We hear it over and over — Carnegie Mellon is a university committed to interdisciplinary thinking, embracing diversity, and molding its students into architects of change. The news releases coming out of our research centers are extraordinary and deserve the praise and attention of our university community. But beyond the classroom, a broad array of students embrace these ideas in a different way — through their participation in and leadership of student organizations.
These organizations — Greek life included — should not be thought of as a mere diversion from the more “serious” business that Carnegie Mellon is conducting. Rather, the contributions that students are making and the skills they are learning outside of the classroom are now absolutely critical to ensuring Carnegie Mellon’s place as a top university.
Consider, for example, the university’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS), a group of students who provide professional-level emergency medical treatment. The leadership that an EMS crew chief needs to display in managing potentially life-and-death situations can’t be taught in a classroom even by the best professor; it has to be experienced. Nowhere is interdisciplinary work more clear than in each Carnival’s Scotch’n’Soda show, in which engineering students and arts students work together — and often switch their traditional roles — in order to build something bigger than the individual.
The point is this: Student life is quickly becoming Carnegie Mellon’s key differentiating factor. Students are seeking it out, soaking it in, and asking for more. The problem, however, is that this increased passion is both a blessing and a curse. The number and intensity of new student organizations is vastly outpacing the tiny increase in the student activities fee each year. Performing arts organizations are rehearsing in conference rooms and battling each other for a day or two in Rangos — a space not even built as a performance venue. Some Booth and Buggy organizations have laughably little storage and construction space. Faculty understanding of the drive that students put into their extracurricular activities is far too low.
As your student body vice president for organizations, my goal is to help ensure the future of student organizations. As students, we owe it to ourselves to be our own best advocates. So if you love student organizations as much as I do, join me. Together we can ensure that student life becomes one of Carnegie Mellon’s strongest qualities.