New leaders

February 03, 2014

To the members of the MIT community,

I write to share some exciting news: the appointment of Acting Provost Martin Schmidt SM '83, PhD '88 as Provost, and of Associate Dean of Engineering Cynthia Barnhart SM '85, PhD '88 as Chancellor.


Provost Martin Schmidt

From his 25 years as a faculty member (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Marty brings to the role of provost a powerful combination of skills and experience as a teacher, advisor, administrator, researcher, inventor and entrepreneur.

Marty's intellectual creativity and administrative leadership made him highly effective as the leader of the Microsystems Technology Lab (1999-2006), one of MIT's largest interdepartmental labs, and inspired his appointment as associate provost in 2008. From his co-leadership of the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force, where he helped shape MIT's strategic response to the global financial crisis, to his thoughtful, fair-minded work as associate provost in allocating physical space and improving MIT's plans for the future of Kendall Square, Marty has cheerfully accepted and successfully handled a great many sensitive, difficult assignments for the MIT community. In the process, he has become well known, inside and outside MIT, for his clarity, integrity, strategic perspective and ability to bring people together to get hard things done.

An award-winning teacher, Marty is also a hands-on engineer with broad expertise in microelectronics and nanotechnology. He holds more than 30 issued US patents, has built creative collaborations with colleagues from many departments and has supervised more than 25 doctoral theses, several of which he helped spin out into start-ups. These experiences informed his work on the national Advanced Manufacturing Partnership as well as in the creation of the MIT Innovation Initiative; they will be invaluable as we seek to make our distinctive innovation ecosystem even stronger.

In three months as Acting Provost, Marty has proved himself an indispensable member of our senior team, and I am delighted that he has accepted my offer to help lead MIT as provost.


Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart

Since she joined the MIT faculty in 1992, Cindy Barnhart, now Ford Foundation Professor of Engineering and Associate Dean of Engineering, has made outstanding contributions to the burgeoning field of optimization for large-scale transportation and logistics, with particular emphasis on the airline industry. The originality of her research and her professional leadership earned her election to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the profession's highest distinctions.

A clear-eyed problem-solver in the classic MIT tradition, Cindy was drawn to MIT by our culture of approaching hard problems by thinking across disciplines and Schools. In that spirit, she has proved herself a skillful leader of important interdisciplinary groups and initiatives, including the Center for Transportation and Logistics, the Operations Research Center and Transportation@ MIT. Cindy has coupled her academic achievements with wide-ranging service to MIT. In addition to extensive committee work, she served the School of Engineering as associate dean since 2007, including six months as interim dean of the School.

Cindy comes to the chancellorship with a lively awareness of the demands and realities of student life on campus. She has advised undergraduates for 20 years, supervised 25 doctoral and 58 masters students through their thesis projects, and was an MIT student herself.

In interviewing for this position, she explained to me that from the start of her time on the faculty -- a job she began when her first child was three weeks old -- she has made a conscious effort to prove that it is possible to have both a successful career and a satisfying family life; her commitment and her example on this score will be tremendously useful in helping our famously intense community strike a productive balance.

I know Cindy will make an outstanding addition to MIT's senior leadership, and I hope you will join me in welcoming both Cindy and Marty to these challenging new roles.

I also offer my gratitude and respect to their predecessors: to Professor Chris Kaiser for his thoughtful contributions as provost, and to Chancellor of Academic Advancement Eric Grimson for the wisdom and care he brought to his work as chancellor, and for agreeing to serve in both chancellor roles until now.

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To the faculty, students, alumni, Corporation members, parents, post-docs and staff who advised me throughout this search process, formally and informally – thank you. Your perspective taught me a great deal about what our community needs and wants from its leaders. Your aspirations for our community will be our inspiration and our guide.


L. Rafael Reif