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Weekend Provides Taste Of MIT Life for Families

By Kathy Lin


Approximately 2,000 people from 550 families are expected to come to MIT for Family Weekend 2002, which begins today and runs through Sunday, Oct. 20.

“It’s an opportunity for families to come to MIT and experience it in full swing,” said Laura DePaoli, coordinator of MIT Family Weekend.

“Typically, about 50 percent of the families that come are families of freshmen,” DePaoli said. “Families pay a small fee to cover the breakfast and some of the receptions, but most of the events are free,” she said.

There are many events planned for the weekend, including open classes, museum visits, tours of MIT and Boston, lectures, and arts programs. Many departments and living groups will also be hosting receptions.

Departments sponsor programs

Fifteen of the 24 academic departments will be receiving interested parents with a range of programs including lectures, videos, and question and answer opportunities.

Many of these departments are hosting receptions and offering programs to introduce families to the subject. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will be “showing a videotape about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and there will be a professor there afterwards to answer questions,” said Cynthia Stewart, academic programs administrator for the department.

“A lot of people don’t understand what civil and environmental engineering is,” she said. “Everyone knows about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so we’re hoping to use it to give them a perspective on being an engineer.” She expects that the attendees will not just be families of civil and environmental engineering majors.

Other departments aren’t expecting many people, and will just be available to answer questions from interested families.

“We’re just having two or three people from the department [at our reception], and usually only a handful of parents and kids show up,” said Mary C. Potter, a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

“The departments were given a time to host receptions,” said Margaret E. Devine-Sullivan, assistant director of undergraduate programs at the Sloan school, but “there was going to be construction and a lot of other factors, and we usually only get a handful of people, so we decided not to host a reception,” she said, adding that “parents are welcome to stop by anytime,” and that “there should be someone here for them to talk to.”

Living groups host families

Several living groups are offering programs for the visiting families, including tours, brunches, receptions, and open houses.

“I’ll be taking parents on a tour of Simmons Hall,” said Ellen Essigmann, a Simmons Hall housemaster. “There is a lot of curiosity about Simmons, since it’s new and a lot has been done since parents dropped their kids off,” she said. Parents were required to register for this tour ahead of time.

At Next House, “the housemasters will be giving an open house,” said Housemasters Liba and Borivoje Mikic. “The house government and RAAs [resident associate advisors] will be there, and parents will be able to ask any questions they have,” they said.

“I think it primarily gives parents a kind of warm and fuzzy feeling to see some of the adults that the students are living with, and to have a face associated with a name,” Essigmann said.

Admins speak on campus issues

There will be a community meeting with MIT administrators Saturday afternoon, where several administrators will talk with the families and answer questions.

“I think we’re going to cover the whole shoreline of what’s going on and all the changes that occurred over the summer,” said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. He plans on speaking about the many changes in the freshman housing system, the importance of rush and FSILGs to MIT, and alcohol issues. Other administrators will also discuss recent construction and renovations.

Family weekend “is a major communication vehicle between parents and the school,” Benedict said. “It helps them feel more like part of the Institute, gives them a sense of community, and gives parents a chance to get their questions answered.”