At MIT, momentum is a phenomenon that we understand. It also defines us as a community. Earlier that year, when I announced that I was stepping down as president, I was particularly clear about one critical responsibility: to keep the momentum of the Institute going until the transition to the next president.
Luckily, a group of over 200 MIT students, staff, and faculty gave us a blueprint for how to do this. At the start of the pandemic, the 2021 Task Force began setting up an agenda for us, a plan of action that we could take as soon as the pandemic loosened its grip on our lives.
The task force has mapped out the fundamental progress needed to ensure that as we move forward, all members of our community have the MIT they need. Offers included expanding professional development and mentoring for graduate students. Reassessment of natural, mathematical and engineering requirements. Creating opportunities for social justice programs. Improving online training and certification. All of this and more should give MIT’s 18th president a head start.
Even with our community scattered around the world, we have been able to advance urgent global priorities such as our Climate Grand Challenges. The flagship projects of the CGC should make a significant contribution by accelerating the response to the existential challenge of climate change.
And we found a way to turn pandemic restrictions in our favor: we quickly realized that having fewer people at MIT would make it much easier to revitalize our physical campus with minimal disruption. We’ve redesigned Kendall Square with open spaces and a brand new welcome center. We have begun revitalizing West Campus with the construction of New Vassar and a new theater arts house. And we’ve laid the groundwork for a new music building that will further enliven the heart of campus with fresh energy and creativity.
We have also put forward a central priority that is less tangible but no less important: to make MIT a more humane, welcoming community in which each of us can thrive. thoughtful, dedicated Values Statement Committee issued a statement that celebrates our long-standing values and inspires us to set even higher goals for ourselves. Meanwhile, Institute professor Penny Chisholm and former rector Phil Clay, Ph.D. 75, are leading a working group to develop a common understanding free expression at MIT.
All this work is extremely important. But I must admit that we are moving forward with one particular plan with the greatest anticipation: to bring everyone together this spring to see our new graduates off and celebrate the reunion. In addition to graduating and reunion classes, this year we will celebrate the last two 25th and 50th reunion classes. and classes of 2020 and 2021.
I can’t wait to see you all in person at MIT.