Preparing matcha power for green tea Photo: Kyoto Wada

Preparing matcha power for green tea

Every Tuesday, MIT students sit on the floor of McCormick Hall and drink green tea.

For more than 10 years, Kyoko Wada has hosted weekly Japanese Chado tea ceremony classes for the MIT community. “I would like everyone to know about Japanese culture,” said Wada. “No experience required. Just bring a pair of white socks,” her website encourages.

A native of Japan, Wada began teaching the Japanese tea ceremony for MIT’s Women’s League when her husband Dr. Kazumi Wada joined MIT’s Electronic Materials Research Group (EMAT) in 1998. Based in Japan, Dr. Wada now leads EMAT-Japan at the University of Tokyo. In his frequent visits to the United States, he brings back green tea for his wife’s classes which now include lessons during MIT’s Independent Activities Period and an annual November Boston Tea Party for her students to perform their new skills.

The Japanese tea ceremony has ancient roots. Zen Buddhist Monk Eisai transported the first tea seeds to Japan from China more than 400 years ago. He is said to have introduced his fellow monks to tea’s eye-opening properties—much needed during long mediation practice.

“Chado—or the Way of Tea—simply means to heat water, put in tea and drink it,” once said Sen Rikyū, a 16th century Zen monk who formalized the tea ceremony from its more rustic beginnings. Women only became active in the tea ceremony after World War II when fewer men were alive to administer the ceremony. “The tradition had to be maintained,” explained Wada.

While the premise of Chado may be simple, the modern tea ceremony is meticulous in its details and symbolism, and it typically lasts four hours. At this year’s Boston Tea Party, Wada and her students decorated a traditional Japanese tea room with a border of fall flowers. Participants knelt on bamboo mats, and a banner decorated the wall with Chado’s guiding principles: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.

Cranberry dumplings at Boston Tea Party

Cranberry dumplings at Boston Tea Party

Students dressed in monochromatic kimonos passed out pumpkin seeds and dumplings made with cranberry sauce, an unusual treat. “When you see these utensils and sweets you feel a sense of fall,” said Aki Wada, co-teacher with Wada.

One student apprentice used a bamboo server with floral carvings to drop green matcha powder from a small container adorned with maple leaves and cherry blossoms, and then added hot water from a bamboo server. Participants bowed, turned their ceramic bowls clockwise twice, and took the first sip of green matcha tea.

What not to talk about during the ceremony? Politics, money, and religion are considered taboo. Everything is designed to encourage guests to treasure the moment, or in Japanese Ichi-go ichi-e, literally “one time, one meeting.”

“I can’t afford to go to Japan right now, so I figured this was the next best thing,” said Trina Bryant, a writing professor at Eastern Nazerene College who attended one of Wada’s events.

Learn more about MIT’s tea ceremony lessons. 


travel_logo_red2Interested in learning about Chile’s amazing observatories? Curious about the engineering marvels of Northern Italy? These trips and more are available through the MIT Alumni Travel Program, which annually offers more than 40 unique trips to locations around the world. In the past year, more than 600 travelers took part in the MIT trips.

The trips, which are open to the greater MIT community, often feature MIT faculty or other expert scholars who add a learning component to each program. An excellent example of the program’s offerings is “Berlin: Historic Treasures and Modern Marvels,” a week-long program in Germany that took place earlier in summer 2013.

Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci Palace

Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci Palace

The trip, which explored the architectural, cultural, and historic side of Berlin, included trips to more than a dozen museums, historical locations, and architectural spectacles. Close to 15 MIT community members took part in the trip, which also included day tours of German cities Dresden and Potsdam.

“The excitement went beyond sight-seeing,” says traveler Robert Hsiung MArch ’62. “The best parts of the trip were the learning experience in architecture, art, and history from our knowledgeable tour guide—he was first class—and the sharing of individual interests among our MIT alumni group.”

Pergamon Altar, built during the second century B.C.

Pergamon Altar, built during the second century B.C.

The week-long history lesson touched on German-specific issues such as the transformation of East Berlin since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the restoration of Dresden after its bombing during World War II, and visits to the Jewish Museum and the German Historical Museum. The trip also explored a wider scope of European history, such as viewings of the Egyptian bust of Nefertiti, the Ishtar Gate, and the Pergamon Temple.

“My wife and I had enjoyed visits to Berlin’s historical museum treasures on two earlier trips,” James Kistler ’62, SM ’63 says. “But the Alumni Travel program provided a much more comprehensive understanding of the history of Berlin and Germany through the efforts of our tour guide, Stefan Albrecht. His superb commentary enhanced our understanding of the social, economic, and geopolitical elements that shaped Germany’s history.”

Travelers connected with the MIT Club of Germany and current MIT students for dinner in Berlin.

Travelers connected with the MIT Club of Germany and current MIT students for dinner in Berlin.

Visit the MIT Alumni Travel Program page to explore upcoming programs. The 2014 schedule has been announced and features a trek a geology-based excursion of the Mojave Desert, a centennial celebration of the Panama Canal, and two trips geared toward families: a sight-seeing tour of China and a trip to the Galapagos that includes seven days aboard the cruise ship National Geographic Islander.

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Virgin Galactic, the Mojave, California-based firm that aims to bring the world’s first commercial passengers to space, named Steven Isakowitz ’83, SM ’84 as its first president this week.

Isakowitz assumes the leadership role in a dubious time for non-commercial space travel. NASA, where Isakowitz recently served as deputy associate administrator, has seen its appropriations cut this year to nearly the lowest in a decade.

Steven Isakowitz ’83, SM ’84. Photo courtesy Virgin Galactic.

Steven Isakowitz ’83, SM ’84 poses with SpaceShipTwo. Photo courtesy Virgin Galactic.

At the same time, Virgin Galactic’s proverbial star has risen. Founded by Richard Branson in 2004, the firm announced its 600th passenger booking for its commercial program last month. Its inaugural flight may take off as early as December.

Rumored to be among those 600 passengers, who each booked a $250,000 seat on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo: actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and pop singers Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.

“This is a transformational company and I am honored to take on this new role,” said Isakowitz. “As we chart an exciting course into the future of commercial space travel, I could not imagine a better team with which to do it.”

Isakowitz’s challenges as president will be formidable ones: leading the company through this critical first flight, negotiating rights to use the nation’s first spaceport, supporting NASA’s continuing mission, and growing its own researchers’ talents. Another challenge will be bringing that space-flight price tag down, one that certainly makes a summer vacation to Europe by contrast more appealing.

And of course, there’s safety.

“Our goal is to be the safest spaceflight vehicle in history,” Isakowitz said in a recent interview with Forbes, “but this does not equate to risk free because the safest ship is one that never leaves the harbour. We selected a vehicle that was safe by design and that has a very small number of critical systems, which supports safety through simplicity. Our system allows for a safe return for all involved even if there is an issue with the mission.”

Isakowitz joined Virgin Galactic in 2011 as its EVP and CFO. Before his work in space travel, Isakowitz served as CFO at the U.S. Department of Energy under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and as a branch chief for the White House Office of Management and Budget. He began his career as an aerospace engineer and project manager at Lockheed Martin.


Claude von Roesgen ’79 needed a way to combine his love of Lake Winnipesaukee with his zeal for alternative energy and simple living. A lake cabin was too much work, and an RV lacked charm and guzzled gas.

Tiny house, solar boat before launch. Photo: Roger Amsden.

Readying for the launch. Photo: Roger Amsden.

This year, von Roesgen struck on the perfect solution: a tiny house. On a pontoon boat.

After constructing both house and boat this spring, von Roesgen held a christening and launch ceremony last week in Meadowbrook, NH.

The tiny house movement appealed to von Roesgen from the minute he learned of it. These “were structures that were built on trailers to avoid having to meet building codes that would otherwise force one to build a much larger house,” he says. “The fact they were on a trailer made them movable of course.”

To help him construct the house, von Roesgen recruited his neighbor, Bob Wallhagen SM ’66, who owns a construction company in Carlisle, MA. Once it was complete, Wallhagen maneuvered the house carefully onto the 28×14-ft. pontoon craft and anchored it into place using a giant forklift.

To power the house and the boat, the two alums installed solar panels capable of producing 2.4 kilowatts and storing it in a lithium-ion battery for up to five days. Von Roesgen will power a microwave oven, refrigerator, and a 4000-watt electric motor on the boat from the stored energy.

Though the motor might not produce waterski-capable speeds, Von Roesgen will use it for what he loves best: traversing New England waters. “I’ve always been interested in energy conservation as I grew up during the oil shocks of the seventies,” he says. “And compared to my pedal kayak, going 2-5 mph without effort will seem luxurious.”

From left, Claude von Roesgen '79, Carla Schwartz, and Bob Wallhagen SM '66 on board the houseboat. Photo: Roger Amsden.

From left, Claude von Roesgen ’79, Carla Schwartz, and Bob Wallhagen SM ’66 on board the houseboat. Photo: Roger Amsden.

Von Roesgen aims to live in the tiny-house-boat this summer and do the same on other northeastern lakes for many summers to come, moving it between waterways on a trailer. “I may try Moosehead Lake, Lake Champlain, Erie Canal, Lake George, Lake Saratoga,” he says.

Tiny houses have long been a favorite design challenge within the MIT community, from the MAS.863 course “How to Make (Almost) Anything” to the Center for Bits and Atoms’ Fab Lab house.


What if you could deliver power to villages after a tsunami or earthquake by shooting lasers from a drone? Or circulate small drones above a festival site so people could recharge their cell phone batteries from them?

View from the Top - Seattle panelists

Panelists react to a question from moderator John Castle, right.

Four MIT alumni posed these questions, and several others, to each other and to over 100 attendees at last week’s View from the Top event, held at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center.

The June 13 panel brought together five alumni from different decades and disciplines for “Reinventing the World,” a conversation about their work with technology and its delivery around the world.

Asking those tough questions about lasers was Thomas Nugent SM ’99, founder of LaserMotive, who won a 2009 NASA competition to deliver power wirelessly to robotic vehicles. Margaret Orth SM ’93, PhD ’01, founder of International Fashion Machines, presented some of her work that integrated fashion and wearable technology. Cliff Schmidt ’93 displayed the Talking Book that he developed as founder and head of Literacy Bridge, which delivers basic educational technology to developing communities. Yun-Ling Wong ’04, a senior program officer at the Gates Foundation, addressed the challenges of mediating the demands of both developed and developing countries in finding solutions to global problems.

John Castle ’61, ScD ’64, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at the University of Washington, moderated the discussion, organized by MIT’s Office of Alumni Education.

The Seattle event gave attendees, who ranged from veteran Puget Sound Club members to young alums to prospective students and friends, a lively discussion among four professionals who are passionate about what they do. It also offered attendees ample time for questions, whether during the cocktail hour beforehand, the panel itself, or the desert reception afterward.

Even the panelists took turns reflecting on each other’s work.

After hearing from Nugent and narrating her own journey through wearable computing  via an IMAX screen in the theater, Maggie Orth described her new ideas on technological minimalism. “I am from MIT, so I am not a Luddite,” she said. “It’s not necessarily less technology that I want, but smarter technology.”

After hearing about Schmidt’s Talking Book, which has improved health and agriculture benchmarks for illiterate populations in Ghana by as much as 100%, Ling Wong explained just how hard such a project is for ambitious non-profits in the United States who want to affect the world.

“All lives have equal value, and technology can help us get there, but how we actually save lives is much more complicated,” said Wong. “Technology [can’t work] without advocacy, without government support, and without understanding a culture…the problems we’re trying to solve are hard ones…and it takes many sorts of people to make this happen.”

Castle, who introduced each panelist, remarked how all four alumni have essentially sought to answer one question through their work: How can technology change people’s behavior?

“For them, it’s not just about the technology, it’s about all of the things technology does and how it affects people in one way or another. Technology influences people’s choices, but in some ways it can push them in directions they may not want to go.”


Did Jason Trigg ’10, MNG ’10, subject of last week’s Washington Post story about young graduates saving lives by working on Wall Street, discover altruism at MIT?

jason-trigg-bankers-photo-800x532_ Gretchen Ertl

Jason Trigg ’10, MNG ’10. Photo: Gretchen Ertl.

Was it somewhere in the depths of his master’s research on “coiled coils and their oligomerization states”?  Did an epiphany strike while he was knee-deep in formulas at a Putnam Mathematical Competition, where he consistently earned honors?

It’s a good guess that traveling with the MISTI-China program contributed to some of Trigg’s working knowledge of problems in the world and how best he might help.

The profile of Trigg’s nontraditional approach to saving the world has sent shockwaves through the non-profit sector this week, sparking zealous rebuttals from pundits and columnists and reinvigorating debates about Peter Singer’s moral philosophy, one Trigg cites as influential.

Anyone who has enrolled in a MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) program will recognize Trigg’s dilemma, though. In countries across the world each year, from Mexico to Israel to China, MISTI interns apply their talents with code, conservation, or entrepreneurship to tackle global problems.

No wonder that, coming out of college, they want to continue to be effective. This year’s graduates, though, face a similar hurdle that Trigg faced three years ago: a down economy. The unemployment rate for Americans aged 20-24 in April was 13.1%.

Trigg took a job he was qualified for and that paid well. As for saving the world, he enables others to do that work, curating his beneficence through GiveWell and other do-good clearinghouses that he knows will make the most difference. In his case, it’s the Against Malaria Foundation, where each $3 net he buys protects an average of two people from contracting the deadly disease.

“A lot of people, they want to make a difference and end up in the Peace Corps and in the developing world without running water,” Trigg told the Washington Post, “and I can donate some of my time in the office and make more of a difference.”

GiveWell, incidentally, is powered by data from MIT’s Jameel Poverty Action Lab, which analyzes the effectiveness of programs in developing countries around the world.

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Your favorite search engine will tell you that there are about 225,000 instances of the term “MIT golf”out there. Not overwhelming, but it’s more sizable than a search for “CalTech Golf,” which yields a mere 2,000 results.

Source: Pound Ridge Golf Club.

Pound Ridge Golf Club.

Somewhere deep in that query is Ken Wang ’71, who owns Pound Ridge Golf Club and who is hosting the first annual MIT Golf Outing on May 20 in Westchester County, New York. The tournament will benefit MIT’s Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation.

Offering his course to MIT for a day caps years of service to the Institute.  Currently a member of the corporation, Wang is also a former Alumni Association board president, MIT Club of New York president, and member of over a dozen visiting committees and advisory boards over the years.

But Wang is always eager to advance MIT’s brand into the world of athletics.

“I really believe that as MIT evolves, and the people involved with it evolve, it’s important that we start doing more mainstream stuff,” says Wang. “Plus, it’s just good fresh air.”

Pound Ridge has been a favorite among New York celebrities and politicians over the years. Its challenging 146-slope design came from Pete Dye, who also designed TPC Sawgrass and other world-famous courses.  Wang bought the course in 2008; four years later, Pound Ridge was named second among the New York City area’s top courses by Golf Magazine.

At the tournament to support DAPER, MIT golfers will face Pound Ridge’s signature boulder in the middle of the 13th fairway and pray for luck on the backboard headstone behind the 15th green. But Wang won’t be among them.

“I’ll be there, but I won’t be golfing,” he says, adding, “I’d rather not have my game seen in public!”

Asked to name the best golfer in MIT history, Wang replies, “He’s going to kill me for saying it, but I’d say Robert Turner ’74, who’ll be there. He’s a very good golfer.”

Ken Wang '71. Photo: Tanit Sakakini.

Ken Wang ’71. Photo: Tanit Sakakini.

In an interview on the Golf Trips blog, Wang lists the Blue Monster at Doral as a favorite course and says he prefers Jack Nicklaus over Arnold Palmer.

As for Tiger Woods, Wang says, “I don’t necessarily approve of the shenanigans, but I love Tiger. He’s the most important person in the sport.”

When he’s not thinking about golf, Wang serves as president of the U.S. Summit Corporation, founded by his father CC Wang SM ’45 and three of his classmates. Between these two roles, Wang puts his MIT economics degree to good use.

Wang didn’t golf during his years at MIT, though he loved playing intramural hockey. At times, his relationship with DAPER was less than appreciative. “I didn’t pass the swim test, although I’d like you to know that I could have. I just wasn’t a very competent swimmer, so I took swimming because I hoped it would make me better. I was finally able to splash my way through it.”

Update: We have a winner! The foursome of David Tohir ’79, Brian Tohir, Frank Granito and Sasha Mrdelja finished in first place. Greg Turner ’74, John Wang ’14, Paulina Mustafa ’13 and MIT Director of Athletics Julie Soriero finished in second place. MIT head football coach Chad Martinovich sank a hole-in-one. View a photo gallery of the first annual outing.

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An Emerge participant showing off some of her jewelry creations.

An Emerge participant showing off some of her jewelry creations.

For some women—and girls who have had to grow up too fast—hope is a rare commodity. In Sri Lanka, for example, girls who survive rape or incest and who choose to confront their attackers in court are ostracized from their homes and denied schooling, many pregnant or with infants in tow.

Alia Whitney-Johnson ’08 first encountered these girls in 2005 on a tsunami-relief mission to Sri Lanka sponsored by the MIT Public Service Center. She visited a shelter housing them and was struck by both their courage—they were fighting for the safety of their younger sisters and for a better society for girls in general—and their lack of community. Some of them would not talk to one another or work together.

Though there was a communication barrier, Whitney-Johnson found common ground through jewelry making. She shared beads she’d brought (she’s an avid jewelry maker), taught the girls how to fashion necklaces and bracelets, and witnessed a transformation. “The girls were hesitant at first,” Whitney-Johnson says. “They needed permission to use every single bead. But over the course of just one day, the girls began to open up. They began to make their own designs, to laugh, to share their favorite pieces with one another, and to look after each other’s children.”

As part of Emerge Global’s Beads-to-Business program, girls learn business skills as well as a craft.

As part of Emerge Global’s Beads-to-Business program, girls learn business skills as well as a craft.

Beading proved to be so therapeutic for the girls that Whitney-Johnson left Sri Lanka with a desire to help in a more substantial way, and Emerge Global was born. The program helps girls emerge into who they want to be, despite what they’ve endured. They make and sell jewelry on Artfire as part of the Beads-to-Business program, generating savings for their futures (50% of the selling price of each piece goes to the girl who made it) as well as business skills, leadership, and confidence. The girls also receive instruction in life skills and mentorship and are supported in transitioning back into communities after they leave the shelter.

Emerge uses a collaborative capital-creation model in which the girls generate income and learn how to manage that capital without risk. They are free to acquire new skills and build a business without having to worry about repaying a loan or incurring start-up costs.

Emerge Global was used as a case study in the recently published book, "Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation," which offers a step-by-step guide to effecting social change.

Emerge Global was used as a case study in the recently published book, “Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation,” which offers a step-by-step guide to effecting social change.

To date, Emerge Global has helped more than 315 girls overcome trauma in their lives and become stronger, more empowered women.

“Some have utilized their skills and resources to build houses, run businesses, go back to school, and support their children,” Whitney-Johnson says. “We believe that by equipping these girls with the tools that they need to lead healthy, self-sufficient lives and to become leaders in their communities we can build a movement where these young women will end abuse in their spheres of influence.”

Whitney-Johnson’s goal for emerge is to be locally run and completely self-sufficient. To that end, Emerge created its own local implementing partner, Emerge Lanka Foundation, a separate legal entity with a local board that works with groups already running shelters to improve support for Emerge participants. “We want to transform these shelters into dynamic entrepreneurship hubs and learning centers where girls gain something really special,” Whitney-Johnson says.

Eventually, she dreams of helping girls across Sri Lanka. For now, Emerge is focusing on helping current participants and alumnae succeed in transforming their lives, increasing local sales and fundraising, and building the Emerge Lanka Foundation. They got a little help last year, when Miss Sri Lanka became their celebrity spokesperson and Emerge was featured on the cover of the country’s biggest popular-culture and society magazine. The press and word of mouth from mentors and alumnae have starting building awareness for the plight of sex-abuse survivors as well as changes in attitudes toward them, Whitney-Johnson says.

Emerge Global was also used as a case study in the recently published book, “Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation,” for which Whitney-Johnson authored a chapter. The book has received great reviews from the likes of  Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristoff, among others.


Christopher Cassidy SM ’00, P ’16

MIT alumni are everywhere—more than 126,000 spread across at least six continents. And beginning Thursday, March 28, PlanetMIT can add another virtual pushpin to its expanding community map: outer space.

NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy SM ’00, P ’16 will join two Russian cosmonauts on the Expedition 35 mission that will travel from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 28 at 4:43 p.m. EDT. The journey, scheduled for six hours, marks the first time that a crew-carrying spacecraft will dock to the ISS within hours of launching. (Most flights general take at least two days to reach the station.)

Upon arrival at the ISS, the team will join three waiting astronauts for a 168-day journey that, according to NASA, will include several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science. Expedition 35 is scheduled to return to Earth on Sept. 11, 2013.

The March 28 voyage will be Cassidy’s second trip to space. As part of the 2009 NASA mission STS-127, Cassidy was designated the 500th person in space. He logged more than 376 space hours, including more than 18 hours of extra-vehicular activity during three spacewalks. That mission featured a record 13 astronauts representing all five ISS partners—U.S, Russia, Canada, Europe, and Japan.

Cassidy, a U.S. Navy commander and former Navy SEAL, served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where he was awarded two Bronze Stars. He is one of nearly three dozen MIT alumni astronauts, a list that includes Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63, the Apollo 11 pilot for the first manned lunar landing, and Rusty Schweickart ’56, SM ’63, who piloted the Apollo 9′s first manned flight.

The MIT Club of South Texas will provide updates of Cassidy throughout his journey. NASA Television is covering pre-flight activities throughout the week and will provide live coverage of the launch beginning at 2:30 p.m. EDT on March 28.

Good luck and safe travels, Commander Cassidy!


The joint MIT/Harvard alumni club in Colombia recently welcomed Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick when he was in South America on the Massachusetts-Colombia Innovation Partnership Mission to promote job creation and expand economic opportunity in the Commonwealth.

US Ambassador P. Michael McKinley hosted a special reception at his residence in Bogota, and the MIT Alumni Association partnered with Governor Patrick’s office to invite local alumni. At the event, the club made Governor Patrick an honorary member and gave him three books: one each about Harvard, MIT, and Colombia (shown below).

From left: Luis Ricardo Paredes (Harvard), past club president; Juan Fernando Ribero SM '82, past club president; Governor Deval Patrick; Pablo Acosta '03, club board of directors; Mauricio López (Harvard), past club president; and Juan Fernando Jiménez (Harvard), club president.

From left: Luis Ricardo Paredes (Harvard), past club president; Juan Fernando Ribero SM ’82, past club president; Governor Deval Patrick; Pablo Acosta ’03, club board of directors; Mauricio López (Harvard), past club president; and Juan Fernando Jiménez (Harvard), club president.

During his visit, Governor Patrick and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize collaboration between Massachusetts and Colombia in the areas of science, technology, and innovation. According to Governor Patrick’s office, the MOU will promote “collaboration and partnerships among public and private institutions, universities, research centers, non-governmental organizations, and citizens. Included in the MOU is a call for partnerships in health and several life sciences industry sectors, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and tropical disease research.”

The agreement also calls for collaboration on clean energy, transportation, urban development, agriculture, and information technology sectors including aerospace, security technology, and health.

Learn more about the trip.

Prior to the Governor’s visit, the MIT Harvard Club of Colombia was honored with the Harvard Alumni Association Clubs and Shared Interest Group Recognition Award for its outstanding and innovative work in areas such as membership, technology, community service, succession planning, programming, schools and scholarship, and outreach.

Find the club on Twitter and Facebook.