The following list comprises initiatives launched by MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering between 2019 and 2022 with the goal of improving the mechanical engineering graduate experience and addressing various challenges that have been raised:
- Established Faculty Ambassador to Graduate Students Role
Associate Professor Betar Gallant was named the inaugural Faculty Ambassador to Graduate Student, serving as a liaison between graduate students and faculty.
- Established Graduate Recruitment Officer Role
Dr. Dawn Wendell was named the inaugural Graduate Recruitment Officer. In this new role, she aims to enhance diversity in the graduate admissions process.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Hired MechE Community and Equity Officer
Bryan Nance was hired to serve as MechE's first-ever Community Equity Officer. In this role, he seeks to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment within the department.
- MechE DEI Task Force
Included graduate students as members of MechE's DEI Task Force, which has had an ongoing focus on DEI issue related to graduate student life.
Community & Mentorship
- Launched ENGAGE Program
The ENGAGE - Empowering New Grads to Achieve Graduate Excellence – is a semi-guided mentoring program designed to help new graduate students navigate the many potential unknowns of graduate school, develop the skills to succeed and create stronger networks.
- MechE Alliance Mentorship Program
The MechE Alliance has facilitated hundreds of one-to-one mentoring conversations and alumni portfolio reviews between alumni and students in addition to organizing group mentoring through alumni panels.
- Office Hours and Community Forums
Leadership in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering invited graduate students to share their views during open office hours and community forums.
- Community Events
Prioritized community building by hosting new social events, including an annual faculty student kickball tournament
Careers and Professional Development
- Launched MechE Graduate Student Coaching Program
Led by certified coach Dr. Kelli Hendrickson, the MechE Graduate Student Coaching Program supports students in cohorts to develop creative solutions that foster continuous growth and professional development
Created course 2.990 to enable international students to participate in internships and utilize their CPT during their studies.
- MechE Alliance Programming
- Delivers timely programming, in collaboration with campus resources, to help ensure students are confident and prepared for their career search.
- Offers bi-annual mentoring opportunities facilitated with departmental alumni.
- Facilitates alumni participation in departmental events for student networking including MERE.
Information Access and Funding
- Streamlined TA Allocation
The department created a new system for TA application and allocation, providing funding guarantees for students who applied for TA positions.
- Established Transitional Funding Support for Graduate Students
The department worked with the stakeholders at the Institute to provide support to students transitioning between labs.
- Revised Advising Feedback Form
Departmental leadership worked with GAME and faculty to significantly revise the feedback form to improve the advisor-advisee relationship and prompt discussion of key topics.
- 360 Review Pilot
A pilot implementation of 360 reviews was conducted by a third party (MOR Associates) with department leadership and a few other faculty members.
- Building Inclusive Lab Cultures
A "Building Inclusive Lab Cultures" workshop was conducted at the faculty retreat in January 2020, offered by Kelly Adams, Director of VPR, and Sarah Rankin, Director of IDHR to enhance awareness and empathy in lab groups.
- Faculty Leadership Retreat
Held faculty retreat focused on leading for greater inclusion and equity, including developing a shared understanding of the experience of URM students and learning strategies that will assist all students in achieving academic success.
- Graduate Student Handbook Update
Revised the MechE Graduate Student Handbook and the Quals Guide to clarify the purpose and process of the qualifying exam.
- Quals Research Feedback
Implemented a new process for examiners to provide written feedback to students on the research part of the qualifying exam.
- Faculty Implicit Bias Training
Libby Mahaffy, MIT’s Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, led a mandatory faculty implicit bias training in January 2021 that included scenarios specific to qualifying exams.
- Student Feedback for Quals
Started collecting feedback focused on DEI aspects of the qualifying exams from students who had recently taken the exams.