On July 1, Annalisa Weigel ’94, ’95, SM ’00, PhD ’02, begins her one-year term as president of the MIT Alumni Association, succeeding Charlene C. Kabcenell ’79.
Weigel’s long history with MIT includes four degrees from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (where she later went on to serve as an assistant professor for several years), the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and the Engineering Systems Division. She is currently a senior director at Fairmont Consulting Group, a boutique management consulting firm in the aerospace and defense sector founded by fellow alums Jay Wynn, MBA ’04, and Ben Harper, MBA ’08, SM ’08. A longtime MIT volunteer, Weigel has held previous leadership roles including chair of the Annual Giving Board and president of the Class of 1994. She lives in Massachusetts with husband Myles Walton, SM ’99, PhD ’02, and their two children.
What about MIT kept you coming back as a student and then a faculty member?
After my undergraduate experience, I left MIT to take a job in the aerospace industry. I came back a few years later as a graduate student because I felt there must be more to learn at MIT that I could apply to solve the important challenges I was seeing in my job. I’d also missed being on campus and among a unique group of students and faculty with a drive to change the world. Then after a couple of years on Wall Street following graduate school, I was ready to go back to thinking more deeply about critical issues and was eager to teach the next generation. That’s what brought me to the faculty position. MIT has been a very constant part of my life. I hope to be able to give back to it as much as it has given to me.
How did your MIT volunteering begin? What would you say to someone considering it?
When I moved to Washington, DC, after earning my undergraduate degrees, I didn’t know anybody there. I showed up to an MIT Club of DC meeting and instantly felt like, “Ah, here are my people!” I had missed the kind of community that MIT is: people are smart, they’re inquisitive, they’re active, they’re involved. As a volunteer, you also get to build skills around leadership and teamwork that younger alumni, especially, may not get to hone in their jobs right away. If you’re near a club, you literally just have to show up and say, “I want to help.” You can also get involved in your class or other groups, like MIT10 for those who graduated during the past decade. And there are new virtual opportunities that the MITAA has started during the past year in light of the pandemic.
One of those opportunities— which alumni will be hearing more about this fall—is a new MITAA initiative for alums who are using their talents in support of local or global causes. What’s the idea behind that?
Whether it’s solving hunger or poverty or challenges facing the environment—whatever your particular service interest is—I think that idea of service to the world is programmed into our DNA as MIT alumni. And we’re better together than we are separately. You can go and volunteer in your community, but what if you could also connect with other alumni who are doing similar things in other communities? Through this new initiative you will be able to collaborate, share best practices, and find camaraderie.
Another development this fall will be the opening of a newly constructed MIT Alumni Lounge in 10-100, directly off the Infinite Corridor. What memories does that corridor hold for you?
Whenever I walk the Infinite Corridor, one memory always comes right back. At the end of undergraduate commencement, when the big crowds have left campus and I’m walking in my regalia through the Infinite Corridor, it all of a sudden hits me: the immensity of the experience I’ve had on campus, the incredible resources I’ve had available to me. And now the onus is on me to take that out into the world and do something good with it. I remember that feeling distinctly.
What other places on campus are meaningful to you?
I sang with the MIT Muses, the Institute’s all-female a cappella group. Some of my best memories are practices with my fellow Muses in the penthouse of McCormick with the afternoon sun filtering in. When I’m back on campus, I also love to pass by the Kresge Oval. I have fond memories of hanging out there on the grass during those rare few warm days at the end of each spring semester.
How would you sum up your priorities as MITAA president?
One of the top priorities is to continue executing the MITAA strategic plan that was created a number of years ago—to help the Association continue to work on realizing that vision of providing world-class programming, services, and events to our alums. More tactically, I hope this next year we will be working on the transition back to in-person events, while trying to maintain a series of compelling virtual events, which throughout the pandemic have brought together alumni who haven’t been engaged as much. And another thing I want to focus on this year is telling the story of the benefits of the Alumni Association so that everyone can understand the value proposition even better.
What’s your favorite benefit of participating in the Alumni Association?
Being around other MIT alums! It is why I started volunteering with the Alumni Association, and it’s why I stayed. I just love the energy that MIT alumni bring to everything they do. By being involved as a volunteer, you get to bask in that collective energy and let it inspire you. That’s by far my favorite benefit.
This article also appears in the July/August 2021 issue of MIT News magazine, published by MIT Technology Review.
Photo: Ken Richardson