MIT reshapes itself to shape the future
Announced in October 2018, the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing represents a $1.1 billion commitment by MIT, enabled by a $350 million gift from Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO, and co-founder of global asset manager Blackstone. Both in business and through his extensive philanthropy, Mr. Schwarzman focuses on providing transformative solutions to global-scale problems.
The formation of the college was motivated by major trends both inside and outside of MIT.
Within the Institute, the numbers of students declaring majors and choosing classes in computer science have reached historic highs. And newly created joint majors between computer science and other fields, including biology and economics, are also proving popular. The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will enable the creation of new and innovative educational programs, and produce creative computational thinkers and doers with the cultural, ethical, and historical consciousness to use technology for the common good — leaders who will offer the world new technological possibilities grounded in human values.
Similarly, in fields far beyond engineering and science — from political science and linguistics to anthropology and the arts — there are burgeoning opportunities for current and future research to benefit from advanced computational knowledge and capabilities. The college aims to empower researchers to lead in such research in computer science, AI, and across a broad range of disciplines. Their discoveries will leave an indelible imprint on education, the environment, ethics, design, finance, health, music, manufacturing, policy, security, transportation, and more.
At the same time, computing and AI are increasingly woven into every part of the global economy, and the digital portion of the economy has been growing much faster than the whole.
Building on these trends, the college will strengthen computing studies and research across MIT’s many areas of excellence, and in turn shape the direction of computing research and education through insights from these fields.
In February 2019, Provost Martin A. Schmidt launched the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing Task Force. Five working groups, composed of faculty, students and staff from a wide range of MIT departments, were formed to develop ideas and options for creation of the college that can help the administration plan for its launch. The working groups convened throughout the spring 2019 semester and produced draft reports in June describing their thoughts on organizational structure, faculty appointments, academic degrees, social and ethical implications of computing, and computing infrastructure. On August 15, the working groups released their final reports.
MIT announced the appointment of Dan Huttenlocher SM ’84, PhD ’88, as the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing’s inaugural dean on February 21, 2019. A seasoned builder and leader of new academic entities, most recently Cornell Tech in New York City, Huttenlocher assumed his post in August 2019.
To help launch the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, MIT held a three-day celebration, drawing experts on artificial intelligence, machine learning, ethics, education, and more. Headliners for the events, held on February 26-28, 2019, included Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, New York Times columnist and author Tom L. Friedman, and Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and a visiting innovation fellow at MIT.
Shortly after arriving at MIT, Dean Huttenlocher began an extensive planning process for the new college in coordination with members of the MIT community.
Based on the final reports of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing Task Force working groups, a strawman organizational plan for the college was developed through an iterative process. The school deans and the college advisory group (comprising the members of the former Task Force Steering Committee) reviewed an initial draft and provided feedback. A revised version was circulated to the school councils for review, and a subsequent revision was sent to the full MIT faculty for feedback and final revision, after which it was shared more broadly with the MIT community. Student feedback was solicited at the same time as feedback from the broader faculty.
Prior to starting the organizational planning for the college, a plan was developed for the reorganization of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. This was undertaken jointly by the School of Engineering and the Schwarzman College, working with the faculty of the department and the Engineering Council, following a similar iterative updating process based on successive rounds of feedback.
Over the course of the spring, summer, and fall, a total of 73 dean’s meetings were held with groups regarding college planning. In January 2020, the college released its initial organizational structure and began moving forward with implementation.