On February 24, 2021, the Office of Minority Education (OME) hosted the first virtual Induction Ceremony to induct 28 sophomores into the Laureates and Leaders program. Laureates and Leaders (L&L) is designed to encourage and support students, especially those from underrepresented minority groups, who are interested in pursuing a PhD or MD/PhD in STEM. In the program, the students become a part of a community of peers, L&L staff, faculty, graduate students, and alumni, who will mentor them during the graduate school preparation and application process.
The ceremony was led by Lilen Uchima, assistant dean in the OME and lead of the Laureates and Leaders program, and had special guest speakers including Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz, who gave welcome remarks. Vice Chancellor Waitz highlighted both the personal and broader impacts of the L&L program by emphasizing how students will benefit from the program’s support and their future fields of study will benefit from their diverse experiences and leadership.
Professor Alberto Rodriguez, associate professor in mechanical engineering, gave the keynote speech of the ceremony. He reflected on his path to graduate school and academia, driven by his passion in robotics. He encouraged the inductees to invest their time at MIT in cultivating their passions. Prof. Rodriguez also emphasized the importance of the mentor-mentee relationship, sharing how his PhD advisor was not only his academic advisor but also a friend and mentor in his life.
Andrea Orji ’21, a senior in chemical engineering, led the student testimonial and oath. She shared the story of how she became interested in the medical uses of chemical engineering and how she was once wary of pursuing an MD/PhD for fear that she would lose time to make an impact. While in the L&L program, she learned that both could occur simultaneously, saying, “No matter what I chose to do, the most important thing to me is to create an impact.”
Dean DiOnetta Jones Crayton, associate dean and director of the OME, closed the ceremony. She highlighted the importance of the support of the L&L program and shared how proud she and the rest of the OME team are of the new Laureates and Leaders cohort of the Class of 2023.
– Dasha Castillo ’23