On April 10, members of the MIT community came together to recognize and celebrate the achievements of select students, student groups, faculty, and staff for being “Change-Makers” in their corners of MIT. Change-Makers are individuals or groups who combat sexual misconduct by challenging harmful attitudes, language, or behaviors in order to create a safer and more inclusive campus culture.
Hosted by the offices of Violence Prevention and Response (VPR) and Title IX and Bias Response (T9BR), the Change-Maker Awards Banquet is held against a backdrop of a number of campus-wide events marking April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Now in its third year, the banquet features awards in different categories, including: Outstanding Undergraduate Student, Outstanding Graduate Student, Outstanding Staff Member, Oustanding Group, and Outstanding Pleasure Peer Educator. VPR and T9BR added a new category this year — Outstanding Department/Lab/Center (DLC) — to recognize a DLC for actively working to bring about positive culture change and prevent sexual misconduct.
Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart SM ‘85, PhD ‘88 kicked off the 2019 celebration by recognizing the newest class of Change-Makers, and highlighting a number of campuswide prevention, education, and response efforts that are currently underway.
“In their own creative and impactful ways, this year’s class of Change-Makers are challenging harmful attitudes and behaviors, and are helping to bring about important changes in culture — changes that make it clear that sexual misconduct and harassment of any kind have absolutely no place at MIT,” says Barnhart. “And their education, prevention, and response work — whether it’s with other students, colleagues, or throughout entire departments — bolsters our campus-wide work.”
Barnhart went on to highlight the 2019 Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct that is open to students through May 1, as well as new groups responsible for advancing recommendations from a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report.
Nominated by faculty, staff, and students from across MIT, this year’s awardees demonstrated a passion for, and dedication to, addressing sexual violence in their communities. The Awards Committee, which is comprised of staff from VPR and T9BR, received a record number of nominations. Each recipient was selected for their creative approach, depth of contribution, and level of impact.
The 2019 Change-Makers are:
Outstanding Undergraduate Student: Senior Gabrielle Ballard, who studies humanities and engineering, was selected for her contributions as a student leader invested in advancing conversations around equity and inclusion inside and outside of the classroom. In her roles as co-chair for the Black Women’s Alliance, a Pleasure educator, a student assistant in the Women and Gender Studies office, and a member of the multicultural recruitment team for MIT Admissions, Ballard has consistently demonstrated a desire to create change, to advance social justice, and to use an intersectional approach to her work.
Outstanding Graduate Student: Fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Material Science and Engineering Sarah Goodman received the Change-Maker award for her activism and role in shaping local, state, and federal policy. Her efforts include working on the External Affairs Board of the Graduate Student Council to craft responses to the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed Title IX regulations and to give input on federal legislation pertaining to sexual violence in the sciences. Her commitment to advocating for policy change has galvanized graduate students at MIT to use their voices and platforms as well.
Outstanding Staff Member: Amanda Pickett, a program assistant in Career Advising and Professional Development, was recognized for her ability to “call people in rather than calling them out.” She has put on events focused on a variety of topics, including: addressing sexual violence, LBGTQ+ allyship, understanding privilege, and working to create a healthier and safer community. These events have all come from Pickett’s own enthusiasm for having conversations about difficult topics in ways that don’t feel alienating.
Outstanding Group: The Healthy Masculinities Club, founded by graduate student Jay Dev and now led by his fellow graduate students Zack Avre and David Robinson, is a space open to all genders, but composed primarily of male-identifying people. The group was honored for coming together to discuss how to address and challenge harmful attitudes, language, and behavior. Their regular workshops tackle topics including masculinity, boyhood, intersectionality, consent, and sexual violence. The group originated in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning but it is open to anyone in the MIT community.
Outstanding Department: The Department of Chemical Engineering, which is led by Professor Paula Hammond ‘84, PhD ‘93, was selected for the hard work its faculty and students have put in to better understand the academic climate and for launching initiatives to make the climate more inclusive and welcoming. The entire chemical engineering department has elected to participate in an Inclusive Environments workshop, similar to the ones held by the Department of Chemistry in 2018. This workshop is a collaborative effort between faculty and students. Students supported the creation of these workshops by helping VPR and T9BR tailor the content to the relevant experiences within the department. Their feedback and guidance proved instrumental to developing an interactive and engaging workshop for all lab groups. Additionally, graduate students created a Women in Chemical Engineering group to continue working on fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all identities in the department. These examples underscore how the department and its students have cared and initiated change together.
Outstanding Pleasure Educator: Senior Madiha Shafquat, who is studying biological engineering, has been a powerful and consistent member of Pleasure for two and a half years. She was awarded a Change-Maker award for spearheading several initiatives, including raising awareness about Pleasure in the broader community and seeking to boost the quality of life here at MIT. She has modeled self-care, boundary setting, mentorship, and collaboration for staff and students alike.