Dean David Schmittlein says he was amazed at the number of people he met whose lives had been deeply changed through the generosity and knowledge of the MIT Sloan community.
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. But that step also has its own unique beginning, depending on the traveler. There are motives, there are goals; there is a vision or a passion. And sometimes those things can be as enlightening and rewarding as the journey itself.
In this, his first year as MIT Sloan's John C Head III Dean, David Schmittlein has undertaken just such a journey, visiting six countries over eight months in his quest to get acquainted with alumni and acquaint them with what's going on with the School. But leaving the statistics aside, it's what lay behind his journey that matters most to our new dean.
One of the first things that struck Dean Schmittlein during his travels was just how much collaboration takes place between MIT Sloan alumni around the world.
“As a newcomer to MIT,” he says, “one of the distinctive characteristics I saw in the School is the extent to which the boundaries between programs and departments are lower than they are in other universities. That's certainly something that we see right here on campus day-to-day, week-to-week. But it's also something that you see in the alumni community as you go around the world. You see alumni working with each other and collaborating with each other across school boundaries. And that is really something unique. So, when I talk about the strength of our alumni community, I certainly talk about the success and the loyalty of MIT Sloan alumni, but I also talk about our connectedness to the MIT alumni community as a whole. Both of these communities are important to our current students, to our current faculty, and are important to our success as a school, over the long term.”
Over the course of his journey Dean Schmittlein says he was amazed at the number of people he met whose lives had been deeply changed through the generosity and knowledge of the MIT Sloan community. One alumnus in Asia was able to save a family business by reaching out to and working with MIT Sloan alumni in the region; others spoke of the deep connectedness they continue to feel toward the School despite being thousands of miles away. But perhaps one of the most meaningful moments he experienced was when he had the pleasure of personally telling a father and a grandfather that the next generation of their family would also be represented at MIT Sloan.
“Just to see their faces, one knew that what was quite genuinely a dream for each of them, individually, was also coming true for their son. It is the kind of moment that sticks with you, and I think one of the things that you see in these moments is the extent to which this is a school that isn't just committed to excellence, but something more than excellence.”
Dean Schmittlein returned to MIT Sloan with an enhanced sense of the School's influence around the globe, and he feels privileged to have had the experience of helping strengthen the ties that bind the community of alumni together.
“MIT Sloan,” he says, “is a place where great ideas are born and brought out to the world, where there are incredible opportunities to become insightful about the big changes in business models and business practices, whether it's global communications and global supply, electronic commerce, or perhaps, today, sustainability, and networked organizations.
We're doing more creation of knowledge — and are tied more closely to the organizations that are really driving this kind of change in the world — than any other school, and so our students are able to provide more insights in those areas. These are among the things that make us distinct as a school of management: the creation of knowledge that's valuable now, and will stand the test of time. It's great to have a role in broadening and deepening those strengths of the School, and bringing those very real characteristics of the School out to the world.”
“I would leave alumni with two visions of what's next,” says Dean Schmittlein. “One is focused within the alumni community itself, with new opportunities for engagement with this School, some of which will come from the School, and some of which I'd like to see stimulated by the alumni community. We must attract the alumni engagement and insights that will help MIT Sloan achieve its full potential as a school, we must be a valued resource and gathering place for alumni through their entire lives as organizational leaders, and we must espouse and pursue a vision for a great school of management that is worthy of their involvement and support, that warrants their contributing both time and treasure to MIT Sloan.
The second vision focuses on our programs. We're at a point where we can literally see on the horizon the new physical home of the MIT Sloan School. The imminent completion of that home gives us, finally, the opportunity to reinvent the portfolio of programs that we run and the place we wish to occupy in the world of commerce and economic development. The alumni community can expect new academic programs, both degree and non-degree, that will be even more customized to the way the world is changing.”