Black scholars are breaking racial barriers at some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities. Just weeks after it was announced that Princeton University graduate Nicholas Johnson made history by becoming the school’s first-ever Black valedictorian, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has elected its first African American woman student body president, CNN reported.
Danielle Geathers—a rising junior at the university who majors in mechanical engineering—won the student government election along with her vice president running mate Yu Jing Chen. Her appointment is historic as it marks the first time in MIT’s 159-year history that a Black woman has served at the helm of the student body. Since the campus has been closed due to the public health crisis, she ran a social media campaign to secure student votes. Geathers, who has been involved in pushing diversity and inclusion initiatives forward on campus, says her appointment speaks volumes about the importance of representation. She hopes she can encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to attend MIT. One of the things Geathers will be responsible for is developing strategies to ensure that MIT students can adapt to changes that stem from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Although some people think it is just a figurehead role, figureheads can matter in terms of people seeing themselves in terms of representation,” said Geathers in a statement, according to the news outlet. “Seeing yourself at a college is kind of an important part of the admissions process.”
When it comes to the student population at MIT, African Americans remain underrepresented. According to CNN, a mere six percent of undergrads at the institution are Black.