August 26, 2020

To MIT’s newest graduate students,

Greetings, and welcome to MIT!

The hidden strength of a university is that every fall, it’s refreshed by a new tide of students. As a creative community, we treasure the invigorating power of your energy, curiosity, audacity, ingenuity and drive – and in this most unusual year, we are especially eager for you to join us, whether you are coming to Cambridge now or connecting remotely for a while.

The pandemic will continue to shape and shadow almost every aspect of our lives and interactions, on campus and around the world, so I want to begin with a direct personal request that you do everything in your power to keep yourselves, each other and the rest of our community healthy and safe.

Yet the past five months have demonstrated that the virus does not have the power to change what is most important about MIT – the character of its people, drawn from an incredible range of backgrounds and united by a distinctive set of qualities and values. Openness and integrity. An appreciation for talent and good ideas, no matter where they come from. Analytical rigor paired with intellectual boldness. And a passion for tackling humanity’s hardest problems – together.

This year, our remarkable community has been under serious strain. But we have faced that adversity together, with determination, grace and kindness. We saw that strength and solidarity in the thousands of students, faculty and staff who engaged this spring and summer to forge the best path forward for MIT. We see it in the remarkable array of ingenious Covid-19-focused research, hackathons and initiatives, many of which are captured in this interactive impact map. And, most recently, we’ve seen it in the form of a new, 60-foot Covid-19 testing trailer stationed on campus, constructed by a team of engineers, medical workers, facilities experts and architects. Our community has shown, time and time again, that we are all in this together.

In that spirit, I want you to know that there are many resources to support you on your educational journey, starting with your department, GradSupport in the Office of Graduate Education and MIT GAIN (Graduate Assistance and Information Network). Please know that we are here for you – even if you are not “here”! – so please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns.

And to explore what MIT is really like from the perspective of current graduate students, a wonderful place to start is the Grad Blogs. In a recent entry, Olivia Y. speaks directly to this moment when she writes, “This is MIT’s strength: the go-getter attitude fostered by our peers and reinforced by the faculty. A global pandemic will not change the fact that MIT is a land of opportunity.”

In this year of life-by-screen, it may take a little longer, but I am confident you will find your own sense of home and opportunity at the Institute before long.

With all best wishes,
L. Rafael Reif