DUE’s Diversity Theme

By Elizabeth Reed, DUE Sr. Associate Dean with Elsie Otero, OME Assistant Dean and Lisa Strack, OME Academic Programs Coordinator

Since some of the “movers and shakers” who helped launch DUE’s Diversity Theme have left MIT for new pursuits, you may have wondered about its current status. I am pleased to report on-going progress on several key initiatives that support this theme.

As described in the April 2007 Newsletter, diversity theme objectives include advancing the notion that diversity and quality are congruent, and ensuring that minority students are well represented at every level of the educational pipeline at MIT. The theme aligns with the recent Diversity Congress goal to begin to transform MIT into a leader in the movement to link diversity and excellence.

In the past year, two programs developed by the theme team and OME staff to advance the theme - the Mentor Advisor Program and Laureates and Leaders - have enhanced their size and scope. These programs are led by Lisa Mullan Strack, Academic Programs Coordinator in OME, and Elsie Otero, Assistant Dean in OME, respectively.

In response to the Diversity Theme objective of increasing the number of underrepresented MIT undergraduates who immediately matriculate to MIT graduate programs, the Office of Minority Education piloted Laureates and Leaders (L&L) in Spring 2007. Students apply as sophomores and are selected based on their desire to earn a MD/PhD or a PhD in a STEM field, strong interest in conducting research, and academic record. The program helps them navigate and prepare for the graduate admissions process by providing faculty and staff mentoring, informational workshops, exposure to different research areas and financial assistance for some of the costs of graduate school preparation, i.e., application and exam fees, conference registration and travel to graduate schools. In its first year, 10 sophomores were admitted to L&L. Now, 31 students participate in and benefit from the program, including 10 seniors, 13 juniors and 8 sophomores.

OME’s Mentor Advocate Partnership (MAP) is a volunteer mentoring program which provides freshmen and sophomores with a caring faculty or staff mentor and access to a whole new community at MIT. MAP mentors serve as motivators, supporters, coaches, connectors, door openers, champions, friends and more. MAP was piloted in February 2007 with OME staff serving as mentors.  Drawing from the early lessons from the pilot, OME officially launched the program with 50 student protégés and 20 staff and faculty mentors in February 2008. The program welcomed new protégés and mentors this fall, adding 69 student protégés and 44 staff/faculty mentors, including 16 mentors from DUE. In the spring, MAP will add a peer mentoring component. Sophomores and juniors will have the opportunity to become associate mentors and develop relationships with small groups of freshmen.

A third theme-related initiative, “Diversity Matters”, resulted in a proposal for a messaging campaign about the benefits of diversity. This proposal was submitted as part of the FY09 budget process and its success helped DUE gain resources which may provide seed funds for student ideas developed at the Diversity Congress. It seems clear that diversity and inclusion will remain high priorities for the Institute and DUE intends to help lead the way.