Named in honor of John Ely Burchard, the first dean of MIT SHASS, the Burchard program allows for a vigorous, challenging of ideas from across the Institute.
The MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (MIT SHASS) is proud to announce the 36 extraordinary sophomores and junior students selected as the 2019 class of Burchard Scholars. Among them are Ameena Iqbal (Class of 2021) and Madeleine Kline (Class of 2020), both of whom are Chemistry and Biology (Course 5-7) majors.
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.”
Named in honor of John Ely Burchard, the first dean of MIT 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, academic administrator for MIT SHASS, 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.