In 1980, when I arrived at MIT as a young faculty member, I experienced what I can only describe as a culture shock. I had visited the campus only once, for an interview, and I knew almost no one. Cambridge was a long way away from my family in Venezuela and, unlike my graduate school’s campus on the West Coast, MIT’s palm tree quotient was… well… zero.
I felt anxious and had questions that are not uncommon for many arriving on our campus: Would my work be good enough? Was my English strong enough? Would I fit in? And what would I do when it started to snow?
I quickly found that my concerns were unwarranted. To a degree I had never experienced anywhere else, I felt an immediate sense of welcome, acceptance, and belonging among an extended family of curious, intense, creative individuals collaborating to advance MIT’s mission. I found my home.
In the decades since, I have been reminded again and again what MIT means as a home to so many, and why. As much as we love our classrooms, labs, residences, libraries, and courts, there’s no secret to what makes MIT so special: It’s the people. It’s the senior who helps a freshman with a problem set, the faculty member who hosts product design finals in a top hat and tails, and the alum who reaches out to a student stranded overseas. It’s every one of us, and all of us.
If you haven’t been to campus in a few years, I hope you’ll find time for a visit. Chalk up the blackboards in the new Simons building, marvel at the gleaming MIT.nano building coming out of the ground, and ask a student or faculty member what MIT means to them. We’d love to remind you that MIT’s brilliance—its strength—is drawn from a remarkable community of passionate, playful, and caring people working towards a common goal: to make a better world. In short, we’d love to welcome you home.
L. Rafael Reif