I am pleased to submit this strategic plan for consideration by President Reif, Provost Schmidt, and the MIT community.
The review on which this plan is based was mostly carried out before last November’s presidential election. The election and its aftermath have required a hard look at many prior assumptions and ideas. The international environment for MIT may be affected significantly, not only by the outcome of our own election but also by disruptive developments in other parts of the world. I have tried to assess the implications for MIT’s international activities. As more becomes known, this analysis will likely need to be revised. But guidance is needed now. The MIT community is dynamic and action-oriented, and students and faculty cannot be expected to put their plans and aspirations on hold. Moreover, while the international environment will likely change, MIT’s mission and values will not. As President Reif has observed, “whatever may change in Washington... it will not change the values and mission that unite us.” Learning about the world, helping to solve the world’s greatest problems, and working with international collaborators who share our curiosity and commitment to rigorous scientific inquiry are core values for MIT. Accordingly, I am recommending an approach to international engagement that is aligned with MIT’s values and mission, while also taking account of the changing international environment.
In preparing the plan I and my team consulted widely (I myself met with over 400 members of the MIT community). I am grateful for the time that MIT faculty, students, and staff spent helping us. We also benefited from conversations with external advisors and with colleagues at peer universities. Having discussed the plan with many different groups on campus, I believe there is considerable support for the recommendations it contains. Some of these recommendations can be implemented immediately, while others will require further discussion. The plan also presents a framework for thinking about MIT’s role in the international arena, as well as some new ideas that need further development. Not everyone will agree with everything in this framework, but if it proves useful when future decisions about the Institute’s international activities are taken it will have served an important purpose. Such decisions must be made with the same high standards of thoughtfulness and rigor that MIT applies to any major decision affecting its education and research activities. An important objective of this report is to help ensure that these standards are met.
During this uncertain period we must not lose sight of the vital role of international activities in sustaining MIT’s excellence and leadership in education and research. I believe that the approach described in this plan will provide new opportunities for international engagement by faculty and students. Focusing the energy and creativity of the MIT community on these activities will help to sustain and strengthen this great institution.
— Richard Lester