“There’s always been not just a willingness, but a strong desire, to work on things that have a practical impact. We combine scholarship with having a real, tangible impact on the world.”
Ian A. Waitz serves as the Dean of the School of Engineering at MIT. He is dedicated to advancing a standard of excellence in teaching and research, fostering a thriving culture of innovation, and empowering creative thinkers and doers to solve the world’s greatest challenges. He has implemented policies and practices that champion those pursuits and embody the values at the heart of MIT.
Waitz, also the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and former department head in Aeronautics and Astronautics (from 2008 until his appointment as dean in 2011), has introduced policy changes to increase effectiveness, transparency, and collaboration in the hiring and promotion of faculty, management of finances and resources, and efficacy of teaching and research. Moreover, he has done this while committing to practices that promote openness, fairness, and inclusiveness at MIT’s largest school.
Waitz is also a strong believer in enhancing pedagogy on campus and expanding educational opportunities. He has promoted novel models and opportunities in residential education. He co-launched the MIT Beaver Works Center, which supports collaborative efforts between Lincoln Laboratory and MIT campus, enabling both institutions to make a greater impact on pressing global problems through research and education. Waitz was a supporter and early participant in MITx and edX, which offer worldwide open courses that harness the power of technology to improve education and drive systemic change. He has strengthened several key MIT-wide co-curricular programs that report to the School of Engineering, including the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, and the programs of the Office of Engineering Outreach. He has worked with department heads to create mechanisms and programs through which undergraduate students can pursue their courses of study from remote locations for one semester. He’s also championed flexible engineering degree programs through which engineering students can create new, self-directed educational opportunities for themselves — within and across the rigor of their disciplines. Moreover, he has increased support for teaching in the School of Engineering as a whole by over 30 percent, enabling departments to better support the exceptional MIT learning environment.
In parallel, Waitz has helped spark new programs and spaces for innovation and entrepreneurship, including the creation of the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund, which provides all MIT students with an opportunity to move innovative ideas forward. In its first year, it had over 800 participants from 280 teams representing all five MIT Schools. He was a key part of a process that catalyzed the MIT Innovation Initiative, first offering it as a proposal from the School of Engineering. He has successfully articulated the need for expanded maker spaces on campus and lobbied on behalf of the School of Engineering for the creation of MIT.nano, which will be a hub for accelerating nanoscale research when it opens in 2018.
Waitz is, at heart, a problem solver, and that trait defines his leadership, motivates his research, and inspires his actions. To help power the people, education, and innovation he values, he has established resource development personnel in all departments, which has led to nearly a factor of three increase in yearly giving to the School during his tenure. He has also strengthened partnerships with alumni, industry, and donors by highlighting the benefits of engaging with MIT broadly.
In his own research, his desire for answers has led to advances in gas turbine engines, fluid mechanics, combustion, and acoustics. His most recent focus has been the modeling and evaluation of climate, air quality, and noise impacts of aviation, and the assessment of technological, operational, and policy options for mitigating these impacts. These efforts have led to more rigorous and rational evaluations of environmental policy and technology. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and has been recognized by multiple awards for teaching and research, including a MacVicar Fellowship from MIT.
Finally, Waitz sees attracting and retaining the most talented people in the world as the core for continued success at MIT. He is committed to expanding pathways for engagement, opening more opportunities within MIT and beyond, and providing an exceptional, inclusive, and fun learning and research environment for all students, faculty, and staff.