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Veteran Travelers Improve MIT Alumni Travel Program

When the members of the MIT Alumni Travel Program Advisory Committee gather twice a year, they bring with them well-worn passports and a variety of great ideas on how to improve the Alumni Association’s popular travel program.

The travel advisory committee is part of a larger initiative aimed at bringing more MIT graduates into the planning process for Association programs and services. At the Alumni Leadership Conference (ALC) in September, advisory committees will also convene to discuss graduate alumni programs, issues related to young alumni, clubs and affinity groups and class and reunion events.

The travel group includes three faculty members and nine veteran MIT travelers, including Dean Zeilon ‘55 of Naples, ME, who has taken an even dozen trips with MIT. Zeilon and his wife, Mary, have visited Iceland, the Amazon River Basin and the Galpagos Islands, among others.

“Our most recent trip, to New Zealand and Australia in January, had Professor John Hansman [SM ‘80, PhD ‘82] from MIT aero/astro along as our faculty leader. We got access to the air traffic control center in Christchurch, which has the state-of-the-art air traffic control system in test for the world that uses Global Positioning Satellite technology,” Zeilon said. “We were in the air traffic control tower in Christchurch, with Dr. Hansman explaining how it workedIt was wonderful!”

Melissa Gresh, who runs the travel program for the Alumni Association, and the members of the advisory committee have asked the tough questions about the program, Zeilon said. “How do the brochures appeal to MIT alumni? What should we have on our Web site? Are our programs too expensive? What sort of special MIT events could be arranged to enhance the itineraries?”

The advisory committee has met twice, and Zeilon said he and the other alumni travelers have offered advice on everything from possible trip locations to the importance of having an MIT banner or flag at the ready, demonstrating MIT pride.

Gresh reports that the committee has been creative and very helpful in developing trip locations and marketing ideas to attract more MIT alumni travelers. “Our first meeting in September was very productive. We began with a presentation of the goals and priorities of the travel program and then rolled up our sleeves and discussed items such as trip brochures, communication with travelers and the importance of special MIT trip components,” she said. “We received terrific feedback from the committee members and some great ideas for what trips will be offered in 2003.”

The MIT Alumni Travel Program offers more than 30 trips each year to a wide variety of destinations. In the past 2001-2002 season, 792 travelers went on 35 trips; in the 2000-2001 season, 621 people participated in 32 different tours. For a complete list of trips and travel program information, visit web.mit.edu/alum/explore/travel/.

Travel program advisory committee members include Hal Aldrich ‘47, Donald Bishop ‘50, Frank Chin ‘44, Charles Ladd ‘55, Francis LaPlante ‘54, Bill Layson ‘56, Richard Reece, AR ‘50, John Weeks ‘51 and Dean Zeilon ‘55. Faculty members include Donald Harleman, CE ‘50, S. Jay Keyser HM and Gene Skolnikoff ‘49.

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