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

Making a Better World Teaching and Learning

MIT aims to help provide access to a quality education by 2050 to anyone, anywhere, with the will to learn. A quality education is the foundation for economic and social progress for all people, but today, nearly 1 billion people around the world do not have access to a basic education. The MIT-SHASS disciplines contribute to meeting this goal in four primary ways:

Research to Policy
To help make education a universal reality, MIT's social science, arts, and humanities fields conduct research that informs public policy about education, and analyzes solutions to the array of economic, cultural, and political factors that create barriers to a good education.

Empowering every MIT student
MIT SHASS faculty also teach every MIT undergraduate. By empowering MIT students with political, economic, cultural, and historical perspectives — as well as skills in critical thinking, languages, and communication — the School increases the capacity of every MIT graduate to serve the world well, across the broad range of humanity's challenges.

International Education and Global Citizens
The SHASS faculty and coursework are also at the core of international education at MIT. Through all the SHASS disciplines and via MISTI — the School's applied international education program — MIT students learn how to collaborate and lead on teams around the globe.

Generating Online Educational Tools
MIT SHASS faculty are developing innovative MOOCs (massive online open courses) and other forms of online open access information. In addition to the course information itself, of interest are the ways the SHASS-generated MOOCs are exploring solutions to one of the greatest challenges of the MOOC concept: to translate the undisputed power of the small, discussion seminars and classes that characterize humanities education into the online, massive scale course formats. 

Selected Stories


The MIT Campaign for a Better World

Announcing the new comprehensive campaign, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, "Humanity faces urgent challenges — challenges whose solutions depend on marrying advanced technical and scientific capabilities with a deep understanding of the world's political, cultural, and economic complexities."

Discover the role of MIT's Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences fields in solving the economic, cultural, and political dimensions of global issues, and in problem-solving in collaboration with our STEM colleagues.  More

The world as we think the world should be | Meet theater director Charlotte Brathwaite

In the two years since she joined the MIT’s faculty, Charlotte Brathwaite says she has seen much commonality between theater arts and the work of engineering and science. "The process of creating — imagining something that doesn't exist, whether that is a cure for something or a startup — in theater we do that too. We imagine the impossible and try to make that possible," says Brathwaite. More


An economist delves into charter schools

PhD student Elizabeth Setren brings data to bear on questions about charter schools and local education policy. More

Hundreds of MIT students take the 2016 TOUR de SHASS

At MIT, every undergraduate receives a balanced STEM + SHASS education — with 25% of required classes in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. At the annual TOUR de SHASS academic fair, MIT students meet SHASS faculty, and discover the great diversity of classes in MIT's humanities, arts, and social sciences fields. More

MIT Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society inducts 72 graduating seniors

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, held its MIT induction ceremony on Thursday, June 2, admitting 72 graduating seniors into the MIT chapter, Xi of Massachusetts. More

Kurt Fendt of CMS/W receives MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Awards

Co-sponsored by the Office of Digital Learning (ODL), the Dean of Undergraduate Education (DUE) and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), the student-nominated awards recognize faculty and instructors who have effectively leveraged digital technology to improve teaching and learning at MIT. More


9 SHASS faculty members awarded named professorships 

MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is very pleased to announce that nine members of its faculty have been awarded named professorships. These honored positions afford the faculty member additional support to pursue their research and develop their careers. More

Meet senior Cara Lai '16, who cites MIT Literature studies as key to her preparation for medical practice.

Lai, who graduates with degrees in both Literature and Mechanical Engineering, is en route to Stanford University's School of Medicine. In this story she explains how MIT Literature provided her with tools critical to the practice of medicine. More

In the MIT History Workshopwhere building a printing press illuminates human systems

A group of MIT students briefly put away their cell phones this spring to concentrate on a much older information storage and retrieval device: the book. As students built a handset printing press — the kind of press on which the documents of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution were printed — they also gained insight into human systems.  More

Remarks by Michel DeGraff, upon receiving the 2016 MIT Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award

Michel DeGraff, MIT-SHASS Professor of Linguistics, is a founding member of Haiti's newly created Haitian Creole Academy (Akademi Kreyòl Ayisyen) and Director of the MIT-Haiti Initiative. More


3 Questions: Jeffrey Ravel on bringing data to cultural history

Centuries from now, will anyone remember the hit Broadway show “Hamilton?” Will they know how popular it was? As it happens, historians do know a great deal about Enlightenment-era French theater, and they continue to learn more — thanks in part to the Comédie Française Registers Project (CFRP), an ongoing effort led by Jeffrey Ravel, head of the MIT History faculty. More


Around the World | Snapshots from MISTI

A slide show of photos and reflections from students in MIT's flagship international education program More

Ravel awarded grant from National Park Service for Visualizing Maritime History project

The National Park Service, with the Maritime Administration, announced the award of a $50,000 grant in support of the Visualizing Maritime History Project, led by Jeffrey Ravel, MIT SHASS Professor of History. More

Patricia Tang named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow 

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow. I am truly humbled," said Tang. "As an ethnomusicologist, I love many aspects of my job, but there is nothing more gratifying than sharing my passion for African music with MIT students, and giving them tools to better understand music and its broader cultural contexts." More


35 Burchard Scholars announced for 2016

The award honors sophomores and juniors who demonstrate academic excellence in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, as well as in science and engineering. “The Burchard scholars are some of MIT’s liveliest undergraduates,” says Margery Resnick, professor of literature and director of the Burchard Scholars Program. “Selection is extremely competitive, and the students chosen are unafraid to wrestle with new ideas.” More


The importance of native languages in education

This video provides a short overview of the science and data that show why children's native languages are necessary for learning to read and write — and everything else. More


MIT named among three top universities in the world for humanities, arts

The Times Higher Education 2015 World University Rankings has named MIT one of the top three universities worldwide for arts and humanities education. The three top ranked universities — Stanford University, Harvard University, and MIT — are closely aligned in the evaluation metrics. More


MIT-SHASS MOOC courses available on edX

Discover the MIT-SHASS courses available online at edX — free, for anyone, anywhere. More


Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf PhD '81 on the politics of global issues

"The search for the answers to society’s most pressing questions always involves a political science dimension. Politics is the art of figuring out what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, and how you’re going to convince others to go along with what you want to do." More


Testing Student Learning

Numerous strategies to improve student learning have been evaluated by J-PAL, and found to have widely different impacts. These different strategies also incur drastically different costs, and some programs therefore achieve learning gains with much greater cost-effectiveness than others. More


Studying school quality, to fight inequality

MIT economists Parag Pathak, Joshua Angrist, and David Autor founded the School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative (SEII), a new center at MIT giving a home to diverse studies of education and its effects on Americans throughout their working lives. More


MIT economist Parag Pathak engineers practical solutions to complicated education problems

For students in New York and Boston, who have a range of options beyond their neighborhood school, choosing a high school used to be a maddeningly complicated guessing game. Just a decade ago, it seemed like an intractable problem. But that has changed, thanks in part to a graduate student — now an MIT professor — named Parag Pathak. More


Haitian educators and MIT faculty develop Kreyòl-based teaching tools

Six veteran educators from Haiti — two biologists, two physicists, and two mathematicians — were on campus recently to work closely with MIT faculty to develop and hone Kreyòl-based, technology-enhanced pedagogical tools for STEM education. More


Linguist Michel DeGraff is revolutionizing education in Haitian Kreyòl and other local languages

With his MIT-Haiti Inititiave, MIT-SHASS Professor of Linguistics Michel DeGraff is creating a historic new model for reaching science-hungry students around the world who speak local languages. A revolution in education is underway that will touch populations across the globe.  More


"Visualizing Japan" humanities MOOC nominated for the Japan Prize: Interview with Shigeru Miyagawa

“Visualizing Japan”—a massive open online course (MOOC) co-taught by Shigeru Miyagawa and others—has been nominated for the Japan Prize, a prestigious international prize awarded to educational broadcast and digital media programs selected from around the world. More


Hundreds of MIT students take the TOUR de SHASS 2015

At MIT, every undergraduate receives a balanced STEM + SHASS education — with 25% of required classes in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. At the annual TOUR de SHASS academic expo, MIT students meet SHASS faculty, and discover the great diversity of classes in MIT's humanities, arts, and social sciences fields. Plus, free lunch! More


Training MIT’s “Innovation Diplomats”

Each year, hundreds of MIT students travel abroad to conduct research through MISTI, the Global Entrepreneurship Lab, and other programs. The new iDiplomats program aims to transform the experience of students traveling abroad with advice on how to be unofficial “innovation diplomats” for MIT. More


TOUR de SHASS 2015 on September 10

Event offers students the chance to meet professors and learn about MIT’s many options in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. More


New Faculty, Fall 2015

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is very pleased to present the newest members of the MIT-SHASS faculty. They come to us with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research: ecology and globalization; trade reforms in India; post–Cold War Cuba; a humanistic account of the global diabetes crisis; and the political history of Mexico’s rural training schools for teachers. Please join us in welcoming these excellent scholars into the School community. More


MIT chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society inducts 80 graduating seniors 

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, held its MIT induction ceremony on Thursday, June 4, admitting 80 graduating seniors into the MIT chapter, Xi of Massachusetts. More


Five MIT students win MISTI Excellence Awards

MIT SHASS-based MISTI, the Institute’s groundbreaking program in applied international studies, presented its annual Excellence Awards to five students on Friday, June 5, in a ceremony in Kirsch Auditorium. MISTI prepares students to become informed, engaged participants in work and research opportunities in more than 20 countries. Training includes everything from workplace etiquette to the language, politics, and history of the country. More


MIT grad students organize summer institute to increase diversity in the philosophy field.

The academic pursuit of philosophy (like many other fields) has a serious diversity problem. To help remedy the issue, three MIT philosophy graduate students have organized an innovative program that brought a diverse cohort of undergraduates to the MIT campus this summer, where the students explored the full range of options for pursuing an academic career in philosophy. More


MIT undergrads launch national competition

A national competition for high school students, founded and led by MIT undergraduates, held its inaugural conference in April 2015 at MIT. The competition was for research in the humanities, arts, and social science fields.  More


MIT Political Science graduate student awarded a NSF Fellowship

Rachel Odell, a first year graduate student, has won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for 2015. Each of fellow is awarded a three-year stipend for both the student and research institution. More


The Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT

Meet the Knight Science Fellow for 2014-2015. This year MIT's Knight Science Journalism program welcomed 11 acclaimed journalists who investigate topics ranging from phenology and climate change, to medicine and human health, to quantum mechanics to hone their science reporting skills. In this article, the Fellows offer their insights on the challenges and rewards of their field.   More


Political Science and EECS join forces for new "Elections and Voting Technology" course

Ensuring that elections are fair and equitable is fundamental to democracy—yet easier said than done, as MIT students discovered in a new class called "Elections and Voting Technology." The class is taught jointly by Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and Ronald Rivest, Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. More


35 Burchard Scholars announced for 2015

The award honors sophomores and juniors who demonstrate academic excellence in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, as well as in science and engineering. “The Burchard scholars are some of MIT’s liveliest undergraduates,” says Margery Resnick, professor of literature and director of the Burchard Scholars Program. “Selection is extremely competitive, and the students chosen are unafraid to wrestle with new ideas.” More


Bringing Science and Humanities Together - Promise and Perils

"What does it mean to converge science and humanities? why do we want to do this? and what would it take to succeed? Here I will sketch out the beginnings of an answer." More


The “metrics” system

Economist’s new book teaches how to conduct cause-and-effect studies on complex social questions. More



An October 2015 conference on the MIT campus marked the launch of SOLVE — an MIT project dedicated to generating ongoing thinking, research, and collaboration to solve the world's toughest problems. Meet MIT SHASS participants in some of the initial events.   More


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum to lead Knight Science Journalism at MIT

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum will join MIT in 2015 as the director of Knight Science Journalism at MIT, a fellowship program that enables world-class journalists to spend a year at MIT studying everything from science, technology, and engineering to history of science, literature, policy, and political science. More


MIT chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society inducts 89 graduating seniors 

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, held its MIT induction ceremony on Thursday, June 5, admitting 89 graduating seniors into the MIT chapter, Xi of Massachusetts. More


Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates dazzles campus during two years as MLK Visiting Scholar

“What I tell my students is that you here at MIT have access to great knowledge—more knowledge than 99.9 percent of people who have ever been on planet Earth, and I think you have some sort of moral duty to learn how to communicate that. Knowledge is power; power shouldn’t be hoarded.” More

An MIT Education

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. More


MIT students find fluency in languages is transformative 

How important is it for MIT students to become fluent in new languages as they expand their horizons and prepare to serve the world? Amanda von Goetz's story is a good example: mastering Russian has proved to be a transformative experience in her life — not just once, but several times over.  More


Humanities + Engineering at MIT | Le Morte d'Arthur and the Engineer


In the fall of 2013, after having taught "Medieval Literature: Legends of Arthur" at MIT for six years, Arthur Bahr took a leap of faith. Instead of a final paper, he gave his students the option to turn in a creative project about Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.  “These are MIT students," says Bahr, Associate Professor of Literature."They’re makers. Mens et manus, right?” More


SHASS convenes event with leaders in Science Engagement field 

This fall, MIT gathered 75 top practitioners from across the field at the "Evolving Culture of Science Engagement" event to take the measure of the potentials in the convergence of science, education, and entertainment. More


Gallery of Digital Humanities at MIT

The work going on in digital humanities and new media is one expression of the innovation that characterizes the Humanities more broadly. Using computational tools and methods, MIT humanities scholars are opening new lines of research and discovery, revitalizing the study of objects from the past, and asking questions never before possible. More


Hard Math = Powerful Fun

Six years ago when MIT economist Glenn Ellison volunteered to coach his daughter Caroline’s middle-school math team, he hardly realized he would soon become a leading authority in the niche market of advanced mathematics textbooks for elementary- and middle-school students. More


Class on
 digital humanities premieres with tech-savvy approach

First offered in the Spring 2013 term, and taught by Professor James Paradis and Principal Research Associate Kurt Fendt, both of Comparative Media Studies/Writing, "Digital Humanities: Topics, Techniques, and Technologies" (CMS.633), gave MIT students the chance to pair technical know-how with real-world humanities projects  — such as designing innovations for the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (ICA), and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. More


"Annotation Studio" translates an ancient literary practice into the digital age

Annotation Studio, a digital humanities project developed by HyperStudio, promises to improve upon traditional techniques for entering marginalia and side notes in books — enabling readers not only to annotate texts across media, but also to share comments with others and to enhance them with links, images, video, and audio. More


Wi-Phi online video platform presents "philosophy's greatest hits"

A little philosophy could go a long way toward making the world a better place, says Damien Rochford, Ph.D. ’13, who has co-launched the Wi-Phi, an online, interactive philosophy website. The site presents more than a dozen short entertaining video animations to accompany talks by top scholars on such timeless questions as whether humans have free will, whether god exists, and what is it for a sentence to be true. The goal is for people to learn how to do philosophy, rather than simply learning what philosophers have thought, so the site focuses on developing critical thinking skills. More


Profile of Emma Teng | MacVicar Faculty Fellow 

Emma Teng, T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations and an associate professor of China studies, relishes the unique atmosphere within MIT that fosters multidisciplinary collaboration. And through her research and teachings about Asian and Asian-American identities and histories, Teng helps her students challenge their own assumptions, an exercise that she hopes extends beyond the classroom. More


Burchard Scholars for 2013 announced 

MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences has named 32 undergraduate students as Burchard Scholars for 2013. The award recognizes sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated outstanding abilities and academic excellence in some aspect of the humanities, arts, and social sciences, as well as in science and engineering. More


MIT Philosophy has extraordinary success placing PhD grads in top tenure-track positions.

Consistently ranked among the top ten philosophy departments in the country, MIT’s small Philosophy section—just 12 full time professors—has extraordinary success in placing PhD graduates in tenure-track positions at top philosophy programs nationwide. The Leiter Reports placed MIT second in grad student placement. (New York University, a program nearly twice as large, was first). Because obtaining a faculty position in philosophy is notoriously difficult—often 700 applicants for every appointment—many are wondering: what is the secret of MIT’s outsized success? More


School within a School: MIT's Concourse learning community 

The single best thing about college for MIT Professor of History Anne McCants was "exploring ideas ravenously."  It was like being in a candy store for four years,” she says. Now, as newly appointed director of Concourse, a learning community for MIT freshmen, McCants says her goal is to give today’s students the same heady experience of intellectual adventure and discovery within the context of a supportive group.  More


Linguist Michel DeGraff on the role of language in education and economic development

MIT Associate Professor Michel DeGraff recently received a $1M grant from the NSF for research to develop tools to teach STEM subjects in Haitian Kreyòl—part of a larger, transformative project to use Kreyol, the language Haitians actually speak, in the country's classrooms. In this interview, DeGraff speaks about his vision, and how the project is a model for teaching in other local languages around the globe. Read more


DeGraff awarded $1m NSF grant   

Michel DeGraff, Associate Professor of Linguistics, is the Principal Investigator for a five-year project that will help develop classroom tools to teach science and math in Haitian Creole for the first time.  Full Story at MIT News

Shigeru Miyagawa


Shigeru Miyagawa receives President's Award from the OCW Consortium    

MIT linguistics professor Shigeru Miyagawa has been selected to receive the President's Award for OpenCourseWare Excellence (ACE) for his contributions to the global OpenCourseWare and Open Education movements. Miyagawa, who is also head of the Foreign Languages and Literatures Section, has been a key member of the faculty team that has nurtured the development of MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), has contributed a significant amount of his own course materials to the site, and has traveled extensively to spread the practice of openly sharing educational materials globally.  More at MIT News


Broadhead, Kaiser, Rose named 2012 MacVicar Faculty Fellows 

Four professors have been named 2012 MacVicar Faculty Fellows for their outstanding undergraduate teaching, mentoring and educational innovation. Three are from SHASS: William Broadhead, the Class of 1954 Career Development Associate Professor of History; David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science; and Nancy Lin Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics. The fourth professor honored is Leslie Pack Kaelbling, the Panasonic Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.   Full story at MIT News


Gallery | The MIT SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows 

Photographs, research areas, and commentary from SHASS faculty who are among the Institute's finest educators More

building 10


Meet the MacVicars of MIT SHASS 

The SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows discuss the significance, the goals—and the sheer fun—of teaching MIT students.   More

colorful communication cables


Communication Forum conducts a conversation for scholars, citizens

How are new technologies transforming public discourse? Are traditional news outlets still influential in framing the news we get online?  What are the legal dangers for publishing secrets in the crowd-sourced era? Founded in 1978 by pioneering media scholar Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT’s Political Science Department, the forum engages leading scholars, journalists, media producers, and citizens in discussions on emerging media in a changing world. More


Great Ideas exhibit opens in Building 14

The installation, which officially opened in October 2011, presents a tour of the School’s fields of study—from Anthropology to Economics to Wrting—as well as news, profiles, and research briefs. 


Great Ideas exhibit features MIT research in the humanities, arts, and social sciences    

For MIT's 150th anniversary, Dean Deborah Fitzgerald and the School leadership initiated a new permanent exhibit about the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Located on the first floor of Building 14, near Killian Hall, the exhibit presents the 20+ fields of study that make up the School, as well as an updating gallery of research, news, and profiles.  Take a look


Report cites arts as essential to MIT's mission    

The arts at MIT connect creative minds across disciplines and encourage a lifetime of exploration and self-discovery. Rooted in experimentation, risk-taking and imaginative problem-solving, the arts are essential to MIT’s mission. More


A champion of Kreyol for Haitian schools

Linguist Michel DeGraff is on a quest to give Haitian Creole its due as a respected language — and to help Haitian schoolchildren learn in their native tongue. More

Kresge Auditorium


Economics Symposium launches MIT's 150th celebration | From Theory to Practice to Policy

This symposium, organized by the School's Department of Economics and the Sloan School of Management, celebrated the role of MIT’s faculty and students in advancing the fields of economics and finance, in putting the latest developments into practice, and in contributing to the design of public policy. Story + On Demand Videos


Kaiser and Alexander create books for MIT's 150th anniversary   

MIT150 and MIT Press have partnered to bring out two books for MIT's sesquicentennial year—both works authored by members of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. David Kaiser, Professor in Science, Technology and Society, is the editor of Becoming MIT: Moments of Decision. Philip Alexander, of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, is the author of A Widening Sphere: Evolving Cultures at MIT.   More

detail, tree of knowledge


How America Invented the Humanities

Geoffrey Galt Harpham, President and Director of the National Humanities Center reviews that history of hte humanities as a collection of academic disciplines invented by the American academy during the post WWII culture of the United States. More



Why I am a history major at MIT

Excerpt from MIT Admissions Student Blog | Guest Blog by Dora '11, double major in course 8 and Ancient and Medieval Studies. She writes: "There are lots of people here who love the humanities, and who approach subjects in humanities with the same excitement and fervor that they approach their technical fields.... humanities at MIT carries a distinctly MIT feel: challenging, stimulating, and entirely fulfilling.  More


School's Economics Department ranked first in nation 

MIT is ranked as top graduate school for Economics in the US News and World Report on the best graduate schools in the nation.  Full Story at US News and World Report


School offers courses for Studies in Energy Minor

Multi-disciplinary approach
MIT's energy minor provides a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the policy, economics, science and technology of energy. All MIT undergraduate students now have a new academic option available: a minor in energy, which can be combined with any major subject. The minor is inherently cross-disciplinary, encompassing all of MITs five schools. SHASS-based courses include: Environmental Policy and Economics; Energy Economics and Policy; and Energy, Environment, and Society.   More


Why do some charter schools do so well?

MIT economists researching why some Boston charter schools have been able to produce stunning results. What they discover could serve as a lesson for America’s struggling public schools. More



Mens et Manus et Mundus:
MIT Global Council plan for international education

A September 2009 report from the MIT Global Council outlines an historic opportunity to deepen international learning at the Institute, and to make international education a core component of an MIT education.  More