New organizations unite

We are officially back in school. It’s time to hit the books, but what about extracurricular activities? New and returning students alike should beware of becoming so rapidly immersed in their studies that they miss the opportunity to join in all the new student organizations that have blossomed this year. New and old, from community service groups to, say, the school newspaper, there is a group out there for everyone.

Several organizations new to campus this year bring a refreshing light to Carnegie Mellon, serving to unite the somewhat segregated subcultures on campus. They are all interested in melding together different organizations and people with the intent of providing service to and establishing communications with the campus and city communities.

Juniors Neha Thatte (industrial design) and Tehana Weeks (business administration) founded the organization CMU Fusion this year with the intent of offering “opportunities for already-active cultural and social organizatons on campus to interact and collaborate through tangible established events and student engagement,” said Thatte. Finally, a group is working to unite the Asian cultural groups with the Latin dancing groups with the writing groups with the acting groups.

Thatte and Weeks’ vision is that, rather than celebrating diversity by focusing on individual cultures, our campus should celebrate diversity in culture and interests by uniting. They are calling for anyone and everyone who wants to bring different social groups together, therefore fusing all of the branches of activity and interest on our already-active campus. Describing the idea as “truly radical,” Thatte sees the club promoting “increasingly defined and explorative bouts of creativity” as more first-years and returning students join and provide their own ideas on how to promote cultural fusion campus-wide.

CMU Fusion’s main event this year will be a general event that will incorporate as many active cultural and social groups on campus that are willing to participate. Each group can perform what it wants and as it pleases, but Thatte said it is imperative that “each transition must transition fully and smoothly into the next act, resulting in one seamless, continuous performance.” That is, different groups will need to work with each other to create one complete event for the student body. The performance will take place April 8, 2007.

Another important new campus organization is the Student Monitorship Academic Advice Resource Team (S.M.A.A.R.T.). The idea for S.M.A.A.R.T was drawn up by Christine Butler, senior psychology major, and Alanna Williams, who graduated in the Spring with a degree in social and decision sciences. The organization’s goal is one that will appeal to both first-years and older students already interested and involved in community service groups: to raise campus awareness about all different forms of disabilities. Members do not need to have disabilities to join; rather, the growing organization’s mission is to educate all students and faculty about the presence and characteristics of both learning and physical disabilities.

“The members of the organization,” said the club’s president, junior economics major Howard Kim, “will benefit by having a community of people at CMU who can relate to their experiences and be helpful.” As the group acquires more members, Kim said, it hopes to expand into Pittsburgh to do community service and to hold workshops in which professors can learn more about working with students with disabilities. “We are always looking for new people who can help create new ideas, and turn them into wonderful realities,” Kim concluded.

On that note, the Optimist Club of Carnegie Mellon University aims to make our surrounding community a better place. Founder and graduate student in Public Policy and Management Josh Caplan wants to “bring out the best in kids” by encouraging Carnegie Mellon students from all academic disciplines to give back to kids in the Pittsburgh area and simultaneously fuse together different social groups on campus. The new campus organization is actually a branch of Optimist International, which started in 1919. Supported and in part sponsored by a local Optimist Club branch, Carnegie Mellon’s Optimist Club will let every student who joins take part in deciding how to give back to the children of Pittsburgh, thus letting the energy and ideas of a diverse group of students become one force set out to do good in our greater community.

“Great leadership opportunities are available,” Caplan noted, “as the club is brand new at CMU and officers will come from the new membership we acquire.” Moreover, “members [will] get the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of young people.”