In MIT, momentum is a phenomenon that we understand. It also defines us as a community. Earlier this year, when I announced that I was resigning from the presidency, a crucial responsibility was particularly clear to me: to keep the organization afloat through the transition to its next president.
Fortunately, a group of over 200 MIT students, staff and faculty has given us a blueprint for doing just that. Early in the epidemic, Task Force 2021 set us the agenda: a plan of action that we can take as soon as the epidemic loses its grip on our lives.
The task force outlined the basic progress needed to ensure that, as we move forward, all members of our community receive the MIT they need. Suggestions include professional development and mentoring for undergraduate students. Reassessment of science, math and engineering requirements. Creating opportunities for social equality programs. Enhancing online learning and identity. All of this – and a little more – should give MIT’s 18th president a good start.
Even with our community spread across the globe, we are able to advance our immediate global priorities, such as the Climate Grand Challenges. The CGC flagship projects are intended to make a profound contribution, accelerating the response to the challenge of the existence of climate change.
And we found a way to turn epidemic controls to our advantage: we quickly realized that having fewer people at MIT would make it easier to revitalize our physical campus with minimal disruption. We transformed Kendall Square with open spaces and a brand new reception center. We have decided to revitalize the West Campus, with a new home for New Wasser and Theater Art. And we’ve broken ground on a new music building that will enliven the heart of campus with fresh energy and creativity.
We’ve also put forward a central priority that is less tangible, but just as important: to make MIT a more humane, welcoming community where each of us can thrive. A thoughtful, dedicated value statement committee has drafted a statement that celebrates our long-standing values while inspiring us to elevate our vision. Meanwhile, the institute’s Professor Penny Chisholm and former Chancellor Phil Clay, PhD ’75, are guiding the working group to establish a shared understanding of free expression at MIT.
All this work is very important. But I must admit that we are moving forward with a specific plan with the utmost anticipation: bringing everyone together this spring to bid farewell to our new graduates and celebrate reunion. In addition to this year’s graduate and reunion classes, we will identify the last two 25th and 50th reunion classes. And Classes for 2020 and 2021.
I can’t wait to see you all, face to face, at MIT.