MIT has always attracted students and faculty from around the globe; now, more than ever before, we must extend our reach across national and cultural borders.

For the first time in human history, we are linked across the world through our economic and production systems, the environment, and our instant worldwide communication systems. There is a tremendous global need — and demand — for the skills in science, technology, management, and cross-disciplinary understanding in which MIT excels. And our students must learn to engage other cultures effectively to prepare them to navigate the different business, educational, and political environments in which they will work.

MIT faculty and students have a long record of accomplishment in solving world problems, from developing radar and discovering the phenomenon of RNA splicing to revealing effective approaches to world poverty and explaining what makes cities and organizations resilient in the face of disaster. Today’s global problems call for even more such innovation. Millions around the world have inadequate housing, food, medical care, and jobs. An increasing percentage of the world’s population lives in cities that face poverty, crime, and serious environmental challenges. And problems such as energy, war and terrorism, and infectious disease impact all countries. For MIT to make a difference in these areas, we must think and operate globally. Finding solutions to the world’s most difficult problems will require access to the world’s best minds, making collaboration across disciplinary, institutional, and national borders more important than ever before.

MIT has many international initiatives under way to address these challenges. Among them is GEM4, a global collaboration among 10 institutions on three continents who work together across the boundaries of science, engineering, technology, medicine, and public health to find new approaches to difficult diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, cancer, and AIDS. Not long ago we launched the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, with the goal of turning research into actions that improve the lives of the poor around the world. And in keeping with the Institute’s commitment to energy issues, the 10-year old Alliance for Global Sustainability, which brings together MIT and leading universities in Europe and Asia, has launched a flagship project, in collaboration with partners in Europe, East Asia, India, and the U.S., to identify near-term pathways to a sustainable energy future.

For MIT students to become successful citizens and leaders in a rapidly evolving global context, they need international perspectives. In its recent report, the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons strongly recommended increasing the opportunities for international educational experiences for undergraduates. This will require expanding successful current international education programs — such as MISTI (the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) and our exchange program with Cambridge University — as well as developing new opportunities relevant to an environment that emphasizes science and technology. The Global Experience Opportunities Committee, a 15-member group of faculty and staff known as “GEOMIT,” is now considering how the Institute can best amplify undergraduate education with global opportunities.

MIT already offers a pioneering minor in Applied International Studies, which prepares students for an increasingly global economy and international research environment. It integrates international learning into a standard course of study, and includes a required period abroad.

This year, for the fifth year in a row, approximately 50 departments, programs, and student groups showcased their international work at the Institute’s annual International Development Fair. The Fair provides one venue for MIT students to learn about opportunities to work on international development projects.

To support these and other international activities, this year we launched a new Global MIT website (http://global.mit.edu/) that provides access to an extensive database of MIT research projects, initiatives, courses, internships, and service opportunities with significant global content. We hope the site will encourage all who visit it, from MIT and elsewhere, to think of their own educational and scholarly work in a global context that supports open sharing of ideas and information in support of common goals.

Excellence in both teaching and research increasingly demand a global perspective and robust relationships around the world. By building on MIT’s rich legacy of international engagement we ensure that our faculty, students, and graduates will continue to be the world’s leaders in their chosen fields.

Susan Hockfield

Susan Hockfield