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Chris Peterson '09: Finding his Path at MIT Admissions

Chris Peterson ‘09 (Legal Studies) graduated from UMass Amherst in the “teeth of the recession,” and applied to 63 jobs. He heard back from one: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Admissions Office, who needed someone to help coordinate their blogs and social media strategy.

“I had never been to MIT before my interview, and I got lost on the byzantine campus and ended up 30 minutes late.  Luckily, they hired me anyway,” Peterson said.

Upon graduating in May of 2009, Peterson spent three months as a legal researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard before starting at MIT in August.

After two years as an admissions counselor at MIT, Peterson started taking courses that interested him in the Comparative Media Studies programs. One of his professors suggested that he apply to the Master’s program, to which Peterson was accepted. Because MIT does not offer part-time degree programs, Peterson was granted a one year leave by the Admissions Office, and completed his Master's of Science degree in June 2013, before returning to admissions in August as a senior counselor. 

This past summer, Peterson was promoted to his current role of Assistant Director of Talented Outreach. In this capacity, Peterson’s tasks are varied, but his primary responsibility is to oversee the recruitment and evaluation of “exceptionally intellectually gifted and technically skilled,” applicants to MIT. 

This means that Peterson travels across the country to various events in an attempt to recruit said students: high school science fairs; Makers Faire’s; FIRST Robotics Championships; international academic competitions and more. However, this is only the first step, as Peterson is also required to help design and implement strategies and techniques to evaluate these exceptionally talented students in non-conventional manners.

This spring, Peterson will be appointed as a Lecturer in the department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing, where he will teach CMS 400, Media Systems and Texts, often referred to on campus as "Credit for Reddit." 

Peterson also assists the MIT admissions communication team on digital strategy, which includes the oversight of the MIT admissions blogs.

While Peterson has found his home at MIT, he credits UMass for helping to launch the career that would eventually land him in the heart of Cambridge.

“My entire career has been the intersection of digital media, law, technology and civics. The legal studies courses I took and taught as a teaching assistant at UMass gave me a base that allowed me to build a set of connections and next steps,” Peterson said.

For Peterson, it was the department of Legal Studies, particularly the professors, that were the most important to his career development at the University.

“It was the personal relationships and intellectual encouragement that they provided me that made me want to stay in college and keep working on interesting challenges,” Peterson added.

To this day, Peterson says, he applies the lessons he learned at his alma mater to his new role at a fellow Massachusetts institution.

“I think about Llewellyn's Bramble Bush and Kairys' Progressive Critique of Law almost every day. It's like a highly specific intellectual addiction and LS at UMass is what got me hooked,” he concluded.


James Fahey ‘15

News Type: 

  • Alumni News