Letters to MIT Community

Letter to the Community on MIT's Global Education and Research

Thursday, October 1, 2009

We are delighted to announce the release of two reports, by faculty from MIT's five schools, that will help frame MIT's international engagement strategy for the coming decades.

MIT has long served as a global magnet for talent and as a powerful engine of new ideas, mutually reinforcing strengths that are central to advancing the Institute's mission. The report from the International Advisory Committee (IAC), "Guiding Strategies for MIT's International Activities," outlines a set of goals, guidelines, and recommendations to enable MIT's international research engagements to support and amplify our core strengths. The report of the MIT Global Council, "Mens et Manus et Mundus", outlines an historic opportunity to deepen international learning at the Institute, and to make international education a core component of an MIT education.

Based on the Institute's mission, "to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century," both the IAC and the Global Council recommend that MIT take a more active, coherent, strategic approach to global engagement. Sustaining and expanding MIT's support for the global interests of faculty and students must remain our primary avenue for engaging global partners. However, MIT must also take deliberate, coordinated institutional steps to remain a premier destination for the finest talent and to amplify the campus' role as a hub for a network of international engagements in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship.

We embrace the recommendations of both reports and describe here a strategy – some of the reasons and means – by which our international engagements can amplify MIT's mission.

A Strategy for MIT's Global Engagement
The frontiers of knowledge, technology, and enterprise now stretch around the world. The Global Council accurately observes that our students' hopes for productive, sustainable careers increasingly depend on acquiring stronger, deeper, and more refined international skills and understanding. Society's best hope for scientific advance depends on our ability both to draw on knowledge from the entire world and to contribute to knowledge creation across national and cultural boundaries.

As centers of innovation arise across the developing and the developed world, MIT faces the challenge of building new partnerships to carry out its mission. To lead in tackling complex global issues such as health, energy, environment, water, food, poverty, governance, and innovation, members of the MIT community benefit from participating in worldwide networks of knowledge creation and application. To this end, the IAC recommends identifying a few critical areas around the globe in which to concentrate our efforts, developing deep collaborations in selected countries that have capabilities, promise, problems, commitment, and human talent complementary to our own.

As we have always done, MIT should aim "to be where the talent is" and where the talent will likely be 10 to 20 years from now. To accomplish this, we must amplify our incoming and our outgoing connections. First, we should provide the best possible services to facilitate international students and scholars coming to our campus. Second, we should establish criteria for choosing the most suitable sites from among a set of likely "innovation hubs" around the world. By building partnerships in those hubs, we will foster the development of, and connections with, their future talent.

MIT approaches an amplification of our international engagements with important strengths. We enjoy an unusually international community of faculty, alumni, and students – a great asset in building cultural awareness, educational infrastructure, and research networks. Our primary international program for undergraduates, MISTI, already offers students a uniquely intense and transformative exposure to workplace culture abroad. We also benefit from a long tradition of successful faculty research abroad and of many flourishing institutional relationships.

The Institute also benefits from America's distinctive culture of innovation and unusual capacity to attract and embrace talent from abroad. However, as other nations strive to participate in discovery and entrepreneurship, we must ensure that MIT maintains its magnetic power for talent. The future of the Institute depends on increasing the ability to link our core campus – physically or virtually, and in ways we cannot yet define – with the best minds in the world.

By strengthening MIT's ability to remain an intellectual magnet for the world's finest talent, a global engagement strategy will help MIT achieve three fundamental long-term objectives:

  1. To continue to offer our students the world's premier education in fields for which MIT is renowned, and to help them build the intellectual breadth and cultural awareness to lead in global careers;
  2. To remain a pioneer in tackling the world's most important and interesting problems; and
  3. To thrive as an institution in the midst of profound changes in geopolitics and world economies – predictable and unpredictable.


The IAC and Global Council reports have addressed these key issues, and have made recommendations with insight and vision. They also set out recommendations for the further development of activities that will be critical to MIT's continued strength and success. We thank the members of the IAC and the Global Council for their compelling and forward-looking reports.


Susan Hockfield

L. Rafael Reif


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