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OneMIT takes off

MIT Sloan students and administrators collaborate on a new Institute initiative.
The OneMIT Initiative will encourage more collaboration among all five schools.
The OneMIT Initiative will encourage more collaboration among all five schools.
Image: dpict

In his 2012 inaugural address, MIT President L. Rafael Reif challenged the Institute to work together as “One MIT” to address the world’s greatest challenges. MIT Sloan students — working with administrators and other graduate students across campus — have taken up the gauntlet with the launch of the OneMIT initiative, a multifaceted effort to connect graduate students across all five schools.

“It’s very much a joint initiative, backed not only by MIT Sloan but the Institute, and supported with groundwork being done by the students,” says Jake Cohen, who oversees student services as MIT Sloan’s senior associate dean for undergraduate and master's programs. “We strongly believe that the world’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by one discipline alone.”

Over time, Cohen and the students involved said they believe the OneMIT initiative will encourage more collaboration among MIT’s scientists, engineers, and business experts. “People choose Sloan because it’s at MIT,” Cohen says. “[That] leads to a different student body that comes seeking to connect, link, and build bridges across the Institute — to the School of Science; Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; and Architecture and Planning.”

Laura Diamond MBA ’15, one of the three vice presidents of the OneMIT Committee within the MIT Sloan Student Senate, says she hopes the OneMIT initiative will foster entrepreneurship and innovation by bringing MIT’s expertise in science and engineering together with the business acumen and strategic thinking available at MIT Sloan. “These are complementary skill sets,” she says.

Jenny Larios Berlin MCP ’14, MBA ’15, who serves with Diamond on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC), agrees. “In the MIT Media Lab, there are a lot of great technologies coming out, but how do I bring that to market? In urban planning and real estate, how do I create this community development program, especially in a neighborhood where it might be difficult to get financing? Can we bring creative minds from MIT Sloan to think on this?” she asked. “By facilitating those networks, people are going to find each other that much faster.”

The OneMIT initiative gained traction last year as MIT Sloan began its preparations for the 2014 student orientation. Inspired by a speech by MIT Sloan Dean David Schmittlein that echoed Reif’s theme, Diamond approached the Orientation Committee at MIT Sloan to find a way to bring all graduate students together across campus. The effort drew momentum from DSAC, which was also investigating ways to connect graduate students, and from the MIT Sloan Student Senate, which formed its OneMIT Committee last May.

In late August, these efforts culminated in the first all-MIT graduate student welcome picnic. The event attracted nearly 1,000 students from all of MIT’s graduate programs. “It’s hard to overstate how important this first orientation event was,” says John Mahler MBA ’15, co-president of the MIT Sloan Student Senate. “All of the grad student cohorts have their own orientations. … We’ve never done anything together before.”

Since then, work has gotten under way to form a OneMIT board at the Institute level to foster more cross-school networking and collaboration. This body will include representatives from each of the five graduate school populations as well as an officer from the MIT Graduate Student Council. Funding for the board has already been secured from the deans of MIT Sloan and the MIT School of Engineering, as well as from the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education.

“Most of the credit for executing goes to the students,” Cohen says. He added that the nascent initiative is fully supported by the administration. “The fact that we’ve set aside resources to fund student ideas and communicated our shared vision around the OneMIT initiative should lead to an increased number of collaborative activities, which we look forward to seeing.”

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