Reif welcomes Class of 2026 with Convocation address

Three faculty members and former MIT students also spoke about facets of the MIT experience

President L. Rafael Reif welcomed the Class of 2026 to MIT with a Convocation address Monday, Aug. 29. The Convocation ceremony was hosted on the Kresge lawn in front of the Stratton Student Center.

The Class of 2026 consists of 1,139 students, selected from an applicant pool of 33,796. It will also be the last class Reif addresses at Convocation, as he is stepping down as MIT president at the end of the year.

Reif asserted in his address that Convocation “is one of the gatherings I will miss the most.” He reflected on his own time as an undergraduate and an international student from Venezuela, describing anxieties that subsided when he joined and connected with MIT’s community of students, faculty, and staff who “were intense, passionate, and cared about helping each other and helping society.”

He emphasized to the students that “you are here because you belong here.”

Marco Rodriguez ’26 wrote in an email to The Tech that Reif’s address was a highlight for him. “I met him briefly during the Sin LiMITe program. It is unfortunate that this was his last commencement speech but he really made a connection with my stressed mother, who was glad to see Latinx administration at MIT,” Rodriguez shared.

Reif also introduced students to members of MIT’s senior academic leadership — Provost Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, Chancellor Melissa Nobles, and Vice Chancellor and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson — who all serve in student-focused roles. Reif encouraged students to reach out to them and their offices.

Reif then introduced three members of the MIT faculty who are graduates of the Institute: Deb Roy SM ’95, PhD ’99; Laura Kiessling ’83; and Bryan Bryson ’07, PD ’13, PhD ’13. These faculty members addressed students and spoke about their own MIT experience.

Roy spoke about his passion for learning and experimentation, recalling that “when I joined MIT as a graduate student in the Media Lab, I found a home for my inner child.” He “encouraged students to reach out to those who share a common passion, and to connect their passion to a ‘noble purpose.’”

Kiessling spoke about imposter syndrome, recommending that students stretch their perspective by pursuing new areas and research opportunities. She also encouraged students to let themselves fail and grow, and to leave time to bond with peers. 

Bryson spoke about openness: “there is almost certainly something for you to learn everywhere you turn at MIT.” He also stressed the importance of “feeling empowered to make new connections” and “seeing humanity in others,” saying “the magic of MIT is all of you. And it is deeply connected to your humanity.” 

Akarsh Aurora ’26 reflected on the faculty speeches in an email to The Tech, writing “Professor Kiessling’s humorous story about failing her chemistry exam stuck with me. She convinced us that failure and success are two sides of the same coin because, either way, the opportunity to learn is certain. And that’s an idea that MIT embraces and fosters.” 

Aurora also mentioned Roy’s speech, noting that “coming to MIT can be daunting. All of us are jumping into water from the firehose undeclared, unsure of how the next four years will unfold. Professor Roy’s speech offered consolation and guidance; he urged us to make the most of our undergraduate education by connecting it to a noble cause that serves the world beyond just the MIT community.”