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MIT names new provost, chancellor to fill 2 most senior academic posts

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  February 3, 2014 05:36 PM

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(Dominick Reuter / MIT)

Martin Schmidt was named provost and Cynthia Barnhart was named chancellor of MIT on Monday.

MIT filled its two most senior academic posts today, naming two longtime faculty members as provost and chancellor.

Martin Schmidt, an electrical engineering professor who has served as associate provost since 2008 and as acting provost since last fall, was named provost, while Cynthia Barnhart, a civil and environmental engineering professor and associated dean of the engineering school since 2007, was named chancellor, President L. Rafael Reif said in an email to the campus community.

Both appointments are effective immediately, campus officials said.

“Marty brings to the role of provost a powerful combination of skills and experience as a teacher, advisor, administrator, researcher, inventor and entrepreneur,” Reif wrote in his email. “Marty has cheerfully accepted and successfully handled a great many sensitive, difficult assignments for the MIT community. In the process, he has become well known, inside and outside MIT, for his clarity, integrity, strategic perspective and ability to bring people together to get hard things done.”

“In three months as Acting Provost, Marty has proved himself an indispensable member of our senior team,” Reif added. “And I am delighted that he has accepted my offer to help lead MIT as provost.”

Schmidt, 54 and a resident of Reading, has been at MIT since 1981, when he began graduate studies at the school. He earned a master’s two years later and then a doctorate in 1988 before joining the faculty.

“I find great joy in learning about new fields,” Schmidt said in a statement. “What I find most exciting about the opportunity to serve as MIT’s provost is the intellectual stimulation that I know will come from engaging with all the diverse parts of this extraordinary institution.”

The provost is MIT’s “senior academic and budget officer, with overall responsibility for the institute’s educational programs, as well as for the recruitment, promotion, and tenuring of faculty,” campus officials said.

Schmidt replaces Chis A. Kaiser who stepped down in the fall to resumed teaching and research.

Barnhart, 54 and a resident of Wellesley, arrived at MIT in 1984 as a graduate student. She earned a master’s in 1985 and doctorate three years later. She taught at Georgia Institute of Technology for four years before joining MIT’s facuty.

“Cindy comes to the chancellorship with a lively awareness of the demands and realities of student life on campus,” Reif wrote in his email. “In interviewing for this position, she explained to me that from the start of her time on the faculty — a job she began when her first child was three weeks old — she has made a conscious effort to prove that it is possible to have both a successful career and a satisfying family life; her commitment and her example on this score will be tremendously useful in helping our famously intense community strike a productive balance.”

Barnhart said in a statement she is “thrilled.”

“The position is all about students and their learning and life experiences at MIT,” she said. “I can think of nothing on our campus more important to me.”

“I want to make the student experience at MIT as positive and fulfilling as possible,” Barnhart added. “And I look forward to engaging fully with students to make that happen.”

MIT’s chancellor “oversees graduate and undergraduate education, student life, student services, and other areas with impact on the student experience,” campus officials said.

Barnhart replaces W. Eric Grimson who stepped down in the fall to take on a new job with the institute’s upcoming fundraising campaign.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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