When I reminisce about my undergraduate education, I think about East Campus. Most of my best friends are from East Campus. Through my East Campus community, I went from someone who had never been west of Chicago or slept in a tent to someone who has traveled over 20,000 miles in the past three years, and spent a cumulative 3 months living out of a car. East Campus has given me opportunities to try my hand at painting, circuit design, fort and roller coaster building, sailing, mechanical design, and computer programming. After running 2 60+ person Thanksgivings at East Campus, I will NEVER fear holiday entertaining. And there are few people who are better at making enormous quantities of ice cream than my hallmates and I.
East Campus taught me to explore, and to take risks of all sorts–and through these risks, East Campus taught me to not fear failure, but to take a deep breath and a step back, and to try again. When I was struggling, as we all do at some points–difficulties associated with being on the crew team, relationship problems, frustrations and fears about my future–I turned to East Campus for sympathy, advice, support, and occasionally, tough love. I do not know where I would have turned without East Campus. Through my East Campus community, I grew from a timid person who always assumed she was wrong and unintelligent into a person who can hear all sides of an issue, but who is also much more confident in her own abilities and judgement–a confidence necessary to succeed as a woman in science and engineering, and a confidence that allowed me to deviate sharply from my mechanical engineering degree to pursue a Ph.D. in geosciences. I am certain that I, personally, would not have developed this confidence outside of East Campus, and I shudder to imagine my future without it.
In getting to know other bright young scientists from other institutions, and their histories, I have realized that what makes MIT the best technical university (not one of the best, but THE best), is our community of faculty, staff, and students. Our student body is truly unique because our residential system encourages creativity, diversity, and true community in all of the living communities, not just the East Side. The more our residential system is homogenized, the more homogeneous we as a community will become, and we will quickly lose what makes us special, what makes us MIT. MIT’s residential system fosters independence, creativity, and a willingness to take risks. Without it, I fear the brilliant and dynamic inventors, designers, and innovators MIT is known for will be a thing of the past.