On the final evening of MIT Sloan Reunion 2022, John C Head III Dean David Schmittlein delivered the “State of the School” address in person for the first time in three years.
“I’m grateful that you care enough about MIT Sloan to come to Reunion to be with each other, and that you want to know how the school is doing,” he told the audience in Wong Auditorium.
Alumni gathered on campus to hear the latest updates on admissions, faculty recruitment and retention, career development opportunities for students, global outreach and engagement amid the ebbs and flows of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the close of the MIT Campaign for a Better World. In addition, Dean Schmittlein offered attendees a preview of where MIT Sloan and the Institute will be heading in the years ahead.
“We sometimes don’t take as much time as we should to celebrate the many positive changes across campus at MIT,” said Dean Schmittlein. “So, I just want to celebrate what is happening at MIT and what is happening with the MIT Sloan School’s engagement with that activity.”
The distinctiveness of MIT Sloan
In a change of pace from years past, the dean began with an extended note on MIT Sloan’s efforts to recruit new and retain current faculty members. These developments, he noted, were especially relevant in light of recent and forthcoming faculty retirements, and the establishment and expansion of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing—the first major academic restructuring at the Institute in 70 years.
From the appointment of Cynthia Barnhart, SM ’86, PhD ’88, to MIT provost in February to the hiring of two new faculty who will occupy joint appointments between MIT Sloan and the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Dean Schmittlein reiterated the fact that the school was fast becoming an even more integral part of the Institute.
“Our strategy is to meaningfully be MIT’s school of management,” he said. “We want to have the courage to be distinctive enough—and to take our point of distinction from our close connection to the distinctiveness that is MIT.”
Such preeminence, Dean Schmittlein continued, would falter if not for the school’s commitment to expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across all dimensions. For MIT Sloan finds its greatest strength in the diversity of its students, faculty, staff, and alumni, who hail from across the country and around the world.
The dean returned to this facet of DEI throughout the “State of the School” numerous times—especially when discussing admissions. “Diversity matters,” he said. “The most important things to take away from the business of admissions are not the numbers themselves, but the character and the culture of the MBA class, which is very strong.”
The incoming classes in the MBA program and others, the dean continued, are so strong—and getting stronger—because of the admissions office.
“We endeavor to generate enough interest in MIT Sloan so that people from underrepresented groups will choose to apply,” said Dean Schmittlein. “We work to make sure that we have a diverse applicant pool, and we work very hard to foster a diverse incoming class by encouraging potential students to come and join us.”
If interest ever wanes, applications dwindle, or matriculation falters, the school wants to understand why—and will work even harder “to be better understood as a place that potential students would want to come to.”
“That’s what we do around diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Dean Schmittlein. “This allows me to truthfully tell entering students, ‘Every one of you is valued equally with respect to our desire to have you at MIT Sloan.’”
Looking back, looking ahead
Dean Schmittlein reflected on the school’s “history and depth of engagement,” and the importance of sustaining it virtually and in person as the COVID-19 pandemic remains an ever-present aspect of modern life.
“We know that alumni are eager to gather with each other and with MIT Sloan faculty and staff. We have begun some in-person activities, and many more are planned,” said the dean, “but we have also learned some things about engaging online. We'll keep doing that as well, for we ought to do both—not either.”
The dean also thanked the MIT Sloan community for its generosity throughout the MIT Campaign for a Better World, which recently concluded after alumni and donors raised $6.24 billion to tackle humanity’s most urgent global challenges. He was especially grateful for the fact that, after raising $373 million for the school, MIT Sloan alumni contributed an additional $238 million to the Institute.
“Of course, we are interested in advancing management at MIT, but one of the things that better connects MIT Sloan across campus is when alumni like you take an interest in other facets of the Institute—like computing, product design, and astronomy,” said Dean Schmittlein.
“Even astronomy, as one of our alums gave to one of MIT’s large telescopes.”