Deborah K. Fitzgerald
INTERVIEWER: Deborah Fitzgerald is professor of the History of Technology MIT's program in Science, Technology, and Society. Between 2006 and 2015, she was the Dean of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. In that role, she became a leading advocate for strengthening MIT's commitment to the humanities, arts, and social sciences, for promoting international education and for addressing gender equity issues.
Deborah is a leading historian of American agriculture and author of the award winning book Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture. Before coming to MIT in 1988, she was on the faculty in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Professor Fitzgerald holds a B.A. In History and English from Iowa State University and a doctorate in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. So thanks so much for sitting down with us today.
FITZGERALD: Thank you
INTERVIEWER: So we'll track your progress to MIT from the very beginning. Tell me a little bit about where you were born and where you grew up.
FITZGERALD: Sure, I was born in Northwest Iowa in a little town of about 1,200 people called Remsen. I was born late to my parents. I had three adult siblings by the time I was born-- an interesting way to start things off.
The town I grew up in was very Catholic. And most of the people had come by chain migration from Luxembourg. My family, the Fitzgeralds, were not from Luxembourg. And I didn't have grandparents living at our house or German spoken in the house. It was a funny kind of way to grow up. I felt a bit of an outsider in that town.
INTERVIEWER: So was a love of learning or the academic life for study something that was instilled in you by your family or did you come to that in other ways on your own?
FITZGERALD: Yes, I would have to say I accidentally came to that. The town I grew up in, as I was saying, is very small, very Catholic. And girls were not expected to do much with themselves, honestly. I knew only that I needed to leave that town by the time I got through high school. And I didn't have any idea what to do. I was not particularly ambitious intellectually or in any other way.
But my parents insisted that I go to college. So I chose a college that looked like it was far enough away and would be a different environment. It turned out to not be a very good college I think. It was University of Northern Colorado. And I went there and really just discovered the world. I felt like I was free for the first time ever.
And it was a little bit short lived. I ended up falling madly in love in my first semester and I got pregnant. And it being the time of life it was-- it was right before Roe v Wade, I was raised Catholic-- I had a lot of things to think about. The young man took off. So I ended up dropping out. And for a variety of reasons, my parents thought it'd be best if I went to what was called an unwed mother's home. I don't think there really is such a thing anymore. And I had this child nine months later and gave her up for adoption.
So it was at that point, I came back to my parents' house and decided to try college again because that kind of experience is pretty formative, I must say, in creating in not me, but I think a lot of women or young girls, this notion that you really have to do it on your own, that you can't count on people and that you need to do something with your life that is sort of bullet proof. And you learn to take a hit in that kind of experience.
And so I ended up going to Iowa State University, which was a pretty good fit. And that's where I had a kind of intellectual awakening. I really took my time there, I must say. And I had a number of majors-- film studies, literature-- called English there-- and ultimately history, which is what I graduated with.
INTERVIEWER: So it sounds like that's obviously a really sort or-- you said formative-- I would say traumatic or intense experience to go though at that age. But it sounds like it focused you in some way.
FITZGERALD: Oh, it's tremendously focusing. There's no two ways about it. I think that that is-- I mean I even mention it because a lot of people know about this. And in point of fact, my daughter has turned up and lives in Watertown. It's kind of a crazy, amazing story. So it's sort of come full circle.
But I think we all have these moments, and I suppose they're turning points in our lives, where we really have to make a decision one way or another. And often, it doesn't work out quite as we hoped. Sometimes it takes you to places you didn't know you were capable of going. So I think those are important in understanding who people have become.
INTERVIEWER: I'm very curious to ask about the intellectual journey. I sounds like you started to undertake when you returned to college-- a lot of steps along the way, a lot of weigh stations, a lot of interests.
FITZGERALD: Well, not really. I mean I have to say I was a little bit shut down when I went back to college. I wasn't looking for romance, that's for sure. I wasn't looking for even friendship. I really wanted to go to college to study hard and to make something of myself. And I was a little bit of a hermit.
And that was very good for me I think. I learned how to study. I learned how to write. I learned how to think. And it was just a blossoming, really, of my life. And I discovered I really loved learning. I really loved to write. And it was just everything came together.
So yeah, I had a couple of terrific teachers-- that's always the story, isn't it-- A couple of teachers who were very, very good and really showed me the way. And in fact, one of my professors is the one who basically made me go to graduate school, which had never crossed my mind before. You know, I came at everything from the side. And so the idea that I could become a historian was just an amazing possibility.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me a bit more about your mentors that you mentioned.
FITZGERALD: Well, the main mentor I had, I would say, was a professor named David Wilson who is a historian of science. And he was a very, very patient, gentle coach. He really taught me pretty much everything about the profession that I took along. I thought of him when I taught myself the first time. I thought how would he do this and what kind of readings with he assign and how would he analyze them and how would he bring the students along. He was really a huge champion to me.
And he was one of many. There were people in the literature English department who were also very patient. Especially when I was studying film, they really gave me a lot of leeway.
INTERVIEWER: So you mentioned film, English literature. Was there a time when you were considering other options than history even within academia?
FITZGERALD: No, no. I didn't have a range of possibilities. I mean there were a range of possibilities, but I think when you grew up in a tiny little town, you don't even see what the possibilities are. You just can't envision it.
I have a lot of sympathy for students who come to a place like MIT from a very remote place because they haven't sorted through all the possibilities that are available to them. They don't even know about them. So that's kind of the boat I was in. I didn't have a very clear sense of what I was capable of or what was a good fit for me. So I came at it, as I say, kind of from the side door always-- bumping sort of like a pinball careening round and hoping to hit something.
INTERVIEWER: What drew you to history?
FITZGERALD: The thing that drew me to history was literature, actually. I was studying the scientific revolution by way of the romantic poets and also the writers of the 19th century-- people like Ruskin and Carlyle who were all reacting to something. And they were reacting to the industrialization process in England. I thought maybe I should go to the source. If what I'm interested in is the way the world changes and how people understand that, then I'd rather study the people who are making the changes rather than the people who are responding to the changes in this sort of literary way. And so I discovered that the history department, in fact, taught classes in that area. And so I just started to combine them.
INTERVIEWER: And ultimately, you made a career of it. Specifically, I'm very interested in farming and farming as a technology, farming from a historical perspective. Obviously, I make the connection to Iowa farming. But I'm curious to hear how that developed.
FITZGERALD: Yeah. You know Gertrude Stein when she went to Paris and was writing The Making of Americans said something to the effect of the place you are from is never as interesting to you at the time you're there as it is when you leave and you can see it in a whole new way and you can see its warts and its beauty and everything about it. You're completely blind to it at the time when you're immersed.
And I think that was the case with me and agriculture. In my family, there were a lot of farmers. My sister married a farmer. I had a farmer uncle, farm families all around. The kids I grew up with were all from farms. And I knew, in a way, a lot about that kind of a life but I wasn't at all interested in it until I moved to Philadelphia.
And I went to Philadelphia thinking I would write a dissertation on genetics, the history of genetics. But when I got there, there was a very eminent professor visiting for the year named Dan Kevles who was really one of the leaders of the field. And he was writing a book on genetics. And so I threw that out the window realizing that was just going to lead nowhere fast.
But then I realized that genetics had a lot of different aspects to it, of course. And one of the great beginnings of experimental research in genetics was actually in agriculture. And it was around the production of hybrid corn-- a super mundane topic but actually quite an interesting story. And so that's what I decided to work on. And I have to say, it surprised me even then that I was going back to the Midwest to talk to farmers and seed corn dealers and whatnot. I hadn't thought of them as being very interesting, but I found them so.
INTERVIEWER: So tell me about the moving to Pennsylvania to go into Penn grad school. Was that a major transition for you? I mean I speak as a recovering Midwesterner. I didn't really travel to the east coast until I was a young adult really. I'm just curious to know what your experience was.
FITZGERALD: Oh yes, it was a huge thing. It was just a monster. I moved to Philadelphia with my brand new husband who I'd been living with for a couple of years at Iowa State-- Eric Sealine. And he was an artist and we thought, well, this would be a good place to go. I'd never really been out of the Midwest. And he had been only briefly. So we thought for both of us, Philadelphia would be a great place to go-- better than Madison, Wisconsin, better than Indiana, better than a bunch of other places.
And so we went there and I found it really exhilarating. I think, again, growing up in a town where everybody else is related to everybody and it's very uniform. People don't want to stick out too much. I sort of did, but it's not done. And I had such a bottled up feeling of-- I don't know-- excitement. I wanted to be where people were excited about things, where people did a lot of different things, where they thought a lot of different things, where they argued with each other right out in the open. I just had a craving for more life.
And so we went to Philadelphia. We moved to a neighborhood called Wynnefield, which was the Iowa of Philadelphia I'd have to say. And we just really ate it up. It was a wonderful, wonderful place to go to graduate school. And was a wonderful place for me to start another act, start another chapter, a big different chapter. I just loved Philadelphia.
INTERVIEWER: I'm curious to hear more about this process of as a developing academic turning the lens of a researcher in an academic back on something that you're very, very familiar with, but in a completely different way. Can you talk about what that was like and some of the things that you might have learned.
FITZGERALD: I-- well, it's a little bit hard to. I think we all do that to some degree. I know I certainly have a lot of colleagues who have had that same experience where you do turn the lens around and examine your own kind of life.
I tried very hard to keep myself out it actually. As a historian, that's what you have to do and that was fine with me. So I've never been interested in-- I've been interested in learning more about my past, but not about putting myself in the viewfinder.
But I've learned a lot about the Midwest for better and for worse. I don't know, it's hard to answer that question.
INTERVIEWER: What about the way farming was changing, and obviously, it's continued to change since that time, and observation? I don't know whether that--
FITZGERALD: Oh sure, sure. I can say a little bit about that. I was very fortunate in having an uncle. His name was Dean Uncle and he was my uncle. He was farming still when I began writing my dissertation. And I went back to do interviews with the men who did the seed corn experiments in these little tiny businesses. And he could show me and he showed me around and showed me how things work in a way that I hadn't ever really done before. And that was extremely helpful. If I hadn't had him, I'm not sure how I would have.
But in the process of that, I also discovered things that we're only just beginning. And that, in fact, later became very, very important in agricultural life as we know it. Among things, among them, was the consolidation of hog farming, which sounds quite a banal. But in fact, it was the beginning of a very, very important agribusiness push to change the way people raised food all over the country and the way that people would eat from then on out.
So that, in fact, got me really interested in food history too-- something that I'm now working on. I think the closer you get in, the more you see. The great thing about agriculture is it's a place where not many people are looking. And so there's a lot to discover. That's really how I've always chosen projects.
I'm not interested in-- for whatever reason-- I'm not really drawn to those topics that everybody's excited about. I sort of run the other way and I want to go somewhere that nobody's interested, nobody's talking about it and see what I can dig up. That thrills me. It's not a very popular way to do things. It means I end up in some obscure corners sometimes, but that's how I operate.
INTERVIEWER: Who were your powerful influences or mentors or who shaped your thinking about that and other things when you at Penn.
FITZGERALD: Well, really the biggest influence on me at Penn was Charles Rosenberg. He is a very eminent historian, primarily known for his work in history of medicine. He's at Harvard, now emeritus. He was at Penn at the time. And he had written a set of essays and on agriculture that were really, really smart, really clever and thoughtful and intellectually very stimulating. And I came upon them when I took some classes with him and then he agreed to be my advisor. And he had stopped working on agriculture some years before, but his sensibilities were exactly what I need at the time. So he was really my biggest influence, I would say.
Another influence-- well, there were quite a few influences in grad school. It's hard to sort out. My friends were pretty influential of course, as well as. I was very fortunate.
INTERVIEWER: So talk about the next step in becoming a professional, an academic.
INTERVIEWER: Writing up your research, making the transition out of grad school, what was next stage for you?
FITZGERALD: It's a really interesting question to me because part of my thinking about that process has to do with gender in a very profound way for me, and I suspect for a lot of others, other women too. For one thing, while I was in graduate school in one year span of time, my mother died, my husband's father died, I took my preliminary exams and my son was born. it was a big, big year and it was full of emotional ferment for me.
I also learned, again, a turning point that you can have children in graduate school, but you have to treat them like a job. You know if you can't put your kids in day care, you're never going to finish your dissertation. So we figured out a way to do that. And I became like a nine to five worker on my dissertation. And I found it very difficult. It took me a really long time to write a chapter.
And at some point, I was going to conferences as all the grad students were. We were sort of getting ready to interview for jobs or at least talked to people who were interviewing for jobs. And that's the year, the winter, that I went to one of the conferences and there was a one year job at Harvard and the person who was doing the interview, I admired greatly and I'd run into at a number of conferences. And his name is Everett Mendelsohn at Harvard.
And so I thought I'll do a kind of a practice interview. That's what I'll do. And so we had I had an interview with Everett and it was very nice. And much to my surprise, he offered me the job a couple weeks later.
And I remember talking to my grad school buddies. And I said you know the most amazing thing has happened. I've been offered a one year job at Harvard. And they were sort of stunned and the men were especially stunned actually. And I said well of course, it's too bad I can't take it. And they said what are talking about. I said, well, I only have one chapter written. I can't possibly. It would be wrong to take it. I'm not done. I can't take it.
And they said you'll be done, don't worry. And they sort of said of course, you're going to take it because who gets offered a job at Harvard. So long story short, I guess I did I did finish my dissertation in time to take the job, but it was a very poignant moment because number one it seemed that Harvard thought more highly of me than I did, and number two to see how the men in my group took it was very surprising-- nothing, no big ruptures or anything, but it was--
INTERVIEWER: Surprising in the sense that sort of being surprised that you'd been offered the job?
FITZGERALD: Yeah. Well, yeah, I think so. I mean I think they were much more professional. They didn't have a child pulling at their legs. They didn't have-- they weren't married to an artist and spending a lot of time hanging out with artists and going to galleries and things like that. They were much more professionalized. I don't know how else to say it. They had a five year plan and they knew what they wanted to do with their lives and they were very studious and very organized. And I thought I was pretty studious and pretty organized. but compared to them, not so much. So I think it was a big surprise to everybody. [CHUCKLES]
INTERVIEWER: So let's talk about arriving at Harvard and what that was like given your history, your background.
FITZGERALD: Yeah, it was weird. It was just weird. It was again thrilling. I was thrilled. I'd read about Boston. I'd never been to Boston before, never mind Cambridge. And I was pretty intimidated by everything. I was just bowled over by just everything Boston.
We decided to live in a dormitory, which was sort of jumping in with both feet to just to save some money. You know there was an apartment in one of the dorms and it turned out to be a dorm that was attractive to kids who felt like a mistake had been made when they were let into Harvard. So it's a dorm full of people who felt out of place, and alternately very lucky and very unlucky depending on what was going on. And that's suited us pretty well, I have to say. We made a lot of great friends.
And at the same time, I became the head tutor in the History of Science department in my second year there. So the one your job turned into an assistant professorship. And then, I was head tutor which was a really big job there. So it was really-- I learned a lot. I learned a lot about being organized and getting stuff done and being sort of managerial.
INTERVIEWER: All this while continue to raise a child?
FITZGERALD: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it was great. I mean we lived there for three years. My son was in preschool and then he started kindergarten at that neighborhood school. It was just a block away. My husband had a studio downtown. He continued to paint all the way through this. It was just quite a fun time. I really remember it fondly.
INTERVIEWER: So how long were you at Harvard?
FITZGERALD: Three years, just three years. And in my third year, one of my other former professors from Penn, Judy McGaw, contacted me and she said MIT has a position for historian of technology. And I said well, but Judy, I'm not a historian of technology. And she said of course you are. You're just as much a historian of technology as a historian of science. I think you need to apply for that job. And with great misgivings I did. And I got it. And that was again another thrill. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me about the distinction in your mind between historian of science and historian of technology and what you assume they might be looking for that you weren't. I don't know if that's--
FITZGERALD: Oh, that's a good question. That's a great question.
INTERVIEWER: A double question.
FITZGERALD: These are-- this is really inside baseball-- but history of science and history of technology sort of grew up as two different fields. And the history of science came first. It was a lot of the founders were people who were scientists. They wanted to tell the story of their discipline.
And the historians, historians who were more interested in industry or in cars or in machinery were not welcome in this history of science society. There was a kind of a real rupture I guess. And it was both intellectual and it was a little social. And I think I think of it is in sort of class terms, honestly.
And so at the University of Pennsylvania, we had both and we also had history of social science. And we also had sociology. So U Penn was kind of a hotbed at that time for having the big stew of it all, but still you were expected to have one or the other. And by going into agriculture, I'd sort of not answered that question. I was interested in science but I wasn't a scientist. I wasn't interested in the internal workings of theory building and things like that, and I was interested in technology because that's the means of revolutionary change in that field. And so I guess that I can see why I would be seen as somebody who doesn't quite fit either one. And that's how it varies.
I think today, the difference is not so clear because this other field science technology in society or social studies of science or whatever you call it has been welcoming to everyone who's interested in science and technology. And it now includes not just historians, as you know, but anthropologists, sociologist and all kinds of people.
INTERVIEWER: So talk about making the move to MIT, what that was like, what the difference is in terms of the vibe might have been or the approach. You mentioned STS--
INTERVIEWER: --obviously, a department here that was-- I can't remember when it was founded-- but it was obviously not too, too much before then. Right? Was it like--
FITZGERALD: Right, it was pretty new. It was pretty new and it was-- the year I came was in 1988. And in that year, that was the first year of the graduate program which is was sort of a graduate program organized by STS, created by STS. But at the request and demand really of the MIT faculty, the graduate program was run by STS History and Anthropology.
So yeah, it was a program that was meant to be not a professional field of history of science or history of technology or both. It was designed to be about thinking about humans in the scientific world. It was much more intellectually visionary and I'd say ideologically driven to some degree. You think of people like Leo Marx or Ken Keniston, people who were very interested in what it means to be a human in a world that is governed by science and technology. It was that larger vision that they had in mind.
I came in with this narrow vision of I am in a profession that looks like this and this is how we do it in this profession. I feel a little bit about that honestly. There were a number of us who were hired in short order. And we all were like that. We all had new PhDs from the history of science or from anthropology or from history of technology. And we needed to go about things in a professionalizing way which didn't have much room for this other way.
And I think some of the original purpose and heart of the program was lost that way. I feel bad about it, but I don't exactly know what else we could have done. Now, after all these years, I want to go back to that much more because we sort of lost it.
INTERVIEWER: Was it just sort of the realities the profession, career that was sort of pushing in that direction?
FITZGERALD: A lot of it was. I think among historians of science and technology, those larger issues were just passe. No one was talking about them in our circles. We were talking about really studying particular sciences and particular institutions and particular ideas. We weren't talking about what is the meaning of democracy that is infiltrated with scientific apparatus all over the place. Are we endangered? Is our society in danger? It was just a very different way of thinking and pretty foreign to most of us coming up as we did.
INTERVIEWER: Culturally, what was it like going from Harvard to MIT?
FITZGERALD: [CHUCKLES] Yeah, that's a good question. It was really different. It was really different. I found I loved Harvard. I thought it was just like an enchanted kingdom. It really was a wonderful place. The junior faculty, I think any junior faculty there will tell you, it's a great place to be a junior faculty member.
And I was not under the illusion that I might get tenure there. So it was very liberating. I didn't worry about that at all. I just tried to get my stuff done, but it was a world I didn't belong to or hadn't really come from. And I was hyper conscious of that.
As my son later said many years later, when he moved to California, and I said how do you like it out there, and he said in California there aren't all these rules that nobody tells you about. And that's sort of how I felt moving to Cambridge. There were suddenly all these rules that nobody told you about. They didn't even know they were rules, but I felt them very keenly. And I didn't know them so I always felt at a disadvantage.
Moving to MIT, I remember thinking at MIT, they don't care about that stuff. They're just smart and they just want to do new things. And I was very drawn to that. I thought it was a place where you did your work and people applauded you for that they didn't care if you came from Iowa. They didn't care if you didn't speak four languages. And you sort of get what you see and I hoped to be able to pass that test. But it just seemed much more grounded.
INTERVIEWER: We actually have a huge number of people with rural backgrounds here.
FITZGERALD: I know. Interesting, isn't it? Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: It's very interesting. What about just-- and I'm always fascinated by this sort of question when I talk to people in STS or in HASS, you know studying the history of science, history of technology or STS at MIT must be rather interesting, just being surrounded by the culture that you're thinking about.
FITZGERALD: Well, yes and no. I mean I'm safely stored away in agriculture, which does not have much of a role here. Though, of course, it did at one point through the Department of Applied Biology. But I didn't ever feel that I was looking at my subjects exactly. So I think, for me, it's not quite the same as it is for people who are studying physicists or studying chemists or studying engineers.
Nonetheless, even early on, I found MIT to be really interesting because everyone was so confident about the ultimate good of science and technology. And as a young scholar, of course, I didn't start from that position. I was just amazed at the positivistic spirit of the place and I encountered it immediately in my students who were just thrilled to be here, loved science, loved everything about science and technology. And it was really hard for them-- and sometimes still is-- for them to take a critical point of view and look at it from a variety of points of view.
It's hard. It's not why they're here. They're here to do it, not to worry about it or so they feel. And I guess, I felt that my job was to make them worry a little bit more.
INTERVIEWER: So I'm ver y-- we'll follow up on Humanities and Social Sciences in a bit-- but I'm very curious to hear about teaching and your thoughts on teaching, how your approach to teaching might have evolved as you went from grad school to Harvard to MIT and the role of a teacher in your approach in the classroom.
FITZGERALD: I'd say that teaching at Harvard is a very singular experience. The students are so smart and so motivated in the field, in the humanities, that if I was late to class by two minutes, they'd have started already. I didn't encounter that here. [CHUCKLES] I didn't encounter that here.
In fact, I encountered one of the most memorable classes I had in my very first-- I think it was my first or second year. I was teaching a seminar and I'd ask the students to read a couple of articles. And I came to class and I said well, let's talk about this article or whatever it was. Tell me what you think the argument was or whatever. And a lot of blank stares greeted me.
After a while, I said did anybody read it. Who read the article? And it was like a little really, they hadn't read it at all. I said what's the matter. Why are you not reading it? This was your assignment. And somebody finally said well you know, it's just somebody's opinions. I have opinions and this person who wrote the article has opinions, but what difference does it make. It's not real. It's not true. Where are the facts?
I thought OK, I'm in a different world now. [CHUCKLES] I'm in a totally different world now. And it was very disturbing to hear that and yet very bracing. And I think ever since then, I have tried really hard to take none of that for granted.
Students here are very, very intense. They're very driven. They're very good, but they're very mission oriented. And I think a number of them do have time to enjoy the humanities and social sciences and arts and to work really hard in those fields, and they do splendidly.
Some of them are in science and engineering because they don't like these fields of humanities, arts and social sciences. They feel uncomfortable. They don't feel very confident about their ability to do well. And then, there are others who just think it's all a bunch of hooey, that really only facts matter, only what you can demonstrate matters.
So those are the students that we're all in our classrooms trying to connect with. And it's not always easy. But when it works, its magic.
INTERVIEWER: So at some point, you started to focus energy and attention on administration and policy. Talk a bit about that transition, how that happened. And we'll get to where it lead.
FITZGERALD: Sure. Well, I had had very little-- well, I'd had some administrative experience. As head tutor at Harvard, I was sort of thrown in to the deep end of administration. I'd never done anything remotely like that. And I liked it.
And then, I came here. And after a couple of years, I was the director of graduate studies for the program at a time when the program was new, the doctoral program was new and there weren't many rules. There weren't many guidelines for what students can expect, what would be expected of them. And so I started writing up handbook type things. Here's how we're going to do this. Here's how we're going to do that. I enjoyed that too.
So I did that I think for five years. And then shortly after that, Philip Khoury who was dean of the school, asked me if I would be interested in being the associate dean. And I had no interest in being the associate dean in fact, but I felt that I owed Philip and the school and the institute something.
And the reason I felt that way is because I'd been helped to get a house, something that now all the faculty who come to MIT have this ability to get a little bit of money for a down payment. And I just said I can't stay here or I'd just worry I'll never live in a house again. And Philip and the provost helped me do that. And actually, we would never have gotten a house otherwise. So I just felt extremely grateful about that. And I thought it's my turn to pay back, and so I agreed to do the associate dean job.
I, again, didn't know what I was doing. I kind of tried to figure out my way. The gambit of the job was to be in charge of the undergraduate curriculum, which at that time was undergoing a giant review. And it was fairly time consuming and kind of challenging in many ways. But I did that for, I think, a year, year and a half.
And then, Phillip said so I'm going to step up to the provost's office. And I said great, I will be on my way. And I had agreed to stay in the dean's office for three years. And I was perfectly happy to go back to my research.
And he said oh no, no, no, you can't just take off. You have to be the acting dean while we look for a dean. And I said, well, OK I'm happy to keep the seat warm. And he said no, no, no, you don't understand. You may not be the dean, but you're the only dean the faculty have. You may be an acting dean, but you've got to be the dean. I said do you mean I have to raise money and I have to go to all these meetings and I have to do it. And he said yeah, until the dean is named.
So that was a big shock. So I did that for a semester. And in the course of that, I got kind of interested in being the dean. There were things I wanted to do. And I think that's how most of us get into administration, actually. You see things that could be done differently or better. you have ideas you think might help and you think maybe that would be interesting. And that's sort of a slippery slope really. And so then when I was offered the dean's position, I was very happy to take it.
INTERVIEWER: So what things did you want to do?
FITZGERALD: Oh, Gosh.
INTERVIEWER: I mean going into it, what were your goals? What were your observations about what you thought needed to be done?
FITZGERALD: I think I had-- it's a little hard to remember truthfully-- but at the time, there was this review going on of the General Institute Requirements. And I felt it very important to be for the school to be vocal about the humanities, arts and social sciences requirement, which is a big requirement. It's 8 classes out of the 17 that all students must take. So it's not a trivial matter. And it's fairly unusual in schools like this. So I felt that creating a rousing defense of that, explicating what the importance of that would be was really important.
And also, as associate dean, I had gotten the job of trying to review the HASS requirement-- the humanities, arts and social sciences-- the actual components of the requirement. And I don't think I did such a great job on that committee, honestly. I was really new and there were probably 15 people on the committee, people in our school, faculty in our school-- many of whom I didn't know it all. And it was fairly difficult. Boy, it was really a tough committee, I think, to be on at all. I think everyone would agree with that. I did the best I could but it was very-- it was like a million cats.
So through that process though, I learned just at an amazing clip and it make me feel more and more and more comfortable with the job all the time. So I was interested in that. I was interested in education.
I was also really interested in the fact that we had a lot of really great programs and faculty, but people were sort of feeling downtrodden. And I didn't entirely understand why. Particularly in humanities, there was a lot of discontent I guess. And I just thought surely we can address that. Surely, people shouldn't be feeling this way. It's MIT.
I wanted to make the school less-- I felt it was a little bit isolated. Or at least to me, I was new. I was still feeling kind of new. I didn't know the rest of the Institute so well. And I thought we could do something about that too.
INTERVIEWER: So we've talked a bit about the role of the humanities, arts, and social sciences, some of the challenges from sort of a teaching perspective, the students. Institutionally, what-- describe about your vision of what that role is or ought to be and what the challenges are in getting there?
FITZGERALD: Sorry, the role of?
INTERVIEWER: Of the study the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
FITZGERALD: Oh sure, this is my favorite subject. [CHUCKLES] So I think that there's been a lot of debate in the last couple years about humanities and whether we need the humanities, whether there's a decline in the humanities. My counterpart at Harvard did a big study on the decline and where she found that there was a big drop in the number of majors in humanities-- a finding that was rebutted by somebody else who said, but wait a minute, if you go way back to the '40s and '50s, you discover that the '70s was its own little blip, and which makes sense.
You think about the war and anti-war sentiment and people rejecting things as they were. It makes sense they would turn to the humanities, to the arts, to the social sciences. But it turned out that was a blip and so now thinks of sort of settle back to where they were. I think that's still true. I'm not 100% sure about that, but I think that's sort of true.
There may be a slight dip in number of majors, but I began to feel that's not even the most important thing. Counting the number of majors is an interesting exercise, but really what does it tell you? So many people don't end up doing what they were trained in college to do anyway. What really seems important to me is that scientists and engineers, especially need a strong grounding in these other ways of thinking.
It doesn't matter if it's through Shakespeare or if it's through studying ancient history, or if it's through studying sociological methods. What matters is that they have other ways of looking at the world. So that when they leave the Institute and they're faced with what are really human problems-- as all technical problems are-- that they won't shy away and say that's not for me. I don't answer questions about humans. I only answer questions about computers or about chemicals or whatever it is. They need to feel confident and smart about how humans are and what the challenges are going to be. And without taking classes in those fields they're never going to feel that way.
INTERVIEWER: What about the source of economic pressures that students are under? I mean I was an English major and every few weeks, I see an article that English majors are the lowest paid major, which is not anything that I thought about certainly as I was an undergrad. But how does that play into it, the sort of economic pressure on both students and maybe on institutions as well for the kinds of courses that they're going to offer?
FITZGERALD: You know, you're reminding me that President Obama recently made a little speech about this, about the importance of STEM and we need more STEM. And I really wish he had said STEM alone is not enough. I think we're thinking very narrowly if we think that we can somehow create students for the jobs that are there now. First of all, those jobs are not the jobs that will be there later. They're not the jobs that were there before.
What we are doing is education. It's not training in some kind of narrow way. If students want to get a safe job, they should probably go to a kind of vocational school that will train them in a particular job that everyone knows this is probably good for another 10 years or whatever, that has a good salary. That's not what universities are supposed to be doing. Universities are supposed to be training the whole person, training, educating the whole person to think in a smart way about really tough problems. That's what we should be thinking about.
And that's why we absolutely should be having a wide range of disciples available to students and why we should require them to have a range of experiences there. I think it's just absolutely shortsighted to not think in those ways.
INTERVIEWER: How do you feel that MIT has done a good, fair job of doing that? Or what's your report card?
FITZGERALD: I do. I think MIT has been very good at that, honestly. The older I get, the more I believe-- well, I guess the older I get, the more like Mussolini I get. You know I think really, really we should have some hardcore requirements. Right now, it's 8 classes you pick. You can pick one humanity, one social science, one arts. And after that, you can take anything in those areas.
I now think that maybe we should have been harder about that, and said you've got to have a class in American history. You've got to have a class in economics. You've got to have a class in-- you could pick like three or four-- science technology and society. As a self interested person here, I feel like I can't really be the one to blow that horn. But it seems really important to me for our students in particular to be able to look at what they're involved in by stepping back and to learn how to do that. How do you step back and really look at something that you're involved in and weigh it in a more-- not a personal way- but in a more global way.
I think it's really important. And I don't know that our students get that. If they do it, it may be by accident.
INTERVIEWER: During your time as Dean, which encompasses a decade-- which is a long time as we were saying-- what were some of the other big challenges, big issues that you chose to take on? We've talked about this one. I mean there may be more about the specifics of how you dealt with this ongoing question, but also other challenges.
FITZGERALD: I think one of the challenges I really felt was important was this question of globalization and how we prepare our students to live in a global world. The school had a program that is now gosh, it's almost 40 years old, I think, which is the MISTI program-- the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative-- which send students to particular foreign countries to particular jobs that have been found and matched with the student.
And these programs are so amazing because we're very unique at MIT in requiring students to learn the language before they go, for all but two of the countries. We don't require that for Israel or for India. But the other ones, you really have to learn. Have to take Japanese. You have to take Chinese. You have to take Spanish, et cetera. And so the student has to be a very good student, has to take two years of the language, has to take some course work on the country or the region.
And then, they're dropped in like by parachute. They don't go with their friends. They don't go with their class. There's no teacher around. There's no buddy there with them. They are just thrown in. And they're thrown in to work, not too observe and understand their feeling. They're there to be on a team or to be in a laboratory in another language.
That's a lot to ask of a 19-year-old kid. And they do it beautifully. They do it beautifully. It's a big challenge. They come back and by and large, they say you know I went there thinking I'd be an A, but now I think I might be a C or a D or an E or an F. Their eyes are opened to all the things they could be.
And another thing is, they go there-- there's this belief -- I think it's pretty well documented-- that students all enter MIT the best of their class, the top of the game. They are the best of the best of the best, and they get here and everyone is the best of the best of the best. It can be a kind of a shock.
A lot of students hit a bit of a slump in their sophomore year, maybe their early junior year. And they go on one of these MISTI things and they come back remembering who they are and remembering how good they are and that they really can do anything. So it's a huge thing for them. And I think it is a great model for other universities one way or another to try, to really ask students to do it the hard way. Our students, of course, want to do it the hard way all the time. So that's a big bonus for us.
INTERVIEWER: I also want to talk about gender equity and some of your work in that area. Obviously, for people who are somewhat familiar with MIT, there's a quite a story there. Talk a bit about the issue which we've actually touched on already in your graduate school years and how you've gotten involved in work to address that.
FITZGERALD: Well, you know I haven't done nearly as much along those lines as I would have liked to. It's a really deep seated feeling I have though, because of just being a woman at MIT, I think it's have been a pretty big deal for all of us in varied ways. When Nancy Hopkins and her colleagues in science did their first report of women in science, the leadership of the Institute said OK, now the rest of you four schools do one too. And I think at the time in humanities, arts and social sciences, we thought we were in pretty good shape because we think of ourselves as having more women and we recognize that gender's a category and that it's meaningful. So we thought we were sort of ahead of the game.
And of course, it was a lot more complicated than that. And so I chaired one of the committees. We had a number of them. And I chaired one and we did interviews with all the women in our school, fairly elaborate interviews. We also interviewed a bunch of the men in the school and it was quite striking how isolated they each felt and how difficult they found it to be in a place that was on the one hand super exhilarating and thrilling. And they loved the Institute. They loved their students and their colleagues and it's wonderful. But on the other hand, at the end of the day, it can be very isolating and hard to just feel that you are invisible. I think a lot of women feel invisible around here. And certainly, I have and really, I think most of them have at some point or another. You find out that it's just not enough to have great ideas and that there's more to it than that.
Any time you have that kind of a gender imbalance, and even though we have really almost 50-50 men and women in the undergraduate ranks, it tapers as you go up the ranks. And so for faculty, it's still just about one in five people are women. So it's getting better, but it's still bad.
I think we've a lot in common. Women, here, I think a lot in common with women in a lot of other professions. I think that there's a New Yorker cartoon that we all remember of a table in a board room and there's one woman sitting there and a bunch of men sitting there. And the person who's running the meeting says wonderful comment Miss Adams, would one of the men care to make it. And you know it's funny, but it actually has happened to just about everybody I know here at MIT. So it's a subtle thing, sometimes not so subtle, but often really subtle. And it's wearing. It's a little bit wearing.
It's also kind of funny. When you get to be this age, you have to find humor in just about everything. But it's still a problem.
INTERVIEWER: You mentioned that it might be getting better in some ways. I mean it sounds like that's a bit of an ambivalent statement. You know the pyramid that you talk about, other than just sort of generations working their way through the system, what are the reasons for that?
FITZGERALD: What are the reasons for the pyramid?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, for this the fact that--
FITZGERALD: That's a good question.
INTERVIEWER: --things haven't changed as quickly as maybe some people might have expected.
FITZGERALD: It's very good question. I don't have a very pat answer to it I'm afraid. I think at a place like this, where excellence is defined pretty clearly-- particularly, I think in science and engineering, excellence is not a murky place. You know I think we have a field in our school in economics where again excellence is not a murky place. People tend to agree on the top five x whatever in the country or maybe even in the world.
And a lot of the science fields and the engineering fields can do that. They can say if we're going to get a hydrographer, here are the top five people. It's just known. It's incredible to me that you could imagine saying that, but they do. And they feel that they feel very comfortable with that.
In literature, if you tried to do that, or in history, it would be hilarious. It would just never never be possible. So I think that for many, many parts of MIT, if you're in that kind of a ranking world where certain things count and certain things don't, it's really tough. It's really tough.
But it turns out, it's tough for us too in humanities because we haven't really done much to move the needle on gender. In fact, I kept thinking we were making big progress and then it would turn out to be fleeting. We're not so good with diversity either. That turned out to be much harder than we thought it would be.
So these things, it's everyone who starts off in here thinks oh come on, how hard can it be? Well, it's harder than it looks. It's harder than it looks and for reasons that are very complicated.
INTERVIEWER: You raised another question I wanted to ask about. So running or heading a school of humanities or social sciences at a place like MIT, what's it like sort of interfacing with so many disciplines that have a lot of authority here, where the rankings are clear, and then representing the disciplines and faculty where it's a murky places as you said? How do you negotiate that?
FITZGERALD: Well, it's challenging. It's challenging because one of the biggest jobs of a dean is percent promotion cases at academic council. And we all do it together, all the five deans. The engineering dean presents cases from the engineering school. I present the cases from my school and they're just really different cases. I don't-- you know it's really hard to say for any dean of this school, it's very hard to say this is the best person in this field because the fields or so indeterminate. The field sort of has a flow to it. And there isn't such a thing.
They will say this person has this many citations, and that is one of the key reasons why we would want to promote them. I would be hard pressed to use that as an actual indicator of real substance for the cases that we see. It just doesn't work that way. People's influence is measured by many, many things. And their impact is measured by many things, and so on. So it is a little bit of a challenge to try to explain what excellence looks like and why it's so complicated in any of the fields that we're responsible for.
INTERVIEWER: So let's talk a bit more about international education, your thoughts on the importance of it, the future.
FITZGERALD: I think that one of the most striking things about international education coming from MIT is how unusual the liberal arts model of education is in the rest of the world, which I hadn't fully appreciated. Of course, I knew that in Britain and Europe, students choose one topic and they really go deep on that topic. And they don't necessarily have a very broad variety of things to study. And they're quite good scholars.
What I hadn't really understood was how, in many countries-- particularly throughout Asia, India, probably a lot of other places-- the educational system has slowly been paring away what has come to be a STEM education. In other times, it might have had a little bit more variety for students who want to study this or that. It's been going a different direction.
So that when I visited my colleagues in India, they said how do you tell us how we could put humanities, arts and social sciences in a STEM education because we don't have any of that. And we're getting kind of worried about it. One of my colleagues-- I'm not going to say where-- but one of my colleagues at an Asian university, said we are going to start a plan for training our very best PhD students in humanities and social sciences in the United States and England because we have just discovered that while we have excellent engineers and scientists, we have no one to run the country.
And that was a kind of scary thing to hear. I mean this is not a trivial country. And they really feel that they don't have the kind of people with the breadth of experience and the breadth of knowledge who are willing to tackle very hard problems. So you know this experience that many of us have had of being in a group of people and there is a problem to be solved and the engineer says that's not what I do. I can't really speak to the politics or the psychology of people or any of that. You need specialists for that.
That's what they've got in these countries, where there's no one willing to step up and say let's analyze the problem, whether it's a human problem or a technical problem. All these technical problems really are human problems on a very fundamental level. So we can't shy away. We can't put our students out there and have them shy away from tackling the whole problem. So what I see in some of these Asian countries, India and so forth is a coming crisis where they really don't have the people on the ground who are trusted to make good, sound but broad minded decisions. And they're feeling it very strongly.
I was in South Korea about a year and a half ago and at the Academy of Sciences there. And they were worrying about what they called convergence. How do you get convergence between the sciences and the humanities? It took me a long time to figure out that what they meant was they want more Steve Jobs. How do we make Steve Jobs here in South Korea, which is a really interesting question. You don't do it by having all the students be so deferential, first of all. But there are a lot of issues that are deeply embedded in these different cultures that are getting in the way.
And now they see the what they really need to insert in education is creativity, curiosity, independence of mind. Those are, on the other hand, qualities they don't necessarily want in the culture at large. So it's quite a conundrum. And I think it's going to really make a big difference in the next 20 years how they decide to handle it.
INTERVIEWER: So that's a very interesting segue into the question that I was also thinking about asking, which is reflecting on the future of the humanities, the education in humanities and the social sciences, both at MIT and writ large, everything from the education changing itself, digital education, online education, economic pressures on students, just the definition of the humanities.
INTERVIEWER: What they consist of, where is this all leading?
INTERVIEWER: Deborah, help me.
FITZGERALD: Yeah, if I knew, I would be a rich woman. I don't know where it's leading. I worry a little bit about where it's leading. I think that on the one hand I think digital education is great. I see it as making education available to loads of people who don't have it available to them. That, I think, is its finest, most noble purpose and impact.
I do worry about us losing the understanding that real education happens between people in person. I don't really-- I think it's very hard to imagine a good education coming out of some kind of computational intersection. It's good for getting information. It's good for getting a running start. I think there's a lot of uses for it, but bottom line, you can't just have digital education and expect people to be thoughtful, fully-formed, sensitive, smart people who can take on the world. I think it's a flawed idea when we're talking about it being the only idea.
So I may differ with some of my colleagues here at MIT about that. I think , again, there's a kind of positivist heroics to digital education that is what it is as we say. But I think it's not enough and I think it's got to be tempered.
INTERVIEWER: Sort of a cousin of that is maybe what is often called here the digital humanities.
INTERVIEWER: I'm wondering if you could talk about that. I mean obviously SHASS has spent and done quite a bit of experimentation and exploration of the digital humanities. And how does that fit in?
FITZGERALD: Well, I've been a big proponent of the digital humanities when I was Dean and I still feel that digital humanities is very important. The definition of digital humanities is of course a somewhat fraught. There are many different ways of thinking about what digital humanities is. It's become a very, almost a meaningless catch phrase I would say.
What it used to mean, I think what its original meaning was using massive data sets, whether it was photographic sets or maps or music or correspondence or records of some sort and sort of putting it all together so that a student or a scholar could get a multivariant look at a problem. So the very first one, the one I think is the very first was Ed Ayers at the University of Virginia put together this huge digital humanities project around the Civil War. And included all those things. It was really, really spectacular.
Well, we're not all going to do that. I mean it's a kind of a singular event, the Civil War. There aren't that many singular events that have a data set that is very, very rich and that crosses so many disciplinary boundaries. There's not money enough in the world to really do that every day. So that's one way to do, but that's where all the money was. If you wanted to get involved in digital humanities, that was the pattern that you were supposed to follow. That proved to be problematic for all kinds of reasons.
Most humanists are not all that comfortable with digital stuff. There's a gradient, some more so, some less so, but many less so. And so for a humanist to say I want to do a digital humanities project on whatever, you have to assign some programmers to it, you have to assign some designers to it. It's not as easy as it looks. And so I think that people got very caught up in the hybridity of it all and very interested in the way you could expand and extend your reach, your intellectual reach by including things that we're not just texts, paper texts that is. But it turned out to be very complicated to actually put this in to shape.
And many universities, our own included, found that the costs of doing this in a really ideal way we're kind of prohibitive. The money has not been so plentiful for this and it is very technically demanding and therefore expensive. And also, not everybody has an idea that can be addressed in that more complicated way.
Let me give you some examples where I think it has been very successful. If you think about-- and this is a little bit of a parallel to what I said about education in general for engineers and scientists-- some people are working on a problem where they have written a text, a book about the problem or the issue and they have made a video or a film or a piece of music about that issue or that problem. And that has worked beautifully to amplify the key issues, I think. It makes it more likely that somebody will get it and will appreciate what the complexity of issue is. That I think is fantastic and we have a few faculty who have done exactly that.
Other people have developed ways of using digital technology to create peer reviewing systems, which is it's not just done in humanities. It's been done in physics and other fields. But again, it's a very smart way to amplify that kind of that almost crowd-sourced homework approach. But it really takes a certain kind of person to put together a full bore MOOC for example, and we've had not that many people in the school who have wanted to spend their time that way. It's hard. And again, it's very, very expensive.
So we have some MOOCs in our school that are just spectacular. I mean really, they all are. There just aren't that many of them because it's just so difficult to do. And at a place like MIT, it's difficult for the administration, I think, as they're divvying up the small pot of money they have, it's hard for them to say do we need another math class as a MOOC or do we need something in one of those fields in humanities. So it's a little bit harder than I think any of us thought it would be.
Is it important? Of course it's important. Is that the wave of the future? Yes, it's the wave of the future. Is it the solution? No. It's part of the solution.
INTERVIEWER: So we spent quite a bit of time talking about the humanities and the social sciences. I want to also just spend a bit of time talking about the A the middle there, arts. And during your time as dean, just talk about your approach to this place of art, the arts at MIT and some of the things that you worked on to sort of secure or promote the arts.
FITZGERALD: Yeah. Well, the arts at MIT are really, really stunning. And I didn't really realize that as a faculty member. I knew we had a symphony orchestra. I knew we had classes and I didn't spend too much time thinking about it. When I became the dean and I discovered the range of what this little tiny department does, the quality of the faculty-- which they're the last ones to toot their own horns-- I mean they are really world class people over there. And the things they do with very small resources are stupendous.
What I really didn't understand is how many of our undergraduates have a very high ability particularly in music, but also in performing arts. In music, it's something like-- well, in the arts in general something like 65% of the freshman come to MIT having won competitions in the arts and it's very little of it is visual arts. It's mostly music.
And then you think, well, wait a minute, we have kids who are math geniuses. They're scientists. They have that kind of brain, right, which is also the music brain. It should come as no huge shock to us that these kids are also master musicians.
And I notice, too, that if you take part in admissions which faculty are invited to do-- and I used to do when I had a little more time-- and you read a bunch of folders of students who are coming into MIT, and I think they look like a lot like the students who go to any of the Ivys, but they say you know I have a job during the school year. I'm a captain of the math team, captain of the poetry club. I'm doing these amazing things. I'm in the orchestra and la-da-da.
And then they come here and they drop that stuff like hot potatoes. I mean it's part of their PR program to get into a place like MIT. But when they get here, they drop everything but music. And that really blew me away, these kids do not, no matter how busy they get, that's kind of who they are. And it's really important to them to keep this ability going and they really feel passionate about it. I've just been knocked out by our students.
And that's one thing I think MIT could always make more of. It's one of our real selling points is that the students here have this amazing artistic capacity. And the world does not know this. They're surprised to hear it.
So I did spent a fair amount of time trying to get a building, a new performing arts center for the department because the space that MIT has for music and theater is pretty horrible. And well, I won't go on about how horrible it has been, but it's pretty bad. And so it seemed like let's finally come up with something, you know space that's worthy of them and that is worthy of these amazing students, and that we can use also to bring attention to that part of the Institute.
We just couldn't raise the money. We had an idea. We had an architectural drawing for turning Walker Memorial into a performing and curricular space for the arts. It was really a beautiful-- we all fell in love with the design. And of course, you know Walker Memorial has so many hidden spaces within it that you could do a lot with that building. But it just wasn't to be. It costs a lot more to renovate a historic building than to start from scratch. So I think probably in the future, that's what the institute will go for, a new building.
INTERVIEWER: The Center for Arts, Science and Technology was something that was founded in your tenure.
FITZGERALD: Isn't that great? Yes.
INTERVIEWER: Talk about that.
FITZGERALD: That was a real collaboration between the Dean of Architecture at the time, Adele Santos, me as Dean of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and Phil Khoury, my predecessor as Dean. And as Associate Provost, he's in charge of the arts. So he was the one who really joined us all together. And we all felt very strongly that it was time to do something more around the arts. We have this very odd situation in which the visual arts are in the School of Architecture and Planning and the performing arts are in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. There's not been very much bridging between all those things in my time at MIT.
And so the idea was why don't we try to pull it together so we can help each other and make something bigger than either of us could do alone. And I think, so far, it's been a wild success. I'm very proud of that.
INTERVIEWER: So as we sort of wind down, tell me a bit about your-- you're only a few months into it-- but to me a bit about your post-Dean life, both at MIT and beyond, research, returning to research--
INTERVIEWER: --what that's like.
FITZGERALD: Well, it is pretty fantastic to have a leave. I have to say I think for many of us in this kind of administrative job, it's really decades since we've had a leave. So it feels pretty great to be able to take some time off, go to movies, read books, take walks, things like that and really just think, really just have some free time to think and let your thoughts go where they may. That's been just a tremendous luxury.
I had imagined just jumping right back into the book I was working on on the industrialization of food in America, and which I had gotten quite a ways along with before I moved to the dean's office. But it's a little harder to return to something that far back than I had anticipated. I'm a different person than I was then and so I need to really think about how to go about this. And I think in the end, I will use part of it.
Happily, there are some people who have taken this topic on since I've been busy elsewhere. So there's not such a wasteland of material out there anymore. So I think the field is good and I'll make a contribution. We'll see what it is, but that's what I'm going to be working on.
But I'm also interested in writing about this educational conundrum. I think it's so important, particularly as STEM gets bigger and bigger, I really sincerely believe that if we equip our students with nothing but STEM, we're all going to be the poorer for it and we're going to be in a very scary place in terms of the complexities of the world. So I'd like to push on that some more in the time that I have.
INTERVIEWER: And how would you like to sort of wrap that up into this, for the future of MIT if you will and where you'd like to see education at MIT go? We've talked about it a bit.
FITZGERALD: Well, I'd like to see the administration take it on more robustly, I guess. I think that the Institute has a funny a funny situation where on the one hand they are absolutely the best in the technical fields of science and engineering, and we're also in many ways the best in our social science fields and our humanities and arts fields in surprising ways. I think there's a worry about diluting the brand that MIT is by making too much of these other fields, even with music.
And I hope that that is something that the whole Institute can think a little bit harder about, because surely we have a tremendous soapbox at the Institute for not being narrowly drawn or narrowly understood. We have a huge soapbox for embracing the whole person and remembering what education, what university education is really about and really contributes, and not letting ourselves get pulled into this , this debate about is it this or that, not getting pulled into a debate about it's too expensive to do this, it's too chintzy to do that. I mean we are bigger than that I think. And we owe it to our students to give them the full picture.
INTERVIEWER: So as we wrap up, is there anything thinking back on a conversation that you'd like to add or something I didn't touch that's really crucial for you to include?
FITZGERALD: I think you asked all the right questions.
INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you so much for sitting down with us.
FITZGERALD: Thank you.
INTERVIEWER: I really appreciate you taking the time.
FITZGERALD: It was a pleasure.