Opinion letter to the editor

Response to “Grad students suffer from lagging support”

Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz offers insights to current grad student initiatives

Dear Tech Editors:

We are writing in response to the opinion guest column by Mark Goldman, “Grad students suffer from lagging support” (The Tech, Nov 1, 2018). We are planning to meet with Mark directly to discuss the specific issues he raised and are also committed to offering more opportunities for students to engage with us on those or, in fact, any and all topics.

In the meantime, we wanted to use this opportunity to provide a brief update on some of the ways we, along with our colleagues in the Division of Student Life, are enhancing our support for MIT’s graduate students. Informed by data and outreach to stakeholders, a series of initiatives is already in progress.

Highlights include improvements in onboarding new students, such as Atlas for Grads; the release in mid-August of the final report of the Graduate Student Housing Working Group; the launch of a new Parental Leave policy on September 1 to help students better balance childcare with study and research; and a growing effort to bolster professional development and career exploration opportunities. A new graduate family support working group will be soon underway to broadly understand the environment for graduate student families at MIT and options for ensuring they are appropriately supported.

OGE has also taken steps to increase its graduate student support network with the appointment of Assistant Dean Suraiya Baluch, expanded its financial literacy programming, and augmented diversity recruitment efforts. Further, as graduate students spend much of their time in labs and departments, we are collaborating with MindHandHeart on the Department Support Project, designed to make academic environments more welcoming. Relatedly, all student facing staff in OVC were recently trained to better identify and support students with mental health and personal support needs. Finally, as graduate students and their families need more opportunities to hear from one another and from others, we are happy that the graduate admissions blog is going strong, MIT media channels are featuring more stories about graduate students and alumni, and more events, like Valerie Young’s talk on Imposter Syndrome, are graduate student specific.

We are pleased by our very meaningful collaboration with graduate student groups and others on these topics. However, as Mark’s cogent letter pointed out, we have much more to do. The passion and commitment he feels towards his peers is what motivates us to keep pushing forward. In that spirit, we invite all graduate students to join us in creating an even better MIT.


Ian Waitz, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education, and Blanche Staton, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education, Director of the Office of Graduate Education