MIT students who will meet President Clinton at Commencement


Dedric A. Carter

1997-98 President of the Undergraduate Association
Class: 1998
Hometown: Clinton, SC
Majors: Electrical engineering and computer science, mechanical engineering
Plans: Graduate school
Reaction when told he would������������������meet President Clinton: I am extremely pleased to be a part of history at MIT. It is, in many ways, the completion of a circle for me. I met Vice President Gore two years ago, and it was definitely a thrill. Now I have the honor and privilege of meeting the sitting President of the United States of America before he makes the first speech by a sitting president at the premier institution of technology and science in the world. This doesn't happen every day to a small-town gentleman from South Carolina. I am definitely pleased.
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Geoffrey J. Coram

1997-98 President of the Graduate Student Council
Field: Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering
Hometown: Reston, VA
I grew up in Oklahoma and went to high school in Virginia (just outside DC). I did my undergraduate work at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I lived in Zagreb, Croatia, for a year while my father was a Fulbright professor, and I was a Fulbright student for a year in Wuerzburg, Germany. I'm studying electrical engineering, specifically nonlinear circuit theory. I won a Karl Taylor Compton Prize for extracurricular excellence and dedication to the MIT community. I went to two scientific conferences this past year &emdash; one in Hong Kong before the handover and one in Hawaii. I'm married (no children).
Reaction when told he would������������������meet President Clinton: They say everyone gets 15 minutes of fame, and I think this will be mine. I will give a one-minute address to the graduates, and President Clinton will be listening. I already anticipated being able to shake his hand. I was excited to get the E-mail that said we would get to meet him. I was trying to think if there were some really important issue that I should try to bring up, or if he hears too many people's opinions on national issues and would rather talk a little about MIT.
Dialogue with the President: I would want to point out the level of student debt and the importance of continued funding for graduate education to maintain U.S. competitiveness in science and technology. I would discuss the importance of foreign exchange programs, such as Rhodes and Fulbright (I received the grant, and he worked in the office of the late Senator Fulbright). I would also probably want to mention Lori Berenson's situation (jailed in Peru after a secret military trial).
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Duane Henry Dreger

(photo unavailable)
1998-99 President of the Interfraternity Council
Class: 1999
Major: Theoretical mathematics
Minors: History, economics
Hometown: North Ridgeville, OH
Plans: Law school, international corporate law
This past year I had to work under incredible stress to handle the crisis resulting from the death of MIT freshman Scott Krueger. I worked closely with IFC President Iddo Gilon to handle the media and review our policies and beliefs.
Dialogue with the President: If I could speak with the President, I would like to discuss drug- and alcohol-related issues, societal views, and what can be done to change those views.
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Hans Jacob Sverdrup Feder

(photo unavailable)
1998-99 Vice President of the Graduate Student Council
Field: Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering
Hometown: Oslo, Norway
Dialogue with the President: Could he could find the time to visit Norway? Does he believe in the importance of diversity in educational institutions? What role should education play in improving the conditions of the poor?
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Iddo Gilon

1997-98 President of the Interfraternity Council
Class: 1998
Hometown: Framingham, MA
Majors: B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science
Minor: Economics
Plans: Business school in financial engineering, work ethics, or strategic management
I was born in Israel, and my family came to the United States in 1987. At MIT I have been involved with the LeaderShape Institute, the Interfraternity Council, and the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning.
Reaction when told he would meet President Clinton: I was absolutely ecstatic. I have a very deep admiration for President and Mrs. Clinton's initiatives and impact on important topics such as education and health. I still don't believe this is happening.
Dialogue with the President: Do you think that the government/cabinet should have a department of science and technology to help understand social and technological trends and their implications? Would this help the government to anticipate change and prevent mishaps and disasters? Evidence from the media and from personal experience suggests that more and more of today's children and teens are brought up and educated with fewer and fewer ethical and moral values. As more families become two-income families with working mothers and fathers, it seems that what was once left in the domain of the family is getting less "air time." How can society and our educational communities bring ethics and values back to this generation? Is it possible to integrate those educational lessons in the K 12 curriculum? Could government play a role? What do you see as the major challenges facing the United States and the world in the next half/quarter century? Are the up-and-coming generations well enough educated to deal constructively with these issues? What might be some weaknesses to overcome?
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Jennifer A. Kelly

1998-99 Vice President of the Undergraduate Association
Class: 1999
Major: Brain and cognitive sciences
Hometown: New Rochelle, NY
The important events in my life in the last year included sailing in New Orleans at the Intercollegiate National Championships for Women's Sailing and, in a different arena, volunteering at a Cambridge public school with Reach Out: Teach a Child to Read. This is a new program organized through MIT's Public Service Center, which has involved many MIT students in teaching elementary children to read. My involvement has been enlightening.
Reaction when told she would������������������meet President Clinton: I was amazed since I often see the President as a very distant figure, viewed only on TV. I am glad that he is taking this opportunity to meet more of his constituents. I also wondered what the meeting would be like. For example, will we have a chance to hear his thoughts or to give him our opinions on things happening here, or will it be a handshake and a picture?
Dialogue with the President: First, I would like to ask what will happen to funding for scientific research now that the need for the war industry is dwindling. Second, does he feel that new programs meant to help children learn to read have been successful up to this point?
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Salman A. Khan

President of the Class of 1998
Class: 1998
Majors: S.B. in Math and in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and S.M. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
My interests are divided between government and being a high-tech entrepreneur. Immediately after graduation, I will go to work as a product manager for Oracle in California. In the long term, I plan on starting a company, possibly going to law school, and dabbling in politics. Being Senior Class President has been a blast! I couldn't have had a better senior year!
Dialogue with the President: I would most like to discuss Lori Berenson, the MIT alumna and American citizen who has been imprisoned for life in Peru. She was detained without a public trial. I know that the President has many concerns that involve issues on a much grander scale, but I feel that the wrongful imprisonment of a young American citizen is something that deserves more attention than it has been getting. Regarding affirmative action, I have always felt that both sides of the argument have avoided the main issue &emdash; namely, improving the conditions of the underprivileged. How does increasing the number of minority students at Harvard benefit a welfare recipient in South Central L.A.? All it does is create a stigma against minority students who have done well. People say or think, "They got in only because they are Black (or Hispanic)," and it provides a false sense of equality. Quotas in industry or academia mean nothing when there are students in New Orleans who are afraid of getting shot at school. Clearly, this is a very touchy and complicated issue, but the discussion should go beyond whether or not to have quotas (since I don't think having them or not would significantly affect most underrepresented minorities). Regarding Israel/Palestine and Pakistan/India, my family has many friends and relatives (Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish) from all of these nations, and I have never been able to resolve the issues surrounding their respective conflicts. (This would be another discussion that could clearly last for some time).
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Samantha L. Lavery

Vice President of the Class of 1998
Class: 1998
Hometown: Livonia, Michigan
Major: Chemical Engineering
Minor: Spanish
Plans: Process Engineering at Procter and Gamble
I have spent my entire life in the metro Detroit area of Michigan. Coming out to the East Coast for college was quite an adventure, and I have loved every minute of it. At MIT I have been a leader in student government and the chemical engineering department and enjoyed many extracurricular activities including the Alpha Phi sorority, Park Street Church, MIT varsity crew, and my job in the MIT President's Office. This past year I have had an incredible time planning events for the senior class and helping increase class enthusiasm and involvement.
Reaction when told she would meet President Clinton: It came as a great surprise. Graduating from MIT is going to be very special and meeting the sitting president of our country just adds to the honor and excitement.
Dialogue with the President: I would enjoy talking about how he feels the United States should be involved in less fortunate countries and how his visits to other countries have affected his outlook and decision making. This year I had an amazing opportunity to spend a month in La Paz, Bolivia, where I worked with other team members to care for abandoned and runaway children living in orphanages and on the streets. Experiencing a completely different culture, economy, and language has had an enormous impact on my life. I would also like to hear from President Clinton about the things he most likes and dislikes about his job and how he views the role that we &emdash; the class of 1998 &emdash; will play in our community.
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Manju V. Madhavan

1998-99 President of the Dormitory Council
Class: 1999
Major: Political science
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Plans: Graduate degree in public policy, medical school
I plan to practice medicine and become involved in local/national health care policy issues and initiatives. I am extremely interested in politics and hope one day to make a bid for Congress. Last summer I participated with ten other Indian Americans in an AIDS awareness campaign through an organization called VISIONS Worldwide, Inc., in Bombay. We disseminated HIV-transmission prevention information to over 10���������������������������000 students and founded a local chapter of the organization that is carrying on the effort there. I helped start a chapter of VISIONS at MIT.
Reaction when told he would������������������meet President Clinton: I was extremely surprised, honored, and elated to be presented with such an opportunity. It's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event that I will carry with me forever. I am anxious to meet the President and hear his commencement address, in which I presume he will outline his thoughts on our progression into the new millennium.
Dialogue with the President: Given that many of the same political constraints currently exist as in 1993 when the President introduced the national health insurance initiative, how does he intend to depoliticize this issue and what incentives does he intend to provide to the public so that the proposals defined by his "health care board" will achieve national consensus and eventually be passed into law (assuming that he agrees with its findings)? With the recent nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan, does he feel that the United States should revise the post-cold-war policy of placing economic interests ahead of social, strategic, and human rights concerns to place more emphasis on those issues and commit itself to greater involvement in the affairs of foreign governments, or does he think it is wiser for us to display leadership by constraining ourselves to resolving domestic concerns first? Has his time in office been gratifying even though he has not been able to put into effect everything he sought for the American people?
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Michelle K. McDonough

1997-98 Vice President of the Graduate Student Council
Field: Receiving S.M. in city planning
Hometown: Chantilly, VA
I grew up in a military and federal employee family and plan to pursue a career in public service, using my training at MIT. After specializing in housing and community development at MIT, I hope to work for a nonprofit or public organization, although employment in this field is not as plentiful as in science and technology. Being at MIT has been the most important thing that's happened to me in years. I cannot believe the opportunities that being at this place opens up &emdash; for instance, meeting President Clinton!
Reaction when told she would������������������meet President Clinton: I was very happy that someone from one of the nontechnical fields would be able to meet the President, to remind him and the Institute that not everyone at MIT is in a technical or scientific field.
Dialogue with the President: I would ask him what he would have done differently in terms of domestic policy if Congress had been Democratic rather than Republican during the last few years. I'm also curious what he will do after his term is complete, since he will still have many years left in his career.
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Sandra C. Sandoval

1997-98 Vice President of the Undergraduate Association
Class: 2000
Hometown: Manitou Springs, Colorado
Majors: Brain and cognitive sciences, chemistry
Plans: Medical school
My dream has always been incorporate my fluency in Spanish into a career in public health by working in medicallyunderserved areas either in the United States or in Latin America through the World Health Organization.
Reaction when told she would������������������meet President Clinton: At first, I was startled and pleased. The full meaning began to sink in later when I saw President Clinton on the news and heard him on the radio. Then it occurred to me that I would be meeting this person who has such an immense impact on the welfare of our country. I am extremely proud for MIT and my fellow students that the President chose to attend our commencement this year, and I am intrigued to hear his thoughts on scientific advancement and technology and its implications for Generation X. I am honored to be given this opportunity.
Dialogue with the President: I want to talk about what efforts are being made to put more funding toward AIDS and cancer research and his views on what can be done to lessen racial tension and bridge the socioeconomic gap between minorities and Caucasians. Also, I would like to know what tangible advice he has for leaders of our generation, including how he thinks we should begin to combat the ever-growing problem of violence in the United States.
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Brian J. Schneider

1998-99 President of the Graduate Student Council
Field: Ph.D. candidate in biology
Hometown: Collegeville, PA
I was the valedictorian at Perkiomen Valley High School in a class of 150 and graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Rochester in New York. I started my graduate work in the MIT Biology Department in the fall of 1995. My current project, in Dr. Peter Kim's lab, involves studying the structure of the Ebola virus glycoprotein, which enables this deadly virus to infect human cells. My fianc���e, Katherine T. Bacon, is also a graduate student in the Biology Department. We met here at MIT when we were neighbors in Tang Hall our first year here. We plan to be married in the fall of 1999.
Reaction when told he would������������������meet President Clinton: I am honored to be invited to meet the President. The invitation shows that there are advantages to getting out of the lab and becoming involved with student activities.
Dialogue with the President: I would like to thank President Clinton for his continuing support of basic science and graduate education. His administration has been instrumental in increasing funds for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many biomedical science grants are administered through the NIH, and the Clinton administration was instrumental in making increases in research a priority in the FY99 budget. His open discussions on race relations and support for affirmative action are to be commended. The administration seemed to play a quiet yet important role convincing conservative Democrats to vote against the Riggs and Campbell amendment to the Higher Education Act. This amendment was originally proposed to eliminate race-based admission strategies throughout the nation, much as Proposition 209 did for California.
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Ashesh P. Shah

(photo unavailable)
1997-98 President of the Dormitory Council
Class: 1998
Hometown: Huntington, IN
Majors: Economics, mathematics
Plans: Medical school
My interests include politics, sports &emdash; especially tennis and basketball &emdash; and generally having a good time. The big event for this year was my decision to go to medical school. It was a tough decision between that and working for a consulting firm next year. The other major happening was my involvement with the administration in addressing some major issues around campus, specifically alcohol policy and freshman housing.
Reaction when told he would������������������meet President Clinton: My first thought was, "Wow, that's kind of cool; I get to meet the President." But then, being a conservative and all, I thought it would be funny to see the faces of all my liberal friends when they found out. Maybe I should clarify that: the reason it is funny is that I grew up in Indiana, a notoriously conservative, Republican state. Frankly, I also voted Republican. As such, my friends who are ardent supporters of President Clinton don't really think I deserve to meet him. It's all sort of ironic. I do admire President Clinton and look forward to meeting him.
Dialogue with the President: Is it worth it? In terms of major changes, the President is in office for a relatively short period of time. How does that affect your vision and your ability to institute major change? Also, tell me about Air Force One, and may I take it for a spin?


Topics: Commencement, Students

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