On a Tuesday last month at 8:25 p.m. in Baker House, students were scattered around the dorm’s lounges, chipping away at PSETs and studying for exams.
At 8:30, more than 50 of them rushed down to the first floor for a moment away.
Residents of were treated to sushi, gratitude card writing, and a visit from the stress dogs of Puppy Lab. This was the third in a series of study breaks organized by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, MindHandHeart (MHH), and the Division of Student Life to promote the MHH Innovation Fund, which allows students, faculty, and staff to apply for grants up to $10,000 in order to increase wellness in the MIT community.
Meditation at Maseeh preceded the Baker study break, as well as a showcase of prior Innovation Fund winner, MIT Connect, in East Campus. These study breaks are meant to give students a moment to breathe during the stress of an MIT semester, and learn about opportunities through MHH to boost morale, promote wellness, and build community at MIT.
“I believe this is a healthy way to help students better strike a balance between their academic and social lives,” said freshman Tyler Schoulte, a first-year Baker resident who attended the study break.
MindHandHeart and the Innovation Fund are sponsored by Chancellor Barnhart, who attended the Baker study break.
“These study breaks give us a chance to hang out with students and their house teams outside of class and the normal 9-to-5 workday,” Barnhart said. “It’s a great way for us to see firsthand what’s so distinct and special about their communities. And it’s an opportunity for us to spread the word about MindHandHeart and encourage students to apply their innovation, problem-solving, and compassion to an Innovation Fund project.”
In the past two years, the Innovation Fund has supported 40 diverse projects, which aim to increase awareness of mental health, promote life skills, and build communities of support on campus. Of those projects, 11 are now self-sustaining, including MIT Connect, which has spread to over 20 colleges since its creation. More than $140,000 has been awarded to applicants, a number that will grow when this year’s recipients are announced in late November.
Study breaks around campus provide a well-deserved breather for MIT’s students — a chance to pet a dog, eat some good food, or write a thank you card to someone who deserves it. It doesn’t take much to make MIT a welcoming place, Barnhart said, just the initiative to make change for the better.