Student Government column
Editor’s Note: Dominique Escandon is the Cabinet Writer of The Student Government.
Dressed in our very best outfits for exploring and talking about our feelings, be that overalls (Srishti Jain, Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Advocate) or an explorer hat-and-vest combo (Aaron Gutierrez, Student Body Vice President), eleven members of the President’s Cabinet made the winding trek to North Park for a Cabinet retreat. The mood shifted to reflective when Vaasavi Unnava, Student Body President, asked us to take a few minutes to write a response to the question, “What do you want CMU to be like?”
That’s a tough one. It was, of course, my active choice to enroll in Carnegie Mellon almost a year and a half ago, but every day since then my understanding of what it means to be a student here has been challenged and changed, not into something permanently ugly, but definitely something complicated.
The sentiment was shared. Frustrations toward a lack of inter-grade interactions or communal spaces to just relax or share conversation are routed in the belief that every student here is interesting and worth getting to know. A desire for more female professors — voiced by Olivia Roy, our chief of staff and a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, who has never been taught engineering by a woman —- stems from the knowledge that Carnegie Mellon attracts incredible talent and our faculty has a significant impact on our lives. The fact that many students view their Carnegie Mellon University experience as transaction-based, putting up what they need for an expected professional gain, means that we trust that this institution facilitates success based on effort.
But what about imposter syndrome, the belief that everyone around you is a genius and you are the only one who is struggling, which runs rampant through our individually-able and always-imperfect student body? The name of Carnegie Mellon, the motto of putting your all in the work (with work placed under a strict definition of academics), means you have something to prove, but it’s driving us past our limits. How can we make students more comfortable speaking about how they are doing without fear of being exposed as a “fraud”? Do students believe that they will be listened to? Are there ways to increase the potential of new positive interactions with peers for reasons other than academia, to give us a chance to breathe and explore?
Most of us choose every year to commit once again to Carnegie Mellon, but no one denies that there is much to be done to make all of Carnegie Mellon University’s promises and holistic potential a reality. The magic of student government is in their attempt to 1) understand the issues our students are facing and their causes and 2) expedite the process of creating a better university for the community it is serving. The final question we were asked to answer was, imagining that we could accomplish everything we wanted in our time on President’s Cabinet, what would those things be? Answers varied from scholarships to improved interfaces to student summits around a cause, but every single one was ambitious and inspiring (all our active projects will soon be posted online!), and we are all so hopeful for the success of this school year.