Alumni share their experiences with the freshman class

A forum entitled “Before and After — The MIT Experience,” took place Sunday in W20’s Mezzanine Lounge from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., featuring four speakers from the Class of 2017 and three from the Class of 1967.

The meeting of past and present MIT undergraduates was a cooperative effort between the 2017 Class Council and the 1967 Class Council. About 35 members of the Class of 2017 and about 20 members of the Class of 1967 attended.

The speakers from the Class of 1967 reflected on their time at MIT and the effect MIT had on the rest of their lives. Several of the speakers noted that their careers differed significantly from their undergraduate studies.

Joe Ferreira ’67, current head of Urban Information Systems in Course XI, said he originally majored in EECS. Of MIT students, he noted that “what they actually end up doing is different in terms,” but that they “still want to change the world.”

Larry L. Constantine ’67 said he experienced culture shock when he first got to MIT and found himself surrounded by people who were “smarter than [him].”

Constantine, who is now a published author under the pen name Lior Samson, described how he received his first F on an assignment while at MIT. He said that Prof. Emmet J. Larkin graded the essay and included the comment “no content, no structure, and your English is atrocious. See me!” When Constantine met with Prof. Larkin, he was told he would “never be able to write an intelligent sentence, much less an intelligent paragraph.”

Constantine took his professor’s criticism as a challenge and is thankful for the experience. He said that “it’s a sad irony that that couldn’t happen today” due to “political correctness.”

Barbara Gilchrest ’67, who said she was the first in her family to go to college, described her process of choosing MIT while on a trip to Boston with a friend. She said that at the time, the girls at Wellesley were “sitting in their dorm, ironing their dresses and discussing their dates they were going to have that night,” while “the [Radcliffe] girls were sitting around rather dejectedly talking about what a difficult, distressing world we lived in.” However, she said that the girls she met at MIT “wanted to talk about how they planned to change the world.” She explained that that is what made her fall in love with MIT. Now, she is a Professor and Chair Emeritus of Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology.

Reflecting on her decision to attend MIT, she has no regrets. She learned here that “if you’re given a complex problem, you can logic it out.” She added that she “never again saw the intensity of work that [she] saw in the people around [her] at MIT,” and especially praised MIT’s leaders for taking action against gender discrimination.

Unlike the Class of 1967 speakers, the members of the Class of 2017 focused heavily on technical topics. Nikhil Buduma ’17 discussed biology and his research on giving cells the ability to perform computation, so that they can selectively repair genes. Clarisse Caliman ’17 reflected on her experiences traveling and working on social problems abroad. Rumya S. Raghavan ’17 followed up with a discussion about the cancer research she has performed and her plans to continue research in the future, while William W. Jack ‘17 narrated his experience building a homemade particle accelerator.

Impressed, Bob V. Ferrara ’67 asked the speakers from the Class of 2017 how they had gained so much experience already. “We’ve never done any of this stuff; I’m impressed,” he said.

Jack replied that he believes that it is the Internet that has enabled the Class of 2017 students to do so much. It’s “a great forum for sharing knowledge,” he said.

In the future, Ferrara said that his class plans to host more events with 2017s.