Over the summer, a series of events culminating in a gala at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge launched the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES), a program that has provided talented high school seniors from across the country with the opportunity to study science and engineering free of charge at MIT each year since 1975. Those who attended the MITES 40th Anniversary Kickoff Weekend included 257 students, alumni, staff, funders, and friends of MITES and other programs offered by the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs.
Showcasing the MITES class of 2015
The celebration began with the MITES Final Symposium, during which students presented final projects to MITES alumni, funders, and instructional staff. This year’s MITES class revealed the projects they had been working on for six weeks in engineering elective courses, which included Architecture, Digital Design, Electronics, Engineering Design, and Genomics. “This is always one of the happiest days of my life,” said MITES Faculty Advisor Cardinal Warde, a professor in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Every year, I look forward to the MITES Symposium.”
Projects highlighted some of the skills and knowledge the students developed during MITES. Digital Design students presented Web applications they created and discussed the challenges they overcame while working in groups. One team designed an application called “Covert Convo” that matched users with similar interests in chat rooms. Architecture students proposed solutions to wreckage caused by the recent earthquake in Nepal. Students sketched and designed models of housing facilities and community centers for those affected by the earthquake.
Brainstorming, brunch, and basketball
MITES alumni representing classes from 1976 to 2014 met with staff and corporate sponsors during a networking brunch at MIT’s Stratton Student Center. During the brunch, guests brainstormed and discussed ways to engage more MITES alumni through a number of avenues, including peer mentoring, social media campaigns, and volunteer opportunities.
Cheryl Whiteman Brooks '79 (MITES '84) spoke at the event about the value of MITES and her own career in design and marketing. “Don’t take this type of program for granted,” Brooks said. “It does so many great things for people in so many unanticipated ways.”
Directly following the networking brunch, alumni moved to the Rockwell Cage to cheer on MITES students in the annual MITES/Interphase Challenge. MITES students played basketball, volleyball, and soccer against rising MIT freshmen in the MIT Office of Minority Education’s Interphase EDGE program. Students and fans sported foam fingers, pompoms, and homemade posters as they cheered from the sidelines.
Launching with style
The weekend-long celebration closed with the MITES 40th Anniversary Launch Party, which featured speeches from former MITES directors Karl Reid and Dedric Carter. Over 200 guests were present at the event, which debuted a timeline history of MITES from 1975 to 2015, a video featuring MITES alumni and staff representing all four decades of the program, and a musical performance by OEOP staff member and MITES ’02 alumnus Louis Fouché and his jazz trio.
“This very small seed that we sowed has bloomed,” said Reid, who now serves as executive director for the National Society of Black Engineers. Reid discussed the role of MITES in preparing students to exceed academic standards and cultivate a strong work ethic: “MITES is a crucible of the development of academic mastery. Young people develop mastery not through platitudes — high words and superlatives — but through hard work.”
Carter, who is now associate provost and associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis, paid tribute in his speech to William Ramsey '51 — MITES director from 1988 until his death in 1995 — and shared what made him a great mentor and leader. “A good mentor shows you not only how to grow, but also when to leave the nest,” Carter said.
“Bill was formal, but in a loving way,” he added. “Stern but loving, like a father.” Ramsey served as director when Carter was a student in MITES, and the experience heavily contributed to Carter’s decision to attend MIT.
The weekend brought MITES alumni, staff, donors, and friends from a wide range of backgrounds to celebrate, build their networks within the MITES family, and reflect on unforgettable experiences. The celebration of the 40th anniversary will continue throughout the year and feature a concluding event in July 2016.
Near the end of his remarks, Reid left MITES students and alumni with some words of encouragement. “Whatever you decide to do,” he said, “you can go back and say, ‘If I did it at MITES, I can do it here.’”