MIT program puts 17 Latvian educational and organizational leaders in international Digital Week in the USA


During the second week of May, 17 educational and organizational leaders returned from the USA, Boston, where they took part in the international Digital Week. They travelled as part of the MIT program coordinated by Riga Business School and funded by the European Regional Development Fund*. Digital Week is part of the MIT program coordinated in Latvia which helps an industry-focused delegation of educational and organizational leaders from Latvia get a broader view of educational innovations and international trends in higher education excellence. The most significant conclusions from the global conference and following ideation sessions are, first,  focus on the digital experience in the development and management of the educational process, second, any strategy must be centred on the needs of the student and study process, and, third, promote the development of educational leaders during the times of global changes. 


This global conference took place under the supervision of the MIT J-WEL centre operating as part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). According to the cooperation memorandum, the partnership with MIT-J-WEL Latvia since September 2021 is represented by Riga Business School as the responsible structural unit of Riga Technical University. 


As part of the Digital Week, the Latvian delegation as participants of the MIT program took part also in special ideations with MIT J-WEL experts. The main goal of the ideation sessions was to evaluate initiatives that could guide the higher education process in innovations. With the support of Riga Business School as the academic partner, Executive Director of MIT J-WEL Viyei Kumar will be a guest speaker in the international forum organized in Riga on 3 June “Steering Education: From Imagination to Impact”. 

Claudio Rivera, Riga Business School Deputy Director and MIT Education Program Director: “After the Digital Week where visionaries and practitioners from all around the world shared their experience, our Latvian team decided that the main conclusions were related to the fact that any strategy should be centred around the student, whether it is a “digital first” approach as a priority for the student experience building or development of the hybrid-studies method. With the global experience of  Covid19 during the last two years, all global leaders and visionaries of education agree that an approach must be found to strengthen the mental and emotional health of students. The challenges that we have encountered at RBS and throughout Latvia,  have been recognized and identified in other educational establishments in the world. Universities must focus on the schooling, and educational environment experience not only the auditorium, meaning, the teaching experience. 


Santa Šmīdlere, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Science: “Meeting the teams of leaders from the top universities who set the benchmark for excellence and performance, we spoke about the fact that it is imperative to provide global level study content in computer sciences for Latvian students in primary through tertiary education in the nearest future. In cooperation with MIT World Education Lab it is planned to develop in Latvia an education innovation laboratory together with educational leaders, industry representatives, students and other cooperation partners to implement transformative educational innovation initiatives. This will promote high-quality teaching and studies, as well as strengthen the leadership capacity in obtaining the educational results in universities. Digitization and digital transformation was a significant topic in the transfer of experience and ideation session as meaningful digital transformation programs is one of the closest large priorities of the Ministry of Education and Science. The critical element to implement them is the leadership of university executives and support to deans, heads of programs and lecturers in the introduction of digital innovations. Also in Boston, we met a Latvian currently studying in the USA: in the coming year’s bright educated professionals adept in academic values will return to Latvia who will be excellent reinforcement also in the educational innovation field.”


During the Digital Week participants of the MIT program took part in the ideation session where the main topic was the profile of graduates in higher education of Latvia. MIT J-WEL experts supervised this discussion and brainstorming. At the end of the discussion, it was concluded that graduates of universities primarily must have strong social skills – leadership, growth, and positive thinking skills, followed by technical knowledge, for example, in data analytics, use of technologies, and the  third significant element in the matrix of skills is responsibility and adhering to principles of ethics”. 


“After the discussion led by MIT J-WEL we concluded  – the largest limitation to getting the results that we desire are the methods used during the study process. These are passive teaching methods lacking active participation of students. These talks highlighted that creators of the educational process must work with industry  to create centres or laboratories where all parties could develop the framework of the education experiences together. These will be places where students become the masters of their educational process. Considering cooperation with MIT, I believe that this centre can be really established in Latvia as we have an active business environment where education and motivated policymakers matter,” says Claudio Rivera.

The MIT program, with its 17 participants, will have several stages of training of up to 66 higher education experts, representatives of business and state administration executives. It will work to develop a  higher education competence centre with the purpose to promote introduction of innovations in education and transfer of international experience.

The following are the participants of the MIT studies pilot group from Latvia: Andra Zvirbule, Dean of Economics and Social Development Faculty of Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies, Artūrs Zeps, RTU Vice Rector for Strategic Development, Dace Butāne, Sectoral Policy Department Deputy Director at Ministry of Economics, Daiga Behmane, Vice-Dean, Faculty of Public Health and Social Welfare of Riga Stradins University, Dmitrijs Stepanovs, Acting Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Science, Ieva Šlēziņa, Director of Medical Education Technology Centre of Riga Stradins University, Edvards Ratnieks, Education and Science Councillor to the Minister of Agriculture, Ingmārs Pūķis, LMT Vice President, Ilze Kūka, Chancellor of the University of Latvia, Irina Arhipova, Vice Rector for Science at the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies, Liene Ņikitina-Zaķe, Director of Research Department of Riga Stradins University, Māris Balodis, Research and Development Director at Latvenergo, Māris Turks, Dean of the Faculty of Materials Sciences and Applied Chemistry at Riga Technical University, Raimonds Lapiņš, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Economic, Santa Šmīdlere, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Science, Signe Bāliņa, Deputy Rector for Digital Society of the University of Latvia and Zane Martinsone, Ernst&Young Baltics Senior Project Manager.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the strongest universities in the world, and the J-WEL initiative of MIT promotes cooperation with other universities of the world for the bringing forward educational innovations. J-WEL works with their partners to promote excellence and transformation of education in the whole world.

Project title and funding: European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project No. “Support for RTU international cooperation projects in research and innovations”


More information:

Claudio Rivera, MIT Education Program Director, RBS Deputy Director, claudio [dot] rivera [at] rbs [dot] lv (claudio [dot] rivera [at] rbs [dot] lv)

Agnese Strazda, RBS Director of Communication and Marketing, agnese [dot] strazda [at] rbs [dot] lv (agnese [dot] strazda [at] rbs [dot] lv)