Williams appointed undergraduate dean


Dr. Rosalind H. Williams, a cultural historian and Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing, has been named to succeed Professor Arthur C. Smith as Dean of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, effective September 1, President Charles M. Vest has announced.

Professor Williams, whose appointment is contingent upon confirmation by the Academic Council, will report directly to Provost Joel Moses, serve as a member of the Academic Council, and work closely with the president and the deans in setting and implementing the Institute's educational agenda, Dr. Vest said.

In addition, he said, "she will work with all senior officers and the UESA staff to provide for a high quality of experience and well-integrated living and learning environment for all of our undergraduate students."

Dr. Vest continued: "She has had a distinguished scholarly career, and has shown a constant and creative dedication to undergraduate education at MIT. Her long service in faculty governance, including a term as associate chair of the faculty, her broad campus experience, and her scholarly interest in the culture of technology and science uniquely prepare her for this role. I look forward to her creative and energetic leadership and strong administrative role on behalf of undergraduate education and experience at MIT."

Dr. Vest said that Dean Smith, "consistent with his deep dedication to MIT and its students, has graciously agreed to remain as dean until September 1 to allow for an orderly transition."

Dean Smith has served five years in the post and announced earlier that he was stepping down to resume his role as a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, where he has been a faculty member since 1959.

Dr. Vest and Professor Moses also thanked Professor Linn W. Hobbs and the members of the advisory committee he chaired "for their thoughtful and thorough work that was so essential in leading to this exciting appointment."

Professor Williams had been appointed in May as head of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, effective July 1, but will not assume that post. Dean Philip S. Khoury of the School of Humanities and Social Science said discussions would begin shortly as to who will become the next head of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies and that he hopes to announce the name of the person in the next month or two.

Professor Williams, a specialist in the cultural study of technology, received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1966, the MA from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967 and the PhD in 1978 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 1980-82, she was a Fellow of the Science, Technology and Society Program at MIT and began her teaching career at MIT in 1983 as a lecturer in the writing program. She became an assistant professor in 1985 and associate professor of writing and technology studies, holding the MIT Class of 1922 Career Development Professorship, in 1990. She was named Robert M. Metcalfe Associate Professor of Writing in 1993 and was promoted to full professor in 1995.

She is the author of numerous publications, including two major books: Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society and the Imagination (MIT Press, 1990) and Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-Century France (University of California Press, 1982) A work in progress, Path and Place in Modern Life, is expected to have an important impact on the field of technology studies.

Her essay, "Does Technology Shape the Future?" was the lead article in MIT: Shaping the Future, edited by Professor Kenneth R. Manning and published by the MIT Press as a commemorative volume coinciding with the inauguration of Dr. Vest as MIT President in 1991.

In it, she concluded: "All the technological inventions in the world will not help our situation, or will only make it worse, if they are not complemented by social inventions."

"The degree to which MIT shapes the future depends on what we emphasize in our name. If we stress that this is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we may end up with a subordinate role in bringing about truly significant historical changes. But if we emphasize that we are part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-a social invention with a proud heritage, a place where people work together to create a society of diversity, equity and justice-then MIT will indeed play a leading role in shaping a better future."

Professor Williams' husband, W. Gary Williams, has two degrees from MIT, the SB in chemical engineering (1965) and the SM in oceanography (1967). He owns a company that builds oceanographic instruments. They live in Newton with their three children, Laurel, 19, Owen, 15, and Peter, 11.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 21, 1995.


Topics: Administration

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