Exciting move for Provost Martin A. Schmidt

November 23, 2021

To the members of the MIT community,

I write to share the news that Provost Martin A. Schmidt SM ’83, PhD ‘88, the Ray and Maria Stata Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS), has been selected as the next president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), his undergraduate alma mater.

You can read more about Marty’s accomplishments at MIT News.

Marty’s role at RPI will officially begin on July 1, 2022. He will continue full time as MIT’s provost through the end of February 2022, so he can complete the current budget process. I hope to identify his successor promptly, to allow Marty time to prepare for his new position and ensure a smooth transition for MIT.

A remarkable record

When Marty accepted the role of provost in 2014, he was exceptionally well prepared. A member of the EECS faculty since he earned his PhD here in 1988, he spent seven years as director of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories, one of the Institute’s largest research units. 

In 2008, he joined the central administration as associate provost. While managing MIT’s buildings, space allocation and facilities budgets with vision, sensitivity and fairness, Marty also helped lead the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force, the ad hoc team that enabled MIT to navigate the worldwide financial crisis safely. His leadership and judgment were equally essential to the success of MIT2030, a planning process whose fruits include MIT.nano and the transformation of MIT’s Kendall Square edge into a campus hub and our new gateway to the world. 

In 2014, Marty agreed to serve as provost. Calm, thoughtful, optimistic but appropriately cautious, with a nimble mind and an easy, unpretentious manner, he quickly became one of my closest advisors. In the nearly eight years since, he has simultaneously kept the great machine of MIT humming smoothly, helped guide complex efforts such as the growth of edX and its recent transformation, and developed and helped ensure the success of some of our most important new initiatives, including the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. 

He also made lasting contributions to the strength of our community, including championing the launch of the MindHandHeart Department Support Project to help units improve their cultural climates, and the creation of coaching and training resources for faculty as they advance into leadership roles. He also strengthened the Institute Community and Equity Office, oversaw the development of the Institute-wide Strategic Action Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and helped the deans in their effort to establish assistant deans for DEI in each school and the college. Not incidentally, he has helped MIT respond constructively to the rolling crisis of the pandemic.

A scholar at work in the world 

Having supervised 35 PhD theses, secured 37 patents, helped launch seven start-ups (several based on his inventions) and served as MIT faculty lead for the national Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, Marty embodies an MIT ideal – a scholar at work in the world. As a researcher, he focuses on the micro and nanofabrication of sensors, actuators and electronic devices, and microelectromechanical systems. As Marty puts it, this means he is good at making very, very small things. His correspondents will recognize an echo of this skill in the inspired brevity of his emails.

Marty is an extraordinary citizen of MIT and one of its most gifted and dedicated servant-leaders. I could not be more grateful for his expert counsel and his enduring friendship.

Next steps for MIT

As the Institute’s chief academic officer, the provost has an extraordinarily broad portfolio, playing a pivotal role in virtually every aspect of MIT’s strategic and academic planning and operations across all five schools and the college, including guiding MIT’s annual budgeting process and overseeing the arts, our international and industrial engagements, and, with the vice president for research, Lincoln Laboratory.

I will immediately conduct a search to select a new leader equipped for this critical post. I welcome your insights and suggestions at provost-search@mit.edu. I will of course treat any guidance as confidential.

Carrying the MIT spirit into the world

In taking the reins at RPI, Marty will succeed another graduate of the Institute, Shirley Ann Jackson ’68, PhD ’73, and join the large and distinguished group of current university presidents who hail from MIT.

Please join me in congratulating RPI on its brilliant selection, and in offering Marty our warmest appreciation for his exemplary service and enthusiastic congratulations on his new role, as he carries the MIT spirit into the world.


L. Rafael Reif