Have you ever received a spontaneous note of encouragement on a bad day? Or a few kinds words that helped you overcome a daunting challenge? This year, MindHandHeart is hoping to create more of these moments of care and support.
At tabling events from orientation to finals, MindHandHeart is giving away colorful sticky cards with instructions for writing encouraging messages to friends, colleagues, labmates, and others.
This campaign began several years ago when two recent graduates, Jerry Wang PhD '19 and Nick Demas PhD '19, founded the “Stick with Me” project. Having served as co-presidents of Edgerton House, where they organized over 100 community events, Demas and Wang’s commitment to community has left an indelible mark on the MIT campus.
Demas and Wang met as undergraduates at Yale University and arrived at MIT to study mechanical engineering. Wang studied the nanoscale physics of fluid, while Demas specialized in developing new sensors. They chose to live together in Edgerton House, where they stayed their entire time at MIT.
“I feel truly lucky to have made such a terrific friend in Jerry,” says Demas. “MIT is a tough place to go through alone, but making strong friendships makes the good times really sweet and the hard times manageable.”
Their “Stick with Me” project began during their first semester at MIT. “That’s when the huge wave of exams that comes with being an MIT student really hit us,” recalls Demas. “Jerry put a post-it note with a lighthearted good luck message on the back of our door for me to read before my first test. It was a really nice note of encouragement. The exam went horribly, but the note definitely helped keep everything in perspective.”
Demas returned the favor, writing out a list of mathematical symbols that translated to “Good Luck Jerry!” on a sticky note. “Certainly, before a test, the last thing you need is more high-level cognitive reasoning, but it was a fun note and it made me laugh,” says Wang.
Fast forward to the end of their PhDs at MIT and their door was covered in a mosaic of sticky notes, featuring drawings, puns, movie quotes, and much “nerd humor.”
“I look back on all of our notes and caffeine-filled nights with such fondness,” says Demas. “There’s just so much camaraderie and fellowship that comes with sticking through thick and thin with somebody.”
Motivated to share their “Stick with Me” tradition with others, Demas and Wang applied to the MindHandHeart Innovation Fund, a grant program supporting ideas to make MIT a more welcoming, inclusive, and healthy place. They were awarded funds to turn their sticky notes into postcards, which were distributed across campus and sent to regions as far away as Portugal, South Africa, and China.
The pair also hosted an event in Edgerton House where over 100 students attended and made sticky notes and postcards for their friends and housemates. And, they covered the pillars in Lobby 7 with sticky notes and invited passersby to write messages of support and encouragement to students during finals period.
“Being immersed in the intense, cutting-edge work we do here at MIT can be a lonely, demanding experience, but there’s also a lot of potential for community,” says Wang. “It’s your community that will ground you, and I think everybody can seek that out. It’s never too late to meet new people, join a club, or attend a social event.”
Considering what advice they would give current MIT students, Demas reflects: “Take the initiative and reach out to others. Invite people to tell you about their day. People will reciprocate. That’s where making lifelong connections starts.”
Nodding, Wang adds, “And make your own sticky notes or something else entirely for your friends. You can create your own story in your own medium, and brighten someone’s day.”