The What, Who, and How of DUE: the Office of Minority Education (OME)

By Anna Babbi Klein, Communications Manager, DUE

Laureates and Leaders Induction Ceremony

 

What does it mean to be the Office of Minority Education (OME) at MIT?

OME is a student-centric office that promotes academic excellence, personal growth, and professional development among undergraduate students from underrepresented minority groups. OME:

  • Provides a culturally focused office on the MIT campus where all students feel welcomed.
  • Formally and informally fosters a sense of community among students, faculty and staff.
  • Offers programs that empower students to thrive academically.
  • Encourages strong mentoring relationships with faculty and staff that provide both personal and academic guidance.
  • Creates opportunities for professional development and networking.
  • Advises students on all aspects of their MIT experience and refers students to appropriate offices within the Institute.

Ashli Davis’ perspective gives you a real sense of the support students get from the office. Ashli is a sophomore studying Brain and Cognitive Sciences:

“The OME is not only a wonderful office as far as resources but it also serves as a second home to some students. Any time I have an academic-related question, need advice, or even just want to be around friends, the OME is always a safe haven the welcomes me.”

Strategically, OME plays a key role in advancing DUE’s goal of increasing the rate at which undergraduate underrepresented minorities apply for and are enrolled in SM and PhD graduate programs. Through tactical programs outlined below and strategic partnerships within the Institute, OME is working to ensure that minority students are well represented at every level of the educational pipeline at MIT.

In a way, OME embodies MIT’s commitment to undergraduate student diversity as described by Khalea Ross Robinson. Khalea is a junior studying Civil and Environmental Engineering:

“Psychologically, the mere idea that there is an OME signals to minority students that MIT is making the effort to give all students a sense of belonging at the Institute. This is important. Beyond that, OME represents both an administrative resource and a link to one’s racial or cultural origins – even as one explores the fascinating intellectual and other offerings available at the Institute.”

Clearing up Some Misconceptions

  • OME programs are available to ALL undergraduate students.
    While OME’s mission is focused on the academic, social and professional success of underrepresented minorities (URM), all OME programs are open to any student who would benefit. Currently, a full cross-section of MIT undergrads participates in OME programs.
  • Interphase and Seminar XL are NOT remedial programs.
    The focus of both these programs is academic enrichment. As described below, these programs work with students at any level of proficiency and help them achieve a higher level of excellence.
  • Students must apply to OME programs.
    While OME works to support students in a variety of ways, not all programs are suitable for every student. Programs such as Interphase, Laureates and Leaders, the Mentor Advocate Partnership, etc. require students to apply. This ensures there is a good match between the student and the program and the student will ultimately benefit from participation.

How do students get interested and excited about OME?

Similar to all offices at MIT that provide student services, OME’s challenge is not only raising awareness among students about OME and the programs it offers but getting students involved. While OME connects with parents and students at CPW and Orientation and actively reaches out to URM undergraduates to participate in programs and events, it is the students who participate in OME programs who are the self-appointed and very effective advocates.

Matt Estrada’s enthusiasm and participation in multiple programs is typical. Matt is a sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering:

“I have taken part in the majority of the OME’s programs. Interphase helped me with the initial transition to MIT. Momentum then gave me a great introduction to design, which I used to gain my first internship (not a trivial task as a freshman). Now Laureates & Leaders is aiding me on the path to attain a higher degree. I would recommend whichever programs apply most to a student’s interests since the OME will provide the resources to pursue them.”

OME also engages in an ongoing dialogue with students via the OME Student Advisory Council (OMESAC). Student leaders representing fourteen professional and cultural student groups at MIT provide feedback and insight on the both current programs and services and well as evolving needs.

OME Programs

OME offers programs that touch on student life and learning throughout every phase of a student’s academic career. From programs to help pre-frosh transition into MIT’s academic and community life to programs that encourage and support undergraduates interested in pursuing an advanced degree, the common denominator is the goal of fostering personal and academic success within a supportive community and, in turn, developing leaders in the academy, industry and society.

Interphase graduatesInterphase – transitioning into the academic and community life of an MIT undergraduate

Interphase is a seven-week summer program which provides pre-frosh the opportunity to study and live on the MIT campus prior to the start of the academic year. Academic classes enhance analytical-thinking and problem-solving skills and encourage students to explore their cultural identities through reading, writing, and group-discussion. Together, Interphase students explore and become familiar with Boston, the MIT campus, and available resources. As part of this mini-community, students connect with faculty and their peers and build a foundation for continued success.

Mentor Advocate Partnership (MAP) – providing guidance and support for first and second-year students

Strong mentoring relationships can contribute greatly to a student’s academic and personal success. MAP matches volunteer faculty and staff mentors with first-year students and facilitates the development of a relationship that encourages students as they face individual challenges and triumphs both academically and personally. Students remain as MAP protégés through their sophomore year.

MAP KickoffMAP Kickoff

Momentum – preparing freshmen and sophomores for summer internships

It is often challenging for first and second year students to find a summer internship. Through Momentum, students attend an IAP workshop where they design and prototype a solution to an interdisciplinary problem and gain marketable skills. At the same time, students have an opportunity to network with the corporate partners of the program, who judge the solutions, and apply for summer internships at these companies.

Seminar XL – success through small group learning

Seminar XL provides students, mainly freshmen, with the opportunity to supplement their Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and other classes in weekly study groups for which freshmen can gain credit. Graduate students and academically advanced upperclassmen act as facilitators. Each group creates its own unique syllabus based on the academic challenges and interests of the students. In addition to academic enrichment, students gain confidence and develop collaboration skills.

Thank Goodness It’s Friday (TGIF) - building community and connections

The first Friday of each month, OME provides a relaxed, welcoming setting in which students and staff come together to chat; the event draws at least 70-80 students. TGIF not only creates connections within MIT, but also brings in corporate partners to host the events and provide important networking opportunities.

Laureates & Leaders Program – making the pursuit of a Ph.D. a reality

Laureates & Leaders encourages motivated and talented URM students to pursue a Ph.D. in a STEM field. A key element of the program is creating opportunities for increased student interaction with faculty. A critical mentoring relationship is established with an MIT faculty member and informal gatherings with faculty expose students to different research areas and provide opportunities for them to present their own research. Students also receive ongoing guidance and support around the graduate admissions process.

Tutorial Services Room – students tutoring students

The Tutorial Services Room (TSR) provides group and one-on-one tutoring for undergraduates from academically advanced upper-class and graduate students. The TSR is valued resource among the students who use it.

Seminar XL classroomEngaging the faculty

Involving MIT faculty as mentors, advisors, and supporters of OME programs is critical to the success of the student participants and the programs themselves. The faculty liaisons on the OME Faculty Advisory Committee (OMEFAC) help OME strengthen its relationship with departments, labs and centers. Each OME program has 2-3 faculty liaisons who promote the programs and engage their colleagues to participate.

Looking ahead

As OME works to strengthen their offerings, they are focused on a few key areas:

  • Increasing faculty involvement and connections with students is an ongoing top priority. Student satisfaction, and in turn success, has been strongly correlated with frequent student-faculty interaction.
  • While OME programs provide strong support for first and second year students, OME is considering how to better extend this support to upperclassmen.
  • The Laureates and Leaders Program is becoming very popular but the program cannot sustain a large expansion. Instead, OME is looking at how to provide many of the benefits of the program to a larger part of the student body. One aspect is collaborating with the GECDC to augment support for the graduate school application process.
  • OME would like to positively impact as many students as possible. As such, OME continues its ongoing effort to raise awareness about OME programs and resources and engage more students with OME.

Who works in OME?

<view the OME staff listing>

  • DiOnetta Jones, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and Director
  • Tammy Stevens, Associate Dean, Academic Programs and Advising
  • Elsie Otero, Assistant Dean , Academic Programs & Advising
  • Dr. Sekazi Mtingwa, Faculty Advisor for Academic Programs: Interphase, Tutorial Services Room (TSR) and Seminar XL
  • Gabrielle McCauley, Financial Administrator
  • John Pope, Coordinator of Academic Programs
  • Allysa Piché, Assistant to the MAP Program
  • Lorena Tovar, Administrative Assistant

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