Connections across years and miles - the MS&PC Professional Development Fund

February 17, 2022

Back in 2005, I had the great fortune to visit the Bechtel International Center at Stanford University and to meet their awards grants to enable international spouses or partners to take advantage of local academic and professional-development opportunities. I was determined to bring a similar program to MIT, and finally in 2019, with the help of MS&PC members Sudhi Oberoi, we introduced the MS&PC Professional Development Fund.

So many serendipitous things happen with MS&PC, and our member, Sonali Shetty, meeting MIT Professor George Verghese in 2020 was no exception. That meeting led Professor Verghese to reach out to me to inquire about how MS&PC was supported, and ended up with his and his wife Ann Kailath's generous financial support of our Professional Development Fund.

Their 2021 gift was inspired by their 45-year friendship with Ignacio Pérez-Arriaga, Professor Verghese’s first doctoral advisee, and his wife Asunción González Sotos. From 1976-1981, Asunción and Ignacio lived in the Eastgate graduate residence with their three children (a fourth child was born after their return to Spain), and Asunción's connection to Spouses & Partners dates from then. In addition to caring for the children, she worked part-time as a researcher during those years. Asunción and Ignacio have remained connected to George and Ann, and to MIT, ever since. The families have spent time with each other in Cambridge and Spain, and Asunción has accompanied Ignacio during sabbatical years he spent at MIT and more frequently since he became a part-time visiting professor at MIT in 2008.

I had been fortunate to get to know Asuncion during her visits to MIT, and I was delighted when Professor Verghese asked that some of our grants be named in honor of Asunción. In February, Vika and I had a great pleasure of bringing together the recipients of these named grants (Leewon Seo, Lovely Khandakar, and Nelly Rosseau), with Professor Verghese, Asunción, and Sonali for a short meeting this February (pictured above, from left to right: Vika Palesheva, Leewon Seo, Jennifer Recklet Tassi, Asunción González Sotos, George Verghese, Lovely Khandakar, Sonali Shetty). Our wide ranging conversation included hearing the recipients' journeys to MIT and their careers and aspirations, talking about how MIT has changed over the years, and sharing stories about being at MIT as a young family and the lasting impact of that experience.

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Nelly Rosseau and Asunción

With her empathy and deep understanding of the experience of moving and settling a family abroad, Asunción has been a support to many other spouses and partners over the years, and her interest in our award winners was evident in those conversations. We were also able to feel the warmth and generosity that Professor Verghese and Asunción embody. Their long-lasting friendship is a testament to the deep connections that can form in the MIT community, crossing disciplines and countries. The connections that were made across years and miles during these short conversations are what has enabled MS&PC to endure for these past 50 years.