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Alumni profile

Amy Brand, PhD ’89

Future-proofing the MIT Press.
February 22, 2017

Amy Brand recalls that when she was 10, the owner of the Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan was a guest speaker in her classroom at the Bank Street School. “She told us: ‘Books are your friends,’” Brand says. “Those words stuck with me.”

Now Brand, an expert in academic publishing and scholarly communications, is director of the MIT Press, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious university presses. Each year the press publishes more than 250 new books and 34 scholarly journals in fields ranging from science and technology to art and design.

“Publishing is in transition, and university presses are unique in their responsibility to bring the academy to a broad reading public,” she says. “There are new pressures now, too, as academic publishers compete with commercial entities and actively embrace a more digital future.”

For the MIT Press, Brand says, “The objective is to balance our print and digital strategies while ensuring continued excellence and reach. I’d really like to ‘future proof’ the press, and our first step is a new digital platform to increase access to all our current and backlist publications.”

Brand brings wide experience to her role at the MIT Press, where she had served as executive editor in the 1990s. After getting a BA in linguistics from Barnard, she earned a PhD from MIT in cognitive sciences. Before she took on her current role, she was VP for North America at Digital Science, an incubator for scientific software startups. Earlier, she served as assistant provost for faculty appointments and information at Harvard University.

A certified yoga instructor and a voracious reader with limited free time, Brand listens to “high-quality fiction” audiobooks whenever she can. She lives in an artists’ community in Newton with her husband, Matt Brand, a computer scientist and artist, and two of their three teenagers, Orenna and Liraz. Their oldest, Isaiah, is a sophomore at Brown.

As an alumna and director of the press, she says MIT is a crucial part of her life. “MIT taught me a lot about how to think and problem-­solve and helped me develop a love for engaged conversations about real ideas. That continues, even if the content has shifted from language and the mind to the research information landscape. I am energized by the press’s opportunity to help bring MIT’s mission to the public.”

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