At Tec de Monterrey, President of MIT Rafael Reif shared his personal story and vision of global education after the pandemic.
By Asael Villanueva | CONECTA National News Desk - 03/25/2022 Photo Udell Jiménez

“It takes a lot of luck and ability to do what you think you can’t do. If I say that it’s possible, it’s because I was never the best student in my class in Venezuela. If I could, all of you can.”

This is how Dr. Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), shared part of his life story with students and staff of Tec de Monterrey during his visit to the Monterrey campus.

Reif was born in Venezuela after his parents arrived from Europe. He emigrated to the United States, where he enrolled in school without knowing any English. His resilience led him to study at Stanford.

The President of MIT recognized the work of the Tec in Mexico and shared experiences from his life, as well as his vision of the role of universities after the pandemic.

“It’s a great honor to collaborate with Tec de Monterrey because we are truly aligned by having the same vision towards an education that is important to society. Tecnológico de Monterrey is the MIT of Latin America,” said Reif.


De visita en el Tec de Monterrey, Rafael Reif, presidente del MIT compartió su historia personal y su visión sobre la educación global tras la pandemia


“Education is the only thing you take with you when you leave in a hurry”

Reif participated in a fireside chat with Raúl Rodríguez, Associate Vice President of Internationalization at the Tec, in the auditorium of the Monterrey campus library.

Reif shared that his parents had emigrated from Europe, escaping World War II as refugees, arriving first in Ecuador, then moving to Venezuela, where he was born.

“When I was younger, my brother used to tell me that when you have to leave in a hurry, education is the only thing you can take with you,” he recalled.

Later, new challenges would come for Reif who, together with one of his brothers, would study for a graduate degree in the United States.


“When I was younger, my brother used to tell me that when you have to leave in a hurry, education is the only thing you can take with you.”


Despite not speaking any English, Reif wrote down what he heard phonetically and then used a dictionary to help him understand it, finding a way to take advantage of that opportunity. 

He would later become a university professor at MIT in the 1980s and be appointed in 2012 as president of MIT, which is considered the best university in the world.

“You have to be lucky, but you also need to be dedicated,” Reif said.


Durante la visita del presidente del MIT Rafael Reif se realizó un conversatorio donde participó Raúl Rodríguez


The challenges for universities in the future

The President of MIT shared his vision on the role of universities after the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has brought.

Some of the issues Reif highlighted were online education, better access to education, and providing more opportunities for disciplined and resilient young people who want to study. 

“The world has changed, and universities are at the heart of it, so it’s our job to investigate the correct way to solve the challenges that education faces today,” he said. 

He also pointed out that young people seem to be more willing not only to access education to get a better job but also to generate a positive change in the world and its challenges such as climate change. 

“The world has become much more complicated and nowadays students want to create positive changes in the world.

“It’s our responsibility as universities to guide them and give them the necessary tools so that they can be agents of change that have an impact on the future. I’m sure those at the Tec think the same.”


“Tecnológico de Monterrey is the MIT of Latin America.”


These necessary positive changes have opened the doors to more collaboration between universities after the pandemic, Reif said.

“It’s important to collaborate with other universities in the world, just as we do with Tecnológico de Monterrey since we share the same vision of tackling educational challenges and providing meaningful solutions,” he said.

Reif also highlighted the partnership that has been created between Tecnológico de Monterrey and MIT during his administration, in which they collaborate on topics such as research and industry 4.0.

Since 2014, both institutions have worked on nanotechnology and nanoscience with advances that can be applied in the fields such as energy, electronics, and biomedicine.

In fact, when MIT inaugurated the MIT.nano nanoscience building in 2018, it named its Prototyping Laboratory “Tecnológico de Monterrey,” enhancing the collaboration between both institutions.

Reif recognized the work of Tec de Monterrey and the impact it aims to have in Latin America.

“I’ve heard about the Tec’s plans, ideas, and projects and I’m impressed. It’s going to be, if it isn’t yet, the best technological university in Latin America. Feel proud because you’re going to achieve a lot,” said Reif.


Reif nació en Venezuela luego de que su familia emigrara desde Europa


The visit of the president of MIT to Tec de Monterrey

The fireside chat was part of the activities conducted on March 24 and 25, 2022.

During his visit to Tec de Monterrey, Reif learned about the progress of some projects and participated in the discussion.

Christine Chomiuk, who accompanied her husband Rafael Reif, also met with directors of the FEMSA Foundation.

Christine met young people from the Leaders of Tomorrow initiative that offers scholarships to cover 100% of the cost of a university degree to young leaders regardless of their socioeconomic status.


El conversatorio fue parte de las actividades realizadas durante el 24 y 25 de marzo de 2022


It has been eight years since this program started and 1,258 young people have benefited from it, with 989 current students at 25 campuses and 539 graduates.

“Thank you so much for sharing your stories with me. You’ll be the ones to change the future,” Chomiuk said.

“You’re an example to other students. Seeing people like you who managed to succeed on their own merits will be a motivation for other young people. Continue on your journey and I know you’ll achieve your goals,” said Eva Garza, wife of José Antonio Fernández, president of FEMSA and Chairman of the Board at the Tec.

“I also want to share my congratulations and highlight what you and your husband have accomplished on this visit, Christine. He’s an inspiration to all of us. He shows us that anything’s possible,” said Raúl Rodríguez.


Christine Chomiuk conoció a jóvenes de la iniciativa Líderes del Mañana




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