MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

Said and Done

May 2014 Edition
Published by the Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences



                 "Some may be surprised, and, we hope, reassured, to learn
                 that here at MIT — a bastion of STEM education — we view
the humanities, arts, and social sciences as essential, both 
                 for educating great engineers, scientists, scholars, and 
                 citizens, and for sustaining our capacity for innovation."  

                     — Deborah K. Fitzgerald, Op-Ed in The Boston Globe, April 30, 2014




Acemoglu elected to the National Academy of Sciences
SHASS economist Daron Acemoglu, and three other MIT faculty members, Emory Brown, Alan Grossman, and Timothy Grove, have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, bringing to 77 the number of MIT faculty who are members.

Nine spectacular SHASS teachers receive 2014 Levitan Award for Excellence in Teaching 
Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2014 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these nine educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School. 

Greenstone and Turkle elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Two SHASS professors — Michael Greenstone, 3M Professor of Environmental Economics, and Sherry Roxanne Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology — are among the seven MIT faculty members elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Philosopher Sally Haslanger receives Ford Chair 
Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has awarded Professor of Philosophy Sally Haslanger a Ford Chair. “This honor is in recognition of Sally's distinctive scholarship, and her distinguished leadership within the discipline of philosophy internationally," said Fitzgerald. 

Six members of the SHASS staff receive Infinite Mile Awards for 2014
Bravo to these six extraordinary members of our community. Our School has an extraordinary staff, and it is a pleassure each year to salute those who have made especially remarkable contributions, and to witness the esteem in which they are held by their colleagues and community.   
Award recipients

L to R: Daron Acemoglu, Killian Professor of Economics; Sally Haslanger, Ford Professor of Philosophy; Michael Greenstone, Associate Professor of Economics 


Anthropologist Christine Walley receives CLR James Best Book Award for Exit Zero 
Walley has been awarded the CLR James Award for Best Book by the Working-Class Studies Association for Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Exit Zero explores the effects of deindustrialization on Chicago workers and their families.  

Keeril Makan receives Howard Foundation Fellowship
Makan, an Associate Professor of Music, has received a $33,000 fellowship from the Howard Foundation, for his project "Abandon Fear," Makan's inaugural work for full orchestra.
Announcement  |  About Abandon Fear

 Remi Mir '17 and Daniel Stone '17 win the 2014 de Courtivron Prize 
The prize, awarded each year by the SHASS-based Center for Bilingual/Bicultural Studies, recognizes student writing on topics related to immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual, and/or multi-racial experiences.
Story + Winning Essays



L to R:  Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology; Keeril Makan, Associate Professor of Music; Christine Walley, Associate Professor of Anthropology


The Power of the Humanities at MIT 
Why MIT considers the humanities, arts, and social sciences essential

Full commentary, based on Op-Ed in 
The Boston Globe, April 30, 2014, 
by Deborah K. Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences


                  "From climate change to poverty to disease,
                   the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human
                   in nature and scale. Engineering and science issues 
                   are always embedded in broader human realities,
                   from deeply-felt cultural traditions to building codes
                   to political tensions."




Research Portfolio 
Research is the engine for the School's capacity to help meet the world's great challenges. To name just a few areas of impact, MIT SHASS research helps alleviate poverty, safeguard elections, steer economies, understand the past and present, generate wise approaches to health, environment, water, and energy challenges, inform effective policy, assess the impact of new technologies, understand human language, and create new forms at the juncture of art and science.
Research Portfolio

The anthropology of humanitarianism | Erica James 
Throughout her career as a medical anthropologist, James has specialized in studying people confronted with social, economic, and political uncertainty. She has often sought to address a particular question about people placed in such difficulties: Are their psychological and civic needs being addressed by the social organizations that purport to help them?


Erica James, Associate Professor of Anthropology (photocredit M. Scott Brauer)


How film affects our emotions  | Eugenia Brinkema 
“Aesthetics are a key for understanding emotion, and emotion is a key for understanding aesthetics. This book is meant to be a dialogue between the philosophical accounts of the forms of specific affects and emotions, and their relation to the form of a given film.”


The politics of adoption in France | Bruno Perreau
MIT Associate Professor of French Studies Bruno Perreau explores how adoption issues in France reveal deeply-held views about gender, parenthood, and "Frenchness." 


Anthropologists illuminate a path to common sense regulations | Susan Silbey  
Led by Susan Silbey, Head, MIT Anthropology, Goldberg Professor of Humanities, and Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, a group of women scholars has articulated a new common sense approach to regulation that acknowledges the ubiquity of legal regulation, the global circulation of regulation that has transformed its scale, and the role of the organization as the locus of regulation. 


L to R: Susan Silbey, Head, MIT Anthropology, Goldberg Professor of Humanities, and Professor of Sociology and Anthropology; Bruno Perreau, Associate Professor of French Studies; Eugenia Brinkema, Assistant Professor of Literature 



How a health care plan quickly lowered infant mortality | Robert Townsend, Jon Gruber
Few problems in developing countries are as gut-wrenching as high infant mortality. A  new study shows it is a problem that has solutions. The study was conducted by MIT's Robert Townsend, Killian Professor of Economics, and Jon Gruber, Professor of Economics and health care expert, with Nathaniel Hendren, an economist at Harvard University.  


Seth Mnookin co-authors AAAS report on research to encourage vaccination.
Years after a groundless report linked vaccines to autism, the consequences of the fallacy are still being felt as measles, mumps, and whooping cough spread through undervaccinated communities. A new American Academy of Arts and Sciences report, co-authored by Seth Mnookin, an MIT Assistant Professor of Science Writing, calls for dedicated research to help reverse the trend. 

The case for the experimental method in environmental economics | Michael Greenstone
"In the case of environmental questions, there has been great progress in the last 10 to 15 years applying quasi-experiments to environmental questions. This same revolution has been occurring in other fields — labor economics, development economics, public finance, statistics, and criminology. This 'credibility revolution,' as some people refer to it, tries to move beyond simple comparisons."


The research of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences appears principally in the form of books and publications, and music and theater productions. These gems of the School provide new knowledge and analysis, innovation and insight, guidance for policy, and nourishment for lives.
Take a look 



L to R: The Forms of the Affects by Eugenia Brinkema (Duke University Press2014); Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked, by Paul Raeborn (Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014); Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity, by Kathleen Thelen (Cambridge University Press, 2014)


MIT announces new initiative on environment.
The cross-disciplinary program, led by Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science, will encourage collaborations among researchers in many different fields at MIT.  The SHASS contribution to meeting environmental challenges occurs in three primary areas:

• By empowering MIT students with political, economic, cultural, and historical perspectives, as well as skills in critical thinking, languages, communication — the School increases the capacity for innovation and wise action across the broad range of humanity's challenges.  

• SHASS faculty conduct research and teach subjects geared to meeting challenges in the nexus of environment, energy, water, and poverty — focusing on the historical, political, social, and economic dimensions of these issues.

• The School also educates a cadre of science journalists whose work communicating environmental issues (among others) is key to the process of increasing public understanding and shaping policies for a sustainable future. 

Story at MIT News | Selected SHASS classes on environment and sustainability 




What’s the future of wealth — and inequality?
At MIT, economist Thomas Piketty presents, defends work on inequality.

Women's and Gender Studies project honors former MIT President Charles Vest

The contributions of women to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields gained some additional visibility on Wikipedia this spring as MIT students and faculty members teamed up for a "Women in STEM Edit-a-thon" in honor of former MIT President Charles M. Vest (1941-2013). 


Photographs: L and R: Kristala Jones PratherTheodore T. Miller Career Devevelopment Associate Professor at MIT; Catherine Drennan, Professor of Chemistry of MIT (photographs by Len Rubenstein, courtesy of MIT Spectrum); Center: Former MIT President Charles M. Vest


Inside Junot Díaz's class at MIT: What the writer wants his students to read
On the same week that activists called for more diversity in fiction, The New Yorker magazine published a compelling essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and MIT professor Junot Díaz.
Story at Salon

Video | Update on the MIT-Haiti initiative 
MIT Professor of Linguistics Michel Degraff and Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management, and the Director of the MIT Leadership Center, are engaged in long-term efforts to help Haiti develop a STEM curriculuum taught in Haitian Creole and strengthen the country's educational leadership capacity.  
New England Cable News

Deal Could Reduce Chance of Conflict in Contested Pacific Seas
“I'm an optimist, I think it's significant,” said M. Taylor Fravel, an associate professor of political science who studies international security and territorial disputes in Asia.
Story at the New York Times 



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