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An International Vision

The new MIT provost aims to prepare students for global competition.
December 15, 2005

As L. Rafael Reif begins his tenure as provost, one of his top priorities is preparing graduates to compete in the global economy. He will work closely with President Susan Hockfield to help realize her vision for the university – which includes strengthening connections between engineering and the life sciences and addressing such issues as energy and the environment – but in addition, he wants to focus on giving MIT students a more international perspective.

One idea Reif favors is that of a foreign-internship program, which he says he and Hockfield have already discussed. “Our students spend internships in American companies,” Reif says. “I think giving them the experience of doing that in a foreign country may be something that will prepare them better for a more competitive world.”

Students would live abroad for several months, soaking up cultures, learning languages, and gaining experience working with talented people in global companies. Reif says such preparation will help MIT graduates better compete for jobs against their peers across the globe, not just those schooled in the United States.

Reif, whose research has focused on semiconductors and microfabrication, became provost on August 1. A member of the MIT faculty since 1980, he has ample administrative experience, having served as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science since September 2004 and as director of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories from 1990 to 1999. Reif earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1979.

Reif says that he loves working with students, both graduate and undergraduate. In 2000, he received an award for outstanding teaching and mentorship from the Semiconductor Research Corporation, an industry research consortium based in Research Triangle Park, NC.

The job of the provost is to supervise the Institute’s educational and research programs. The deans of the schools report to the provost, who oversees faculty recruitment, promotion, and tenure. The provost also coordinates interdepartmental collaboration among the faculty and, with the vice president for research, supervises interdisciplinary programs, labs, and centers. With the executive vice president, the provost manages the university’s budget. Amid all these duties, though, Reif sees his primary responsibility as “implementing or executing the decisions and the visions that the president has for MIT.”

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