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MIT has a great way of putting the "Welcome" mat out for those from the outside. Here are a few brief anecdotes about my own experiences with this fine form of welcome.
In the early 1970's, when I was a graduate student at Caltech, I dropped by MIT one summer, mainly to meet Terry Winograd, who was a well-known grad student here at the time. He was out of town, so I introduced myself to his office-mate, another well-known grad student. On learning that I was from Caltech, he dismissed me and ended the never-begun conversation with the observation that "Caltech doesn't do anything interesting!"
I joined the MIT/EECS faculty in 1974, but arrived late because of an appendectomy at the end of my graduate studies. On arriving, I was greeted by the secretary of the Associate Head for CS, and told that I had an office, which was thoughtfully supplied with pencil and paper. "Welcome!" And that was it. (By contrast, a new secretary was welcomed two weeks later via a Lab-wide memo describing her background and interests, and urging others to meet her.)
Cruising the AI TR's on the 8th floor, I read through a couple of theses by colleagues, and went to talk with one about his work. I was astonished when, after introducing myself and starting a conversation, he told me to go schedule an appointment through his secretary.
I had chosen to come to MIT because I was excited by the research of another colleague. Soon after arriving and arming myself with knowledge of his group's recent work, I went to him to declare myself ready to work with him. "And what makes you think I want to work with you," he responded!
Clearly, I survived these receptions, but not with happy memories of them. I hope we no longer do this.
-- Peter Szolovits, January 4, 1998
Hello Mr. Szolovitis! My name is Shenica Perera. I am a native of California, though I have lived in Kansas since 1989. I am a recent graduate of Wichita State University. I don't recall the number of times that I have said proudly, "Wichita . . ." only to be deflated by the response, "Texas?" (Wichita Falls, TX) among other things. I enjoyed your anecdote; it describes something I can relate to well. Presently, I am interested in graduate study at MIT. Hopefully, I will meet many people with your perspective.
P.S. I am glad for your joining the MIT faculty. Thank you for your dedication.
Sincerely, Shenica Renee Perera <<email@example.com>>
-- Shenica` Perera, August 2, 2000
I'm sorry, but I have to laugh. That was really funny. I'm not laughing at you, but I am laughing at the big picture. You see, I had similar problems when I started fresh out of high school into a culinary career. When your an outsider, no one wants you to be inside ... especially if you're a young, short, female student with an attitude for success. It was not very successful, but for some reason it took two years to realize that. Yes, two years later the whole staff still treated me as if it were my first day. Then I realized I was born with a brain and should use it to get out of the hell hole I was stuck in. I switched majors to Computer Science...I'm much happier now. :o) Besides all that, your little anecdote has finally proven what I have known to be true all along: When you work in a field where there is high competition (mentally and physically), you will always get the cold shoulder from the coworkers. Its not as if they hate you, they just don't respect you ... yet. And when it's been long enough, and they still don't respect you, it just means they are intimidated by you. Speaking of intimidation... I'm a community college student. I have to spell check this. Sick isn't it? -How the quality of my education could suck so much and yet I just might actually have a bright future. LOL
-Janine (NJ, 21) firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Janine Naimoli, December 15, 2000
Wow... Four years later I stumble into this page and view my original response.
Four years later and my Computer Science education is landing me a ton of freelance (I actually have to turn people down.) and a decent job working head to head with some of NJIT's best and brightest. I still don't have a degree and yes, I still have to spell check this. :-)
-- Janine Naimoli, January 28, 2004