Bridge Leader Interview: Charles M. Vest (2002)
Interviewee: Charles M. Vest
Interviewer: Clarence G. Williams
Date: July 1, 2002
About the Interviewee
Charles M. Vest was MIT's 15th president, from 1990 to 2004. Vest placed special emphasis on enhancing undergraduate education, exploring new organizational forms to meet emerging directions in research and education, building a stronger international dimension into education and research programs, developing stronger relations with industry, and enhancing racial and cultural diversity at MIT.
The Bridge Leadership Program
The Bridge Leadership Program was developed by Clarence G. Williams at MIT.
This program provides perspectives and developments of new insights based on the concept “Bridge Leadership” that emerged in Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999 (MIT Press, 2001). The concept developed from the investigator’s view as an important element in the educational experiences of black students and faculty members at MIT. It defined a small core of mostly non-black faculty and administrators who worked diligently, along with the limited number of underrepresented faculty and students, to bridge divisions at the university based on race. While this book focused on the black experience, a new phase of the “bridge leadership” concept was broadened over the past nine years to include not only race but culture and ethnicity as well. The project has developed through interaction beyond MIT with over sixty former and current presidents, senior faculty and administrators at 17 major universities and educational institutions. What has surfaced from interviews and fact findings from these institutions (see lists of “bridge leaders” and “bridge leader targets”) is a core of identifiable characteristics associated with “bridge leader” professionals, both faculty and administrators who work to transform their campuses into a more welcoming, nurturing environment for minorities and other individuals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.