When sophomore Shannon Nees and junior Julia Kurnik first came to MIT, they wished for a book that would detail all of the Institute's many services and offer tips for women new to the area. Just a couple years later, Kurnik and Nees have produced such a guide filled with humor, color and tons of useful information for first-year female students.
The "Women's Guide Around MIT" came out last week and was offered to high school students during campus preview weekend. The 30-page pink-and-purple booklet offers tips on everything from housing to health. Never preachy, the book has a humorous tone, a bit like an older sister guiding her younger sibling.
"We wanted to highlight resources that people did not know," said Nees, who called it, "a cute approach to giving a lot of important information."
The idea came to them during the annual Pan-Hellenic October retreat. "We were talking about vision," said Kurnik, and it occurred to her that what was needed was a project that could help people on a larger scale.
One of the main goals for the booklet is that it will encourage women to look at MIT differently. "It is a good way to convince people that there are opportunities here," said Kurnik, a humanities major. "We want them to see that is a good place for women to be."
Close to 20 writers contributed to the project, offering tips they believed would prove useful during a student's first months at MIT. For example, the booklet includes maps locating women's restrooms and emergency phones. There are also directions to major shopping areas. Much of the information was hard earned after years of experience at the Institute. Some of it was even new to the writers.
"I am so excited to have the book now because now we will have all this information too," said Kurnik with a laugh.
Both Nees and Kurnik agreed that women often have a different MIT experience from many men. "Sometimes it feels like you have to prove yourself, both to yourself and to other people," said Nees, a chemical engineering major.
Both women said that the Institute has been moving in a positive direction in the past few years. Women now make up 43 percent of the undergraduate population according to the booklet, which offers a "history of women at MIT" on the back.
The booklet, sponsored by Admissions, the Academic Resource Center, Student Life Programs and the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER), will be updated each year, Nees said. "We especially want to get feedback. We will want suggestions. It would be nice to update it each year."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 13, 2005 (download PDF).