Honor that promotes change

“I grew up thinking the government would do no good,” says Michel Tang. Today, Aerospace Engineering Major is involved in community mobilization and plans a career in public service and policy.

Tang’s Heart Change and Direction was the immersive summer of 2021, with Massachusetts State Representative Erica Uiterhoven, an assistant to the Legislative Assembly, making the local government more transparent to the parties. Tang said she understood how elected officials “can attract powers to do something.”

This experience would not have been possible without the support of the Jeffrey L. Presman. The award, administered annually by the MIT Department of Political Science, recognizes talented bachelor’s degrees in US government, politics, policy, law or academic research or practice. With Pressman grants, MIT students have the freedom to explore new domains for them, sometimes away from elementary study courses. Tang and other undergraduates say it is an opportunity to make a difference.

Change from STEM

Stephanie Zhang came to MIT to focus on computational biology. “It was one of the few schools in the field with a degree program and I really wanted to work on cancer,” she said. “It was the last disease that needed to be addressed.” She studied the effects of hormones and sex chromosomes on gene expression at the White House, and In 2021, she was awarded the Mark of Excellence in Computational Biology or Bioinformatics.

But she was dissatisfied with her experience in areas of her core business. She spent the summer in a cloud-based enterprise company developing software to save a person for an hour. “Maybe what I’m doing is not helping anyone and what I want to do is to have a more direct impact.”

In the first few years, Zhang enjoyed taking 17.40 (US foreign policy) and other political science courses. “I began to think that political science gave me the opportunity to think deeply about problems and explore the world,” she says.

In her junior year, “political science is already very close to adolescence,” she decided to add Zhang Course 17 to another major, computer science and molecular biology. Then a flash of education, politics, and inequality taught by Ben Ross Schneider, a professor of political science at Ford International.

“The most important thing for me was education policy, especially education,” she said. As a child of software engineers in Bolder, Colorado, Zhang knew that she could have “wonderful learning experiences” that many of her MIT classmates would not have. That was a topic she felt she should investigate.

Zhang won the Presbyterian Prize for working on Capitol Hill as a North Carolina Senator Richard Burr practitioner of the Health, Education, Labor and Retirement Committee. “I did not know about politics, and I thought it would be a good idea to jump into the thick of it, to see the policy process with my own hands,” she said.

Zhang Kovid-19 writes research reports on the impact on schools. She also attended US Senate hearings, debates, and votes. She says that this experience gave her a meaning that she could not find in her scientific research. Zhang is now a graduate of the New York University of the Arts, and is currently pursuing an unprecedented career in MIT. “Presidentman’s experience has confirmed my interest in public policy and my desire to work to some degree for the government,” she said.


David Specker, who grew up in Little Sulfur, Louisiana, picked up what he called a “perverted sense” in the fourth grade. “I was buying a big coupon to save money on things that are important to life,” he said. Spider was so successful that he became “the biggest consumer in the family, able to buy hundreds of dollars for $ 10.” Spider has become a source of sulfur for neighbors in need.

In spite of all the inequalities, Spider organized teachers and students to seek better financial support for the high school. “We met with Louisiana state education officials,” he says. “He taught me to be an advocate, to say when I see something wrong.”

Spicer brought this commitment he learned from edX courses to MIT. “I was preoccupied with issues of education and racial equity and discrimination and I knew I wanted to explore different research practices and practices in these areas.” The principal of the 17th course provided the support and flexibility needed to pursue such an academic program, both in and out of the classroom, Spicer said.

In January, he won an internship with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC), which was established to make education more accessible and equitable. With the Presbyterian Prize, he co-authored a CVD-19 database and spent the entire summer with the team.

“The helpline on the MAC was screaming with families who needed equipment to keep their children in the classroom or whose children were out of school and named as landlords.” “Working with low-income families and children with disabilities has often bothered me,” said Spider, a child with a speech impediment and a Mexican-American heritage. In particular, he agreed on issues of racial inequality in special education. “It is well known that black men are subject to disproportionate discipline in schools, and when I finished my cleaning I was thinking about the intersection.”

At the time of the outbreak, Spicer organized webinars to help families learn about their rights to virtual education and worked with Mac’s lawyers. It was difficult to hear directly from the parents; But he said: “It was something that inspired me, something that made me love him.” “I know I’m in the right place to make a difference.”

This experience not only told Spicer, “Learning is the way to go,” but also “it helped me to control my thinking about equality, diversity, and inclusion.” “After looking at the differences in MAC lawyers in people’s lives, he said he was considering getting a law degree to” advocate for families and bring more equitable policies into the education system, “he said. “I can be a leader in DEI with a law degree and a doctorate degree [diversity, equity, and inclusion] In Education “

The power of local politics

For Michelle Tang, Presence’s experience has enabled her to deal with problems that have an immediate and tangible impact on people’s lives. As an Assistant State Representative, she assisted Somerville, Massachusetts, by building a website to inform and engage voters on issues at their doorstep, including major urban redevelopment affecting green spaces and affordable housing.

During her assignment, she oversaw the implications of the law in Massachusetts State House for Summerville neighborhoods, and found organizers who pushed for social justice and racial justice. “I recognize that there is a lot of work to be done on environmental policy issues that cannot be addressed at the federal level,” she said. “Because of working on this, I have been involved in local election campaigns and now I want to get involved in local politics.”

Tang is particularly interested in what it can do to combat climate change in the Boston area, laws on carbon emissions from buildings and transportation, and Logan Airport. “There is a lot of work here, and I want to stay and help with these initiatives.”


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