34th Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Zina Queen

Zina Queen

Administrative Assistant, George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory, MIT

34th Annual MLK Leadership Award

Photo by L. Barry Hetherington

Zina Queen is an administrative assistant in the George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory.  She was nominated by her colleagues, including a former MLK Leadership Award winner, for her commitment to fairness for all MIT employees and her willingness to volunteer on committees charged with improving the quality of work life for support staff.

“Receiving the MLK Leadership Award means the world to me,” Queen said. “We live and grow together as a community. When I use those words, I don't just mean black and white. I'm speaking about diversity with different ethnic backgrounds, diversity of gender and, most of all, diversity here at MIT as an institution of higher learning. Yes, I too have a dream.”

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“It feels like I’ve always been here,” says Zina Queen. Both Zina’s grandmother and mother previously worked at MIT. She recalls coming here after school to wait for her grandmother, who gave her tasks to do.

Her first job after college was at MIT Medical in 1986, and with the exception of three years she took off after the birth of her daughter, she’s worked in various jobs at MIT ever since.

In 2001, she transferred to the Spectroscopy Lab, where she continues to work today. “I was here longer than any other administrative assistant who worked for Professor [Michael] Feld,” she says. He passed away in 2010, and she recalls him fondly as someone who demanded high standards “but had a vision.”

Her most significant highlight at MIT was receiving an MLK Leadership Award in 2008  for her can-do efforts on the MIT Working Group on Support Staff Issues and with the Sisters and Brothers of MIT. She also volunteers on the Child Care Committee, the Medical Consumer Advisory Committee, and the MLK Celebration Committee. Outside MIT, she’s active in community work through her church and sings with the Harlem Gospel Choir, which travels around the country and the world.

Zina is proud of the ground-breaking work of the Spectroscopy Lab, pointing to the recent development of a device that tests blood glucose levels without finger pricks for people with diabetes. “I’m in the midst of it all,” she says. “Whatever they need—supplies, keeping calendars, travel—I get it done.”

As for her daughter, now age 16, she just might make it four generations to work at MIT someday.