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MIT Aims to Demystify Campus by Inviting Minority Grad Students for Weekend Visit


Just a few months ago, Miguel Paredes from the University of Lima in
Peru thought MIT was an impossible dream. After spending time on campus
during the all-expenses-paid graduate preview weekend called
“Coverage,” Paredes feels his dream is within reach.

“Converge was amazing. Many of the preconceptions I had about MIT were
shattered, and my expectations of MIT were greatly surpassed,” Paredes

This is exactly the reaction Converge aims to get from its student participants.

Converge began as a grass-roots effort in 2004, with participation from
the Graduate Student Council’s Diversity Initiative, administrators in
the schools of engineering and science, the Graduate Students Office
and the Office of the Provost. A similarly composed planning team
organized the event in 2005, and the goal is still to increase the
diversity of MIT’s graduate student population.

The 24 participants were selected from a pool of 65 applicants. All but
Paredes were from various parts of the United States, including Puerto
Rico. Flown to Boston through the program, they spent the weekend
exploring MIT and Cambridge in a series of tours and workshops.

“We want to bring potential students here and show them what MIT is
about,” said instructor Mandana Sassanfar of the biology department.

Close to 75 current MIT students participated in this year’s event,
showing prospective students around and answering questions. The
students came from a variety of schools, but the planning committee
tried to steer away from the East Coast Ivy League schools. “The
targeting is different,” said Sassanfar. The ideal Converge candidate
is an exceptional student who could find MIT intimidating.

“I had already planned on applying to MIT, but was skeptical because of
the name and the famous people that do research there,” said Christle
Guevarra of San Francisco State University. “I have visited other
schools with big names and have gotten a rather cold and unforgiving
vibe from the students.”

MIT was warm and welcoming, she said. “The graduate students seemed
happy and excited to be there. The professors were not only doing
awesome chemistry, but they seemed approachable and friendly,” Guevarra

For many of the students from the West Coast, coming to MIT, with its
cold winters and distance from home, can seem daunting. “We need to
show them the energy of MIT and the support that is here,” said Janet
Fischer, special assistant in the Office of the Provost.

It was that support that finally convinced Guevarra that MIT is the
place for her. “There was a camaraderie that was apparent throughout
the whole weekend,” she said. “After attending Converge I am more
excited than ever to send in my application.”

Kenneth Bota of Clark Atlanta University had the same experience. “The
Converge program definitely helped me to solidify my choice to apply to
MIT for the upcoming school year,” he said. Bota was able to meet with
professors in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, where he
hopes to study.

“Most institutions could not provide the type of access to professors
that the Converge program did, and I am grateful for having been given
this privilege by the MIT community,” he said. “I really felt a part of
the MIT family.”

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