M.I.T. Names a Duke Provost as Its New President
M.I.T. announced the selection of a new president, Sally Kornbluth, a cell biologist and provost at Duke University. She will be the second female president of the university, and will join a long list of women in its top leadership ranks. The provost, chancellor, dean of science and chair of the M.I.T. Corporation, the school’s governing body, are all women.
The corporation elected Dr. Kornbluth, 61, to the post on Thursday morning, and she will take over the presidency on Jan. 1, 2023, succeeding L. Rafael Reif, who announced in February that he would be stepping down after 10 years at the helm of the university.
It is high season for change at universities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Mass., is among the first to fill a vacancy, but presidential searches are also underway at Harvard, Howard, New York University and Columbia, among the more prominent schools. Dartmouth announced in July that Sian Leah Beilock, the president of Barnard College, will be its next leader. These searches are being conducted at a time when universities are emerging from the crisis of the pandemic and dealing with heightened concerns over diversity and affirmative action.
Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia for the past 21 years, will depart at the end of the next academic year. Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, a surgeon trained at Howard who began as interim president in 2013, will leave in 2024. The president of New York University, Andrew Hamilton, will step down next year in his eighth year on the job.
At a news conference announcing her appointment, Dr. Kornbluth talked about how she had been a political science major at Williams College when she took a biology class that changed her life.
“Suddenly, I found myself fascinated by how cells function,” Dr. Kornbluth said.
She went on to get her Ph.D. in molecular oncology at Rockefeller University. She joined Duke as a faculty member in 1994 and two decades later was appointed provost, serving as the chief academic officer.
During the news conference, she also touched on how to build up M.I.T.’s cohort of Black, Hispanic and female students. At Duke, she said, she “took steps to improve the environment for our faculty of color,” and to expand hiring. She said that while she was there, Duke had raised money for projects like a Black writing group and a Black think tank.
Her appointment, and the search for other university presidents, comes as the Supreme Court is about to hear oral arguments on affirmative action policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The court, now more conservative, is expected to restrict if not overturn those policies, which would force universities to find other ways to foster a diverse student body.