Kristen Covino to be new Associate Head of Senior House

Construction in the dorm expected to be complete by registration day

Kristen Covino, former area director of Baker House, will be the Associate Head of House for Senior House starting August 1.

Covino’s appointment in Senior House was unanimously endorsed by a committee that included Senior House student leadership, MIT administrators, and members of the Senior House house team.  

Covino has experience working with LGBTQ groups and other underrepresented communities, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 said in an email to the Senior House community last Friday.

Senior House President Sarah Melvin ’18 says that though many residents do not support the addition of an Associate Head of House, she is “optimistic that Kristen will work with students to help bridge the divide between [the Senior House] community and the administration.”

Covino will be the only new addition to the live-in Senior House house team this fall.

Joe Zimakas, the current Senior House area director, will take on a new role as an S^3 Staff Associate this fall, Barnhart’s email said. Zimakas will provide personal and academic support to residents and will hold drop-in office hours. There will not be an area director for Senior House this year.  

Arrangements with MIT Mental Health and Counseling to provide mental health resources in the dorm are still underway. Barnhart says that they hope to implement a Let’s Chat model where students can drop in and speak confidentially with a mental health professional. According to the MIT Mental Health and Counseling website, the Let’s Chat model is intended to provide “brief consultation and referral to resources” and says that it not a setting for formal counseling, does not provide mental health evaluations, and is not a crisis-intervention service.

Efforts are being made to provide opportunities for Senior House residents to engage with the arts, which is a “key value for community,” states a document outlining the turnaround team’s subcommittees and goals.

MIT will work to bring in visiting resident artists to Senior House to lead workshops, classes, dinners, discussions, and studio visits. The turnaround team is working with the Center for Art Science and Technology and the MIT Visiting Artist Program to identify potential visiting resident artists. Additionally, there are plans to create two art studios in the dorm.

“Artistic expression has always been important to haus residents,” Melvin said adding that these art programs and spaces “will help encourage [that] part of [the Senior House] culture.”

Office spaces for new resources and residential space for the new Associate Head of House will be added to the first floor of the building. Space in the dorm for the visiting artist’s apartment will also be arranged. Additionally, bicycle maintenance stations and study spaces will be added to the dorm. Construction is expected to be finished by registration day. Construction on updates to the fitness room and the Flamingo Lounge have already been completed.

The chancellor says that several current students have transferred into Senior House and they “expect to approve more [transfer requests] as they come in.”

Some of the goals of the subcommittees of the turnaround team include “[understanding] the most positive aspects of the Senior House culture and find ways to enhance these to build a stronger community,” creating “in‐house peer resources, mentorship programs with faculty and alumni, alcohol and drug education,” and “[measuring] effective self‐governance in Senior House.”

These subcommittees will include students, GRTs, faculty, the Associate Head of House, and other staff. Each subcommittee will be co-chaired by a Senior House undergraduate and an MIT staff member. The subcommittees will be overseen by the Steering Committee, headed by the Chancellor. The Steering Committee will include Head of House Jay Scheib, Associate Head of House Kristen Covino, Senior House Co‐Presidents Sarah Melvin and James Handy ’18, a Senior House GRT, and the co‐chairs of each turnaround subcommittee.

Melvin says that while the process has not been “optimal for students,” there has been “progress in the past few weeks and some of [the students’] concerns have been addressed.”

Senior House residents and alumni have been working together to start an alumni mentorship program, Melvin told The Tech. She thinks this program will be especially beneficial to residents “whose interests fall outside typical MIT paths.”

Despite that freshman will not be housed in Senior House this fall, the dorm will host events during REX such as an “Open Haus” that will allow freshmen to tour the dorm, meet residents, and hear music played by student musicians living in Senior House.   

“We still want freshmen to be a part of our community, even if they are not allowed to call it home just yet,” Melvin said.