By Sydney Lester
MIT freshman Colin Webb’s first time on campus was in the summer of 2013 when he attended Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES), a six-week summer program for high school seniors from across the country. While Webb was initially drawn to the program by the promise of MIT rigor in science and engineering, he left campus most affected by the conversations he had with his new friends and discussions in his humanities class. Today, he’s applying some of those lessons as the MIT class of 2018 president.
“MITES was a collection of stories from people coming from all around the nation and Puerto Rico,” says Webb. Part one of the MITES humanities course, called Race, Ethnicity and American Identity, explored multiple perspectives in literature by Junot Díaz, David Sedaris, Toni Morrison, and Amy Tan. Webb and other MITES students were spurred by the questions that arose in the course and brought their own anecdotes to class.
“It was in hearing their stories and struggles, things they’ve been through and things they’ve succeeded in that inspired me,” Webb says.
Webb and his friends shared personal stories, which they found to be indicators of broader social problems. “People brought up stories in MITES about race and about how other people treated them,” says Webb. “We realized that one of the main problems is not with the majority of society, but radical people, small numbers with big voices. Through openness and publicly showing others that you can succeed, you can slowly and surely turn the pages of stereotypes.”
One issue that students discussed was a lack of self-confidence in underrepresented minority high school students interested in science, math and technology. Webb credits his confidence in applying to MIT in part to the friends he met at MITES – whom he calls his “MITES family” – knowing that at least a few of them would also matriculate to MIT.
The MITES curriculum’s emphasis on college preparation also bolstered Webb’s confidence. He appreciated the time spent writing college applications, crafting resumes and drafting cover letters – skills necessary to the college application process – that he had during MITES.
Now at MIT, Webb is proud to serve as the class of 2018 president and build a collaborative community among students and alumni. As part of his campaign platform, Webb proposed an initiative to pair members of the MIT Class of 1968 with the Class of 2018 in community service efforts and a seminar series. Webb hopes the initiative will create supportive networks between students and alumni and provide students with the chance to meet mentors in their fields of interest.
“When brilliant minds collide, they’re ordained for greatness,” says Webb. “When they form relationships with people they wouldn’t have met, it opens up more connections with people who might collaborate on research projects that will change the world.”
Through all of his endeavors, Webb helps others succeed and places a high priority on making sure their voices are heard. From his plans as class president to everyday encounters with friends and fellow students, Webb wants to give people the same chance to connect that he learned during his first experience at MIT. “I see myself as someone who likes to bring people together and give them an experience that will inspire them,” he says. “And as class president, you get to do that.”