life. Robert P. Redwine assumed the position of Dean for Undergraduate and Larry Benedict was named Dean for Student Life, beginning in August 2000. Dean Benedict served until August 2008, when he was succeeded by Costantino “Chris” Colombo. Dean Redwine was succeeded by Daniel E. Hastings in January 2006 and Dean Hastings was succeeded by Dennis Freeman in July 2013.

Prepared by the Institute Archives, MIT Libraries
November 1995; updated January 2006, August 2008, July 2013, August 2013