Tobie Weiner retires after 34 years at MIT

Weiner: ‘Explore a lot of options and don’t get hung up on what everybody else is doing or telling you to do’

Tobie Weiner, undergraduate administrator for political science, retired recently after 34 years at the Institute. The Tech spoke with Weiner in a phone interview about her career in MIT’s political science department.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The Tech: What were your responsibilities?

Tobie Weiner: I was the undergraduate administrator for political science, helping students and advisors and tracking graduation. Then, I was the program coordinator for the MIT Washington Summer Internship Program, running the program and visiting DC and matching interns with good internships. Then, I started a couple of different classes. One was called “Conversations You Can't Have on Campus” — discussions about race and gender and ethnicity and identity. That ran for quite a while; it became a pretty large class. And, I ran our local political science internship class. I also started the Martin Luther King design seminar that happened during IAP. Students took the class and then built, developed, and designed the installation that we had in Lobby 10 for about 10 days.

TT: Could you elaborate about the MIT DC program?

Weiner: It's a summer Washington internship program that was designed for students who are scientists and engineers who wanted to work in public policy positions. It wasn't a political internship. It was more technical, but policy related. Our interns would take a class in the spring to get them ready to go to DC. They do their internships in the summer, and then they come back and finish up their class in the fall.

TT: How was your daily life at MIT and what was your schedule like? Did you have fun?

Weiner: The best part about my job was the ability to try new things. My department was really flexible and supportive and the students were wonderful. So, just talking to the undergrads and finding out what things they wanted, trying to plan events, and just keeping up with how they're doing. I miss everything, but I really miss the students.

TT: What is your largest contribution to MIT?

Weiner: My classes, particularly the “Conversations You Can't Have on Campus,” and the Martin Luther King design seminar would be the things that I'm most proud of developing. The DC program was really important, too.

TT: What's special about the political science department at MIT?

Weiner: Our department is a really good mix of quantitative and qualitative research. It’s at MIT, so there's quite a bit of quantitative research. It was a good place for students to learn how you can take an interest in the world — in politics, or policy — and work it in with your technical major as well. You can even change the world in a positive way. The faculty are great. Staff are great. I've been [in the political science department] since I started at MIT, and had absolutely never had any interest in changing.

TT: What do you think is one class every student at MIT should take in the department?

Weiner: Well, if I were still there, I'd say my class, but I think any class in the political science department. There's Making Public Policy, Introduction to American Political Process, or Introduction to International Relations. It's hard to say because you might be a student who doesn't care about U.S. [domestic] politics. Then you might want to take American Foreign Policy or Intro to International Relations.

TT: What advice do you have for the students of MIT?

Weiner: Get help before you desperately need it. Get to know your teachers. Go to office hours; talk to people. Explore a lot of options and don't get hung up on what everybody else is doing or telling you to do.

For all who wish to attend, there is a retirement party today for Weiner from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Millikan Room, E53-482.