the first 50 years

In 2005, the Washington Monthly magazine published a list of American college and university rankings which used substantially different criteria than the well-known reports from publications such as US News and World Report, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. This new list, which turned traditional rankings on their heads, focused primarily on aspects of social mobility, research, and service ethic. Not surprisingly to those in the MIT community, MIT came in first.

A spirit of service and dedication to hard work is an MIT tradition, and it is therefore no surprise that service efforts and organizations have been active on the MIT campus for a very long time. Discussion with MIT alumni indicates that a group called the Technology Community Association (TCA) was holding American Red Cross blood drives on campus as early as 1948, and that the TCA continued to hold drives for approximately 50 years, though a heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s, until the late 1990s. It has also been suggested that Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity, may have assisted with blood drives over that time.

official recognition and organization

The original idea for a specific American Red Cross group came from two members of the class of 2002, Adam Rosenthal and Brinda Balakrishnan. Adam and Brinda were interested in starting a club in order to promote youth outreach, and started to gather potential members and to hold organizational meetings in the fall of 1999. They also came up with the club's name, ARCTAN, which is a play on the mathematical notation for "inverse tangent". The club's name uses capitalization for the first letter of all words, including "And", to agree with the ARCTAN acronym (otherwise, ARCTaN might be more appropriate). Early club graphics used a mathematical derivation of the arctan equation, with "arctan" highlighted.

After a few meetings, it became evident that the Massachusetts Bay chapter did not yet have a youth program which was strong enough to take advantage of the volunteer interest at MIT. Wanting to direct their attention to other youth charities, Brinda and Adam asked Aubin Dupree (class of 2003), a Disaster Action Team Leader at the Massachusetts Bay chapter, to take over their efforts. Aubin wrote the ARCTAN constitution and assembled an initial executive board, and the club was recognized by the Association of Student Activities on April 4th, 2000. The Massachusetts Bay chapter recognized the club shortly thereafter.

In less than a year, there were more than 100 members. Initially, the club focused on disaster relief, first aid stations, and the food pantry, which at the time was run out of the Massachusetts Bay chapter headquarters on Columbus Avenue in Boston. Blood collection continued to be run by another association of students on campus, headed by Jonathan Weiss (class of 1993) and Richard Barbalace (class of 1997), who had been running Red Cross blood drives since the dissolution of the Technology Community Association in the late 1990s.

Once ARCTAN became officially recognized and established a presence on campus, it became apparent that it would be mutually beneficial to merge the blood drive organization with ARCTAN, and by 2001, ARCTAN was running campus blood drives, with Richard and Jonathan continuing in their roles as blood drive officers.

reach beyond the mit campus

ARCTAN sits on the Metropolitan Boston Red Cross College Club Council, which held its first meeting on February 11th, 2000. Together with representatives from Red Cross clubs at Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern and Tufts, the Council is thought to be one of the largest in the country and collaborates regularly on citywide service projects.

In the fall of 2000, club president Aubin Dupree was invited to participate in ARC101, an exploratory meeting of Red Cross college club presidents from all over the country. Meeting at Duke University from October 13-15, the participants used ARCTAN's constitution as a model to help create a national standard for American Red Cross college clubs. The results of that meeting, national publications ARC 1280 (for Red Cross chapters) and ARC 1281 (for college students), also known as the "Campus Connections" series, were made available to Red Cross chapters and clubs nationwide.

Following the meeting, ARCTAN created a new, nationwide mailing list for college Red Cross clubs. The list,, was used by clubs all over the country to stay in touch and share ideas. Following demand, another list, redcrossers, was created for high school volunteers, and the lists were moved to Yahoo! groups. Those groups were the original inspiration for the web-based Youth Neighborhood community and the Red Cross Youth Wire mailing list that are now available to all Red Cross youth volunteers nationwide.

From 2001 to 2005, the club's primary focus was on disaster relief and blood donations, and ARCTAN became known for running the most active and effective college Disaster Action Team in the USA. In 2005 alone, ARCTAN disaster volunteers responded to 45 disaster incidents throughout the Boston area, assisting more than 334 people who had been displaced or affected as the result of a disaster. Aubin Dupree stepped down as club president in 2002, in order to mentor a successor and concentrate on his new role on the National Youth Council of the American Red Cross. Aubin continued to act as the disaster relief officer, and Sing Your Li (class of 2003) was elected club president in January, 2002. In high school, Sing Your had been a Red Cross volunteer with the Greater New York chapter, and had previous experience with disaster relief, fire safety education, and fundraising. Sing Your served as the ARCTAN food pantry officer prior to becoming president.


With an influx of new leadership, the club began to expand, offering CPR and first aid classes and training new instructors. A representative from ARCTAN was invited to sit on the MIT Emergency Operations Committee. By this time, the new Student Emergency Medicine Society (SEMS, now known as MIT EMS) had been established, and a partnership was formed to cooperate on CPR and first aid education on campus. This partnership led to the first mass CPR training day at MIT and to the creation of the "HeartSafe" student group in 2005, which was run jointly by MIT EMS and ARCTAN to coordinate CPR and first aid education within the MIT community and to promote the installation of automated external defibrillators throughout the campus.

Through the continuing leadership of MIT EMS and ARCTAN, MIT became the first "HeartSafe" college campus in the United States. MIT EMS Chief Rachel Williams and ARCTAN Health and Safety officer Jonathan Liu participated in a ceremony in the Stratton Student Center on May 10, 2006 to receive the official certification.

past presidents

  • 1999-2000: Brenda Balakrishnan and Adam Rosenthal (organizers prior to ARCTAN's existence), class of 2002
  • 2000-2002: Aubin Dupree (founder), class of 2003
  • 2002-2003: Sing Your Li, class of 2003
  • 2003-2004: Anita Kris, class of 2006
  • 2004-2005: Marta Luczynska, class of 2006
  • 2005-2006: Stella Young, class of 2007
  • 2006-2007: Evelyn Chen, class of 2007
  • 2007-2009: Wendy Wen, class of 2009
  • 2009-2010: Yuri Hanada, class of 2010
  • 2010-2012: Elizabeth Pan, class of 2012
  • 2011-2012: Jing Jing Gong, class of 2012
  • 2012-2013: Kevin Li, class of 2013
  • 2013-2014: Abra Shen, class of 2016
  • 2014-2016: Tru Dang, class of 2016

present day

Since 2006, ARCTAN has continued to provide CPR and first aid training, run blood drives, and provide volunteers for disaster relief and food pantry activities. As it has done since September 11th, 2001, ARCTAN also continues to hold fundraising drives for major disasters worldwide. With the move of the Massachusetts Bay chapter headquarters from Boston to Kendall Square, interaction between the chapter and ARCTAN has increased. Youth programs at the Massachusetts Bay chapter, which were the original inspiration for ARCTAN's creation, grew dramatically since 2000 under the leadership of former chapter employee Mai Du, and ARCTAN members are now able to participate in youth and young adult projects which include volunteers from throughout the metropolitan Boston area.