At MIT, momentum is a phenomenon we understand. It also defines us as a community. Earlier in the year, when I announced I would step down as president, one crucial responsibility was especially clear to me: sustaining the Institute’s momentum through the transition to its next president.
Fortunately, a group of more than 200 MIT students, staff, and faculty have given us a blueprint for doing just that. Early in the pandemic, Task Force 2021 began setting us an agenda — a plan for action that we could take up as soon as the pandemic loosened its hold on our lives.
The task force outlined the foundational progress needed to ensure that as we move forward, all members of our community have the MIT they need. Suggestions included expanding professional development and mentoring for graduate students. Reevaluating science, math, and engineering requirements. Creating opportunities for social equity programs. Enhancing online learning and credentialing. All of this — and quite a bit more — should give MIT’s 18th president a good running start.
Even with our community scattered across the world, we have been able to advance urgent global priorities, like our Climate Grand Challenges. The CGC flagship projects are on course to make a profound contribution, accelerating the response to the existential challenge of climate change.
And we found a way to turn pandemic restrictions to our advantage: we quickly realized that having fewer people at MIT would make it that much easier to revitalize our physical campus with minimal disruption. We transformed Kendall Square with open spaces and a brand-new Welcome Center. We set about revitalizing the west campus, with New Vassar and a new home for theater arts. And we have broken ground on a new music building that will further enliven the heart of campus with fresh energy and creativity.
We have also advanced a central priority that is less tangible, but just as vital: making MIT a more humane, welcoming community where each of us can thrive. A thoughtful, dedicated Values Statement Committee has drafted a statement that celebrates our long-standing values while inspiring us to set our sights higher. Meanwhile, Institute Professor Penny Chisholm and former chancellor Phil Clay, PhD ’75, are guiding a working group towards establishing a shared understanding of free expression at MIT.
All of this work is tremendously important. But I must admit that we are moving one particular plan forward with the utmost anticipation: bringing everyone together this spring to send off our new graduates and celebrate reunions. In addition to this year’s graduating and reunion classes, we will recognize the past two 25th and 50th reunion classes and the classes of 2020 and 2021.
I can’t wait to see all of you, in person, at MIT.