MIT Moving Forward in Learning to Solve Big Problems

By Daniel Hastings, Dean of Undergraduate Education

I hope many in DUE went to or watched via webcast the State of the Institute presentation by President Hockfield, Provost Reif, Chancellor Clay and Executive Vice President Stone on October 2. I am proud that MIT is committed to helping solve some of the great issues in the world. These are big problems such as:

  • our energy dependence in a way that preserves the environment while enhancing our security,

  • the scourge of various kinds of cancer,

  • the lack of progress in diversity in the professoriate.

These bold visions which harness the power of the extraordinary MIT community are completely in accord with what we in DUE say we want to help our students do. Our motto in DUE is that we are helping our students “learn to solve big problems.” These problems outlined above defy easy solution. Some of you, who like me are children of the seventies, may recall that President Nixon said the nation would solve the energy problem by the end of decade (that is, 1979). He also declared war on cancer to defeat it forever like we defeated polio in this country. In the eighties, President Gray declared that we wanted to solve the issue of diversity in the academy. The fact that we still have these large issues is a testimony to their complexity and difficulty. These problems require the combined attack of scientists, technologists, social scientists and humanists. At MIT, we are fortunate to have excellence in all of these areas and together we can make progress.

Our role in DUE in these bold challenges is to enable our great students through all the services, support, and strategic initiatives we champion for them. I am positive that among our students now or in the future will be the leaders who will help the world move towards solutions. We must help develop those students.

Thanks to all of you for your contributions to these challenges.

Oct 17, 2007, Tech Talk article on the State of the Institute address: