Ramona Allen, personnel administrator for the Department of Biology, and Ann Davis Shaw, assistant dean and assistant director of the Office of Minority Education (OME), have been named as MIT's recipients of the 1999 YMCA Black Achiever Award.
The Black Achievers program recognizes African-Americans in the Boston area as well as regions served by dozens of other YMCAs around the country. As part of the program, they agree to commit at least 40 hours with youths in the Black Achievers Community Service Program, in which African-American professionals participate in programs that encourage youths' academic accomplishment and exposure to diverse career options.
"Ramona's keys to success in this complex position [in the biology department] are her breadth of knowledge, professional manner, human skills and poise. She has been equally successful at improving systems and human relations," Dean of Science Robert Birgeneau wrote in a letter supporting Ms. Allen's nomination for her award.
Ms. Allen has worked at MIT for 11 years, starting as a personnel officer in the Human Resources Department. She assumed her current position in biology in 1995. She previously worked for Harvard Community Health Plan as a staffing and employee relations specialist.
In the past, she has volunteered with La Alianza Hispana in Roxbury, a social services agency in Roxbury that helps women on welfare acquire interview and job skills. "I've gotten a few of them placed at MIT, I'm happy to say," Ms. Allen said. More recently, she has worked on her own to recruit underrepresented minorities for jobs at MIT and help them once they're hired. She has also assisted high school students with the college application process and finding jobs.
"I'm familiar with the struggles people have to deal with" in finding a good job, said Ms. Allen, a native of Dorchester. "I just want to give back any little bit I can contribute to help people overcome the challenges they face."
Ms. Shaw began working at MIT in 1986 as associate director of career services. She assumed her present position as assistant dean and assistant director in OME in 1997.
Dean Shaw "has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for our minority students as well as the overall minority community... she has initiated several activities to promote strong interaction between minority students and faculty to enhance our students' intellectual development," wrote Associate Dean and OME Director Leo Osgood Jr. (himself a 1990 YMCA Black Achiever). "Dean Shaw has the respect and adulation of her colleagues within and without MIT. Her commitment to students' development and growth is deeply appreciated in the African American, Mexican American, Puerto Rican and Native American communities."
Ms. Shaw has worked in the education field for 30 years. Before coming to MIT, she was director of student employment at Simmons College, and prior to that, assistant director of career planning and placement at Simmons. She holds the BA in sociology from Simmons and the MEd in administration and supervision from Suffolk University, as well as a social-work certificate from Simmons. She also completed the Sloan School's Greater Boston Executive Program in Business Management.
Ms. Shaw plans to volunteer for one of the YMCA-sponsored community service programs to help high school seniors prepare for college, giving presentations on "what happens in college and how to be an academic success," she said. She and Ms. Allen have discussed the idea of working together with minority students on both academic and job issues, "utilizing both of our areas of expertise."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 16, 2000.