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U.S. CTO Megan Smith will be 2015 Commencement speaker

Noted entrepreneur and engineer will return to MIT on June 5 to address the Class of 2015.
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Megan Smith
Megan Smith
Photo: Joi Ito

Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88, the chief technology officer (CTO) of the United States and an assistant to President Barack Obama, will deliver the address at MIT’s 2015 Commencement exercises on Friday, June 5, in Killian Court.

An internationally recognized entrepreneur, engineer, and technology executive, Smith was named as the nation’s CTO in September. Before joining the White House, she was a vice president at Google, where she led new business development and later joined the leadership team at Google[x], where her work included co-creating the “SolveForX” innovation project and the company’s “WomenTechmakers” diversity initiative.

Smith earned her SB in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1986 and her SM in mechanical engineering in 1988, completing her master’s thesis work in the MIT Media Lab. She served as a member of the MIT Corporation from 1988 to 1993, and again from 2006 to earlier this year.

“As a technologist, Megan Smith dreams on a grand scale, and she delivers just as grandly,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “Her open spirit, startling creativity, and deep technical insight shine through in everything she does, from the world-changing projects she spearheaded with colleagues at Google to her inspiring insights as a member of the MIT Corporation. In the best MIT tradition, Megan takes her work very seriously, but not herself. We could not be prouder that she is now guiding the nation’s technology policy, nor more delighted that she will address our new graduates in June.”

As U.S. CTO, Smith guides the Obama administration’s technology policy and innovation initiatives to advance our nation, with the goal of bringing the benefits of advanced information, data, networked communications technologies, and talented innovators to every sector of the economy.

“Engineers and innovators have a crucial role to play in serving our nation and the greater world,” Smith says. “MIT has been a leader in training the next generation of creative thinkers who will pioneer new technologies, launch businesses, and bring needed solutions to so many of the greatest challenges facing humanity.”

For nine years, Smith was vice president of new business development at Google, where she managed early-stage partnerships, pilot explorations, and technology licensing. During that time, she led the company’s acquisition of major platforms such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Picasa, and served as general manager of during its engineering transition.

Smith previously served as CEO of the LGBT online community PlanetOut; helped design early smartphone technologies at General Magic; and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan in Tokyo. As an MIT student, Smith captained the varsity swimming and freshman crew teams; participated in student research projects, including one that flew on Space Shuttle Atlantis; and was a member of the MIT student team that designed, built, and raced a solar car 2,000 miles across the Australian outback in the first cross-continental solar car race.

“We are honored to have alumna Megan Smith as our commencement speaker,” says Undergraduate Association President Shruti Sharma. “Ms. Smith embodies leadership in engineering, a quality that is especially important to students at MIT. As chief technology officer of the United States, she encourages innovation by incorporating the fundamentals of ‘mens et manus’ through her philanthropy work and her service to the White House.”

“I am thrilled that we will be able to hear from an alumna who embodies so many of the values we cherish as MIT students: scientific pursuit, entrepreneurship, applying knowledge to advance technology, and using our diverse interests to serve others,” says Joanne Zhou, president of MIT’s Class of 2015. “Megan Smith is a remarkable example of someone who has succeeded in expanding the limits of what is scientifically possible, and applied that knowledge to harness technology for helping millions of people. I know that her passion will continue to be an inspiration as we, the Class of 2015, each begin to expand our impact outside of MIT — now, and in the years after graduation.”

“We look forward to having Megan Smith as the 2015 Commencement speaker,” says Graduate Student Council President Kendall Nowocin. “As an alumna, she continually exemplifies MIT’s mission of advancing knowledge to solve the world’s great challenges for the betterment of humankind. Her leadership and contributions will make, and have made, impacts across the globe.”

Smith joins a notable list of guest speakers at recent MIT Commencements, including DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman (2014); Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston ‘05 (2013); Khan Academy founder Sal Khan ‘98, MEng ‘98 (2012); Xerox CEO Ursula Burns (2011); and Raymond S. Stata ‘57, chairman and co-founder of Analog Devices Inc. (2010).

“I am delighted with the selection of Megan Smith as the Commencement speaker,” says Chancellor for Academic Advancement Eric Grimson, who has long served on MIT’s Commencement Committee. “As an MIT alumna, she understands the passion that drives our students; as the leader of Google[x], she understands the role that innovation and entrepreneurship can play in changing the world; and as the U.S. chief technology officer, she understands how technology can be used for social good. These are all themes that are of great importance to our graduates, and I am sure her remarks will be an inspiration to them.”

Note: Megan Smith will deliver the commencement address in her personal capacity and as a graduate of MIT.

Press Mentions


Megan Smith, the White House CTO and an MIT alumna, speaks with Wired reporter Jessi Hempel about how she became interested in science, her experience at MIT and her goals for her time at the White House. 


U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, an MIT alumna, is featured in Wired’s list of people transforming the business world. Jessi Hempel writes that Smith, this year’s commencement speaker, brings a "startup mentality to Washington, D.C." 

The Tech

Austin Hess of The Tech speaks with MIT alumna and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith following her selection as the 2015 commencement speaker. “The students graduating today are going to live … possibly past 100 years. So there’s so many different adventures that people should get up to,” says Smith.

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