Realigning DUE Space and Strategy

Dennis Freeman, Dean for Undergraduate Education

MIT Infinite CooridorAs part of the initial MIT 2030 priorities, MIT will be building a new Nano-Materials, Structures  and Systems facility (nMaSS). By consolidating the Institute’s nanoscale research activities into a state-of-the-art facility, nMaSS will facilitate accelerated scientific discovery. MIT President Emeritus Susan Hockfield called the construction of nMaSS the “highest academic priority of the MIT 2030 campus development plan.”

The Institute considered several sites around campus for nMaSS. Given the need for a location with low levels of vibration and electromagnetic interference, which can interfere with sensitive equipment used in this type of research, it was determined that the most suitable location encompassed the footprint of Building 12. The MIT Executive Committee has fast-tracked this major project and construction will begin in summer 2014. As a result, all Building 12 residents need to move out of the building by July 1. This has major implications for DUE, since we occupy a significant amount of square footage in the building, including Global Education and Career Development (GECD), Office of Faculty Support (OFS), DUE Desktop Support, and the Tutorial Services Room (TSR).

Space planning is always a challenge at MIT. We could choose to relocate residents of Building 12 and leave it at that. However, this would be a missed opportunity to improve the use of space across DUE. Instead, we have initiated a comprehensive process that will consider all DUE space and result in a plan where space and strategy are better aligned. The planning is guided by the DUE space principles developed by the DUE Leadership Team in 2006 (listed at the end of article) and five strategic goals: 

Space decisions should:

  • Reduce barriers between students and support services.
  • Consider ways to positively influence our ability to serve the faculty.
  • Connect to the Dean’s priorities.
  • Facilitate collaborative work that supports DUE priorities.
  • Support the long-term goals and priorities of our DUE mission, vision and values.

From my perspective, reducing barriers between students and support services is absolutely the top priority. We have an opportunity to help our students easily access the services and educational opportunities that help them succeed, both academically and personally.

I am meeting regularly with the planning team - which includes Marty Schmidt, Interim Provost; John Dunbar, Assistant to the Provost for Space Planning; and Greg Raposa, Space Administrator - on first-round decisions. In exploring options, most are in Kendall Square. We have already determined that GECD will be moving into E39, the current location of MIT Press.

The space planning process will require several iterations. Because of the timing of the Building 12 demolition, we do not have the ability to determine the final locations of all offices in the near term.  This means there may be multiple moves for some offices.  It is important to note that we will only move an office if it helps us align the space with our goals.

While there is no denying that moves are disruptive, ultimately, we hope the space reconfiguration will result in an organization that can better meet the needs of our key constituents, the students. If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please feel free to contact me or Jeanne Hillery.

DUE Space Principles

  • All DUE space belongs to the Dean.
  • Space and strategy should be aligned.
  • We will not move offices for the sake of moving; therefore some offices will not be impacted.
  • Space should support the functions of the office (services and/or programs provided) and constituent needs.
  • Whenever possible, locate offices near others with similar functions (to take advantage of interdependencies, synergies, constituent traffic, etc.)
  • Need to determine which offices require visibility based on constituents/services/usability and place them appropriately. May require distinguishing between “front room” and “back room” operations.
  • Private office assignments should go first to those staff whose work requires confidential conversations or to people who need private space for work functions. Safeguarding records in a secure area is also a consideration.
  • Whenever possible, assign appropriate offices (size, location) to staff at different levels (i.e. faculty, staff, support, student workers).
  • No allowance will be made for a private conference room within a suite (DUE controls three general-purpose conference rooms).
  • Storage space must be shared in order to meet pressing DUE-wide needs.
  • The amount of renovations needed to upgrade/adapt space will be a consideration,` due to limited funds available for this purpose.
  • Any requests for new programming and/or staff must include resulting impacts on space.
  • Optimize space used for work of a seasonal nature – possible DUE-wide sharing of this type of space.
  • Discussion and decisions will be made in a consultative and collegial manner.
  • We need to be credible in our requests, and build good relations with other offices.