Dean of Engineering speaks to local OEOP families during annual dinner

By Alexandra Koktsidis

“Pick the thing that’s most exciting to you,” MIT Dean of Engineering Ian Waitz told students during the annual dinner with the dean event hosted by OEOP.

On May 19, the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs (OEOP) hosted its annual Dinner with the Dean event, featuring a talk by MIT Dean of Engineering Ian A. Waitz. Over 60 high school and middle school students – all participants of OEOP’s programs for public school students from Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence, Massachusetts – arrived with their families at the Ray and Maria Stata Center for dinner, refreshments, and a chance to learn more about engineering and MIT from the dean.

“Engineers are people solving problems that matter,” Waitz told the students and their families. “We really value when we look at the world and see how something changed.”

Waitz, a faculty member of the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics since 1991 and dean since 2011, highlighted several important elements of the engineering student experience at MIT, including a hands-on approach to learning, opportunities to work abroad, and a special focus on collaboration in projects. “Engineering is not a job where you’re working in a box by yourself,” he said.

Students asked Waitz a wide range of questions including what they could do to prepare for an engineering track in college. Waitz said that the first step is learning the fundamentals of math and science in high school by taking every course available to get a full understanding of basic principals. He noted that the students in the room are already on the right track by taking the programs offered through OEOP.

Another student asked how to plan her undergraduate engineering education to maximize her job prospects after graduation. “Most employers are not focused on what you did. It’s about what you can do for them,” Waitz said, emphasizing the importance of being entrepreneurial.

Waitz concluded the ceremony by offering advice that guided him in his career. “Always be open to options,” he said. “Pick the thing that’s most exciting to you.”