In 2017, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings named MIT one of the top two universities worldwide for arts and humanities education. It’s true—as a university best known for science and engineering, MIT offers a surprisingly rich array of courses in the arts and humanities. But it’s not just the faculty and curriculum that make MIT such a vibrant setting for a varied and complete education; it’s also our students. Their curiosity about the world, their maturity in learning about that world in order to improve it, and their general eagerness to grow as expressive human beings, scholars, and activists help explain why MIT is such an exciting place to engage with the arts and humanities alongside the sciences and engineering.
In our writing classes, we continually witness students’ willingness to delve for the truth about themselves, as well as their openness to the truths of others’ lives—traits we see as key to their strength as writers of personal narrative. You’ll find this openness at work in the two essays that launch our magazine. Here student writers reflect on their own experiences and relationships with an empathy and honesty that feels to us mature beyond their years. (See Tanya Llanas’ “Capital e” and TojumiOluwa Adegboyega’s “Making Peace with my Standards.”)
Then, in the work we’ve selected for the second section of this year’s Angles, you’ll see our students’ interest in a variety of genres of self-expression, as they weave graphic elements into their writing (Kathryn Mohr’s “The Figure on the Hillside” and Katherine Gohres “On Zhong and Bakeries”) or express their enthusiasm for the full range of the arts—especially their perceptive appreciation of music (Darian Bhathena’s “Finding the Sweet Spot” and Allison Tam’s “The Many Worlds Behind ‘Nocturne’”). Housed as we are in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing program, this engagement with a range of media seems particularly fitting.
In our third section, we hope you’ll recognize how our students’ maturity extends beyond self-awareness and empathy to active engagement with the world—and universe. Students so often arrive at MIT already intent on pushing forward our collective understanding of one or another pressing scientific problem—as witnessed in the two Scientific American updates (Yue Zhong’s “Protecting Against Lyme Disease” and Lena Zhu’s “Cancer-Causing Fat”). This, of course, while maintaining their capacity to simply marvel at the way that world and universe work (Andrew J. Iversen’s “Celestial Pirouettes”).
Finally, in our last section, you’ll find our students taking pleasure in the creative, sometimes quite unorthodox, scientific careers that MIT so often helps launch (in two profiles: Caitlin McCandler’s “Conor Cullinane” and Karina Hinojosa’s “Light up and Clean up”), while also encouraging MIT to further extend a welcoming hand to those traditionally underrepresented in the STEM disciplines (Elyse Plachinski’s “The BOSS Lab for Female Scientists”).
We hope you enjoy this selection of student writing from the 2016-2017 introductory writing courses at MIT.
Lucy Marx and Cynthia Taft, Co-Editors