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New MIT Sloan Student Senate leaders aim to build school unity

Co-presidents look to strengthen collaboration among classmates and across MIT

September 18, 2014

Hema Bajaj and John Mahler

Hema Bajaj and John Mahler

Hema Bajaj and John Mahler, both MBA ’15, formed a fast friendship that began during the first AdMIT weekend they attended back in 2013. They further bonded during MBA Orientation last year, and with common leadership aspirations, joked about heading up the MIT Sloan Student Senate together.

Today, following elections last spring, the two are co-presidents of the Senate, the official student government that represents approximately 1,200 students in the MBA, Leaders for Global Operations, Master of Finance, MIT Executive MBA, MIT Sloan Fellows, and Master of Science in Management Studies programs. There are approximately 75 student senators, who make up nearly a dozen committees in the Senate. The full Senate meets once a week during the school year.

Bajaj and Mahler said they were inspired to lead the group after serving as senators last year, where they saw several changes take effect in a short period of time.

“Serving on the Senate is a way to bring about tangible change on the campus,” Bajaj said. “I was on the careers committee last year, and we took a lot of student feedback, especially about non-traditional careers. We worked with the Career Development Office to build relationships with more unconventional companies and to organize more career panels so students could hear from other students about how to get a job at a non-traditional employer.”

Mahler was on the academics committee, which worked with the school administration to transform the Sloan Innovation Period, an intensive week of experiential leadership learning in the middle of each semester. SIP has been redefined, using the frame of the MIT Sloan mission, to create interactive and engaging immersive learning experiences for students that draw on the expertise of the MIT and MIT Sloan faculty.

“The changes really integrated a lot of things that we heard from students,” Mahler said. “And, the entire process—from gathering student feedback to brainstorming solutions to coming to a resolution with administrators—took place in one calendar year.”

Mahler and Bajaj also formed a OneMIT Senate committee, led by three Senate vice presidents who helped introduce new activities such as the first all-MIT graduate student welcome picnic held in late August. The event attracted nearly 1,000 students from all of MIT’s graduate programs.

OneMIT, launched last year, aims to strengthen collaboration across all of the MIT graduate communities by facilitating communication and interaction among all graduate students. Ideally, it will help students build lasting connections, accelerate innovation in conjunction with the institute’s Innovation Initiative, and cultivate a sense of community across departments that could yield more interdisciplinary opportunities, according to Mahler and Bajaj.

The Senate is now working to build on programs like OneMIT. This effort followed on the heels of the OneSloan initiative, a push across the school to create a sense of community among MIT Sloan students from all programs. OneSloan introduced activities such as an off-site camping trip for all students and an occasional speaker series called The Yarn, where students share life-changing stories.

“The OneSloan initiative was wildly successful and there are now numerous programs targeted at attracting involvement from all groups within Sloan,” Bajaj said. “The OneMIT initiative is an extension of this idea of inclusiveness across the entirety of the campus.”

Mahler and Bajaj are also eager to meet MIT Sloan alumni. “We want to have senators attend alumni events throughout the United States to be the face of the current student population to get alumni excited about the School, so they will support the MIT Sloan community,” Mahler said.

Future needs

The co-presidents agreed that they will adjust their priorities as necessary, particularly as they get to know the incoming class of 2016. They encourage new students to consider becoming involved in student government.

Bajaj and Mahler are also busy with schoolwork and preparing to graduate in the spring. When asked about their leadership qualities, they answered for each other.

“Hema is an incredibly effective leader,” Mahler said. “She is able to rally support by expressing and showing empathy and understanding for others’ issues. In addition, she is a dedicated worker, whose attention to detail and consistency engender confidence among the people who follow her lead.”

Bajaj praised Mahler’s intelligence and “magnetic personality.” She added, “He dedicates himself to causes and projects that he’s passionate about – rolling up his sleeves, pushing through plans, and advocating results.”

Both presidents urge anyone with feedback or questions to contact them at senateofficers@sloan.mit.edu