Full Interview with Arthur Musah, Director of “One Day I Too Go Fly”

This is the full interview of Arthur Musah from today’s issue.

The Tech: How did your personal experience influence you to make this documentary?

Arthur Musah: I’m at the point in my life where I’m thinking about how did I become this person or how did this piece of me come about. It seemed like going back to MIT and looking at how young Africans today are going through that journey might be a good way to explore some of those questions that I’ve been asking myself and then maybe make them a little more universal because there are other friends of mine who were also trying to figure out their place in the world and how did they get where they are, where do you go from here—so it’s all part of that investigation.

TT: Can you talk a little about the nature of leaving your home to come to America? What is the main goal in coming to America?

AM: Different people leave for different reasons but I think a lot of people who come to American universities from Ghana at least are hunting for the best education possible. They are people who are curious about the world. They want to know knowledge. I loved science; I loved learning about the world and my friends did as well, and we were very competitive about doing it. And it seemed once we heard about American universities being these beacons, being the best in the world, and we heard that there were ways to fund us even though we couldn’t afford a forty thousand a year tuition bill—I mean at that pointI don’t think my parents were making that much in a year – it became this goal that we were working towards.

I think it’s just this desire to be present, to know what’s going on, to be state of the art, and to participate in whatever is happening on a global scale. It’s part of the reason that, back in Ghana, we consume music videos from the U.S., Europe, Asia. It’s the same reason why we’re curious about foreign languages. A lot of people want to explore the world. And a lot of the people that come to seek higher education out here also see issues that can have an impact on in their communities. They see ways in which they can make their lives better, their families’ lives better, and then their communities as well. Part of this hunt for the best and latest knowledge out in the world is to not only plug yourself to this global community and where the world is going today but bring everybody including your country with you as well.

TT: What do you think the students want to eventually achieve by coming to MIT? Do you think they will have to find the balance between wanting success and wanting to help their families and countries? Do you think these students will struggle to balance trying to make money and trying to help people?

AM: Part of the journey here is to figure out how to reconcile those two desires. I think it makes sense that they want to be successful: you want to secure your future, your children’s future, your parent’s future you want to make life easier for them. You want to make them proud. But they’re also very conscious of the positions that they’re in that they can use to impact their communities or impact the world in general. And I don’t think they’re there yet - because they’re at MIT and doing classes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but once you graduate and you start working, you do deal a little with how much do I live for myself?” and how much do I live for my community?” That’s part of the reason I’m making this film. It’s part of investigating, “How did I become this person?” or “How are these students becoming these people?

I’ve seen a lot more examples now about how you can pursue your personal goals for success, financial and professional success, but also more quickly connect to the African continent or your home country or play in the more global scenario. They’re dealing with these questions. They will deal with them more as they head towards graduation. But I also think the landscape has changed and they’re seeing a lot more examples of people going back home to be entrepreneurs rather than working for somebody, or working for themselves.

TT: How did you pick these five students and how did they respond to the concept of chronicling their years here? How did you approach them with this idea?

AM: It would be interesting to get their perspectives on the process of filming, but I try to keep in touch with them about how much is this impacting their lives. But the way I went about getting or meeting them was through the admissions office. Basically what the admissions office offered was to disseminate an introductory letter from me to the members of the incoming class, which is the class of 2015, who were coming from Africa who had said yes to MIT’s admission offer. And so eight students contacted me from Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Rwanda. We started communicating by phone and email and I felt like it was important to capture the first moment they got to MIT. Beyond that, I think you build a relationship with your characters and some people really believed in the project or are very good at communicating what’s going on with their lives.

It’s just kind of them getting a sense of what is the story I want to tell, because you could take the same footage and take all these stories and make whatever you want out of it. There’s a lot of power in editing. It’s a matter of communicating what is the story I’m trying to tell and is this something they want to be a part of.

TT: I can’t help but think that since you approached the admissions office that this is a sort of marketing ploy. Is that how you think of it?

AM: Once the project got approved, MIT has been very clear that it needs to be an independent project. Obviously there’s oversight in terms of I have to get permission for every single scenario that I’m filming. But it’s been a very hands off thing in terms of you control what the film is, nobody’s reviewing any cuts, MIT isn’t funding it, I’m funding it myself (doing Kickstarter, crowd funding, all that stuff) so it’s very independent. I have full control over the story that I’m going to tell and it’s one of the conversations we had that they were not interested in using this as an advertisement piece. They understood that it was going to be a serious documentary, that it’s going to take a serious look at whatever the story unfolds.

TT: This is definitely a coming-of-age story. Are you aiming for relatability? Because being an MIT student is a very small population and then being an international student from Africa is an even smaller population. So are you aiming more for shedding on light on their situation or for making this a story that people can relate to?

AM: My approach in this whole thing is really to stick to the intimate stories of these students, which means telling the experience from their perspective, from their point of view. There are so many other ways it could have been done. You can get experts to comment on anything about MIT or technology or engineers or how engineers are made – but I think that’s different. That’s not the kind of film I want tell. The kind of film I want to tell is: these are human beings. They happen to be from Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and there are some specifics about their lives and their backgrounds that will be unique to them but that’s true with anybody.

They all hurt, they all celebrate, there are things that make them happy, there are things they fear, and there are things they hope for. Those are the things that we connect to when a movie is successful or a book is successful. We want something very specific and maybe something exotic, but there is something fundamentally universal about being human that I think will come through. It was also important for it to be MIT because we are in a digital age; somehow MIT represented something that was more current and global. Even though it’s very specific, in some ways it was very universal and maybe also very intriguing. For all those reasons I thought it would be interesting to come back to MIT, but the plan really is to stick very closely with the students and their journeys.

TT: Anything else?

AM: We’re trying to get information out there. It’s a four-year project and we’re probably three years away from having the thing completed and actually screen anywhere or be available for viewing. But part of what I hope is that people will hear about it, respond to it sooner, and get in touch with us and make it a two-way conversation. I would really love some feedback from people who are going through MIT, even if they’re not these five students right now, and also people who have left MIT – everybody has memories of how that shaped their lives. I would love to hear their stories because I think they would definitely influence the film and help make it stronger.

The project’s Kickstarter campaign will be open until December 19. More information about the film and the campaign can be found on http://www.onedayitoogofly.com/.

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Congratulations to The Tech’s election prediction contest winners!

The Tech created an election predictions contest for the 2012 presidential elections on November 2. Out of 120 entrants, 8 accurately predicted all 51 states (and DC). The winners received a $15 Amazon gift card. Congratulations!

Winners:
Leo Zhou
Alex Oberg
Max Timmons
Jeffrey Phillips
David Alfonso
Paul Woods
Lisa Johnson
Austin Hess

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Hurricane Sandy FAQ: How Not To Get Eaten by Your Labmate

We already know that Hurricane Sandy is going to kill us all. If the 75mph gusts or fallen electric wires in flooded areas don’t end our puny existence, we’ll probably be eaten alive by our lab mates when the supply of … Continue reading

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Kerf Pavilion

Here is The Tech’s full interview with the Master of Architecture students behind the Kerf Pavilion. The Tech: What is the concept behind this project? Tyler Crain: We were given the task to design a temporary pavilion structure that would address … Continue reading

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MIT amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas

MIT yesterday filed an amicus curiae brief before the United States Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas, the affirmative action case before the Supreme Court this fall that will determine the next steps in how universities can use … Continue reading

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New Novartis public courtyard plans released

The new Novartis campus on the east side of Massachusetts Avenue will have 50 percent of its site devoted to a public green courtyard, as a condition of the zoning petition that allows some parts of the new campus to reach 125 feet in height, as well as other miscellaneous zoning relief.

The new campus, located at 181-211 Mass. Ave., is currently under construction and is expected to be finished next year.

The existing Novartis campus west of Mass. Ave. also has a courtyard available for public use during business hours, but almost no one knows about it, and it is not considered inviting, with its black wrought iron fencing. When the city’s Planning Board approved Novartis’ zoning petition for the new campus, it attached a condition requiring Novartis to present its plans for courtyard security measures to the planning board. Novartis will make that presentation at the Tuesday, July 17, 2012 meeting of the Planning Board. (Some time after 7:20 p.m. at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. Agenda here.)

A copy of Novartis’ submission to the Planning Board is available here. It offers views of the campus from the streets with the fencing open as well as with the fencing closed.

Here is the fence open, as it would be during daytime business hours:

And here it is closed:

Novartis is also strongly committed to ground-floor retail along Mass. Ave. on the new campus, though this month’s submission does not illustrate that clearly. Novartis is the landlord for Flour and Central Bottle and also retail on the west side of Mass. Ave. that has been very popular with both students and the local community. Here is a view of the east side of Mass. Ave. from their November 2011 special permit application to the Planning Board:

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“All the News That’s Fit to Print” brought to you by… the iPhone

Is the best of American journalism having an affair with Apple and Co.? I am not sure what some of the major U.S. media outlets have been up to or what kind of rethinking they have subjected their long-held values … Continue reading

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Liveblog: TIMtalks

Ended with a few more thanks and invited all people to a reception outside! And there you have it, folks! The first ever TIMtalks here at MIT, caught on blog for y’all!

 

7:32 Then talked about application for TIMtalks for students to start thinking about for next year, and also for the future vision of TIMtalks- a community for not just stories, but for mentorship for all.

 

7:31 Closing remarks by Anjali Thakkar. Introduced MC of event, Samvaran Sharma.

 

7:30 “We feel inadequate at times, but we’re the ones forcing this feeling on others and ourselves. . . we can make a society where people are able to pursue what they’re passionate and what they care about”

 

7:29 “We cannot afford to lose half of our population’s potential by sixth grade because society has failed to give the tools necessary for them to accomplish amazing things”

 

7:28 With the basic skills people have, they can do amazing things now.

 

7:25 Obstacles? people saying “it’s just not hard enough”. At MIT, has seen people pursue major because it’s hard, not because they’re in love with it. To this, she says “teaching people how to sow is so much harder than teaching how to solder”. “People need to stop believing that only because something is hard is it worth getting into”

 

7:22 Has used this to make things from light up plushies to a piano made of fabric! “These types of projects are very different and very diverse from traditional computer science projects”. So “it also changes the type of people that go towards these activities”

 

7:19 Tries the approach of doing all the hard things- get the hardest classes, hardest projects- all to try to garner respect. Today, “I believe we need to provide new avenues and different approaches for technology today”. Example? Electronics and crafts! Sowing circuits together!

 

7:18 Once asked middle schoolers on why they don’t play with electronics, and got told “it’s a boy’s toy- kinda like a truck”. “Women have lost confidence because they compare themselves to their peers, and find themselves lacking”

 

7:17 But why did this happen? “It’s actually cultural” the guy doing computer stuff “is what’s expected now”

 

7:16 1985- 37% of computer science degrees were to women- now that percentage has dropped to about 10%

 

7:15 Final speaker! Kanjun Qiu on Expanding the Culture of Computing: cultural issues in engineering and computing.

 

7:14 “Now, one person shared my passion, and today, I’m working on being able to target the Undruggable Protein. .  . Which road will you take? Why not take the one no one has ever seen, that’s never been charted?”

 

7:13 “Take advantage of crowd-sourcing intelligence: take your idea to the fifty smartest people you know, have them say what’s wrong, and go and fix it!”

 

7:11 “This is MIT- this is where we talk about ideas in the classroom that have the chance of changing the world- through MIT I’ve gained the confidence to chase after my dream”

 

7:10 Has learned how to “be on my feet, be after new opportunities, and how to go out there and make stuff happen. That’s ingrained in the culture here.”

 

7:07 After a lot of pestering, was taken in for a lab during the summer, but didn’t even start facing his original problem. Now working on a nanoparticle based urine test to see what’s wrong with people. “But what happens when we run out of drug targets?”

 

7:06 ‘Proteins that have no drug for them have been left untargeted and unresearched. This was a problem for me”

 

7:05 Ran off at orientation trying to find a research position in the labs at MIT for one big problem- the Undruggable Protein.

 

7:03 “When reflecting on my time at MIT, I realized that I had found how to do my own path”

 

7:02 Omar Abudayyeh on Doing the Undruggable: The Road Not Taken

 

7:00 “When I think back on the stories I’ve told, I realize: MIT is filled with great individuals, and the support that can be found here is something amazing.”

“Stay comMITted MIT”

 

6:59 Talk about Athlete Allies program and how it met with intense negative feedback, and went off and addressed the issue instead of running away. She gave her opinion on the forum, and continued onwards with the program.

 

6:54 Got dragged to see the professor, and after that, realized that the project could really get done- all because the teacher had shown support. “So many of us are willing to give support to one another, but so few of us are willing to ask for it”

 

6:53 Recounted a tale when a project was in failure two days before the deadline- her first MIT breakdown.

 

6:52 when asked at a waterpark what the best thing about MIT was, she answered, “the people”. The waterpark person pestered and asked “what does that even mean?”

 

6:52 “I love telling stories”

 

6:51 Margaret Lloyd on ComMITment next.

 

6:49 “How many times have you said no to an opportunity because it was not relevant, or important enough? How many times have you said no to a life-changing opportunity?”

 

6:48 “By promoting a culture of achievement, we’ve become a second home” for the students in the program. “Do something now, because it’s amazing!”

 

6:46 Was in love with coaching and teaching others, but wanted to do more. Went off and brainstormed, and came up with Amphibious Achievement.

 

6:44 As freshman coach, was ridiculed, but instead focused on honing skills and team dynamics- that team won championship for the first time in ten years. “I never medaled as a rower, but I’m damn proud that my rowers won twice”

 

6:43 Was told “you gotta learn before you implement your ideas!” but didn’t want to wait, so “I mastered the art of motivational yelling”

 

6:42 Recounted an injury that became dangerous and put his life at risk, but “that blood clot’s the best thing that ever happened to me- I decided to go out and coach crew”

 

6:40 “I go to one of the most technical schools in the world, but those least technical pursuits, are the ones that have shown me the most”

 

6:38 “Do now” approaches get people from unfocused states to active states.

 

6:37 Had everyone talk out loud to simulate a “do now” approach.

 

6:35 Next up: Noam Angrist leader in many things at MIT, will talk about a personal struggle that shaped him to have a “do now” approach.

 

6:34 “Let’s think. inspire. and motivate.”

 

6:32 Talked about a project that seemed like a failure at first, but through perspective, saw a way to serve the people she was working with in order to empower them. “Here at MIT, where we elevate success so much, we fail to applaud failure as a necessary component- we’ve all failed, so why don’t we come together, talk about it, and grow from it?”

 

6:28 “You can’t have success without analyzing failure”

 

6:27 “Every single person will at one point in their lives face the Impostor Syndrome, but it can be used to overcome failure to. . . move on from it, and achieve success” This is the Malleable Mindset

 

6:24 “The one thing MIT has given me, far more valuable than everything, is a sense of resilience”

 

6:21 “we’re taught the core values of humility and hard work to make success, but we forget that we ourselves are those agents of change. . . at MIT, I felt like a small fish in a huge ocean!”

 

6:20 First Speaker: Anjali Thakkar- founder and director of TIMtalks- will talk on Imposter Syndrome

 

6:19 On Imposter Syndrome- “we all go through it, we all deal with it”

 

6:16 MIT’s an intense place, and that sometimes makes the students human doings. . . these talks will show that all of us have times in which we failed.

 

6:15 Chancellor Grimson gives opening remarks for TIMtalks.

 

6:13 p.m Start of TIMtalks inaugural event! Five talks from five students to come.

 

6:05 p.m. Students packed into Stata lecture hall 32-133. Eager for event to start. Room packed with cool blue decor, highlighting TIMtalks logo.

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Liveblog: MIT announces its 17th President

10:55 a.m. “What are you going to drop when you become president?” – The Tech
“I think the way I view a management team — I think everyone ought to have a responsibility and they ought to have the authority to act on the responsibility. My job is to make sure all of them are working in unison together. Clearly as president, you’re not the provost. Nevertheless, I need to know how to balance each other. In my view, it’s more like an orchestra leader to make sure everything works together.” – Reif

10:54 a.m. “How do you plan to educate yourself on student issues?” – The Tech
“I’m surrounding with people who are very knowledgeable about those issues. I want to understand everything that we’re doing. I try to engage students continuously because I need to know how they are viewing MIT.” – Reif

10:54 a.m. “You have a chance to get there if you apply yourself.” – Reif

10:52 a.m. “If you apply yourself, you have a good choice of where you are going to be.” Reif, on what he would tell others who grew up like he did.

10:51 a.m. “You’ve always been very accessible? How will you remain accessible?
His answer? “Who says I will?”
“Something that I’ve done quite successfully that every morning and afternoon, I go for a walk and so people can approach me.

10:50 a.m. “How will the education here differ from your education?”

10:49 a.m. “How will you be different from Susan Hockfield?”

10:48 a.m. The Q&A begins.

10:46 a.m. Reif also thanks President Susan Hockfield. “I want to thank Susan for the opportunity she gave me to work by her side. I have learned a tremendous amount from her. I want to thank her for giving me an opportunity of a lifetime.”

10:45 a.m. Reif thanks his family — his wife, his daughter, her husband, his son.

10:43 a.m. “I believe the job of the administration is to support the faculty and staff.” – Reif

10:40 a.m. “In leading MIT, I will be guided by MIT’s values and provided. This includes a commitment to meritocracy, excellence, to always take the high road and always do what is right, make a positive contribution…” – Reif

10:39 a.m. “This is a dream come true.” – Reif

10:39 a.m. Reif begins his remarks.

10:37 a.m. Rafael Reif will take office Monday, July 2nd.

10:36 a.m. John Reed, chairman of the Corporation, is kicking off the press conference.

10:21 a.m. We are setting up at the Media Lab for the press conference that will begin in 10 minutes.

10:20 a.m. The Tech caught the MIT’s 17th president, Rafael Reif, outside the Bush Room where the members of the Corporation were meeting this morning. First words from Rafael Reif? “I love The Tech.”

The MIT Corporation will be announcing MIT’s 17th President in a press conference at 10:30 a.m. The Tech will be liveblogging the event. Follow along for live updates starting near 10:15 a.m.

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Interview with Dustin Katzin

Here is the rest of the The Tech’s interview with student composer Dustin Katzin, whose orchestral work Schrodinger’s Cat premiered at last Friday’s MITSO concert. If you missed the first part of the interview, read it here: http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N25/katzin.html. Interview conducted by Bogdan … Continue reading

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