Agustín Rayo PhD ’01, an accomplished philosopher and seasoned MIT administrator, has been named the new Dean of the Institute’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS). The appointment takes effect on February 1.
Rayo, a professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, has been a faculty member of the Institute since 2005. He served as Associate Dean of SHASS from 2016 to 2019 and has served as Acting Dean of SHASS since June 2021. Rayo will be the 10th full-time dean in SHASS history.
“I want to continue the work of former SHASS deans, to make sure that the areas we study at school remain central to the MIT experience,” says Rayo. “If you want to change the world, you have to understand how it works.”
According to MIT President L. Rafael Reif, Rayo’s insight as a campus leader, scholar, and teacher makes him ideal to lead SHASS.
“Agustín brings to the Dean a wonderful record of leadership in SHASS and service to the whole of MIT, from faculty governance to student life,” said Reif. “Warm, welcoming and a sensitive listener, he combines an infectious enthusiasm for the inherent value of the liberal arts with a clear vision of how they can also inform and enrich our understanding in STEM fields. I was grateful for his contributions as a member of the Academic Council this year – and I look forward to working with him as he takes on this new role.
Humanistic knowledge and the mission of MIT
Rayo’s appointment as Dean Kenan Sahin of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences was announced today by Provost Martin A. Schmidt in a letter to the MIT community.
“Agustín values excellence and is a committed leader and member of our community who I know will work thoughtfully and rigorously on behalf of SHASS and the Institute,” Schmidt wrote.
Having already spent approximately two decades at the Institute, Rayo says he intends to support all members of the SHASS community as they pursue a wide variety of research, teaching and community development projects.
“I really want to work with our faculty, students, and staff to understand where they want to go and work with them to get there,” Rayo says.
SHASS comprises 21 departments, programs, centers, laboratories and consortia, which house more than 170 full-time faculty. SHASS officially became one of the schools of MIT in 1950, although several subjects have been taught there since the Institute opened to students in 1865. (MIT was founded in 1861.)
SHASS faculty members have won eight Nobel Prizes, as well as 10 MacArthur Fellowships, four Pulitzer Prizes, 40 Guggenheim Fellowships, and six John Bates Clark Medals, among other awards.
Rayo recently explained his view of the complementarities between SHASS and the whole of MIT in a November op-ed in Times Higher Educationwhich he co-authored with Hashim Sarkis, Dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning.
“MIT’s mission is to serve humanity, and the arts and humanities are essential resources for knowledge and understanding of the human condition,” Rayo and Sarkis wrote. “Knowledge from science and engineering is, of course, crucial to solving many of the world’s most pressing problems. But these realms operate within human societies and can best serve the world when informed by the cultural, political, spatial, and economic complexities of human existence, beliefs, and ways of inhabiting the earth.
Moreover, as Rayo and Sarkis put it, “the fields of technical, scientific and humanistic research… are also modes of human knowledge which inform each other. And many of today’s most important problems will only be solved through collaborative research.
Rayo further notes that his experience as acting dean since June has reinforced his desire to collaborate with MIT campus leaders.
“The president and provost have been incredibly caring and helpful during this time, and the other deans have welcomed me as part of the team,” he says. “A big attraction of the position is the possibility of continuing to work with this team.”
Logic, language and mathematics
Rayo’s scholarship deploys philosophical ideas about logic and language to scrutinize metaphysics and assess the limits of claims we can make about the world. He has published dozens of articles in peer-reviewed journals and several chapters in edited volumes, as well as a highly regarded 2013 book, “The Construction of Logical Space” (Oxford University Press), which applies his ideas mathematics and ontology. broader issues.
Rayo was also co-editor, with Gabriel Uzquiano, of a 2006 volume, “Absolute Generality” (Oxford University Press), and is the author of a 2019 philosophy textbook, “On the Brink of Paradox”. (MIT Press), which received the 2020 PROSE Award, given by the Association of American Publishers for Best Humanities Textbook.
Rayo earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He received his doctorate in philosophy in 2001 at MIT, with Vann McGee as his main thesis advisor; Robert Stalnaker and Stephen Yablo also served on his thesis committee.
After obtaining his doctorate, Rayo was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, then an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego. He joined the MIT faculty as an associate professor in 2005 and served as the Ford Career Development Professor from 2006 to 2009, gaining tenure at the Institute in 2008. Rayo became a full professor of philosophy in 2014.
He has also been a visiting professor or held other visiting positions at the University of Buenos Aires, the École Normale Supérieure and the University of Bologna, the University of Oslo, the University of Aberdeen , at the University of Leeds, at the University of St. Andrews and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
In addition to his fellowship, Rayo was a committed teacher throughout his years at MIT, engaging with undergraduate students and helping supervise dozens of doctoral and master’s theses.
Invested in campus service
Rayo has also devoted much effort and time to campus leadership and service activities at MIT. While serving as Associate Dean of SHASS from 2016-2019, Rayo served as Chair of the SHASS Faculty Diversity Committee, the SHASS Academic Advisory Committee, and the Digital Humanities Steering Committee.
Most recently, Rayo has served since 2020 on the Computing Council of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and as co-chair of the MIT Committee on Departmental Life. He served on the Task Force on the Future of Education at MIT during the 2013-2014 academic year and served as House Master of the Senior House from 2010-2014.
Rayo was selected at the end of a process that included a 10-faculty research advisory committee. He succeeds Melissa Nobles, a political scientist named Dean of SHASS in 2015, then Chancellor of MIT in 2021.
“It was a privilege to work with Chancellor Nobles when she was Dean of SHASS,” says Rayo. “As Associate Dean, I have often witnessed her wisdom and integrity. We are lucky to have her as Chancellor and I am lucky to have her as a role model. »