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Department Support Project

A challenging feature of academic institutions with respect to culture change is the many ‘micro-climates’ that comprise each campus: individual departments, labs, and centers with unique cultural norms and practices. The academic and professional disciplines that comprise the department also influence the local culture. ‘Pipeline’ concerns, power dynamics, size, physical location, alumni relations, and other drivers contribute to ways in which the environment is perceived by community members.

The objective of the MindHandHeart Department Support Project (MHH-DSP) is to understand these distinguishing features, and provide faculty, staff, and students with data, tools, and support to measurably enhance their academic climates.

Sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Provost, the MHH-DSP is a highly collaborative effort involving students, staff, and faculty from 20+ offices in addition to all 31 academic departments at MIT.

The MHH-DSP aims to effect change across five key dimensions: (1) deliver actionable data along measures of learning and academic support, inclusion, well-being, and student satisfaction; (2) connect departmental faculty, staff, and student leaders to existing MIT support resources; (3) share promising practices across departments; (4) strengthen and streamline internal communications; and (5) create measurable, time-bound action plans, outlining goals and concrete steps DLCs are taking to address gaps revealed in the data.

Launched in 2017 and implemented over the course of four semesters, departments are at the stage where action plans are being finalized. Departments are advancing initiatives related to increasing the diversity of their graduate applicants, creating and working to embody community values statements, improving inclusive teaching practices, and establishing advising expectations.

Department action plans are being designed with practical, measurable, and often process-oriented metrics in mind, including: the number of attendees at faculty trainings, the percent of students participating in annual advisor/advisee review meetings, and deliverables such as a statement of community or lab values.  

Transparency is important in the Department Support Project. Please contact us or your academic department head for additional information or to contribute an idea.   

Maryanne Kirkbride, Executive Administrator, kirk@mit.edu
Jason McKnight, Assistant Director, jrmac@mit.edu