October 29, 2021

This is MIT Rec: Michael Chouiri

This is MIT Rec: Michael Chouiri’s love of theater fosters teamwork and community in MIT aquatics

This is MIT Rec Michael Choueiri #thisismitrec

Regulars of the MIT aquatic facilities will likely recognize friendly face Michael Choueiri, the morning aquatics deck manager and private swim lessons coordinator. Choueiri has been integral to MIT Recreation for nearly two decades. He has worked summer day camps since he was a teenager and served as a lifeguard and instructor before obtaining his current position managing the pool deck.

Choueiri is a Boston native and an accomplished filmmaker. He graduated from Salem State University in 2014 with a degree in technical theater and has earned five regional film festival awards, including “Best Film” and “Best Drama.”

“What I love about theater is that it is a team sport [and it’s the] same thing with film,” says Choueiri. “You have to work together. I always love working with a team, and I wanted to bring that kind of team ethic from when I was doing theater … or film to [MIT] as well.”

Choueiri emphasizes the importance of teamwork within aquatics operations as MIT Recreation has adjusted to the developing COVID-19 safety measures. As was the case with many facilities in the greater Boston area, MIT Recreation faced sweeping closures in March of 2020, which meant that for the first time in 10 years, Choueiri was no longer in and around the halls of the Z Center every day. The slow reopening, however, has brought some familiar faces back, which Choueiri says is a good change of pace.

“We had a patron [return after the shutdown] and I had gotten to know her,” Choueiri says. “And she came to us and said, ‘can I hug you? Is that ok?’ It’s exciting to see people again. You get to bond a little bit, and it becomes a nice routine.”

Community building is a huge part of what Choueiri does on the pool deck. In November of last year, as part of contact tracing safety measures, MIT Recreation facilities implemented a check-in system to reduce traffic and monitor capacity. Choueiri explains that as that process developed, he made an effort to personally connect with the masked faces of each patron that checked in on the deck.

“I would try to memorize [their] name[s] and a fact about them,” says Choueiri. “It would make a more ‘us together’ as opposed to ‘us and them’ relationship [with patrons]. I know I wouldn’t really have that kind of mentality if I didn’t do theater—if I didn’t have that kind of community where you are spending every night together, and you really get to know the people.”

For one patron, talking about films with Choueiri is an integral part of his workout routine. This is all part of the morning supervisor’s strategy as he tries to reconnect with a community that has been utterly disconnected for the last year and a half. He says that the trust that theaquatics team has built with the swimming community at MIT Recreation helps when relaying safety information, all while doing their best to make sure the community’s needs are fulfilled.

“Both groups [lifeguards and instructors] are working very hard to make sure that the experience that everyone has when they get here is still the experience that they remember,” he says. “I know the lifeguards are doing everything they can to make sure everyone is safe and happy and having a good time, and the instructors are doing everything that they can to make sure everyone is still receiving the quality lessons that they are used to.”

Choueiri gives due credit to the aquatics members that make up his morning guard and instruction team.

“You think of these moves in terms of the big picture, but I think the little details get lost,” He says of his team. “The day-to-day folks all deserve a big round of applause for everything that they do.”

Choueiri continues to work on his filmmaking outside of MIT Recreation and is currently in the submission phase of a playwriting contest. As for MIT aquatics, Choueiri is looking to expand his team and hire two new full-time lifeguards. Information about those open positions can be obtained by emailing lifeguard@mit.edu.

Interviewed and written by: Maddy Jackson