There are many things I could say, many things I wish I had time to say, but one of the most powerful things about being a part of East Campus and Senior House when I was an undergraduate is that it turned out to be a community that I didn’t leave behind when I graduated.
Many times friends have commented to me that they can’t begin to fathom how it’s possible to still be so intertwined with people I knew from my alma mater. And just this year, as I was preparing to head to Steer Roast, a close friend blurted out with great incomprehension that, even though she had loved her undergraduate experience and had made a handful of great friends there, it would never even cross her mind to go back for a school reunion. I knew what she meant, but I could only say that it doesn’t feel like a school reunion, it’s more like going to see family – a family that keeps growing, and keeps surprising you, and that makes you feel grounded, not just at that moment of reunion but the whole year around.
I can say confidently now that all the memorable bits that happened while I was an undergrad were just the tip of the iceberg. After graduating I worked for a while with BU and Harvard students and various alums from other schools, and the closest thing I could find in their experiences that matched mine were fraternities and the crazy networking that comes from being a Harvard alum. In that sense, Senior House has been the most open, free-for-all, genderless, fraternity-like experience I’ve ever run across. Since graduating I’ve met people who were at SH in the 70s and 80s who immediately took me in, made me feel welcome, introduced me to their old SH friends and connections, and went out of their way to help me get a leg up in my life. Along the way, I’ve tried to do the same – not from any sense of obligation, but from a genuine feeling of connection through shared culture. These kinds of interactions have been a big part of my life since leaving MIT.
This year, a friend of mine who graduated in 1994 (I was ~2004) mentioned that she used to be much more in touch with her friends from Random, TEP, and many other living communities because Steer Roast was an easy yearly gathering time for all of them. Since Roast has been increasingly limited to students and House Alumni, those other extended MIT alumni communities have grown much more fragmented, and she said it’s been harder to keep up. I had never realized how much Steer Roast meant to the non-Senior House communities – the sense that everybody who could stand the place was welcome made for a pretty welcoming and available reunion locale for many more people that I had ever known.
The house and Steer Roast form a kind of heartbeat to a huge and varied community that I only dimly perceived as an undergrad. Now that I’ve been out of school for about ten years, I can honestly say that it is one of the most unique and powerful things that I have ever experienced. The people I met and befriended there, and the people I continue to meet and befriend because of it, seem to make a difference in my life everyday – and, thank god, it just doesn’t seem to stop.