The 2019 MIT Alumni Leadership Conference (ALC) will take place on campus September 27–28 (register now). The weekend celebrates the volunteers who support MIT and help the Institute create a better world.
For recent graduates, volunteering can be an especially powerful way to maintain a connection to the Institute as they establish their post-MIT lives. Below, read the reflections of two alumni at the start of their volunteer journeys, both of whom plan to attend ALC 2019.
Passing It On: Alekhya Reddy ’16
Courses: 15 and 18 (Management, Mathematics)
Location: San Francisco
MIT volunteer involvement: Club of Northern California (chair of volunteer recruitment), Club of New York (VP of community service programs)
What I love most about volunteering with the MIT community is the community itself—getting to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise have met, people of different majors and different class years, and having MIT as a communal topic.
Many of my relationships out of MIT have led to my most interesting experiences. My current job now at a startup was through connections of my advisor at MIT. I love being able to reach out to anyone in this community and be able to get their thoughts and their advice, knowing they will be open to a discussion. One of my key mentors in New York was Jay Damask ’90, SM ’93, PhD ’96. I remember talking to him before joining the board of the Club of New York. I was working at Bank of America, and we found out that he sat three rows behind me! We both have this technical skill set but we’re in finance, so it was great to speak to him on all kinds of levels: about volunteering with the MIT community (since he was the club’s president at the time), but also about problems we were facing at work and our very MIT approach to them.
One of the first events I helped to organize for the Club of New York was the Summer Send-off for new students. It was amazing because there were so many people from before my time, and also these new prospective students. The 30 or so alumni who came, across schools and programs, gave the students a very wide perspective of MIT. I was remembering the Summer Send-off I went to as a high school senior, and how it introduced me to the idea that there’s this strong community at MIT and that’s what I was joining—it’s not just the institution, it’s a group of people you really connect with. I wanted to make sure students in New York had that same experience and that they’re assured they will find success at MIT. It’s funny, now that I’m thinking about it, I remember a conversation I had during my own Summer Send-off, when someone gave me all the support numbers: If you’re having trouble, this is where you can find help. And then I had that same conversation with one of the students in New York. It was good to know that knowledge was being passed on.
Another of my other favorite events that I helped organize in New York was a session weeding and picking at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s vegetable garden. We encouraged families to come, so not only did I get to meet a lot of alumni but their kids, as well, and that was really rewarding. When I was growing up, my dad [K. Hari Reddy SM ’01] was the president of the MIT Club of DC, and I have really fond memories of the alumni community from when I was a kid. It’s incredibly rewarding to know a lot of kids of current alumni will have that too, and hopefully it will inspire more volunteers in the future!
Community Knowledge: Chester Chambers ’15
Course: 10 (Chemical Engineering)
MIT volunteer involvement: Club of South Texas (VP of programs), Educational Council, Giving Day Ambassador
The first Club of South Texas event I attended was Toast to IAP 2016. It was my first interaction with the club and the board members and volunteers. I was so taken aback by how much work they were putting in—one, to help the academic community in Houston, and two, to bring MIT alumni back together in a common setting to catch up and reminisce and talk about all the great things that we’re doing today.
As a young volunteer, I’m amazed to see the people who have been volunteering for the Institute for 30- or 40-plus years, to see how dedicated they are, and how happy they are to give their time to the alumni and to continue to push forward a positive image of MIT. To see the effort they put in is inspiring to me. For example, Al Cisar ’73 and Marilyn Cisar ’76 have been leaders of the Club of South Texas for quite a while now. I remember them during Toast of IAP talking about their volunteer efforts with FIRST Robotics and trying to recruit other alumni to help out these high school students with the competition. Seeing them spending their time doing that and helping put together this event for 40 or 50 alumni in the area—I was like, hey, if they’re taking their time to do this, and obviously they need help, why not get involved?
I’ve been trying to get the MIT10 alumni [graduates of the last decade] to come to events: trivia, happy hours, museums. Recently I’ve gotten involved as well in the club’s work with sustainability and climate change in Houston. We have a good group of 10–15 people who are really interested in that topic. We’re only two meetings in, but we’re starting out asking the alumni what they know, what they want to do, and the alumni have so much expertise and knowledge about this problem. Bringing them together is really helpful because everyone seems to be learning and discussing at every meeting—it’s a very productive environment.
I think the club has the power to multiply community effort and community knowledge by bringing MIT people together. When I go into rooms like that, I realize all the things I don’t even know I don’t know about. I like putting myself in positions where there’s a lot for me to learn.
These reflections are based on interviews conducted by Kate Repantis. Photo (top): Alekya Reddy ’16, second from left, at the MIT Club of New York’s Summer Send-off event.