President Suresh seeks diverse talent and excellence for Carnegie Mellon

President Suresh delivered his Annual Update this past Thursday in the Cohon Center's Rangos Hall. The update follows an annual town hall held last fall to address the needs of the community. The 30-minute speech was received by hundreds of members of the Carnegie Mellon community, including faculty, students, and alumni. It was also live-streamed on the university's website.

Suresh was introduced by Student Body President Vaasavi Unnava who welcomed the ninth president of Carnegie Mellon University. The president began with welcoming both the in-person and streaming audiences, which extended to visiting families and parents.

Recognition and acknowledgments preceded the address, with congratulatory remarks to outstanding members of Carnegie Mellon. Suresh recognized faculty such as Tepper Professor Sridhar Tayur for being inducted into the National Society of Engineering who also donated $1 million towards the construction of the Tepper Quad, and School of Drama Head Peter Cooke who was named a member of the Order of Australia. Suresh then went on to congratulate outstanding members of the student body. This ranged from the hyperloop team personally working with Elon Musk, to Chrystal Thomas, a senior in the Mellon College of Science, for being awarded the Schwarzman Scholarship in Beijing, and finally basketball player Lisa Murphy, a senior psychology major, for making NCAA history.

The President’s address focused on three points: first, to attract and retain outstanding and diverse talent; second, to enhance the physical environment and the Carnegie Mellon experience; and third, to build excellence across the university.

In order to attract a diverse student body, Carnegie Mellon has targeted its efforts on endowment to maximize the number of students it can cover through scholarships. With the assistance of 450 contributors, a total increase of $285 million has been added to the endowment since the previous year, thus enabling 225 students to be supported. As of December 2016, the university’s endowment stands at greater than $2 billion, the highest in Carnegie Mellon history. In fact, the endowment has increased by nearly 60 percent in just the past three years alone. Further aid comes from trustees who, just this past week, announced a $10 million gift to presidential scholars.

In addition to community contributions, external partnerships have also blossomed into donations intended to supplement Carnegie Mellon’s outstanding student talent. U.S. Department of Defense donated $250 million to an advanced robotics manufacturing institute led by Carnegie Mellon. ANSYS donated to the university to help fund a new building hosting maker ecosystems in advanced robotics. The U.S. Department of Transportation gave $14 million to Mobility21 to improve mobility of people and goods in the 21st century, and K&L Gates donated to allow the study of ethics of artificial intelligence.

President Suresh then shifted to how the administration is enhancing the Carnegie Mellon Experience, which falls into two distinct categories: first, the personal dimension which exists in an environment and infrastructure to live our healthy lives, and second, the community dimension for a united spirit and purpose, and ultimately “One CMU.”

Through subgroups like the international task force and a new host family program, the campus has strived to further integrate students into one community. The internal task force comprises of representatives across the Carnegie Mellon community who deliver valuable insight to the daily lives of students. Meanwhile, a new host family program has already matched 73 international students with 40 host families in the Pittsburgh area. The program’s success is only expected to increase over time.

There have also been a number of new and expanded efforts related to diversity including anti-bias training sessions, the formation of the most diverse senior leadership team in our university’s history, and pipeline programs from under-served and underrepresented communities for a rigorous higher education.

Student leaders also hosted an open forum a few weeks ago to discuss immigration. Suresh said that this topic is paramount to him in his professional experience with the historically welcoming immigration policies of this country.