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Planting seeds of renewal in struggling Lowell neighborhood

This is an interesting article about the work that MIT’s Urban Studies and Planning program is doing in the community. They are developing plans to try to revitalize a struggling neighborhood in Lowell, Mass. It is a neat example of how the Boston college population is reaching out to the community and creating a tangible effect of their work.

Planting seeds of renewal in struggling Lowell neighborhood

By Jennifer Myers,

LOWELL —Seventeen graduate students from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning want to help. They have been in the neighborhood collecting data and observing what works and what does not.

Two weeks ago, they held a preliminary meeting with residents to collect ideas and feedback. A completed neighborhood-improvement plan is expected to be ready for a meeting on Dec. 3.

The Back Central plan marks the third time that MIT professor Terry Szold has brought a group of graduate students to the Mill City. In 2005, they completed a master plan for Centralville. In 2007 they returned to take on the Acre.”I love the city,” said Szold. “The diversity of places within the city is very intriguing for planning students, as are the challenges of maintaining the history and working, older neighborhoods that are subject to new pressures.”

According to Lowell Chief Planner George Proakis, an MIT alumnus, the cost of putting together a comparable plan through the use of hired consultants could cost the city upwards of $100,000.

Rea the rest of the article here.


November 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Obama Returns for Harvard Love

This is from early last year, but it provides some evidence of the strong connection that Barack Obama still feels with Harvard and the city of Boston. Of course, he is a Harvard Law Graduate.

Obama Returns For Harvard Love
Law School profs hold fundraiser to welcome Senator back to Cambridge

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Published On Wednesday, March 21, 2007  3:20 AM
One of Harvard Law School’s most beloved sons swooped into Cambridge yesterday evening for an intimate, high-dollar fundraising event with about 150 of his former p
rofessors, classmates, and their friends.

“We love being in Boston,” Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat and a 1991 graduate of the Law School, said as he entered the event.

“It’s nice to be back in Cambridge, particularly after I paid off all my parking tickets,” he added referring to his recent public reconciliation with City Hall.

Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law David B. Wilkins ’77 hosted the event at his Cambridge home, a forest-green Victorian with orange trim tucked at the bottom of a hill near Brattle Street.

The $2,300-a-person event, which was closed to the press and the public, featured no shortage of political heavyweights.

“I’m the most senior member of the party,” Henry Morgenthau III, the scion of the Morgenthau clan that served as advisers to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, said as he approached Crimson reporters. It was not clear whether the 90-year-old was referring to the Democratic Party or to the evening’s gathering.

Alan D. Solomont, a major Massachusetts Democratic operative and a former national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was one the last guests to arrive. When he was greeted at the gate by volunteers and an event organizer, one commented: “Now we can really get started.”

The political guns were no match for the academic ones. Obama’s former professors and classmates turned out in force, enthusiastically supporting the man who was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and later a lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.

One of Obama’s former professors, Loeb University Professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62, helped organize the event.

Tribe, who has called Obama “a political and rhetorical genius,” pulled up to Wilkins’ house in a red Toyota Prius just before 7 p.m. The law professor then proceeded to park illegally, facing the wrong way on a one-way street.

Boston College law professor Kent Greenfield, who organized an alliance of law schools to fight the military’s policy regarding openly gay service-members, said outside the house that “a Barack Obama presidency would do more to repair our broken reputation in the world than anything or anyone else.”

When asked if he knew Obama, Boston attorney Joseph L. Stanganelli, one of Obama’s Law School classmates, answered: “Everyone knew him, and everyone who knew him knows that he’s the real deal.”

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at

—Staff writer Samuel P. Jacobs can reached at

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Barack Obama in Boston

This is a story/interview with Barack Obama when he was campaigning in Boston last year. It is noteworthy because there is an acknowledgment of the Boston college and university student population and their potential role in the election. The Boston students were important for Obama in terms of campaigning and advocating, especially in New Hampshire, because Massachusetts was not anticipated to play a big role in the election.

Obama in Boston

Barack Obama addresses 5500 people at a BU fund-raiser.
Barack Obama addresses 5500 people at a BU fund-raiser.

BOSTON – April 21, 2007 – Senator Barack Obama campaigns in New York today. Last night, he held what he called his biggest fund-raising event ever here in Boston. A sell-out crowd of 5500 people packed Boston University’s Agganis Arena. WBUR’s Fred Thys reports.


FRED THYS: The crowd was twice as big as the biggest crowds Obama has been drawing in New Hampshire in the last few weeks, and last night, they were paying to hear Obama.

BARACK OBAMA: Imagine what the crowd had been like if the Yankees and the Red Sox weren’t playing. Some of you know that I am a Chicago White Sox fan. Somebody tried to hand me a Red Sox cap to wear up here, and I don’t believe in that. There are some politicians who will do anything for a vote, including throw their team under the bus, but here’s one thing I will say, is that I dislike the Yankees more than the Red Sox.

FRED THYS: Obama spent about 35 minutes hitting on the main themes of his campaign, such as his opposition to the war in Iraq and his promise to bring about universal health care. Part of the idea of such large fund-raisers is to get as many small donors as possible, just to get them on the campaign’s database and then come back to them for more contributions.

BARACK OBAMA: We had people who gave 230 dollars. And we had people who gave 23 dollars.

FRED THYS: Many in the crowd came from area colleges and universities. Massachusetts probably will not play a critical role in either the primaries or the general election, but it is next door to New Hampshire, with its crucial primary, and its status as a swing state, and Boston-area students could play an important part in the campaign by volunteering there. Part of Obama’s message to the crowd last night was they should volunteer.

BARACK OBAMA: When we decide we’re not just going to be vote, but we decide to be involved in the issues, and we’re going to volunteer, and we’re going to participate, then things start happening.

FRED THYS: James Allers, a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and its Law School, was among those the campaign is hoping to get to New Hampshire.

JAMES ALLERS: It was very inspirational. He’s very plain-spoken, which I really appreciate. He’s very charismatic, but he speaks very directly. I think he speaks from the heart, and I really like the fact that he said: “I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m confident in my ability to lead the country,” and I think it’s high time we had some politicians who are willing to tell the people what we need to hear, and not what we want to hear.

FRED THYS: Allers says he and his wife, Tiffany, wanted to see Obama in person before deciding whether to commit to him. He says he’s pretty sold. There were also many young professionals in the crowd. Amy Boyd, an attorney in Boston, was signing a form registering to volunteer for Obama in New Hampshire.

AMY BOYD: I also lived in Chicago, and he actually is the first person I ever voted for who won anything, because I’m a Democrat from Texas. I’ve supported him for years, and decided tonight to go ahead and support him for president.

FRED THYS: The Obama campaign hopes to get many of the people who were there last night up to New Hampshire next month for the first door-to-door and phone canvas to determine exactly how broad and how strong his support is there.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Colleges scour China for top students

This might be one of the most exciting pieces that I have found thus far. It is about colleges like Harvard sending representatives to China to recruit their top students. It really shows how students from all over the world are competing for the spots at top schools in the country. The world of education and research has been profoundly affected by globalization and increased mobility. We witness this in Madison with our many international students.

Colleges scour China for top students

A star search that may affect US applicants

Students Li Taibo and Zhao Xinyue sought the attention of US admissions deans at a Beijing math competition.
Students Li Taibo and Zhao Xinyue sought the attention of US admissions deans at a Beijing math competition. (Doug Kanter for The Boston Globe)
By Tracy Jan Globe Staff / November 9, 2008

    BEIJING – Don’t be fooled by the teenager’s slender frame and wire-rimmed glasses. His name is Tiger – and he’s an American high school student’s worst nightmare.

    The 16-year-old junior, as adept at proving geometry theorems as he is at defending a soccer shot, has set his sights on Harvard University. And Harvard, on him.

    Just last month, Tiger and dozens of China’s brightest students gathered in a five-star hotel blocks from Tiananmen Square for the final round of a math contest that planted the Crimson flag firmly in the world’s most populous nation. They competed under the watchful gaze of William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s admissions dean, who has handpicked undergraduates for three decades.

    Students such as Tiger, or Li Taibo in Chinese, represent the future face of elite American colleges, their greatest hope as they vie to maintain international dominance. It’s especially true for Harvard, as it tries to elevate the profile of its math and sciences to be on par with its legendary humanities program.

    Eager to cultivate generations of students in this new frontier, admissions officers from premier American universities are scouring China to recruit top high school students who may dismiss such colleges as out of reach and unaffordable. In last month’s campaign during the contest, Harvard, Brown, and Stanford representatives touted liberal arts education, research opportunities, and American dorm life to students and their parents – even promising full scholarships.

    “There are no quotas, no limits on the number of Chinese students we might take,” Fitzsimmons told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 students during a visit to Beijing No. 4 High School. “We know there are very good students from China not applying now. I hope to get them into the pool to compete.”

    That message is disconcerting for American students toiling to land a coveted spot in Harvard’s 1,660-student freshman class – and controversial among some educators. But Fitzsimmons and others say they had better get used to the idea. Applications from China have exploded in recent years as the Communist country opens up to the world, and they’re only going to increase.

    Even fifth-graders in Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline, who as adults will face international competition for jobs, should begin beefing up their academic résumés if they want a shot at an Ivy League education, Fitzsimmons said.

    “We’re trying to send a message to young people, as young as primary school, to make the most of their studies,” he said, “because they’ll be competing with students around the world later on.”

    The first Shing-Tung Yau High School Mathematics Awards, named for the Harvard math professor who organized it, drew more than 900 students from all corners of the country. The 40 finalists who assembled for three days in Beijing had spent the past six months preparing to shine – not only for the judges, which included three Harvard professors, but also for the admissions deans they would meet.

    Read the rest of the article here

    November 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment