Seeking candidates: Vice Provost for International Activities

February 22, 2024
Cynthia Barnhart, Provost |

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to announce that I am launching a search for a vice provost for international activities (VPIA) to succeed Japan Steel Industry Professor Richard Lester, who is stepping down to return to his research activities later this year.

Richard’s record of accomplishment

I am grateful to Richard for his work to advance MIT’s international collaborations. Appointed in 2015, Richard was the primary architect of the Institute’s global strategy, and he identified numerous pathways for developing and supporting initiatives to expand MIT's global reach and to strengthen international cooperation in academic research and education. He has championed new MIT research and educational activities, especially in Africa and Asia; worked to enhance the international educational experiences available to MIT students; and provided support and guidance to a broad range of international MIT programs.

Richard also served as the architect of MIT’s elevated-risk review process and as chair of the Senior Risk Group, helping to introduce critical processes and guidance for faculty, research staff, and administrators to identify and manage risk and ensure successful collaborations with international parties.

As convenor and co-chair of the MIT China Strategy Group, Richard crafted an influential 2022 report to develop principles and recommendations for how MIT should approach its academic interactions and collaborations with organizations and individuals in China. The report outlines approaches that uphold MIT’s core values and advance knowledge for the benefit of the nation and the world – without endangering human rights or damaging US interests in security or the economy.

Richard also successfully forged collaborations and identified new ways to advance the Institute’s climate research efforts. He led the planning for the recently announced Climate Project at MIT and previously spearheaded MIT’s Climate Grand Challenges.

Once a successor is named, Richard will return to his writing and research. He also expects to continue to support the Climate Project at MIT and, in the coming months, will lead the search committee for the new vice president for climate.

Launching a search

To ensure the search takes into account a full range of voices and perspectives, I will form a faculty search advisory committee composed of representatives from the schools and the college. This group will advise and assist me in assessing candidate qualifications. I am grateful that Professor Rohan Abeyaratne, Berg Professor in Mechanics in the School of Engineering, will chair the advisory group.

Seeking candidates

Reporting to me, the VPIA is responsible for providing intellectual leadership, guidance, and oversight of the Institute’s international policies and engagements. The VPIA conducts strategic reviews of the Institute’s portfolio of international activities, advises the MIT administration on global strategic priorities, and works with academic unit leaders and administrators to develop major new global programs and projects. In addition, the VPIA coordinates faculty and administrative reviews of certain international projects to identify and manage geopolitical, economic, and human rights risks and to ensure successful international collaborations.

If you’d like to be considered for the position, please write to to submit your CV and a statement of interest. You can also use this address to nominate a colleague for the role or share your thoughts about the search. Your submissions will be treated as confidential.

With your help, I look forward to naming an outstanding leader who will take on the important role of building and sustaining the Institute’s international activities and partnerships.  


Cynthia Barnhart