The CRWN Inaugural Induction Ceremony

The CRWN Inaugural Induction Ceremony

Group photo of the inaugural cohort of The CRWN at the induction ceremony.
The inaugural cohort of women of color were inducted into The CRWN in November.

The Office of Minority Education’s (OME) newly created women of color initiative called The Creative Regal Women of kNowledge (The CRWN) held its inaugural Induction “Taji” Ceremony on Thursday, November 9, 2023, in the Porter Room of Burton-Conner House. In attendance at this memorial occasion were members of the MIT community represented by key senior leaders, faculty, staff and invited guests. The CRWN is targeted for second-year students and above, and its mission is to inspire undergraduate women of color to move confidently as visionaries, grounded in excellence, empathy, and support for one another. Women of color (WOC) includes transgender women, cisgender women, and non-binary people. The program is focused on four primary pillars: personal development, community, academic excellence, and professional development. Students may renew their “membership” each academic year. In addition to the member-only activities of The CRWN, large-scale community events are open to the WOC undergraduate community as well.

The ceremony was amazing! Guests were ushered into a “magical” transformation of the room, at first glance almost enchanting. The young women, adorned in beautiful gowns of cultural attire, glowed with excitement, poise, and the expectancy of their “crowning” moment. It was evident that everyone who entered the room was transformed with that same sense of electricity and contagious energy.

For the opening, DiOnetta Jones Crayton, Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Minority Education, shared welcoming and congratulatory remarks to the first cohort of The CRWN. “The OME is truly honored to officially introduce you to The CRWN, through our special Induction Ceremony, we call Taji, which actually means Crown. This is our inaugural cohort, and we have 26 undergraduate women of color being inducted tonight (8 sophomores, 14 juniors, and 4 seniors). Women who identify as Asian American/Pacific Islander, African American/Black and Caribbean, Indigenous, Latinx, Mediterranean, White; as cisgender, Agender and Gender queer; women who are studying various MIT disciplines, and have unique and complementary interests and lived experiences. This makes up the richness of The CRWN.”

Dean Crayton then read greetings from Chancellor Melissa Nobles, who could not be in attendance. Chancellor Nobles first thanked the OME staff “who have been essential in establishing this program,” the Vice Chancellor “for his strong support,” and “especially” thanked those MIT students who were instrumental in providing critical feedback. Chancellor Nobles reflected on her own experiences and challenges, particularly as a woman of color. Her remarks revealed two “really important things” that helped her along the way: (1) “Community, strong support network” – having a support team; and (2) “Paying it forward” – creating a welcoming environment for those who are new. “I never forget my path. I use my path to pave the way for others to belong, to thrive, to be happy, to be resilient. To succeed.” In her closing remarks, Chancellor Nobles congratulated “the Jewels in the room … this is your night, take it all in and be excited for what comes next.”

CRWN inductees clapping
The CRWN inductees (Jewels) gather in a circle of unity to accept a traditional Hawaiian spiritual blessing.

Other notable speakers were Professor Christine Ortiz, Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, whose keynote presentation captivated the audience. Beatriz Cantada, Director of Engagement for Diversity and Inclusion in the Institute Community and Equity Office, led the 26 inductees (one in absentia) in accepting the CRWN’s uplifting and empowering Oath, which includes affirming statements like, “I will be true to myself. I am intelligent. Creative. I radiate excellence. I will strive to always do my best and to celebrate my journey.” Afterwards, the CRWN Jewels (the cohort’s unofficial name) were inducted into the program by Adria Peterkin, OME Graduate Community Fellow and MC for the evening. They all received special CRWN certificates and gift bags. In closing, Nina Lytton, Spiritual Advisor to the Indigenous Community at MIT, drew the CRWN Jewels together in a circle of unity and offered a traditional Hawaiian spiritual blessing.

The CRWN kicks off the spring semester with a Welcome Back Event on February 22, 2024, in the Margaret Cheney Room, Bldg. 3-308, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. This event is open to current members of the CRWN and all women of color undergraduates.

— DiOnetta Jones Crayton and Cheryl Mottley, OME