Wilhem Hector ’25: “I feel empowered to build almost anything”

Wilhem Hector ’25, who is originally from Haiti, is a mechanical engineering major with a passion for wind energy. Service, though, plays just as important a part in his MIT experience. “With all the competing priorities in college, I’ve come to see how implementing public service in your life—even small projects—is so important to creating opportunities for others to follow your path,” he says. At MIT, Hector receives scholarship support from the Edward J. Poitras Scholarship Fund, which was created in 1982 through Poitras’s charitable remainder trust planned gift.

Q: You came to MIT having already started the Hector Foundation, which creates educational opportunities for students in Haiti. How has your time at MIT enhanced that work?

The first thing that comes to mind is the confidence that I’ve grown over the past three years to be a changemaker at a micro or macro level. Everybody feels determined to do great things for the world. Just being around MIT professors and students empowers me to try to be a changemaker for the people of Haiti, too. When it comes to the tangible funding opportunities, I’ve managed to leverage those opportunities here as well. The community here has helped establish that public service element within my undergraduate career, and I’m very grateful for that.

Q: One source of funding for the Hector Foundation has been fellowships from the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center (PKG). What has been the impact of that funding?

I’ve been fortunate to receive PKG fellowship funding twice. The most recent funding will mostly be used this summer for our Program for the Advancement of Young Scholars, an intensive three-week virtual program that prepares students for college through mentoring opportunities, academic guidance, and connections to admission counselors in Haiti and internationally. The PKG funding will allow us to grow enrollment by 25%.

Last year, I received the Davis Projects for Peace Fellowship, which was the start of our version of Project Manus—obviously, we drew inspiration from MIT’s Project Manus for that. We designed a new makerspace in Port-au-Prince, which was the first-ever makerspace open to all high schoolers in Haiti. We designed it and spent 17 months gathering funding, and then built and integrated the space in August 2023. Now, we’ve had over 100 students sign up just to be on the wait-list, and we are hosting robotic training camps—I just went back in January to teach the first one.

Q: How have MIT makerspaces shaped your experience here?

When I got here, I’d never set foot in a lab or makerspace. Now, the Pappalardo Lab is my spot—I’m there way more than I actually need to be! The crew there helped me a lot too, not just with my classes, but with the Hector Foundation projects. In my mechanical engineering classes and makerspaces here, I feel empowered to build almost anything.

Q: Are there any other spaces on campus that are special to you?

Overall, I think my favorite place at MIT is Chocolate City, a living group for Black men in New House. I can’t be unhappy there—it’s almost impossible. When I came to MIT, I was thinking of what I wanted to get out of the whole college experience, and one priority was that I wanted stories to tell my grandkids 50 years from now. And the brotherhood of Chocolate City contributes to a lot of these stories. Living there and being around people who share a common background and interests is very fulfilling.

Q: Have you picked up any new hobbies at MIT?

I loved playing basketball and ping-pong in high school, and I have the opportunity to do those things here. But a new thing that I picked up at MIT is event planning. I currently serve as the cochair for the Student Events Board, which is MIT’s main student event planning body. We put on large-scale events for both the undergraduate and the graduate population. I’ve also served as social chair in various student orgs including Chocolate City and the African Student Association. It’s very rewarding to bring the community together to celebrate—I think the best events, whether they’re attended by hundreds of people or in a more intimate setting, are ones that gather people from different walks of life to learn about and celebrate something new.

Q: What’s next after graduation?

I’m not sure, but I definitely want to go to graduate school—I love learning in general. My professional passion is in wind energy. I’m fascinated by the way wind farms work and how to model and optimize them. It was my interest in renewable energy that set me on the mechanical engineering route in the first place. Hopefully down the line it will lead to building wind farms in the Caribbean.

Q: How has scholarship support affected your MIT journey?

I’m coming from an extremely modest background. My family’s never left Haiti. Because of scholarship support that started in high school, I’ve lived in about 11 different countries over the past five years to study, all because of scholarship support. These educational opportunities are my ticket to life. They’re my family’s ticket to life, too. I can’t really put words on how much the Poitras Scholarship means to me, but I hope that the work I do in the MIT community, my home community in Haiti, and beyond will honor the scholarship I’ve received.

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