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Alumni Volunteer Connection

Alumni Gather at Annual Pan-Arab Conference

This spring the MIT Arab Alumni Association held its third annual pan-Arab conference-this year in Beirut, Lebanon-to discuss how technology can help emerging nations, particularly those in the Arab world. The event, which featured senior members of the Lebanese government as well as leaders from industry and MIT, illustrated how volunteer leadership can create a vibrant alumni affinity group that spans the globe.

Alberto Haddad, SM ‘95, president of the MIT Arab Alumni Association (MIT AAA), says the Beirut conference, attended by more than 100 people, lent MIT tremendous visibility in the region. “Sloan School dean Richard Schmalensee had one-on-one meetings with the [Lebanese] minister of economy, Bassel Fuleihan, minister of finance, Fouad Siniora, member of parliament Mrs. Bahia Hariri, and dinners with Rafic Hariri, the president of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, and Georges Frem, minister of industry and trade,” he says, adding that the meetings led to plans for further collaboration with MIT. Other MIT speakers included Ken Morse ‘68, director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, and Vijay Kumar, assistant provost for technology at MIT.

The conference also provided exceptional networking opportunities for alumni living in the Middle East, according to Haddad. “The value of the networking was beyond expectations,” he says. “People met new business contacts, found long-lost friends and enjoyed conversations about the cutting-edge things going on at MIT. In addition, alumni in countries where the MIT AAA has no chapter, such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, have decided to open local chapters, which is very encouraging.”

Reaching out to Arab and non-Arab alumni in the Middle East is a main goal of the pan-Arab conference series, according to Haddad. This year’s event was largely underwritten by the Abdul Latif Jameel group and its president, Mohammed Jameel ‘78, a prominent Saudi Arabian alumnus who is also a supporter of undergraduate scholarships at MIT. Overall, the MIT AAA attempts to connect Arab alumni living in countries all over the world, both to one another and to MIT. “Our membership is worldwide and dispersed, so our team has become expert at teleconferencing, e-mailing and sharing tasks across continents,” he says.

Pan-Arab conference attendees were hosted by the Harari Foundation at a dinner at the Khan al-Frenj, a rebuilt 17th-century French trading post in Beirut.

Founded in 1997 by Ennis Rimawi ‘91, SM ‘96, the MIT AAA benefits from the hard work of many alumni volunteers, including past president Shaheen Husain, SM ‘81, and vice president Samer Khanachet ‘72. Haddad, who is a Boston-based business consultant, says running the MIT AAA is really a team effort that tries to involve as many people as possible in decision-making.

Haddad says supporting other volunteers is the best part of being president. “It’s great to be able to help other committed volunteers bring their ideas to fruition and achieve something,” he says. In addition to his work with the MIT AAA, Haddad also serves as a counselor for prospective Sloan students and as a mentor to international Sloan students.

Bill Hecht ‘61, SM ‘76, vice president and CEO of the Alumni Association, spoke at the Beirut conference and says such events, organized by volunteers with local funding, reach out to alumni that MIT does not usually reach. It’s just one example of how alumni volunteers contribute to the Institute.

“In addition to organizing these outstanding conferences three years in a row, the volunteers from the MIT AAA are putting together an endowed scholarship fund for Arab students as well as creating a two-day executive education course for alumni in the Middle East,” he says. “Their efforts are truly commendable.”

For more information on the MIT Arab Alumni Association, please visit their Web site at alumweb.mit.edu/groups/arab/mitaaa/.

In addition to the MIT Arab Alumni Association, there are four other alumni affinity groups. They are AMITA, Association of MIT Alumnae; BAMIT, Black Alumni of MIT; BGALA, Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alumni of MIT; and CAMIT, Chinese Alumni of MIT. For more information, visit web.mit.edu/alum/connect/index.html#affinity.

Volunteer Survey: the E-Newsletter Connection

In January, the Association announced the electronic Alumni Volunteer Connection, an e-mail newsletter for volunteers with the Association and the Institute. More than 4,000 volunteers were sent this message, and response to the news, announcements and links to online resources about the Institute contained in each month’s edition has been positive.

The newsletter is now six months old, and each month, we have worked to tweak the format and improve the readability of the content. Several alumni volunteers have offered e-mail or in-person feedback on the eAVC newsletter to our Association staff. We’d love to hear from more of you on how the newsletter is meeting (or not meeting) your needs.

Please consider the following questions (and any other items you feel are important) and provide your feedback to the eAVC newsletter editors. Do you read the newsletter? Do you find the information helpful and interesting? Are some items more useful and helpful than others? Are there other items or news that we should be including that would help you as a volunteer? Are their items that we should not be including, and if so, why?

Send your responses to askola@mit.edu or mail them to eAVC Feedback, MIT Alumni Association, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, W59-200, Cambridge, MA 02139.

E-mail is a powerful medium that affords the Association a more vibrant and complex relationship with our alumni. Your feedback is crucial for us to understand how to best connect with our alumni using e-mail messages, our list serves and our e-mail newsletters.

If you are not receiving the eAVC newsletter and you are currently volunteering with the Association, please e-mail askola@mit.edu. Remember, if you have an Infinite Connection you can double-check and update your e-mail address online at web.mit.edu/alum/infiniteconnection.html.

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.

Alumni Activities Calendar

Summertime, and the living is easy. There are fewer major alumni events going on at MIT or around the country, but that doesn’t mean alumni are not getting together. Alumni will be embarking on a host of Alumni Travel Programs this summer, from the beaches of Greece to the rail passes of the Canadian Rockies. Chances are your local club has plenty of activities, be they baseball games or barbeques. For the club in your area, check out web.mit.edu/alum/connect/clubs. And don’t forget, the fall semester and the Alumni Leadership Conference are just around the corner.

For information on all these events and others, visit the Association events calendar online at web.mit.edu/alum/explore/calendar/.

June 27Club of Colorado seminar, Professor Leonard Guarente
July 2 - 11Alumni Travel Program, Iceland
June 28 - July 7Alumni Travel Program, Greece
July 4BAMIT-Boston cookout and fund-raiser
July 24 - Aug. 1Alumni Travel Program, Burgundy
July 27 - Aug. 4Alumni Travel Program, Family Program, Canadian Rockies
July 27 - Aug. 6Alumni Travel Program, Family Program, Galpagos Islands
Aug. 5 - 13Alumni Travel Program, Italian lakes
Aug. 9 - 17Alumni Travel Program, Great Lakes voyage
Aug. 10 - 19Alumni Travel Program, Canada rail journey
Aug. 13 - 25Alumni Travel Program, Baltic Sea cruise
Aug. 23 - 25Parents orientation
Sept. 4First day of fall classes
Sept. 20 - 21Alumni Leadership Conference, Cambridge

Alumni Help Lead MITE2S to New Heights

When Bernard Loyd ‘83 attended a surprise 60th-birthday celebration last fall for his former professor and mentor Wesley L. Harris, he added another element of surprise to the festivities. After an announcement that Harris’s wife, Sandra, and several of his colleagues had established a $100,000 scholarship fund in his name for the MITE2S program (Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Science), Loyd upped the ante.

“I felt the alums, the black alums in particular, but the alums more broadly, would be willing to support this recognition and to provide support for MITE2S at a significantly higher level than $100,000, so I volunteered to convene other black alumni around this effort,” Loyd says.

He teamed up with six other black alumni to help raise funds for the scholarship, which now has a revised overall goal of $250,000. Other members of the core BAMIT (Black Alumni of MIT) team include Shirley A. Jackson ‘68, Woodrow Whitlow Jr. ‘74, Eric T. McKissack ‘75, Reginald Van Lee ‘79, Laura M. Robinson ‘80 and Jerome D. Abernathy, PhD ‘87. “This BAMIT leadership team doesn’t feel encumbered by [the revised] goal,” Loyd says with a laugh. “I’d be surprised if we stay there.”

MITE2S is a six-week summer enrichment program for underrepresented-minority high-school juniors. Students attend intensive classes in science and engineering, learn about career options and develop their leadership skills. The program has been in operation since 1974 and hosted a record 80 students last summer. Many graduates ultimately matriculate at MIT or other top-notch schools. The program is offered at no expense to attendees but costs the Institute $6,000 per student. The Harris scholarship would endow two attendees per year.

The fund-raising initiative resonates with the BAMIT group for three reasons, according to Loyd. First, it is a great opportunity to honor Harris, the Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a leader in the advancement of minority education at MIT. Also, it’s a chance to provide lasting support to MITE2S.

Finally, it’s a way for black alumni to become more engaged in the Institute, Loyd says. “We’re at a point where we really need to take a seat at the MIT table.” Noting that he and others want to increase black alumni giving, he adds, “We want to be full partners in the development of MIT both for the sake of students who are there now, as well as for the sake of the Institute, and for our own sake as alums, as stakeholders of the Institute.”

The MITE2S scholarship committee, headed by Sandra Harris, has recruited a number of other alumni volunteers to help with the overall effort as well and expects to reach its goal this year. For more information, visit mit.edu/mites/www/sponsorship/wes_harris.shtml or contact Karl W. Reid ‘84, executive director of special programs for the School of Engineering, at 617-253-9602.

What’s New on the Web

Surfing: grab your sunglasses and your laptop, because there’s lots to enjoy this summer on the Web:

Meet the 2002 graduates: The June edition of openDOOR presents the Web pages of graduating students. The Web has become a medium of personal expression for scores of MIT students, who document their lives, interests and dreams in HTML. From the wild to the sublime, check out the amazing creativity the 2002 graduates exhibit on their Web sites at alumweb.mit.edu/opendoor/.

Reunions diary: Tag along with Leslie Barnett ‘92 as she attends her 10th reunion at MIT in a special “What Matters” column for June. Leslie takes you along as she reconnects with old classmates, enjoys Tech Night at the Pops and dances the night away at the Great Court Gala, along with enjoying all her 10th-reunion class activities. Read about her odyssey and leave a message about your own favorite memory of Reunions at alumweb.mit.edu/whatmatters/.

Volunteer job board: If you’re looking for additional alumni volunteers to help out with your club or class, consider posting the positions on the Volunteer Job Opportunities Board. It’s a great way to recruit alumni who are interested in getting more involved. Check it out at ans.mit.edu/volunteer_jobs/.

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