Announcing the MIT Morningside Academy for Design

March 14, 2022

To the members of the MIT community,

In 1865 when the Institute welcomed its first class, it enrolled the nation’s very first architecture students. Since then, design thinking has flourished across our community, from our programs in architecture, urban planning, science, engineering, the arts and entrepreneurship, to D-Lab, the Media Lab, our maker spaces and more. 

Today, design at MIT stands on the threshold of an inspiring new future. Thanks to a remarkable gift from The Morningside Foundation, I am delighted to announce the creation of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design.

You can read more about the new academy on MIT News.

A new future for design thinking at MIT

At MIT, we sometimes describe our work as “inventing the future.” Beyond the Institute’s technical, scientific and analytical strengths, that assignment requires profound humanity and imagination – the capacity to listen closely and think broadly, to reframe old problems in unexpected ways, to crystallize bold new visions, to weave the wisdom of different disciplines and voices into fresh, humane solutions. These are essential strengths of design thinking.

The MIT Morningside Academy for Design will amplify the impact of MIT’s existing world-class programs in design. It will dramatically enhance our ability to promote design education on our campus and elsewhere; to support our faculty and students in their daring endeavors; and to work with others to develop compelling solutions to humanity’s great challenges. We could not be more grateful for this transformative gift.

The source and the leaders

The concept for the academy sprang from a group of design-minded faculty from across MIT. In the dim days of that first pandemic winter, they gathered online to consider how to make design at MIT much more than the sum of its parts – and they emerged with the inspired idea that would become the MIT Morningside Academy for Design. Their work resulted in a series of recommendations in April of 2021. We are indebted to them and to all the faculty, staff and students who helped shape and polish the idea.

For guiding and supporting this work from the beginning, I am tremendously grateful to Deans Hashim Sarkis and Anantha Chandrakasan. And I offer special appreciation to the academy’s founding director, Professor John Ochsendorf, and its associate director, Associate Dean Maria Yang '91. The academy idea came to life because of their collaborative leadership, keen understanding of MIT’s design ecosystem, profound commitment to our students and irresistible enthusiasm. 

With high hopes for where they will lead us next,

L. Rafael Reif