Last Friday, Slovak President Andrej Kiska, along with a delegation from Slovakia, visited MIT to discuss topics including innovation, entrepreneurship, and online learning.
Trained as an electrical engineer, Kiska gained prominence as a businessman in Slovakia’s consumer credit industry. Last March, he defeated Prime Minister Robert Fico in a runoff election to become Slovakia’s president. Also a noted philanthropist, Kiska had no previous political experience before taking office.
Kiska and his delegation began their visit with an overview of MIT, including the Institute’s strong global connections, presented by Philip S. Khoury, the Ford International Professor of History and associate provost, and Bernd Widdig, director of international affairs. Khoury and Widdig described MIT’s international ties, from its diverse campus community to partnerships such as the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.
Following the presentation by Khoury and Widdig, Kiska and his delegation met with Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s director of digital learning. Sarma discussed both edX, an online-learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard University in 2012, and MITx, the Institute’s own online-learning program. Kiska and his delegation heard Sarma explain the global success of edX and MITx to date, and the overall value of this innovative approach to online education.
During lunch in the Maclaurin Room, Kiska and his delegation discussed entrepreneurship and innovation with several MIT experts on the subject, including Fiona Murray and Vladimir Bulovic, co-directors of the MIT Innovation Initiative,; Sherwin Greenblatt, director of MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service; and Maren Cattonar of the MIT Deshpande Center.
Widdig, who was also in attendance, says that a notable moment occurred when Kiska asked the members of the MIT community what they would do to increase innovation and entrepreneurship if they were Slovakia’s president. A discussion ensued on how to make Slovakia more competitive, Widdig said, in which there was broad agreement that collaboration among the government, corporate sector, and universities was key to this process.
During his visit to the Institute, Kiska was joined by Peter Kmec, the Slovak ambassador to the U.S. Others in attendance included representatives of Slovakia’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Ministry of Finance, consulates in New York and Boston, and members of the Slovakian media.