Apr 21, 2008
A Parent’s Perspective (Guest Entry)
Posted in: Visit
by Donald Guy’s Mom
Almost exactly one year ago, on a Junior year college tour trip during Spring Break, we were strolling the gloomy length of the Infinite Corridor, admiring the cracked Terazzo floor and the pipes hanging from the ceiling, when my son looked over with a smile and said “this feels right.” My aesthetic sensibilities were honed amid the mellow brick and expansive green lawns of my and William Barton Rogers’ alma mater (10 points to anyone who knows without looking at the link), so I was somewhat skeptical. But I am nothing if not supportive of my children’s right to choose, so I bought him a “Nerd Pride” shirt at the Coop, went to the MIT Admissions Road Show featuring Bryan Nance when it rolled through town during the summer and, as promised, celebrated his admission in December by running around the yard waving sparklers (thankfully, this hasn't found its way to YouTube). I was impressed by the effort made by the MIT admissions staff: the personal notes, the long awaited “tube,” and the holiday cards. But some part of me remained unconvinced; was this cold, stark, urban enclave of technocrats REALLY the right place?
Well CPW quieted all my doubts. MIT is amazing. Let me count the ways:
At MIT students change the worldEverywhere we went during CPW, we were regaled with incredible stories: Donald Sadoway’s students working on a new process to make steel with oxygen as a bi-product instead of carbon dioxide; Amy Smith’s students creating charcoal out of waste material to prevent deforestation in the third world; UROP presentations from students who had worked at CERN (yeah, that place in Geneva with the particle accelerator that might create a black hole); CSAIL presentations on developing new microprocessors and robots; Dean Vandiver’s presentation on the MIT “vehicle summit” which resulted in student designed and built passenger vehicles with ridiculous fuel efficiency (did he really say 200 miles per gallon?) and so many more. It quite literally boggles the mind.
At MIT the faculty and staff sincerely care about the undergraduates
It isn’t what you would expect at a premier research facility. Surely there are anti-social, nose to the grindstone researchers tucked away somewhere?? Well, if there are, they were well hidden at CPW. President Hockfield herself assured me that all the Nobel laureates actually teach, hold office hours and involve students in their projects. And everyone was so NICE - President Hockfield, Stu Schmill, Daniel Barkowitz, (who handed out a 100 Grand to every parent who registered for a Financial Aid session - okay, it was the candy bar variety, but it is the thought that counts!) of course the crowd in Admissions, and every professor, administrator, and dean we met. And the Housemasters. Like in Harry Potter! Full professors who live in dorms with their spouses, and their children and even their dogs and actually keep an eye on the students. They had open houses on Saturday and fed the parents brunch. Plus there are Graduate Assistants who live on every hall. Anyone who, like me, has had to drop a child at a large state university in a high rise dorm presided over only by an undergraduate “R.A.” a year older than her charges, would certainly be reassured by the quality of the safety net at MIT.
At MIT the students are multi-talented and fun loving
Admittedly, they are not normal… But they are still fun. I mean, Snively really does wear a binary watch, but he was still charming. The Logarhythms dressed a member in balloons … but their concert appearances were still amazing, as were all six a cappella groups who sang, - and the mariachi band, - and the salsa dancers - and the Steel Orchestra - MIT students all. The parents were excluded from the really fun stuff. I thought it would cramp Donald’s style if I showed up for the bouncy ball drop at Senior House, or the human hamster wheel at East, or the liquid nitrogen ice cream at Random, and he expressly forbade my going on the unofficial tour named after a certain citrus fruit… I did snag a hot dog at Theta Delt (thank you for your kindness to a starving parent) and some regular ice cream at the Meet the Bloggers party and got a feel for the warmth and camaraderie that permeated every corner of campus during CPW. After all, no one could do it all. The schedule of events was 87 pages long!
The aesthetics of MIT do grow on you
Stata included. It does look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, but it is bright and open, and airy and, if you try you can convince yourself it is “whimsical” rather than “weird.” I did look up too long while sitting in 32-449, and it made me dizzy as my brain tried to make the panels straight. If you leave the corridors and tunnels and walk outdoors along the Charles River, the view is quite lovely. And when the weather turns to *#%& as it did without warning on several occasions (the Weather Machine must have shorted out) then there is something to be said for being able to get from Mass Ave to Kendall Square while still indoors. I got caught out twice and bought not one, but two MIT umbrellas at two different Coops. I also bought decals for my car’s window and a “MIT Mom” sweatshirt. Yep, I’m ready. MIT is amazing.