Dear members of the MIT community,
It was a pleasure reading the thoughtful responses to my last question, “If you could propose a new major at MIT, what would it be?”
One regular contributor, Ora Smith ’69, declared: “I am wary of new majors, and not much in favor of going wild with addition.” He illustrated his point by quoting Shakespeare (“Turn him to any cause of policy, the Gordian knot of it he will unloose, familiar as his garter,”) then added: “Thanks for the opportunity to send these emails to you. I have fun writing them.” Reading your replies, I am increasingly struck by their thoughtfulness and quality.
MIT’s identity, mission, and values, particularly the Institute’s long tradition of global problem-solving, emerged as an overall trend in the 100 or so replies. “We need more scientists and engineers who can understand, address, and tackle the major scientific issues on our planet,” wrote Karen Dillon ’79. She suggests a “Save the Planet” major, an interdisciplinary course of study that highlights complex, interconnected challenges such as climate change and resource sustainability.
Many alumni emphasized leadership development, such as a major centered on the intersection of governance and technology. “It is not enough for the Institute to train the best engineers to solve 21st-century problems if the solutions are rejected by our leaders and the world population,” wrote Stallion Yang ’99, a diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Big solutions, he said, must include an awareness of political feasibility, social responsibility, and regulatory compliance.
I hope you are enjoying the summer. Outside our windows, a dazzling fireworks display over the Charles River has marked another Fourth of July. It seems fitting that MIT’s global citizenship – our commitment to relevance and problem-solving – is our July theme. Read more about that tradition in a profile of John Richardson, an admiral in the U.S. Navy who serves as Chief of Naval Operations. Among other things, Admiral Richardson describes how valuable friendships begun at MIT have enriched his life and thinking. And I leave you with my question for this month, “How have relationships you formed at MIT impacted your career?”