Video: Christine Ortiz speaks at Brandeis University's 9th Presidential Inauguration

I am deeply honored to be given this opportunity today, to speak at today's inauguration of Ronald Liebawitz, one of the most accomplished and distinguished leaders in higher education as the ninth president of Brandeis University.

As you heard, I am a scientist and engineer at MIT. I'm also the founder of a program at MIT, the MIT MISTI Israel Program, which I founded about a decade ago, where we have sent hundreds of students to Israel to experience the technological ecosystem, as well as the amazing culture there as well. I recently stepped down from my role as Dean for Graduate Education at MIT, after almost 2 decades, and I'm embarking on a new journey, taking a leap to found a new university, whose intention is to reinvent and redesign the research university.

I guess I'm here to give my humble perspective on the future and what I can contribute in that area. For the last few months, I've been very fortunate to get to know Brandeis, and have been so impressed with it's unique mission and values. It's striving to be a university, and I quote from the mission, that carries the name of the justice who stood for the rights of individuals, distinguished by academic excellence, by truth pursued wherever it may lead, and by awareness of the power and responsibilities that come with knowledge. This statement resonates strongly with me.

We stand at a historic moment in time for higher education. As you heard, a time of great change, of uncertainty, of challenge, but also a time of enormous opportunities. Ron Liebowitz has dedicated his life to this great calling of advancing education and research. His impact will greatly benefit the students, faculty, and staff here at Brandeis, but it will also have the potential to greatly impact well beyond the campus borders, because what we do on our individual campuses now can go worldwide.

In the time I've gotten to know Ron, I've come to understand and appreciate his vast depth of knowledge in higher education, and as you heard before, his collaborative and warm leadership style, his strategic thinking, his commitment to curricular excellence, his optimism, and his openness to innovation. That last part is probably a testament to why I was invited to speak here.

As Brandeis seeks to chart its future in a very uncertain, dynamically changing and fragile world, there is no better person than Ron to lead it boldly forward into new directions, to strengthen it's foundation, and to reinforce its founding values of social justice, cultural diversity, academic excellence, research and community, which are all more relevant today than they were at the founding.

I've been so inspired by Brandeis, and as a relatively young university, to understand the founders, and the mission, and the values, and again, they resonate so strongly with me, and are part of the motivation why I made my decision to pursue this new endeavor. As a research university, Brandeis is a particularly special institution that is part of a small, and absolutely critical cohort of higher education. Research universities are the keystone of social, economic, cultural, technological, and scientific progress, driving forward the frontiers of knowledge, and educating citizens who contribute to every sector of society.

As all of you know, our research universities are facing disruptive change and great strain. This isn't coming, it's here at our doorstep. Ron deeply understands these drivers of change, and how they can provide an enormous opportunity for Brandeis to take a leadership role as it embarks in the 21st century, and sets a foundation for the new millennium.

I'd like to highlight four of these areas in particular: educational, technology, inter- and transdisciplinary research, access and globalization, and briefly, financial strain.

Technology, my background, and more specifically educational technology, is accelerating at huge speeds. We are just beginning to understand how to integrate educational technology into our institutions. How to create an infrastructure, an ecosystem of experimentation and continuous development for the benefit of our students, while still insuring that the core of education remains a fundamentally humanistic endeavor. There is an emerging disciplinary field of the learning sciences, which integrates brain and cognitive science, computer science, data analytics, linguistics, engineering, and education. It's up to us to foster this new field, again, for the benefit of our students.

Personalized learning, the customization of content, learning, sequencing, pace delivery, pedagogy, technology, feedback and environment, to individual students’ backgrounds, interests, goals, knowledge and competencies, is being pursued aggressively at the K-12 level, and holds great potential for advances in post-secondary education. For example, the reduction, or the elimination, of race, gender, and income-based disparities in educational outcomes. In addition, personalized learning holds great, unexplored potential for the design of emerging, integrated, transdisciplinary education, and the dynamic adaptation of curricula to these emerging trends.

Regarding research, one of the core values of our institutions, there are huge revolutions taking place in computation, information, connectivity, bio medicine, and simultaneously, humanity faces great challenges of immense complexity: The eradication of disease, the elimination of poverty, the development of sustainable energy, the assurance of national and global security, and the construction of smart and sustainable cities.

Computation is now permeating all fields. Demand for computer science education is exploding around the nation and the world. We're entering and era where science, technology and humanity must more closely intertwine. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, autonomous transportation, sustainable energy, hold great potential, but also have significant ethical, cultural, and social implications that the next generation of students, scholars, and citizens, will need to deeply and fully comprehend.

Simultaneously, fields are becoming more transdisciplinary, incorporating aspects of multiple disciplines, and they are on the precipice of enormous growth. For example, civic technologies, precision medicine, intelligent cities, social computing, and many, many more.

Curricula will need to evolve much faster to be able to educate students at these frontiers, and mechanisms will need to be put in place to foster scholarship at the interface of these multiple disciplines.

Simultaneously, only 65 percent of the world population, and 60 percent of the US population has a post-secondary education. This statistic reflects massive inequity and disparities in access by income, which still exists today. The demand for education worldwide is growing, and the next billion people are coming online, so this demand will only increase further. This will result in broadening education from traditional college-age students, to a global population with a desire to be engaged in life-long learning. As this demand grows there is very little conversation in how we will insure that access to research universities also grows. How will our research universities continue to evolve in response to globalization?

The historic concept of the ivory tower of education and research, occurring in isolation from society, is no longer relevant, or appropriate, for the raising tide of global collaboration, global markets and industries, and collective intelligence.

Lastly, we are facing the reality that the traditional financial model of higher education in the US, and increases in tuition, are unsustainable. In the last few months, I've traveled around the world, visiting and learning about international higher education systems, and to many, the US education-financial model is pretty unbelievable. There is no silver bullet for existing universities, only deep analysis, creative exploration of new opportunities, and strategic decision making.

While I have chosen to approach these forces of change by building a new educational institution from the ground-up, I find strong kinship with Brandeis' youth, its founders, its mission, and its aspirations. I'm so thrilled that Brandeis has selected Ron as its 9th president. His willingness to boldly, rigorously, and optimistically approach these drivers of change in higher education, and to openly and collaboratively debate and discuss their implication with the Brandeis community, I have no doubt will create a strong foundation for Brandeis to flourish and lead among our research universities in the new century.

Again, there is no greater calling than to educate students, and to drive forward the frontiers of knowledge. Brandeis is so fortunate that Ron has decided to answer this calling here. Ron, I wish you all the best in your presidential tenure, and look forward to learning from what you do here at Brandeis collaboratively, and to working with you to advance higher education, nationally and globally.

I'd like to end with a quote from Klaus Schwab, who is the executive chairman of the 2016 World Economic Forum, which eloquently captures our near-future challenges and opportunities. He states, "In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us, by putting people first, and empowering them. In it's most pessimistic to humanized form, the upcoming fourth industrial revolution may indeed have the potential to robotize humanity, and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul, but as a compliment to the best parts of human nature, creativity, empathy, stewardship, it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on all of us to make sure the later prevails."

Thank you.

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