Children who accompanied their parents to MIT on Take Your Daughter/Son to Work Day last Thursday enjoyed many things about working at the Institute, including the fun people, the computers -- and the big windows.
MIT Tech Talk asked parents of visiting children to relay their impressions of the Institute. Some of their comments follow.
"I did lots of work with my Mom. We worked on the computer sending e-mail, and I got to walk over to the Sloan School and to the main building," said eight-year-old Daniela Wood-Carver, daughter of Melissa Carver, administrative assistant in the Treasurer's Office. "I did get to use the big copier. I think that I would like to go to school here or be a teacher at MIT. It's nice to go to a school near the river."
"When I got here I went straight to the Internet," said Katy Schaefer, whose age is "nine and three quarters" and whose mother, Kim Bond Schaefer, is administrative assistant to Professor John Essigmann of toxicology.
"On the WWW I got on to pbs.org. It's nice because there were things [for kids] my age and younger. I got stopped to put away the mail (like I always do ever since I was young)," Katy continued. "It was then time for lunch. We went to the cafeteria. I got my usual -- cheese pizza and strawberry milk. Then I drew. Then Zoran [Zdraveski], a grad student, mentioned I should be doing some experiments. I told him I saw a piece of pH paper in the hallway and he came back with a whole box of pH papers. I did experiments all afternoon testing ginger ale."
"MIT is really cool. I really like it because there are a lot of scientists and stuff," said Daniel Brickle, the eight-year-old son of Kathy Brickle, administrative assistant in the Office of the Chairman of the Corporation. Added his mother, "He thought that the pictures of what the "packers" (hackers) did at MIT was really funny."
Anna Ferrigno Ward, an administrative assistant in the undergraduate mathematics office, brought her daughters Nina, 11, and Vanessa, 8, to work with her. "I think MIT is a fun place to visit. There are a lot of nice people and cool things to see," Nina said.
"My mom does student payroll and types them into the computer," explained Vanessa. "It's a good job. I might do it part-time when I grow up. The rest of the time I'll play soccer."
Another duo of daughters was Jennifer and Christine Fitzgerald, who came to work with their mother Susan Fitzgerald, the undergraduate administrative assistant in the Department of Biology. "I think MIT is a good influence on kids so they can see teams work together and get along. My guess is that MIT is very big but I haven't seen the whole thing yet," said Jennifer, 11. "I like MIT because it's good to see people working hard and being dedicated to their work."
"My mom has a cool job at MIT. It takes a lot of work to manage it. She works in an office and has to grade students' tests," said Christine, 14. ("She heard me talking to the TAs who were actually the ones grading the exams," her mother explained.)
"I know my mom helps students, but I am not really sure what else she does. My mom knows a lot of the people and has made friends with students and adults. She must have a fun time at her work, so in conclusion my mom has a great job," Christine said.
Caroline Brooks, 12, went to work with her mother last Tuesday instead of Thursday, but she was already a regular visitor. "Today Caroline attended a history faculty meeting in E40 with presentations from Katie Livingston [Information Systems faculty liaison] and Paul Vermouth [assistant humanities librarian], as well as cleaning up the coffee and refreshments after the meeting and helping [administrative assistant] Mabel Chin bringing the stuff back to E51-285," said her mother, Dianne Brooks, administrative officer for the history section. "Then she helped us in MS Word to create mail merge fields."
"When I hear that I'm going to my mom's office, usually I forget how much fun I have there. I think that it's great to help my mom in the workplace so frequently," Caroline said. "When I was smaller, coming [to MIT] made time for me to feel important, and even greeting visitors was amazing. Now that I'm older, I run errands to different buildings, Xerox, staple, collate documents, address envelopes, and there's so many I can't even begin to write them all! Coming to work with my mom gives me a taste of the working world."
"I love coming to MIT because I know a lot of people here in the office. If I ever have a homework question and my mom isn't here I ask one of the people that work with her," said Faith Henderson, 11, daughter of Therese Henderson, program secretary for the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
"I thought that it was a great place. I got to meet a lot of people, and I got to help my mom checking in patients and running errands," said Terha Mills, 10, whose mother Sheri Mills is a senior secretary in the Medical Department. "I got my own desk, which I thought was pretty cool. I met another kid who came to work with his dad, and that was nice. I had a fun day, and I want to do it again."
Children like John Parkin, with two parents working at MIT, got a broader view of the Institute.
"John spent the morning with his mom [Olga Parkin, assistant to the director of the Division of Toxicology] in Building 56," said John's father, Bill Parkin, an engineer at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. "He drew pictures on the blackboard and typed on a typewriter, though he asked, 'Where's the screen?'"
"[His mother] works on the seventh floor, and John liked looking out over the river and seeing the Prudential Building. 'Daddy took me to the top of there last year and I saw your work,' he said. We ate lunch in the Student Center. He was excited when he saw the Burger King but didn't understand why there were no kids' meals."
John spent the afternoon with his father and surfed the 'Net. "He liked Beastwars.com and Kellogs.com," Mr. Parkin reported. He later asked his son which of the two workplaces he liked better, and John replied, "I liked Mom's work better -- she has elevators and big windows!"
"The best part about going to work today was that we got to copy a big box of papers. It felt like I was really at work," said John Behmer, 9, who visited MIT with his sister Amanda. His mother Donna Behmer is senior associate dean for finance and administration at the Sloan School. "We got to watch an SAP class. Instead of paying attention to the SAP class, we went onto the Internet on an extra computer. It was a very exciting day!"
"I went to have a tour with Professor [Thomas] Allen," said his sister Amanda, 13. "We saw people doing archery, playing basketball and other sports. I went to the sailing pavilion and got a tour of the boats. I really loved 'Bring Your Children to Work Day.'"
Cheryl Mottley, administrative assistant in the Office of Minority Education, asked her daughter Dionne how she enjoyed her visit. "It's hard to get responses out of teenagers. She said 'It was okay,' meaning 'I had a great time.' She loved Mr. Magnet, and liked 'the interactive, hands-on activities rather that just sitting around and having someone show you stuff on the board.'"
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 29, 1998.