MIT is committed to addressing the global opportunities and challenges presented by the ubiquity of computing — across industries and academic disciplines — and by the rise of artificial intelligence. The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing is at the heart of this endeavor.
Made possible by a $350 million gift from Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Blackstone, a leading global asset manager, the college was created in the context of clear trends both inside and outside the Institute. Inside MIT, students are choosing in record numbers to study computer science, and departments across the Institute are creating joint majors with computer science and hiring faculty with expertise in computing. Externally, the digital portion of the global economy has been growing much faster than the economy as a whole — and computing and AI are increasingly woven into every part of the global economy.
In February 2019, MIT announced the appointment of Dan Huttenlocher SM ’84, PhD ’88, as the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing’s inaugural dean. A seasoned builder and leader of new academic entities, most recently Cornell Tech in New York City, Huttenlocher assumed his post in August 2019.
The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing is working with and across all five of MIT’s existing schools. We called it a college to differentiate it from the five schools, and to signal that its programs and faculty span across the Institute: The college is designed to lead in computing education and research across a wide range of disciplines, as well as in computer science, AI, and related fields.
In December 2018, MIT announced the site for construction of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing’s new headquarters, near the intersection of Vassar and Main streets (the current site of Building 44). The new building’s central location promises to unite the many MIT departments, centers, and labs that integrate computing into their work. Construction is expected to be complete by 2023.
The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing is both bringing together existing MIT programs in computing and developing much-needed new cross-cutting educational and research programs. For existing programs, the college will help facilitate coordination and manage the growth in areas such as computer science, artificial intelligence, data systems and society, and operations research, as well as helping strengthen interdisciplinary computing programs such as computational science and engineering. For new areas, the college is creating cross-cutting platforms for the study and practice of social and ethical responsibilities of computing, for multi-departmental computing education, and for incubating new interdisciplinary computing activities.
Most obviously, the college will connect directly with the rest of MIT because, of its 50 new faculty, 25 will have a joint appointment in the College and another existing, academic department.
The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), which is joint with the School of Engineering, the Operations Research Center (ORC), which is joint with the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), including the Technology and Policy Program (TPP) and the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC), the Center for Computational Science Engineering (CCSE), the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS), the MIT Quest for Intelligence, the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, and the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (Jameel Clinic). Other units may join over time.
Impact on education
MIT students will continue to receive the rigorous, fundamental, mens-et-manus education that defines an MIT degree. The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will provide opportunities to expand course offerings and programs in directions that students are already demonstrating they want to follow through their heavy enrollment in computer science. The demand for computing-related training is at an all-time high — and not just at MIT, but at colleges and universities around the world. With this new structure, MIT aims to educate students who are “bilingual” — adept in computing, as well as in their primary field. Equally important, throughout the college curriculum students will be challenged to explore and grapple with the complex societal implications of computing.
Interested students should pursue the normal application process to MIT. Prospective MIT undergraduates are not admitted directly into any department, program, or even the new college. Students are asked to choose their majors (without restriction) at the end of their first year of study. Prospective graduate students are admitted to specific degree programs rather than to Schools or the new college.
The college is developing the Common Ground for Computing Education, an interdepartmental teaching collaborative that will facilitate the offering of computing classes and coordination of computing-related curricula across academic units.
Through the Common Ground, it is expected that there will be new undergraduate majors or minors created, such as in artificial intelligence and decision-making, as well as facilitating undergraduate blended degrees, 6-14 (Computer Science, Economics, and Data Science), 6-9 (Computation and Cognition), 11-6 (Urban Science and Planning with Computer Science), 18-C (Mathematics with Computer Science), and others.
Moreover, the college is expected to help students better navigate the computing landscape at MIT by creating clearer paths and support those who wish to pursue other interests beyond computer science.
This remains to be determined. However, it is expected that, with the addition of 50 new faculty positions, the Institute’s population of graduate students and post docs will naturally grow too.
MIT has been making progress in this direction for some time; for example, we already offer undergraduate majors that pair computer science with economics, biology, mathematics, urban planning, and brain and cognitive sciences. The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will allow MIT to respond more effectively to the increased student demand for computing curricula, and it will give MIT faculty a shared structure for new ideas in interdisciplinary computing education.
You will continue to hold your MIT degree in your discipline. The creation of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing does not change your degree. This expanded footprint for computing at MIT is expected to enhance the stature of all computing-related fields and academic activities at MIT.
Impact on faculty and research
MIT is increasing its academic capacity in computing and AI with 50 new faculty positions — 25 will be core computing positions in CS, AI, and related areas, and 25 will be shared jointly with departments. Searches are now active to recruit core faculty in CS and AI+D, and for joint faculty with MIT Philosophy, the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and several interdisciplinary institutes on input from departments so that recruiting can be undertaken during the next academic year.
Potential faculty members from any field who have a strong interest in computing should keep an eye on relevant job boards and listings, especially for those positions posted in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) or the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS).
We expect the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will become a convening force for research and scholarship on societal responsibilities of computing and AI. The specific focal areas of the new college within these fields will be shaped largely by its faculty, its dean and academic leadership, and by MIT student interests.
While MIT believes this new opportunity opens new possibilities for many faculty, engagement with the new college will be entirely voluntary. Faculty who do not wish to engage more deeply with computing or AI will not be required to do so.
A critically important new cross-cutting area, the college is developing the Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC), to facilitate the development of responsible “habits of mind and action” for those who create and deploy computing technologies, and the creation of technologies in the public interest. The college is designing a systemic framework for SERC that will not only effect change in computing education and research at MIT, but one that will also inform policy and practice in government and industry.
Activities that are currently in development include multi-disciplinary curricula embedded in traditional computing and AI courses across all levels of instruction, the commission and curation of a series of case studies that will be modular and available to all via MIT’s open access channels, active learning projects, cross-disciplinary monthly convenings, public forums, and more.
Numerous companies doing research and development related to AI are already part of MIT’s broader innovation ecosystem in Kendall Square, across the country, and around the world. The Institute will continue to collaborate with them and to welcome additional mutually beneficial collaborations. It is fair to assume that projects and research generated by the college will be of interest to industry and will have commercial relevance. Additionally, it is expected that the “bilingual” graduates who emerge from this new college — combining competence in computing and in other fields — will be of enormous value to employers.
Questions about societal impacts of new technologies are not unique to AI, and the Institute has a long history of considering such benefits and risks of its research. These questions will be germane to AI and other computing technologies and will be an important aspect of the work of the college.