The moment you graduated from MIT, you encountered the minor challenge I now face all the time: trying to explain the Institute to people who have never been here. Like everyone on campus, I spend so much time working with MIT people and immersed in MIT culture that it is hard to remember how unusual this community is. But on the road as president, I am often asked to help outsiders understand how MIT “works.”
What makes MIT different? What accounts for its distinctive contributions to the world? I believe it comes down to our people, our mission, and our values. The MIT community is arguably the strongest center of science-and-technology-focused talent on the planet, magnified by world-class programs in the arts, humanities, social sciences, design, planning, and management. Those strengths make the people of MIT extremely good at two things: creating knowledge and applying knowledge, particularly to solve real-world problems. Our mission focuses us on the world’s great challenges. And we inspire one another in a creative community that values excellence, meritocracy, openness, boldness, humility, and taking the high road.
I have come to see that belonging to this unusual community magnifies the impact of everyone in it, starting with our students, faculty, and staff. But this community of inspiration also includes our graduates, who carry this spirit outward and accomplish MIT’s work in the world—as we see in every issue of MIT Technology Review.