Black students hold conference
By Thomas T. Huang
and Craig Jungwirth
The 13th annual MIT Black Students' Conference on Science and Technology examined "The MIT Experience" last weekend. Two major addresses and a career showcase highlighted the event, but the conference's plenary session and three workshops were sparsely attended.
Text of Wesley Harris' speech,
The number of students who attended each workshop ranged from two to five, not including company representatives or panelists. In his luncheon speech, Professor James H. Williams Jr. '67 warned, "The conference has atrophied. It has decayed. And you're stupid if you don't want to hear that, you see, you need to be told that if it's the
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truth, you see.
"And the reason I can tell it is because I've watched the hour hand over a period of time. All you're doing is looking at the hour hand and you're trying tell whether or not the clock is moving or stopped or working, you see ... I'm telling you that you haven't put together a good conference ..."
Ernest M. Cohen '64, treasurer of the New England section of Black Alumni at MIT, said, "The idea is to try to bring out important issues, techniques and approaches with the idea that we use the experiences of minorities who graduated from here to help undergraduates with the experience [here] and in the outside world."
One of the most important goals of the conference "is to present role models to MIT students. Minority students can often feel quite isolated," he explained. The speakers hope "to remove the isolation and maintain a proper perspective."
In the past years, the conference "concentrated on problems outside of MIT. This year, we thought we would look at making minority students at MIT successful students by looking at MIT education," Cohen said. The conference would also examine the role of minorities in the MIT culture.
This includes learning how to get things done, and how to interact with faculty, staff and offices, Cohen said. "This includes building self-confidence."
"Not only do we want to increase the yield of minority students, but we want to see more minority students graduating and moving successfully on with their careers," he said.
Cohen described several important skills: gathering information from people around you, salvaging mistakes gracefully and learning to present your work and yourself.
All activities were open to all members of the MIT community. "Although we have not stated that, it has always been our policy," he said.
There were "workshop opportunities to maximize exchange between speakers and students," Cohen said.
In the morning session on "Skill in Social Interaction: A Necessity for Success," Campus Police Officer Ted Lewis said, "being successful calls for a vision -- a way of communicating with the brain." Something in our subconscious causes us not to succeed; fear, which stands for "false education," appears real.
Many MIT students fear they will not satisfy what they perceive to be the expectations of others, he said. One has to read, study successful people, visualize one's own success and perform in order to succeed.
Lewis offered the following guidelines for success within an organization: early training and education, effective management of meetings, professional visibility, knowledge of how to make decisions and awareness of current developments in one's field.
"It's important to keep a positive attitude," Lewis said. "Everything is a learning experience."
Negative reinforcement is acceptable as long as one has the attitude that "if you don't believe I can do it, let me show you I can do it," said John Searles '86, a panelist on the plenary committee.
One must also work at effective presentation and persuasion; learn about the philosophy of one's organization; learn how to work with different people; establish one's own reliability and credibility; and keep one's humility intact, Lewis said.
***Lewis' Rules for Success appear three paragraphs up***
Five panelists discussed issues of personal development at one of three workshops held Saturday afternoon. The discussion began with a comparison of MIT to other undergraduate universities. Three of the panelists were graduate students who attended undergraduate institutions other than MIT.
In the workshop on professional development, David Tribble G described the key qualities necessary for success in one's profession: confidence; diplomacy -- providing constructive rather than brutal criticism; jargon -- learning to think like the people you talk to; aggressiveness; communication; and execution of bureaucracy.
"I think there are a lot of people left by the wayside who never graduate or who never catch up," said Kyla Thomas '86, one of two attendants at the Personal Development Workshop.
"Do [professors] really care about undergraduate education?" asked Tara Adams '86, a member of the workshop's panel.
"The breakneck pace may be squelching what we're trying to do here," said Jann Primus G, another member of the the panel. "We need to have a bigger view of what's important. MIT is not the most important thing in the world. If you haven't developed new knowledge besides your subject, then MIT hasn't done its job."
"We've become a lot more comfortable with not doing well," Adams added.