Faces of MIT: Reimi Hicks

July 06, 2024

After almost 50 years at the Institute, the MIT Introduction to Technology, Engineering, and Science (MITES) programs for middle and high school students continue to evolve. Someone who has overseen different aspects of the program over the last nine years is MITES Associate Director of Recruitment and Admissions Reimi Hicks. MITES advances equity and access in STEM through three outreach programs: MITES Saturdays, MITES Semester, and MITES Summer. When Hicks visits schools, she opens the MIT Daily email newsletter and shows examples of how current MIT students are applying the nuts and bolts of the MITES programs to projects. When telling high school students about MITES, Hicks and her colleagues take their role as people introducing students to college very seriously.

After almost 50 years at the Institute, the MIT Introduction to Technology, Engineering, and Science (MITES) programs for middle and high school students continue to evolve. MITES increases confidence, creates community, and offers a challenging foundation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) topics for seventh through 12th grade students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Someone who has overseen different aspects of the program over the last nine years is MITES Associate Director of Recruitment and Admissions Reimi Hicks.  

Hicks began her time with MITES by running MITES Summer, their flagship program since 1975, during which she lived with students in dorms on campus. As a testament to her leadership, her role expanded to oversee MITES’ suite of outreach programs. In her current role, Hicks manages all efforts related to student and staff recruitment. 

MITES advances equity and access in STEM through three outreach programs: MITES Saturdays, MITES Semester, and MITES Summer. The core of each program is college preparation activities, challenging coursework, and community building. Generous support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and MIT enables MITES to provide all programming and room and board at no cost to students or their families.   

MITES Summer is a six-week residential experience for rising seniors in high school. MITES Semester launched when a MITES Summer alum wanted to expand access to the program to more students. Out of the inquiry came MITES Semester, also for rising high school seniors, a virtual six-month enrichment program. MITES Saturdays is a hybrid initiative for students who attend public school in Boston, Cambridge, or Lawrence, Massachusetts, throughout the academic year. Students can enroll in MITES Saturdays as early as seventh grade and remain in the program until they graduate from high school.  

The focus of MITES is rigorous STEM academics. However, Hicks and the MITES team know that when students come to them the other parts of their lives do not fall away. For them to be effective, staff members need to engage with them in other, nonacademic ways. As a result, their programs include workshops, design challenges, mentor meetings, and social community-building events.  

Hicks refers to MITES as “a very high-touch program,” with one staff member for every five students. This ratio ensures that students feel seen, heard, and cared for. MITES instructors and mentors come from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Some are faculty or staff members at MIT, many are working professionals in STEM fields, and others are graduate students and postdocs from nearby colleges and universities. Each year, 100 temporary staff members join MITES to prepare students to attend college at places such as MIT, affirm their interest and their sense of belonging in STEM, and connect them with the information and the people they need to accomplish their goals. MITES alumni who volunteer to mentor students also play a pivotal role. 

Hicks and her colleagues take a multifaceted approach to outreach, and they prioritize proactively getting the word out to as many people as possible. They have built relationships with a wide network of schools and introduce hundreds of students to MITES programming each year. When Hicks visits schools, she opens the MIT Daily email newsletter and shows examples of how current MIT students are applying the nuts and bolts of the MITES programs to projects. Hicks notes that when she sees their eyes widen, it is a reminder that the work that happens at the Institute is extraordinary. 

Beyond leading the strategy of recruitment and admissions, Hicks’s job centers around relationship building. When telling high school students about MITES, Hicks and her colleagues take their role as people introducing students to college very seriously. While not all graduates of MITES attend MIT for higher education, it is the most popular school to which MITES alumni matriculate. 

“A lot of our work is about being positive ambassadors for the Institute,” Hicks explains. “It is very important to us to attract the most talented, motivated students, regardless of ZIP code, because our mission is to increase accessibility to STEM fields for young folks across the country.” 

The outreach is paying off. Over 4,000 students applied to MITES in 2024, the largest applicant pool in the program’s history. The MITES application is like a college application; students share a little bit about themselves including their backgrounds, their free time activities, work and volunteer experience, and extracurriculars in addition to their transcripts. Short-answer questions help the MITES team learn what is important to the students and what motivates them. The application process allows Hicks to get a sense of each student beyond their transcript. 

An important thought partner in the recruitment and marketing process are MITES alumni. This tight-knit group spreads the word about MITES to their networks and communities. In fact, MITES alumni were a part of Hicks’s interview process.  

“The alumni spoke about the importance of community,” Hicks recalls. “I cannot tell you how many alumni I have spoken to, and I have seen thousands of students come through our programs, who tell us that even 30 years later they are still friends with the people they met through MITES. They are study buddies at the same college, they become business partners, or they are best friends. That connection is important for the program's peers and instructors.” 

MITES uses the saying “It’s all about the Delta,” in reference to the Greek letter that symbolizes a measure of change. In other words, their programs are not about competing with other students for the best grades; instead, it is about individual growth over time. In the face of challenging coursework and high expectations, Hicks and her colleagues want participants to have personal growth and lift others up as they grow themselves. 

Soundbytes 

Q: What about your job brings you the most pride? 

A: What brings me the most pride is when I see students who participated in MITES ultimately find a home at MIT for college. When a student I spoke to as a sixth grader or one that I lived in the dorms with over a summer enrolls at MIT, I had the privilege of being a small part of their MIT journey. 

Q: What do you like the most about the people at MIT? 

A: What I appreciate the most about my colleagues is that they are all mission-driven. They care genuinely about the work that we do, which I find motivating. MIT attracts people who are open to feedback, willing to challenge themselves and their assumptions, and who work hard in the pursuit of solving a problem or accomplishing a goal. 

Q: What advice would you give to a new staff member at MIT? 

A: Find the right balance between doing and learning. The pace and volume of work can sometimes be a lot, but take the time to watch, learn, and collect information about how MIT operates. It will help you become effective in whatever role that you are in. 

The source of this news is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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