By Sydney Lester
On June 12, 68 high school students from across the country arrived at MIT to participate in the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) program. Their six-week immersion into Institute academics and culture — including MIT-level courses in math, physics, life sciences, engineering, and humanities — marks the opening of the program’s 40th anniversary.
MITES students attended a welcome dinner on June 12 in Simmons Dining Hall at MIT.
“MITES is one of MIT’s most proven and sustained successes,” says Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering. “The program has been opening a door to incredibly gifted students for four decades, and they have gone on to do great things. MITES is MIT at its best — changing the lives of young people so they can go on to change the world.”
Over its 40-year history, MITES has served over 2,200 high school seniors — many of whom have come from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds — free of charge, thanks to funding from alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations, and others. Along with completing rigorous coursework, MITES students attend seminars that expose them to careers in science and engineering, tour labs, and participate in social events. Nearly 40 percent of MITES alumni matriculate at MIT, with others attending top-tier institutions across the country.
The students in the MITES class of 2015 hail from 24 U.S. states, Malawi, Jamaica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The class also includes 29 students who will likely be their family’s first generation to attend college. Of the 68 students in attendance, 20 have completed one of the two Advanced Placement courses in calculus, which are rarely attempted by high school students before their senior years, if at all.
In a MITES engineering elective course on June 16, Daniel Line-Bell, of Denver, Colorado, and Judyth Estrada, of Austin, Texas, began work on a electronics project using a Raspberry Pi, a low-cost, credit-card sized computer.
This year, MITES held a welcome dinner for students featuring representatives from the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs, the MIT Office of Minority Education, the MIT Admissions Office, and the MIT Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. “Push yourselves so that when you leave here, you are ready to change lives and transform the world,” said DiOnetta Jones Crayton, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education.
For many of the MITES participants, who are some of the top students in their high schools, the new environment — which places emphasis on analytical thinking over grades — will come as a shock. “We don’t give you A’s,” said Shawna Young, executive director of the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs, which oversees MITES. “Now what are you going to do?”
Young, who has led MITES and the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs since 2008, provided context and set expectations in her charge to the students. “Understand that you are here at the top engineering school in the world. Not as graduate students, not as undergraduate students, but as high school students,” she said. “MITES is going to be exciting. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be every emotion you can have.”
During the welcome dinner, speakers reminded the students that by attending the program, they join a tight knit family that started in 1975. “You are part of the 40th year of MITES. Let that sink in,” said MIT Associate Director of Admissions Quinton McArthur. “Forty years of excellence. Forty years of success. Forty years of leadership. And you are a part of that legacy now. That’s a lot of responsibility, but it should also give you hope. You will always be part of the MIT family.”
An anniversary celebration for the 40th anniversary of MITES will be held July 17 and July 18 at and around MIT for alumni, staff, and friends of the program and the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs.