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Michael Case is the 2023 recipient of the MIT SDM Student Award for Leadership, Innovation, and Systems Thinking. Mike’s humble and service-oriented leadership stood out to his peers and the program staff, and he demonstrated his commitment to the SDM, MIT, and local communities in many ways.

Mike joined SDM in the fall of 2022 and became the Student Leadership Committee’s vice president for community. In this role he spearheaded over twenty social events to foster fellowship among the program’s students and their families, as well as multiple community service events, including a cleanup of the Charles River for Earth Day. Mike also served as part of the logistics team for the Bay Area Tech Trek, a student-led trip to California where students visit a variety of companies and learn how they put systems principles into practice. In August of 2023, Mike volunteered his time as a TA for the annual Design Challenge, which puts the incoming cohort of new students into teams to solve a hands-on problem within the first week of orientation. 

Beyond the SDM program, Mike found purpose in extending his experience as an active-duty Air Force service member to the MIT and Cambridge communities. He was a member of the Sloan Veterans Club and mentored a Harvard student through the ROTC cadet mentorship program at MIT. Mike was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air Force during his time in the program. After graduation, he will return to the Air Force as an acquisitions program manager in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Center for Rapid Innovation.

“Mike has been a rock in the SDM community, quietly volunteering behind the scenes to make SDM and MIT a better place for those around him,” said executive director Joan Rubin. She added, “He is a person that truly leads by example.”

The other finalists included:

  • Kyle Ensley, co-president of the Student Leadership Committee;
  • Noemie Midrez, co-lead for the Bay Area Tech Trek, member of the SDM core class review team, and member of the operations team for the MIT Energy and Climate Night; and
  • Holly Nihipali, member of the SLC prom committee and Tech Trek team, and noted for her active involvement with MIT’s Indigenous Working Group and the Native American and Indigenous Association.

Established in 2010, the Student Award for Leadership, Innovation, and Systems Thinking recognizes a student who has completed their first year in the program and demonstrates the highest level of strategic and sustainable contributions to fellow SDM students; superior skills in leadership, innovation, and systems thinking; and an outstanding ability to work effectively and collaboratively with SDM staff, faculty, students, alums, and industry, as well as in the greater MIT community. The winner is decided by the System Design and Management program staff, though students are encouraged to nominate their peers.