Ayida Mthembu, associate dean for counseling and support services, has been selected as the 1997 winner of the YMCA Black Achiever Award at MIT. The awards banquet will be held on Jan. 22, 1998.
The Black Achievers program recognizes African-Americans in the Boston area as well as regions served by 75 other YMCAs around the country. Recipients are nominated for their professional accomplishments and their volunteer community service with young people. As part of the program, they agree to commit at least 40 hours with youths in the Black Achievers Community Service Program. Ms. Mthembu will work with area youth in a program designed by the YMCA.
"Drawing on her long-standing interest and scholarship in the field of comparative studies, she has devoted considerable energy to developing a better understanding between students and all people from diverse groups and backgrounds," said Arnold Henderson, associate dean and section head in counseling and support services, in a letter nominating Ms. Mthembu for the Black Achievers honor. "Her fine intelligence, warmth and sensitivity have enabled her to assist many students."
Mr. Henderson lauded Ms. Mthem-bu's work on the Campus Committee on Race Relations, developing programs as head of the grants subcommittee, as well as her work in bringing speakers, artists and musicians from underrepresented groups to campus. She is also an organizer of the Intuitively Obvious series of videos and discussions in which MIT students talk about racial attitudes.
Ms. Mthembu began working at MIT in 1989 as an assistant dean and was promoted to associate dean in 1996. She has also been associate housemaster at East Campus since 1990.
Ms. Mthembu received the BA in political science from the University of California at Los Angeles (1970), the MFA in screenwriting (1982) from the American Film Institute, and the MA in comparative culture (1985) from the University of California at Irvine. She is now working on her doctoral thesis, a study of the images of male detectives in television crime dramas of the 1950s-70s. She has also extensively studied the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and is a published poet.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 17, 1997.