Undergraduates from 20 colleges in 13 states and Puerto Rico visited campus last weekend to try graduate school at MIT on for size. Many of them decided it was a good fit.
"I learned so much about MIT and the people there, but better yet, so many of my preconceived thoughts about the school were completely dismissed," said Jeff Josiah who attends the University of New Orleans.
The Oct. 1-3 campus preview weekend program, called Converge, was organized by the Graduate Student Council's Diversity Initiative and administrators from the schools of engineering and science, the Graduate Students Office, and the Provost's Office with the goal of increasing the diversity of MIT's graduate student population.
In a resolution passed at the May 19 faculty meeting, the MIT faculty committed to increasing the representation at MIT of underrepresented minority and other underserved graduate students by 2015. This goal is critical to achieve the campus diversity that is necessary for MIT to offer the best education to all students and to serve the nation by contributing to a diverse pool of highly qualified engineers, scientists and academics.
One of the difficulties in achieving this goal is creating recruitment events at a university-wide level. Converge was a firm step in that direction.
The 24 guest participants were selected from 60 applicants for their excellent academic records and serious interest in research. MIT paid for their airfare to Boston and housed them in the Kendall Hotel for the weekend.
Ten were interested in electrical engineering and computer science and seven were interested in studying physics or chemistry. The others were interested in chemical engineering, management, architecture, biological engineering, the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, and the Program in Science, Technology and Society.
They attended information sessions given by staff from admissions and financial aid, took tours of labs and departments, learned about research at a graduate student poster sesson, and had lively conversations with their hosts.
"I have been to several grad preview weekends this year, but this was more friendly and informative than the others because the graduate students told us a lot we needed to know about what it is really like," said Calvin King of Tennessee State University in his appraisal of the weekend.
About 30 MIT students participated either in the planning or as hosts to the visitors, and nearly 50 faculty members were involved by serving on the admissions committee, meeting with the students, conducting information sessions or attending the poster session and banquet. Dean of Graduate Students Isaac Colbert, Provost Robert Brown and professors Rafael Bras, Daniel Hastings and Paula Hammond were among the faculty and administrators who addressed the students.
"Rafael Reif [head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science] came to the banquet, and most of the students interested in electrical engineering and computer science sat at the table with him. They were talking and laughing all evening. It was really nice," said Irene Miller, manager of Faculty Diversity Search for the School of Engineering, who got involved because of the need for more underrepresented minority and other underserved Ph.D. students who can be recruited as faculty after graduation. "Converge is part of a larger pipeline effort," said Miller.
"I am definitely going to apply," said Sara Ramirez of the University of Arizona. "I learned so much from this visit."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 6, 2004 (download PDF).