MARCH 2023


Graduate students Sabrina Drammis and Tony Scott perform at the It Must Be Now! live performance in May 2022 in Kresge Auditorium. Photo: Caroline Alden

The power of music in advancing social justice
It Must Be Now! is an initiative created in response to the racial reckoning of 2020. Frederick Harris Jr., senior lecturer in music at MIT and music director of the MIT Wind Ensemble and MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, initiated and leads the It Must Be Now! project, which is produced by MIT’s Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) and MIT Music and Theater Arts. Here, Harris discusses the project and describes how music can serve to advance social justice.
Story at MIT News

Comedy meets mathematics in new opera at MIT
Senior music lecturer Elena Ruehr turns Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, groundbreaking thinkers of modern computing, into crime fighters. While “Lovelace and Babbage” is an engaging, approachable piece, it does not sacrifice musical sophistication. “I do not think that accessible means dumbed down — I take a stand about that,” Ruehr says. “I actually think that accessible and intelligent and smart is very possible, and it is my mission as an artist.”
Story at MIT News | Story at The Boston Globe



Study: Preschool gives a big boost to college attendance | Parag Pathak
Attending preschool at age 4 makes children significantly more likely to go to college, according to an empirical study led by an MIT economist. The study examines children who attended public preschools in Boston from 1997 to 2003. It finds that among students of similar backgrounds, attendance at a public preschool raised “on-time” college enrollment — starting right after high school — by 8.3 percentage points, an 18 percent increase. There was also a 5.4 percentage point increase in college attendance at any time.
Story at MIT News

Why 1968 still matters | Heather Hendershot
In her new book, “When the News Broke,” CMS/W Professor Heather Hendershot examines the tumultuous Democratic National Convention of 1968 as a flashpoint for long-running political divisions over the news media. Hendershot chronicles the turmoil on the streets and inside the convention hall, and shows that the convention was a key inflection point in the relationship between politics and media. The New Yorker recently named "When the News Broke" on its Best Books We Read This Week list.
Story at MIT News | Book 

Unnatural selection | Amy Finkelstein
Across the U.S., about three-quarters of people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans — a form of private insurance following the rules of Medicare — receive free gym memberships. Why is this? The answer, research has shown, is that it improves insurers’ client base: The promise of free workout time does not lure existing customers from the couch to the gym, but it does draw healthier-than-average new clients. For insurance firms, this matters. When their customers are healthier, insurers pay out fewer claims, and make higher profits.
Story at MIT News | Book

How debit cards helped Indonesia's poor get more food | J-PAL
For many years, the Indonesian government’s food aid program sent bags of rice to villages, where local leaders were supposed to distribute them to poor residents every month. But starting about five years ago, Indonesia changed that. Instead of rice bags, the poor were sent debit cards to buy the equivalent amount of food at local neighborhood shops. Going digital had a major effect: Suddenly millions of Indonesians in the program started receiving the total amount of food intended for them 81 percent of the time, according to a study that MIT economists helped lead.
Story at MIT News | Paper


MIT Professor Esther Duflo (center) chats with some of her graduate students. Photo: Bryce Vickmark

Committed to Caring | Esther Duflo
Although her research focuses on daunting issues such as global poverty, MIT Professor Esther Duflo never neglects to dedicate time to something else she finds just as important: mentoring her graduate students. To mark her unwavering support, Duflo was recently honored as “Committed to Caring” for consistently propping up graduate students, and for helping them to thrive.
Story at MIT News | J-PAL

Four faculty receive MIT SHASS Research Fund awards for 2023
The annual MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) Research Fund supports research in the Institute's humanities, arts, and social science fields that shows promise of making an important contribution to the proposed area of activity. Learn more about this year's recipients.
Story at MIT News

Economics assistant professor named a Sloan Research Fellow
Tobias Salz, the Castle Krob Career Development Assistant Professor of Economics, has been named a recipient of a 2023 Sloan Research Fellowship, awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The honorees will each receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship to advance their research.
Story at MIT News

Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Fellowships 2022-23
Fellowships were awarded to three political science PhD candidates. Nasir Almasri studies comparative politics and international relations/security studies with a focus on social movements. Mina Pollmann specializes in international relations and comparative politics. Apekshya Prasai is pursuing research interests including the role of women within militant movements and the impact of gender on militant ideology and strategy.
MIT Political Science Student Awards

MIT Laureates Attend Resumed Nobel Prize Ceremony
For the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nobel Prizes were awarded during a ceremony in Stockholm. Among those honored were a number of laureates with ties to MIT — including this year’s winners as well as winners from 2020 and 2021.
Nobel Prize Recording


Photo: Avery Boddie

Exploring the rich traditions of Brazilian music
Student presentations tackled themes of identity, nation-building, racism, multiculturalism, and more, as reflected in the rich traditions of Brazilian music at “The Beat of Brazil” in December at the Lewis Music Library. The presentations were by students of Portuguese enrolled in class 21G.821 (The Beat of Brazil: Portuguese Language Through Brazilian Society), taught by Nilma Dominique.
Story at MIT News

New MIT internships expand research opportunities in Africa
With new support from the Office of the Associate Provost for International Activities, MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) and the MIT-Africa program are expanding internship opportunities for MIT students at universities and leading academic research centers in Africa. This past summer, MISTI supported 10 MIT student interns at African universities, significantly more than in any previous year. 
Story at MIT News

Building bridges to Ukraine through language, art, and community 
In a new course that ran this Independent Activities Period (IAP), MIT students studied Ukrainian language and culture and heard from Ukrainian scholars, artists, and activists about the country and the ongoing struggle against the devastating Russian invasion.
Story at MIT News


Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

US experts warn AI likely to kill off jobs - and widen wealth inequality | David Autor
MIT Economics Professor David Autor is wary of making predictions about ChatGPT and AI. "If anything, we don’t have enough people for jobs right now,” he said.
Story at The Guardian

US companies mount resistance to proposed ban on non-compete clauses | Nancy Rose
MIT economist notes the practice has “taken on a life of [its] own.”
Story at the Financial Times

What's Behind the Chinese Spy Balloon | M. Taylor Fravel​
SSP Director M. Taylor Fravel was interviewed by the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner. He discusses China’s military strategy and the future of U.S.-China relations. The full interview was published as a Q&A.
Story at the New Yorker

Russia suspends participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the U.S. | Jim Walsh
SSP Sr. Research Associate and Here & Now security analyst Jim Walsh discusses implications of Russia’s decision.
Recording at WBUR-FM

Ideas - Domestic Policy | Jonathan Gruber
A new study by Finnish economists and an MIT economist [Prof. Jon Gruber] suggests that encouraging parents to care for young children at home can often hamper their development. The opposite effect was observed in families that benefited from a policy reform that lowered their day care fees.
Brief at the Boston Globe


The annual Women Take the Reel film festival is a collaborative effort among Women's and Gender Studies departments in the Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality (as well as select institutions/universities aligned with its mission) that features films about issues relating to gender, race, sexuality, class and/or feminism. The focus is on the intellectual investigation of these issues, so every film is accompanied by a Q&A and discussion. Here are the upcoming screenings at MIT:

Belly of the Beast

Wednesday, March 15 6:00-8:30 pm, Bartos Theater (E15-070)

Fly So Far

Tuesday, March 21 6:00-9:00 pm, Bartos Theater (E15-070)


Dr. Michael J. Hathaway Colloquium "Forays in Decolonizing Biology: Thinking About What Mushrooms Live For"

Monday, March 13 4:00-5:30 pm, The Nexus, Hayden Library

Colloquium from History, Anthropology, and Program in Science, Technology, and Society

MIT Symphony Orchestra: Bluebeard's Castle

Friday, March 17 8:00-10:00 pm, Kresge Auditorium 

Join the MIT Symphony Orchestra for Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, with visual artwork by Peter Tucker.

SHASS events calendar


The MIT-SHASS Infinite Mile Awards honor those who have gone the extra mile in their contributions to the School! There are no restrictions on who may nominate a member of our staff for an Infinite Mile Award. Nominations are now open. The deadline is April 1, 2023. 

Award information | Meet the 2022 SHASS Infinite Mile winners

Published by SHASS Communications
Office of the Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
7 March 2023
Michael Brindley, Director of Communications

Stephen Oakes, Media Relations Manager