When Sidney-Pacific first opened its doors in 2002 as MIT’s newest graduate residence, the new smoke detectors were so sensitive that residents had to evacuate the building multiple times a week. So it was fitting that on Saturday, June 30, during the Sidney-Pacific 10th Anniversary Reunion dinner, the fire alarm went off.
“Many of the alumni were laughing and asking if we planned it,” said Chelsea He, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics and one of the reunion organizers.
Some might have seen the fire alarm as a minor setback, but the organizers and alumni thought it was charming. “It just made the weekend even more memorable because so many alumni remembered the fire alarms as part of their SP experience,” He said.
The weekend of June 29 to July 1 brought hundreds of students and more than 50 alumni together for a festivity-packed celebration in honor of Sidney-Pacific’s 10th anniversary. Events included a reception on Friday evening, a gala dinner on Saturday and a community brunch and carnival on Sunday.
“We had a lot of fun catching up with students,” said Roger Mark, Sidney-Pacific housemaster and professor of health sciences and technology and electrical engineering. Mark and his wife, Dorothy, have served as housemasters of Sidney-Pacific since its founding. “It was particularly great to have some of the student leaders who were responsible for establishing the community back to see what has happened over the past decade,” Mark said.
Mark also said he was impressed by the work that residents and alumni put into the weekend, including planning all of the activities and creating a reunion website, Facebook page and a video that highlighted Sidney-Pacific’s first 10 years. The team worked hard to get the word out about the weekend to thousands of Sidney-Pacific alumni.
Organizers said the weekend highlighted many of the residents’ common experiences and friendships. “Many of the alumni said it felt like they were at a family reunion,” said Amy Bilton, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics and one of the reunion organizers.
One of seven graduate houses at MIT and home to more than 680 graduate students, Sidney-Pacific offers extensive programming throughout the year, including coffee hours, brunches, cultural dinners and Committee on Scholarly Interactions (COSI) lectures.
Mark credits the success of the thriving house community to its student-led government, which consists of 60 representatives and is responsible for planning and organizing events.
“Many students have told me that their experience of being on SPEC [Sidney-Pacific Executive Council] has proven to be extremely important in their career development,” Mark said. “They say that learning how to run Sidney-Pacific — a fairly large organization — has made a big difference in their career advancement.”
Bilton said that while all of the residents have something in common — they’re all graduate students at MIT — living in Sidney-Pacific is an experience completely removed from the academic side of the Institute. “It gives you the chance to have an experience outside of your lab,” Bilton said. “You learn a lot about how to motivate people, work with others, communicate, and it really spurs your creativity.”
He echoed this sentiment, saying, “Living at SP has been a huge part of my MIT experience and has given me so many friends, great memories and great experiences. It’s very rewarding to come back from lab and be part of something really fun and interact with people from all different backgrounds. It’s made all the difference.”