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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

Meeting our new president! by Shuli J. '22, MEng '23

my very brief foray into professional journalism

In case you haven’t heard, MIT has a new president-elect! This morning I had the incredible opportunity to attend the announcement and speak with President-Elect Dr. Sally Kornbluth myself. Petey reached out to me late yesterday afternoon: “what are you doing between 10-11AM tomorrow morning?” I told him I had to teach recitation, so I wouldn’t be able to make it to whatever he had in mind, sorry! He replied “okay!” but added that there would be someone coming to speak who was so important that he had not even been allowed to know who it was. Exactly one blogger was going to be invited with a press pass, but if I couldn’t make it, he could ask someone else.

What could I say to that? Within 15 minutes I had begged another TA to switch recitation spots with me and confirmed my attendance. My attendance at what, I did not know.

At 7 pm yesterday, we received an email letting us know that the event would be to announce MIT’s 18th president!!! The email was understandably but delightfully cryptic, avoiding all pronouns and listing the “who” as “18th president, MIT.” I couldn’t share the information with anyone I knew except Petey, so the two of us speculated back and forth — would we know the person already? Where would they be coming from? What would be their approach to the presidency? I was extremely excited to find out.

I showed up at the Welcome Center this morning at 9.45 am sharp, the arrival time for “press planning to attend in person.” I was now press! I straightened my coat and tried to look cool. It probably failed, considering I was the only person there holding a backpack and a bike helmet. I checked out the food table and took a pastry from possibly the fanciest snack platter I’ve ever seen.

A sandwich sign set up outside. It says
A small plate on my lap. It has a pastry with a bite taken out of it and a few large blueberries.
An empty auditorium. At the front is a podium with an MIT logo backdrop behind it.
I'm press! I thought taking a picture of the snack table would make me look like a rube, so here's my half-eaten pastry instead.

Soon it was time to file in and take our seats in the auditorium.01 If you've ever attended an info session in the new Welcome Center, you've sat in the very same seats! People trailed in and got settled, a few minutes passed — and then the door opened again and a group of people walked in all together. One of them was Kimberly Allen, the MIT Director of Media Relations, and she announced:

“Everyone, please welcome Dr. Sally Kornbluth, MIT’s 18th president!”

We all burst out clapping. The atmosphere in the room was electric. (MIT confession: I was going to make a comparison to the announcement of a new iPhone, but then I thought, maybe not everyone would be as honoured as me to be compared to an iPhone. 😳) Next, the chair of the MIT corporation02 Basically the board of directors introduced Dr. Kornbluth and spoke a bit about the selection process. Then we got to hear from Dr. Kornbluth herself. Finally, they took questions.

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear that my hand shot up first. I asked about students, of course (I almost felt contractually obligated to). It was awesome to hear her say that she wanted to meet with students and hear from us — and that she liked the rollercoasters we build. After my question they took one from MIT News and then one from the New York Times, so I’m basically a crucial pillar of American journalism now (you heard it here first!)

After the Q&A period, there was time set aside for journalists to speak individually with Dr. Kornbluth. In our brief conversation, we talked about how it can be difficult to move from one institution to another when each school has its own particular culture, and the importance of listening to and building trust with those you’re hired to serve. I was really happy to hear that she plans to be open and responsive to student feedback. She joked that hopefully she’ll be able to hear from us before it gets to the picket line point; I told her that MIT students will express their concerns in any avenue you give them, office hours or picket line. Then I had to go: it was time to teach my 11 am recitation, so I grabbed my bike helmet and said my goodbyes. Just another day in the life of a student, amirite?

It was such an honour to be able to meet and talk with Dr. Kornbluth today and hear about her plans for her new role as our 18th president, and I’m really grateful to the MIT News office for giving the admissions blogs the chance to attend. (This is probably the most irreverent article that will be written using the press kit they sent us, so I hope they don’t regret it!) She officially takes office in January. I’m excited to see what she does :)

  1. If you've ever attended an info session in the new Welcome Center, you've sat in the very same seats! back to text
  2. Basically the board of directors back to text