Getting Involved with MIT

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on May 14, 2015 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Public Service

At the Alumni Leadership Conference, Don Shobrys congratulates a award winner.

At the Alumni Leadership Conference, Don Shobrys, right, congratulates a member of the Senior Class Gift Committee, which achieved a record-breaking participation level. Photo: Melody Ko.

Guest Blogger: Don Shobrys ’75, Association president

Alumni often ask me how to get involved with MIT. Even the longest journey begins with a single step, and the first step is to connect with something that interests you. If you are competent and contribute, that first step will lead to many others.

My first job was in Houston, where I joined the local MIT Club, volunteered for telethons and worked on reunion committees. That led to being the chair of my 25th reunion gift committee. We had a great group of volunteers and our classmates were generous so we set a new record. That got me an invitation to join the MIT Annual Fund Board. A few years later I ended up as the chair, which also gave me an ex officio seat on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. A stint on the Visiting Committee for the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) led to my role in creating the Friends of DAPER. After a move to Boston, Annual Fund staff and a fellow visiting committee member pointed me towards the MIT Venture Mentoring Service. During a stint on the Corporate Development Committee, a chance conversation led to my role in creating the Alumni Advisory Council for the Engineering Systems Division. And now I am at the end of my term as president of the Alumni Association.

Alumni volunteers meet over festive meals as well as workshops and faculty talk during ALC.

Alumni volunteers meet over festive meals as well as at workshops and faculty talks during ALC.

So where should you start your journey? A great place is on the Association’s Become a Volunteer web page, where you will find out how to get involved with your class, a regional club, or with students. You can help others with their careers or explore a wide range of specific interests from public service to entrepreneurship to STEM education. A link lets you nominate yourself or others for leadership roles in the Alumni Association, and you can even reach out to Alumni Association staff.

If you are considering serious involvement with a nonprofit, or even starting your own, you can learn a lot by serving on your reunion gift committee, as a class or William Barton Rogers Society agent, or on the Annual Fund Board. Years ago the head development officer for a nonprofit in New Jersey told me that the elite academic institutions are the gold standard for nonprofit fundraising. My involvement with MIT has been a wonderful education in that area.

If you are adventurous, go to and search for a specific interest plus the words “alumni volunteer.” Be persistent. At MIT anything worth doing is worth doing at least a dozen different ways, so there are many potential points of contact around any specific interest.

A final, terrific option is to go to the Alumni Leadership Conference on September 25−26. You get to catch up with what is going at MIT, meet a lot of wonderful people, and learn what volunteers do at MIT. MIT folks are a fascinating, friendly bunch. For me, the joy in getting involved comes from the people you meet, the friends you make, and the knowledge that you are helping one of the world’s great educational institutions move forward.

Maya Angelou once said “we find our path by walking it.” So start your journey today. Do some homework, ask some questions, and find something you want to pursue. Like me, you may be amazed at where your path takes you.

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