Message from the Dean

Spring 2009


As ever spring comes with its powers of renewal and hope, which we certainly need this year, as the severe economic downturn continues to affect families and businesses across the land. Even great institutions like MIT are not immune. At the School, our response is to be steady and proactive in sustaining our core mission of education, research, and service.

And I am proud to say that now, more than ever, the time-honored strengths of our disciplines are proving their value—providing guidance through the current crisis, and equipping MIT students to enter the world with the cultural perspectives, international experience, critical thinking and communication skills that prepare them for leadership.

In this issue we look at three exciting endeavors, beginning with the School’s economists, who describe the major roles that MIT-trained economists play on President Obama’s fiscal rescue team. In addition, they analyze causes for the downturn, and share their insights about building a sturdier financial system.

Next we go behind the scenes to learn the story of an extraordinary collaboration among the School’s Theater Arts section, Literature section, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The adventurous play that emerged—about experimentation, science, and truth—is an example of the nearly unique explorations that arts and humanities scholars can conduct within a great scientific institution. 

Finally, we learn from the School’s linguists about their endangered language research.
Crucial in the quest to identify universal language structure, this work is also a profound act of cultural preservation. Each language is a singular and irreplaceable repository of cultural consciousness, and the project to retain the spectrum of human experience is a gift to the future, akin to preserving the biodiversity of the planet.

We salute our faculty for research that affects individual lives, national policy, and history itself, and hope that you will continue to be part of our endeavor, through all seasons and cycles, to bring positive change into the world. 


Warm wishes for the spring and summer —
Dean Deborah Fitzgerald

Soundings, Spring 2009