Resident Scholar Program

About the Program | Current Scholars | Scholar Emeriti | Bill and Betsy Leitch
Upcoming Events | Past Events

The Founders Group of Simmons Hall, an undergraduate dormitory, envisioned a combined residential and multi-use environment in which students could integrate seamlessly with other members of the MIT and Boston metropolitan community. Our residence includes a theater with a performance stage and screen, for use by residents and by our MIT colleagues.

Established in 2002, the Simmons Residential Scholars program is meant to enrich all of MIT with fresh ideas and perspectives. Simmons Resident Scholars have had a wealth of life experiences, both academic and personal, and are eager to share them with our community. While based in Simmons Hall, many of activities and events are also open to MIT and, in some cases, residents of the Boston metropolitan area. Residential Scholars live in furnished apartments, located on student resident floors. Click on link, below left, for more information on Life as a Resident Scholar @ Simmons Hall.

The program is populated mostly by faculty members on sabbatical leave from other institutions, artists, industry professionals visiting MIT and a limited number of MIT faculty members who have shown, by a long history of contributions to the community, a reason to participate in this program. Click on the link, below center, for information on prior Simmons Hall Resident Scholars.

The Scholars, working with the permanent House Team, typically run weekly programs. Since its inception in 2003, the financial resources to support the program primarily have been provided by the scholarly allowance associated with the William R. '56 and Betsy P. Leitch Professorship, which is held by John Essigmann, one of the Housemasters of Simmons Hall. The community is indebted to the Leitch family for their generous support of this program. Click on link, below right, for more information on Bill and Betsy Leitch.

Life as a Resident Scholar

The MIT Residential Scholars Program has as its goal to enrich the residential system at MIT by embedding into its community scholars that bring and are eager to share a wealth of life experiences. The program is mostly (but not exclusively) populated by faculty members on sabbatical leaves from other institutions, by artists, or by industrial professionals visiting MIT for an extended period of time. Since its inception in 2003, the social and educational element of the Residential Scholars program has been funded by the scholarly allowance associated with the William and Betsy Leitch Professorship which is held by John Essigmann, who with Ellen Essigmann, are Housemasters of Simmons Hall.

The MIT Residential Scholars Program is based on Simmons Hall, a spectacular residence designed by Steven Holl and completed in 2002. Simmons Hall houses a diverse constituency of 340 undergraduate students. As MIT’s newest undergraduate residence, Simmons Hall was designed with many common spaces intended to host a variety of community events. In addition, Simmons Hall was provided with five apartments for visitors that would allow the establishment of the Residential Scholars program. For these reasons, the Residential Scholars program is based at Simmons Hall but it really belongs to the entire residential system at MIT.

Our expectations for Residential Scholars is that they (and their family members if they come to live at Simmons) become active members of the Simmons community by participating with significant frequency in dorm functions (such as celebrations, entertainment events, study breaks, holiday brunches), by dining with some regularity at the dining hall, and by organizing events that are designed to engage a broad section of the MIT community. In addition, working with the permanent House Team, we expect each scholar to take a lead in organizing two to three events per semester. These typically take place on Friday evenings, between 6 and 8 p.m. We have a wealth of spaces that can be used, depending on the nature of the event. Our Multipurpose Room holds about 200 people. We have other cozier spaces, including our Country Kitchen, which can be used to host cooking events. Most events are advertised throughout the broad MIT residential community.

Successful Residential Scholars events come in all forms. Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, an RS since 2003, organizes meditation sessions with some regularity. He also put together a film festival dealing with India and Tibet. In 2004, 2005 and 2007, he coordinated the construction of a Sand Mandala, each one attended by several thousands of people. He has also given many lectures on various topics. Barbara Louviere and Marshall Michel have taken students to some of the major exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, have organized a Vietnam War film festival, and helped in bringing together musicians from New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina for a benefit concert at MIT. Henning and Anja Colsman-Freyberger noted that many of our students never ventured over to Boston and were unfamiliar with the Boston subway system. They organized an event, called SIMTrek, to give residents the opportunity to explore Boston while learning how to use the MTA.

Residential Scholars events can also be small and intimate: dinner conversations with the scholars or their guests, cooking classes for a small group (these are always very successful), craft projects (soap making and chocolate making), career advice type sessions, talks on topics of general interest, etc. Overly academic events tend not to be well received. Part of the challenge is to conceive exciting events that include some meaningful but slightly under cover educational content. The goal of this program is to broaden the horizons of our students in a non-academic setting.

The Residential Scholars program at Simmons Hall is managed by Prof. Steven Hall, the Simmons Hall Associate Housemaster, who can be contacted at