Laurel R.T. Ruma ’97 majored in English at Union College before joining MIT Technology Review, where she leads the U.S. division of the magazine’s custom content efforts. This involves working closely with large companies – like IBM, Hitachi, Medtronic and GE Healthcare – to create original research based on technologies from artificial intelligence to medical implants. Laurel feels honored “to be part of the team that publishes this authoritative technology magazine,” which was founded in 1899. In a throwback to her WRUC days at Union, she also hosts Technology Review’s Business Lab podcast. Laurel’s career has largely been focused on business and technology publishing, from editing consulting reports at Forrester Research to acquiring books and running conferences at O’Reilly Media. For the past 12 years, she has also been active in one of Massachusetts’s largest public transit projects: the MBTA’s Green Line Extension (GLX). This project brings new subway stations to Cambridge, Somerville and her city, Medford. Recently honored as a 2020 Commonwealth Heroine of the Year for her work on the GLX as an appointed community representative, she officially served two mayors (and unofficially served as a citizen activist for public transit).
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
Working with people is both the most rewarding and challenging aspect of a career or volunteering. The trick is to have enough patience to remember that not everyone comes from the same position of understanding. Being able to explain a complex issue in a way that invites conversation and questions (even if you’ve answered the same question over and over), and then really listening to concerns and feedback, is what helps build the foundation for trust and a great working relationship.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
My mother and aunt have always inspired me. My mother, Nancy, is one of those people who will talk to anyone, listen to their stories and respond with understanding and warmth. And my Aunt Barbara is a retired professor from the University of Arkansas who has lived a principled life, exceedingly sure of herself and amazingly brave, but also kind and compassionate. Both my mom and aunt have been active in their communities, represented on committees, school boards and organizations, and my mother was a selectwoman in the small Maine town I grew up in.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Be strong and thoughtful, but always work to respond and participate in whatever community you are part of – our voices matter and our actions will be remembered.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
There were many, but likely serving as the photography editor for Concordiensis. In 1995, I was part of the editorial board (along with editors-in-chief Tony LaVecchia ’98 and Adrian MacLean Jay ’98) challenged by national news that struck Union when my philosophy professor, Linda Patrik, identified her brother-in-law, Ted Kaczynski, as the Unabomber. Being part of Concordiensis influenced my career and attraction to journalism and civic duty. Nancy Schön will publish one of my photographs in an upcoming book about her iconic “Make Way for Ducklings” statue in the Boston Public Garden.