Danielle Geathers, a rising junior from Miami, will be the first black woman president in MIT's 159-year history
Danielle Geathers
Danielle Geathers
| Credit: MIT Undergraduate Association

When college student Danielle Geathers returns to campus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, it’ll be in historic fashion as the school’s first black female student body president.

Geathers, 22, was recently elected president of the Undergraduate Association alongside her running mate Yu Jing Chen, marking the first time in the school’s 159-year history that a black woman was elected to the coveted post.

“It didn’t surprise me that no black women had been president,” Geathers told MIT’s student newspaper The Tech. “Someone asked if the UA president was a figurehead role [during the debate]. I think no, but minimally, a black female in that role will squash every perception that MIT is still mostly white and male.”

“Minimally, the immediate image of that will make MIT a more welcoming and inclusive place,” she added.

Geathers is majoring in mechanical engineering with a concentration in product design, and minoring in African and American diaspora studies. She previously served as the UA’s diversity officer.

The rising junior told The Tech that she was initially “afraid” of running for president, as she felt, “Who am I to be president?”

“I talked to a couple of people who said, ‘That is the problem with America.’ People who care about equity never want to run for the main role because they think they’re not for it,” she recalled.

Geathers, a Miami native, felt it was important to address both her own race and that of her running mate during her campaign, largely because she works in diversity.

“We try to ignore the communities that people are from, but that’s what’s gonna make them good,” she said.

Six percent of MIT’s undergraduate students are black, and 47 percent are women, according to the school. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, university was founded in 1861 — its first female graduate, Ellen Swallow Richards, did so in 1873, while the first African-American graduate was Robert Robinson Taylor in 1892.