The MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) has announced the 36 extraordinary sophomores and junior students selected as the 2019 class of Burchard Scholars.
Over the course of one calendar year, from February to December, the Burchard Scholars Program hosts dinner-seminars that bring together distinguished MIT faculty and promising sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated excellence in some aspect of the humanities, arts, or social sciences.
Selection is competitive; and this year’s scholars represent the breadth of the Institute’s research and teaching domains, with majors that include biology, electrical engineering, music, computer science, data science, economics, molecular biology, mathematics, comparative media studies, and aerospace engineering, among others.
“The Burchard Scholars are a thrilling group of students,” writes Margery Resnick, professor of literature and director of the Burchard Scholars program. “They are energized by ideas and consistently willing to express points of view that challenge commonly held ideas.”
Expanding intellectual horizons
Named in honor of John Ely Burchard, the first dean of SHASS, the Burchard program allows for a vigorous, challenging of ideas from across the Institute. The “Burchards,” as the scholars are known, are encouraged to confront new ideas from beyond their major fields, and to use the adaptive, critical thinking skills of the humanities to interrogate unfamiliar concepts.
Andrea Wirth, SHASS academic administrator, observes that the Burchards have a unique opportunity at MIT: “They get to practice critical thinking and engagement with peers and Faculty Fellows in the process of discovering and grappling with new ideas and topics.”
“The scholars learn to respect other’s opinions and to support their own viewpoints,” says Wirth. “They have the opportunity to practice professional courtesy in the way they engage with the people around them. It’s a safe environment to prepare for interactions which will benefit the students in all kinds of future professional or academic ventures.”
Many former Burchard Scholars have been honored with prominent awards and recognition, including Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman scholarships and fellowships.
Developing leadership skills
The first event for the new Burchard scholars will be a celebratory reception in February, near the beginning of the spring semester. Subsequently, the scholars will attend seven, monthly dinner-seminars, culminating in December as they conclude the program.
Additionally, the scholars will attend one cultural event in the fall; last year’s Burchards had the chance to attend the opening night of Schoenberg in Hollywood, a new opera from Professor Tod Machover in collaboration with the Boston Lyric Opera. In 2017, students attended MIT Senior Lecturer Kenneth Urban’s world premiere production of “A Guide for the Homesick” staged by Huntington Theater Company, and the year before, they attended the Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Carmen. All productions involved talks by Burchard Faculty Fellows or the writers themselves, which enabled the Burchards to delve more deeply into the meaning of the productions.
In their year as Burchard Scholars, MIT students broaden the scope of their MIT experience and gain experience in the art of intellectual give-and-take, allowing them to take their place as colleagues and leaders in future endeavors.
The 2019 Burchard Scholars:
Muskaan Aggarwal, junior in biology
Crystal Chang, junior in biology
Fiona Chen, sophomore in computer science, economics, and data science
Isabelle Chong, sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science
Rionna Flynn, sophomore in physics
Sebastian Franjou, junior in music
Patricia Gao, sophomore in computer science and molecular biology
Cynthia Harris, junior in biology
Elissa He, sophomore in humanities and engineering
Robert Henning, junior in electrical engineering and computer science
Lior Hirschfeld, sophomore in mathematics
Catherine Huang, sophomore in computer science, economics, and data science
Ameena Iqbal, sophomore in chemistry and biology
Natasha Joglekar, sophomore in computer science and molecular biology with a minor in women’s and gender studies
Talia Khan, junior in materials science and engineering; minor in music
Madeleine Kline, junior in chemistry and biology
Tingyu Li, sophomore in management
Margaret Libby, sophomore in biology
Tara Liu, junior in comparative media studies, computer science, and engineering
Aaron Makikalli, sophomore in aerospace engineering
Leanne Morical, sophomore in mechanical engineering
Ciara Mulcahy, junior in materials science and engineering
Anjali Nambrath, sophomore in physics with a minor in French
Ethan Oak, sophomore in business analytics
Maisha Prome, sophomore in biological engineering
Chad Qian, junior in economics and mathematics with computer science
J Shelly, junior in biology
Amy Shim, sophomore in humanities and engineering
Yotaro Sueoka, junior in biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences with a minor in computer science
Steven Truong, junior in biological engineering and writing
Rona Wang, sophomore in comparative media studies
Erica Weng, junior in computer science and engineering
Isabelle Yen, sophomore in computer science, economics and data science
Whitney Zhang, sophomore in mathematical economics
Lena Zhu, junior in brain and cognitive sciences and biology with a minor in biomedical engineering
Yiwei Zhu, sophomore in computer science and engineering