Michelle Mirabella is the Housefellow for Boss House and McGill House, two residence halls located on “the Hill” area of Carnegie Mellon’s campus. She also serves as the Coordinator of Community Standards and the Integrity-Process Advisor for the university’s Disciplinary Committee. A Carnegie Mellon alumna, Michelle graduated in 2010 with an undergraduate degree in professional writing and a music minor. She earned her master’s in higher education administration and student affairs from New York University.
She’s excited to back at her alma mater working within a community that helped shape her as the person she is today. Let’s learn more about Michelle!
How did you come to join CMU?
I applied to Carnegie Mellon for my undergraduate and was accepted in spring of 2006. I graduated four years later and then worked as the Acting Housefellow for Boss and McGill for a year after graduation. After five years working at other institutions – both domestically and abroad – I’m excited to be back!
What have you learned about the Boss and McGill communities so far?
McGill and Boss complement one another in forming the BaMily. Both houses are intimate in size and engender a sense of family. McGill House is an all-women’s mixed class residence and Boss House is a themed residence focusing on global living. As a cohesive BaMily community, we can delve deeply into topics germane to our house identities, like intersectional feminism and intercultural competency.
What makes you most excited about being at CMU?
The students. Students at Carnegie Mellon are uniquely passionate and pointedly interdisciplinary in their approach to challenges.
What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students?
The beauty of intentional gratitude; I have seen this exemplified by RAs and CAs throughout my time as both a student and professional at Carnegie Mellon. This concept goes further than supporting one another, than appreciating one another. It is genuine gratitude for someone that allows you to support and appreciate them in return. This strikes a special place in my heart.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?
Language and language learning, reading up on current events/feminist theory/social justice. These are my main hobbies and passions. I speak Spanish as my second language and dabble in Portuguese and Italian. I have also taught English as a foreign language. I am fascinated by the language learning process and how language shapes our experiences as we move through the world.
Souh of Chile
Atacama Desert, Chile
All-time favorite book.
I don’t do favorites unless you ask me my favorite number. Context is relevant for me. One book I believe is important is Feminism Is for Everybody by bell hooks. I highly recommend it.
If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Perhaps in this moment, I would choose the very author of the book I previously mentioned: bell hooks. Her work focuses on the intersection of race, capitalism, and gender.
You’re stranded on a desert island – what three things would you love to have with you?
A water desalinator, a huge box of flares, a journal/pen combo to document.
Studying for finals requires energy, stamina, and constant focus. You have been training your brain all semester, similar to the way an athlete trains their body for competition. Imagine if an athlete skipped meals, ate mindlessly, and refueled with candy, junk food, and caffeine in preparation for a big race. Without balanced nutrition, even the best athlete’s performance would suffer!
Surprisingly, our brain, which is only 2% of our total body weight, consumes 20% of the calories we eat. This means that eating quality foodconsistently throughout the day is essential for our mind to perform at its best.
During this busy time it may feel overwhelming to spend time thinking about meals, so here are a few tips to keep your brain out of the fog:
Eat a morning meal and get your brain into gear! Grab a breakfast sandwich with a side of fruit, a quinoa breakfast bowl, or a fruit and yogurt parfait. Enjoy a coffee with breakfast, but steer clear of the sugar-laden flavored lattes that can cause your energy levels to crash.
Don’t skip meals. Aim to eat a meal every 4 to 5 hours to maintain a steady supply of energy to the brain. Pack snacks like trail mix, granola bars, or fresh fruit for those times when you can’t squeeze in a meal.
Stay hydrated. Water is essential for delivering nutrients to our cells (i.e. brain cells!) and can help curb cravings for junk food. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which means that extra hydration is in order if you are drinking coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks during long study sessions. Carry a water bottle and use the water fountains around campus to refill regularly!
Now, let’s look at some of the brain-boosting foods that can help you maximize your study time.
Go green with vegetables like spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, and broccoli! Leafy greens are packed with protective antioxidants like vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene) and C, and nutrients that boost cellular antioxidant defense like sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or kale. The good news is that you can find greens all over campus – check out a few of our favorites!
Grill ‘n’ Greens – every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Global Flavour station in Resnik, chefs prepare lean proteins and super food greens grilled to order. You can choose from greens like bok choy, Swiss chard, kale, broccolini, radicchio, and more.
Super Foods Vegetarian Salad at Rothberg’s Roasters II. This salad is packed with good-for-you food: kale, Brussel sprouts, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, radicchio, as well as chickpeas, broccoli, pickled carrots, cucumbers, flax seed, avocado, edamame, and signature lemon vinaigrette.
Kale salad at Tazza D’Oro – kale, roasted butternut squash, and dried cranberries, served with apple cider vinaigrette.
Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, or flaxseeds may be small, but they deliver big nutrition. They provide a variety of unsaturated fatty acids, which are essential to brain structure and function. A diet lacking in fat can lead to sub-par brain performance, so to ensure you are operating at full capacity, sprinkle nuts and seeds on a salad or grab a handful for a satisfying snack. There are lots delicious ways to enjoy nuts and seeds when dining on campus:
Harvest Turkey Salad at Au Bon Pain, featuring roast turkey, romaine and spinach, cranberries, grapes, granny smith apples, goat cheese, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar.
Super Foods Wrap at Rotherberg Roasters II – this wrap will keep you full and focused with wheat berries, almonds, cranberries, bell pepper, ginger, honey, orange, avocado, arugula, and tomato, on a whole wheat wrap.
Omega 3 fats are also known as essential fatty acids (EFAs), or fats that cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from food. Among the long list of omega 3 EFA health benefits, brain development and cognitive function are at the top! Omega 3 fats may also boost your mood, something we all need during the stress of finals week. The most potent sources of omega 3 fats are found in marine foods, such as salmon, trout, albacore tuna, mackerel, oysters, and seaweed. If you prefer plant-based sources, reach for walnuts, soy, flaxseed, chia seed, and pumpkin seeds.
These dishes will help you enjoy the recommended 2 to 3 servings of fish each week:
Create your own unique poke bowl at iNoodle with your choice of rice or noodles, vegetables, up to two types of raw or cooked fish or shellfish, and customized flavor with sauces and spices.
Blackened Salmon Sandwich at the Underground, featuring a blackened center cut salmon filet topped with melted provolone on a whole grain Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, and creamy dill sauce.
Nakama Sushi – choose from a wide selection of raw, cooked, and vegetarian options, rolled fresh daily. Nakama sushi is located in Resnik Servery, but can be found in grab-and-go coolers around campus as well!
Grains provide a dense form of carbohydrate, the nutrient that is most efficiently used to fuel the brain. The best grain foods for our body and mind are whole, unprocessed plants that digest slowly and provide a steady supply of energy. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, barley, quinoa, whole wheat, corn, or brown rice, which will provide sustained energy as you study.
Start your day with steel cut oats at the Carnegie Mellon Cafe, complete with your choice of custom toppings like flaxseed, hemp seed, dried fruit, and more!
Supergrain bowl at Evgefstos – every Monday and Thursday create a custom Supergrain bowl at the only exclusively vegetarian dining location on campus.
Crunchy Quinoa Salad at the Underground – quinoa, kale, shredded carrot, red cabbage, cucumber, scallion, red pepper, edamame, and cashews, with spicy peanut dressing over spring mix. Yum!
Just like whole grains, beans and other legumes (like lentils and peas), provide slow-digesting, complex carbohydrates. Beans also pack a full serving of protein per 1/2 cup, making them a great choice when you need your meal to keep you satisfied so that you can keep your mind on your studies. Beans offer an excellent source of B vitamins like folate and B6 that are linked to regulating metabolism and maintaining normal brain and nervous system function. When you order food on campus, ask for beans on a salad, in a burrito, or make them your main dish!
Build your perfect tacos, burrito, or bowl at El Gallo de Oro. You choose between black beans or pinto beans, combined with rice, protein, vegetables, and the salsa that fits your spice level.
Chickpea salad at Tazza D’Oro – this grab-and-go salad is tossed with Mediterranean spices, lemon, and olive, making it a filling and flavorful treat. Pair with a panini made with a multigrain roll and a mixed green salad for the perfect trifecta of brain food!
Berries are truly a powerhouse fruit. Due to the high skin-to-fruit ratio, berries are low in calories, high in fiber, and provide a dense source of unique plant nutrients, called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are concentrated in the skin of fruits and are linked to the color of the fruit. The highest concentration of a group of phytonutrients called anthocyanins are found in dark blue and red berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries as well as cherries, and red and purple grapes. Anthocyanins have been shown to improve memory, as well as protect brain cells by reducing inflammation. Take advantage of berry benefits by adding them to your yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, smoothie, salad, or simply enjoy them as a snack!
Eating Indian food is a culinary experience unlike any other: the bold and complex spices, the rich, silky texture of curry, the bright acidity of chutneys and achaars (pickled fruit or vegetable), the cooling effect of raita (yogurt sauce), and perhaps the best part, the fresh, handmade bread used to scoop and savor all of these flavors together in one perfect bite.
Indian food is as diverse as the subcontinent that it comes from. For those new to this distinctive cuisine, navigating the menu can be overwhelming. We asked Harjit Singh, chef and owner of Taste of India, to teach us the basics and help us explore his menu. Having served delicious Indian food to the Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon communities for 25 years, both at his location in Resnik and his restaurant on Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville, we knew he’d have a lot to share.
In 1982, Mr. Singh moved from the state of Punjab, located in northern India, to New York City. He lived there for nearly a decade, working in restaurants and building the foundation of his culinary skills and passion for cooking. In 1991, he moved to Pittsburgh to be closer to family and to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant. In the same year, he opened both the Penn
Avenue and CMU locations, specializing in North Indian cuisine. Mr. Singh describes his regional cuisine as “very rich, savory, and less spicy than many other regional cuisines.”
When we asked about the most popular item on the menu, Mr. Singh did not hesitate: “Chicken Tikka Masala.” It’s a recipe that is usually reserved for special occasions for a home cook, yet it is available at the CMU location daily. This labor-intensive dish is truly decadent: melt-in-your-mouth chicken, braised in a velvety, deep-orange curry, exploding with flavor from over a dozen herbs and spices, aromatic vegetables, tomatoes, and cream. As in any restaurant, Mr. Singh noted that there are a number of dishes that diners overlook. If you are looking for a hidden gem, consider the chef’s favorites that are noted throughout.
If you have eaten at Taste of India on campus, it is likely that you have tried an achaar, as it is offered as a complimentary condiment with any meal. Achaar translates to the word pickle, which is a fruit or vegetable that has been preserved with an oil or an acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice. Achaars may be sour and spicy, ranging from mild to very hot.
Alu or Aloo
Alu is the word for potato. The starches in potatoes make them perfect for absorbing and extending flavor, making them a favorite ingredient to highlight the depth of a dish. Alu is often prepared with a wet or dry curry and combined with other vegetables and proteins as a main dish, or transformed into a spicy filling for samosas, parathas, dosas, or alu tikki.
Baingan is the word for eggplant, commonly featured with other vegetables in curries such as alu baingan or in baingan bharta, a popular dish featuring smoky, char-grilled eggplant mashed with spices.
Rice is an essential base for Indian cuisine and Basmati is always the rice of choice. It’s a high quality, long grain rice that is prized for its aromatic qualities and nutty flavor. It may be served plain or in rice dishes such as Biryani.
This versatile rice-based dish can be prepared with any combination of meat, vegetables, and dried or fresh herbs and spices. For a sweet-savory twist, some variations include dried or fresh fruit and nuts. Biryani may be accompanied with raita, or other sauces or chutneys. If you make it to the Penn Avenue location, try one of Mr. Singh’s favorite dishes – Lamb Biryani.
Chapati or Roti – an unleavened bread prepared from atta (a finely ground whole wheat flour), water, oil, and salt. It is rolled to a tortilla-like thickness and quickly cooked over an open flame. This is considered the everyday bread in Indian homes, perfect for scooping up curry.
Paratha – an unleavened bread made from whole wheat flour. It is a thicker bread with flaky layers as a result of folding the dough repeatedly, similar to a pastry dough. Herbs or spices may be folded in to the dough. It is then pan-fried with a light oil or ghee.
Poori (Puri) – an unleavened deep-fried bread often prepared for festivals or special occasions.
Naan – a leavened bread usually prepared with white flour and cooked in a clay tandoori oven. It can be stuffed with vegetables and herbs. While this is the most popular bread in many Indian restaurants, Tandoori ovens are rare in homes; therefore, it is not a bread that is eaten regularly in everyday kitchens. Naan is the only bread available on campus, but all varieties are available at the Penn Avenue location.Check out the Taste of India Tandoori oven in action!
Chana or Channa
Chana means chickpea, a staple in Indian cooking. This creamy legume is incredibly versatile and may be served whole in dishes such as Chana Masala or mashed and mixed with spices and fried as an appetizer. Chickpea flour is used as a breading or to make savory pancakes, crepes, flatbreads, or crispy papadum snacks. Chickpea flour is also known as gram flour or besan.
Served as a condiment or accompaniment, chutney offers brightness and acidity, which creates a perfect balance when combined with rich, earthy, spice-laden dishes. Chutney is the name for relish and is typically made from fruits or vegetables combined with an acid (citrus juice or vinegar), ranging from sweet to sour to spicy. Green, tamarind, and mango chutneys are some of the most popular varieties.
Perhaps the style of cooking most commonly associated with Indian cuisine, curry is a general term for either a combination of dry and/or fresh herbs and spices that are ground into dry spice mixtures or a paste to create a signature flavor. Whole dry spices such as cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, or cardamom (to name a few) are always toasted to enhance the flavor prior to grinding. Curry paste may also include fresh aromatics such as garlic, onion, and ginger (Mr. Singh’s top three favorites), cilantro, or lemon grass, and combined with an oil or ghee to form a paste consistency. Dry curry or curry paste added at the beginning of the cooking process infuses the flavors into the cooking oil. Curry sauces are also known as wet curry, a gravy-like sauce created by the addition of a liquid such as yogurt, coconut milk, stock, water, milk, or cream. Each region or family is known for unique curries; however, some common names for curry on a menu are Masala (the word for spice), Madras, Korma, orVindaloo.
Lentils, peas, or beans, also known as legumes or pulses, which are often split and sometimes hulled (skin removed). The process of splitting increases the surface area of the legume, which decreases cooking time and exposes the starchy inside, creating a creamy, sauce-like texture when cooked. Dal is the name of both the ingredient and the prepared dish. It can be seasoned in a number of ways and is commonly prepared with aromatics and spices and cooked to a porridge-like consistency and served over rice with bread.
Clarified butter is made by melting the butter and removing the milk solids, which helps to prevent burning when cooking at high heat, making it more suitable for frying and sautéing. Ghee, while a typical cooking oil, has become less popular as consumers request vegetable-based oils for health reasons.
Rice pudding, served as a dessert, made with rice, milk, sugar, and cardamom. Variations may include ingredients such as rose water, nuts (like almonds or pistachios), or fruit.
Best translated as “meatballs,” although koftas are often vegetarian and may be made from potatoes, vegetables, or paneer. Saag kofta, or “spinach ball,” is made by mixing chopped spinach, onion, garlic, spices, and chickpea flour and forming it into balls, which are then fried and served in a curry sauce.
Mattar or matar is the word for green peas. Mattar is featured in many curries, combined with other vegetables (such as alu mattar), in mattar paneer, or added to samosa filling.
A fresh, non-melting farmer’s cheese that is set by an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. You will find paneer in many forms on the menu: cubed and added to curries, such as palak paneer or mattar paneer, or in pakoras, fritters that are served as an appetizer or snack. As it is generally an unsalted cheese, it can easily be transformed into a number of creamy desserts.
Saag or Palak
Although the words saag and palak are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Saag is the general word for greens, and palak means spinach. So technically, saag might be spinach or another green leafy vegetable, but palak will always be spinach. Another classic dish is palak paneer – one of the best vegetarian offerings on campus! If you go to the Penn Avenue location, you will have the opportunity to taste Mr. Singh’s favorite dish – lamb saag.
Pilav translates to pilaf, a rice dish with spices, aromatics, and vegetables, as in peas pilav.
This simple, satisfying dish features red kidney beans in a rich gravy with tomatoes, onions, and, of course, lots of spices.
A traditional style of cooking, utilizing wood or charcoal in a cylindrical clay oven, that produces smoky, grilled meats, vegetables, or breads at temperatures reaching as high at 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Favorite dishes include tandoori chicken (marinated with yogurt and spices) and naan bread.
Vindaloo originated in Portugal and is named for its key ingredients: a marinade of wine or wine vinegar (vinho) and garlic (alhos). The dish was transformed to become a traditional Goan dish, laced with warm spices, onion, and chili peppers. Vindaloo is assumed to be a very spicy dish due to the Kashmiri chiles, which contributes a fiery red color, but they are not an especially hot chili. The heat level will vary depending on the restaurant, but it is a dish that can be customized for those seeking a dish that offers more or less spice.
Carnegie Mellon University Dining is incredibly fortunate to have Taste of India on our campus and as a part of the Pittsburgh dining scene. Visit the CMU location, the Penn Avenue location, or have food delivered from the restaurant through Happy Belly. Catering for campus is also available upon request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to hear from you! What is your favorite Indian dish?
Carnegie Mellon Dining Services continues to strengthen its commitment to health and wellness for the campus community, and one exciting way it’s exemplified that this academic year is through the hiring of Jessica Tones, the newest member of the Dining Services team serving as a registered dietitian, nutrition educator, and marketing coordinator. In this unique role, Jessica will collaborate with Carnegie Mellon Health Services and dining vendors to counsel students, and other community members, on dietary restrictions and allergens, and assist them in navigating our unique dining program. Additionally, Jessica will organize campus-wide health and wellness initiatives and outreach programs, and assist in marketing the dining program.
Jessica most recently worked for Giant Eagle, Inc. as a regional dietitian specialist and wellness coach. She has extensive experience in nutrition-based educational programs and classes, one-on-one counseling, and the creation of nutrition education materials. Jessica was also an adjunct instructor of nutrition at the Pittsburgh Technical College.
We are so excited to welcome Jessica to the Carnegie Mellon community. Let’s learn more about her!
Where did you go to college/graduate school and which licensed/registered degrees have you earned?
Simply put, I love food. I wanted to share my love of food in a way that is science-based, while also respecting where food comes from and promoting good health. My own journey with food and nutrition taught me that a healthy, balanced relationship with food means more than just “eating healthy.” Through my education and professional experiences, I have learned that nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. Nutrition is about nourishing the body through food, and I love to help people figure out what that means for them. My goal is to help others hash out nutrition fact from fiction and to provide clear, food-based solutions that inspire people to develop healthier food habits.
How do you stay up-to-date on nutrition trends and information?
The world is saturated with nutrition information, so I try to keep up with current, evidence-based research as well as consumer interests and food trends. In addition to reading professional journals, I love Today’s Dietitian magazine and follow dietitians on social media. Grocery shopping also happens to be one of my favorite ways to keep up with what is going on with food. I spend a lot of time checking out new foods and reading labels – don’t go grocery shopping with me if you are in a hurry to get home!
My most valuable professional resources are my memberships to Dietetic Practice Groups (DPGs) through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which are subgroups of dietitians who work to share information and offer extensive resources and continuing education opportunities. I am currently a member of three DPGs: Food and Culinary Professionals; Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition; and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine.
What are some of your priorities for the coming year regarding nutrition on CMU’s campus?
My number one priority is to listen and learn. I want to know what students are looking for in regards to nutrition information and healthy offerings from Dining Services, and I will use this info as a guide for my work. In my time so far, I can see that dining is doing a lot of exciting work to provide variety and healthful options around campus, and sometimes students aren’t aware of what is available to them. I hope to expand communication between Dining Services and students through our website, social media, discussion, DSAC meetings, and signage at the point of purchase. I am also looking forward to opportunities to engage with students in-person at events throughout the year, such as Taste of the Tartans (which takes place Tuesday, 9/27, from 11 am to 2 pm in Rangos in the Cohon Center) and cooking demonstrations.
How will you be a resource for students?
I am a resource for anything related to dining. I can help students identify foods on campus that fit their health and nutrition goals, whether it be related to a food allergy, identifying vegetarian/vegan options around campus, or fueling for athletic events. If you don’t have specific questions, but want to keep up with how dining is working to offer healthful options on campus, follow us on our social sites as I will be contributing to these regularly.
If you could give one piece of nutrition advice to a busy CMU student, what would it be?
Don’t forget to eat! Food is fuel, for both your body and your mind. You can’t perform at your best when you are running on empty. Take a few moments to think about your day and when you can fit food in. This may mean that you have to pack some snacks or grab a yogurt and a piece of fruit if you have a busy day and will not have time for lunch. Our hours and locations page on the Dining Services website makes it easy to see what’s open now and you can filter to see what will be open in the future.
Personally speaking, what is your favorite meal to prepare/cook/serve?
My favorite type of food is Mexican food. After living in San Diego for eight years, I have an almost constant craving for handmade corn tortillas and Al Pastor tacos.
My favorite food to cook is anything braised – soups, stews, slow-cooked meats that shred with a fork. I love taking simple ingredients and creating something rich and complex that can only be achieved by heat and time.
My favorite dish to prepare and serve is pozole verde. It starts by making chicken stock, simmering overnight. The verde, or green sauce, is made from tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds, which help to thicken the soup. The verde sauce is blended and sautéed to develop flavor and then added to the broth, along with hominy and shredded chicken. Then you wait. I usually let it cook for at least four to eight hours, barely simmering on the stove. When it is time to eat, the best part is making it your own with all of the toppings – cilantro, diced onion, dried Mexican oregano, avocado, thinly-sliced cabbage, radish, a squeeze of lime, and a tostada to eat it with or crumble on top. This is a fun meal to share with friends; everyone can customize their pozole, kind of like phở. There are many ways to speed up the preparation process, but I love to make every part of it from scratch. I usually make it over the holidays when I have a few days off in a row and can take my time and enjoy the process.
Outside of food and work, what are some of your hobbies/interests?
I love to travel and learn about other cultures, read, go to stand-up comedy shows, and exercise – hiking, cardio kickboxing, and yoga being my favorites. A new hobby is making succulent and cactus gardens – my goal this year is to create a succulent wall in my living room. I was inspired on my last trip to San Diego where it is really popular to use drought-resistant plants. Also, I have a 16-month old daughter, who I jokingly like to say is my new hobby, since a leisurely day drinking coffee, reading a book, going to yoga, and going out for a nice meal is a rarity these days. She is amazing – she is sweet, snugly, and loves to make people laugh.
Tell us at least one thing that is on your bucket list.
Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu. These combine my love of hiking, traveling, and learning about other cultures in some of the most incredible places in the world.
What questions do you have for CMU’s dietitian? Share them here!
Katie Schneider is the coordinator of Greek leadership development and housefellow at Carnegie Mellon University. In her role, she is responsible for leadership programs within the Greek community and advising the Greek councils. She is also housefellow and advisor to the following organizations:
Alpha Kappa Delta Phi
Delta Xi Phi
Lambda Phi Epsilon
Omega Phi Beta
Alpha Epsilon Pi
Delta Tau Delta
Sigma Phi Epsilon
Katie attended Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio (GO BROWNS!) where she studied marketing and public relations. She completed her graduate work in higher education administration at the University of Akron while working in fraternity and sorority life.
How did you come to join CMU?
Upon completing my graduate program, I was seeking a Greek advisor role on a private campus that was geographically close to my family in northeast Ohio. CMU popped into my inbox and I was instantly excited. The position description couldn’t have been more inspiring, actually. After coming to campus and meeting students and staff members, I felt like this would be a great new home for me.
As coordinator for Greek leadership development and housefellow for Greek Life, what specific ways will you support and contribute to the Greek life experience on Carnegie Mellon’s campus?
I will be supporting students in a variety of ways: advising, developing a leadership curriculum, assessing the Greek experience, and as a housefellow. While I directly advise the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC), my door is always open to every member of the CMU community, affiliated or not. Advising is important to me as a way to build relationships with students and to challenge and support them through their personal journeys and as members of Greek organizations. Leadership development is a passion of mine, so I am excited to take a closer look at the opportunities for leadership that currently exist and where that blends with campus efforts surrounding leadership. Lastly, I will be supporting students through assessment of the Greek experience and help “tell the story” with the results!
What inspires you most about Greek life?
What inspires me most about Greek Life is the global impact our membership has. Fraternities and sororities truly have great power and responsibility to fulfill the calling for positive, far-reaching impact. Sororities are the largest women’s organizations in the United States; fraternal service improves the quality of life around us; our philanthropic donations save lives and lead to breaking developments in research; our leadership influences Fortune 100 companies and entrepreneurs of small businesses. The amount of responsibility we have as members of the Greek community, to ourselves and to our communities, is inspiring. I think most of all, the Greek experience becomes a part of our identity and creates a special connection with brothers and sisters – past, present, and future.
What is an important life lesson you have learned from working with students, Greeks in particular?
I have learned this about myself and about students I work with: it is okay to fail. Nobody wants to fail, but everyone does, and sometimes failure is the best outcome for the scenario. What we learn from failure and furthermore what we do with that knowledge is what is most valuable.
All-time favorite book.
I don’t think I have a single favorite but The Giver and The Great Gatsby are up there.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle so cooking has become a passion. I am constantly thinking of how to make something delicious and still healthy. Also, I want to see the world so traveling is at the top of my list now that I have finished grad school.
This may be controversial around here, but I am also very passionate about Cleveland sports. Browns, Cavs, Indians, ever since I could remember. I am also passionate about Italian food, specifically, pizza and ravioli. My favorite pizza place is called Edison’s, in Tremont, Ohio, where I get ricotta pizza … tastes like ravioli on pizza. My favorite artist is Claude Monet so I try to see his work anytime it is nearby.
Lastly I am passionate about my family. I have three younger sisters and we are best friends, so spending time with them is always fun!
You could travel anywhere in the world for free and stay for a month. Where would you go and why?
Well this is really tough. I haven’t been out of the country since I studied abroad in undergrad and when I did, I got to travel to many countries in Europe. I am partial to Italy, as my family owns a vineyard near Florence that I never got to see, so I think I would like to go there and to Cinque Terre. Or, I would go back to Claude Monet’s house in Giverny, France.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to a student who is considering joining a Greek chapter but isn’t sure?
Each institution is different. Give it a try and form your own opinion about the Greek experience, sans media and advice offered by others. Give each organization a chance and meet more than just two or three members. Go beyond the surface with your conversations and ask about the impact they have on the community and what their ritual means to them. Lastly, know your values and decide whether they align with one or more groups. If so, we’d love to have you! If not, that is okay, we still welcome you to our events, and support you in your decision to pursue another passion. And, we’ll still be friends and attend your events, too!
Gail DeShields is the Graduate Coordinator for Housing Services and Student Life and is responsible for building community and serving as a resource for all residential graduate students. Gail is also enrolled in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is going to graduate with her Master’s Degree in May of 2017. Gail completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Stockton University in New Jersey prior to joining the CMU community.
What are you looking forward to most in your upcoming work with our graduate community?
I’m looking forward to connecting with other graduate students and providing resources and support both at CMU and within the Pittsburgh community. I’m hoping to plan some social events both on and off campus, educational sessions to learn about the many resources on campus, and helping the on-campus graduate population gain a better sense of community.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?
I enjoy reading, sing, going to concerts and festivals, watching Netflix, and hosting game nights with friends. I’m very passionate about social justice initiatives and gender and sexuality education.
All-time favorite TV show:
Boy Meets World
What’s one thing on your bucket list?
I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and be a tourist, but specifically want to ride a gondola on a river in Italy.
If you could give one piece of advice to graduate students at CMU, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to get involved and make connections with people. Sometimes, graduate school can get lonely or stressful so it’s important to build a network of support around you.
Jordan Kunz is the Housefellow for Shirley Apartments, a first-year apartment community in the Oakland area, and Fairfax Apartments, an upperclass community. He also sits on Provost Jahanian’s Task Force on the CMU Experience which is a group designed to make immediate and long-term changes to enhance the experience for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Jordan completed his undergraduate degree at CMU in business with a minor in computer science. He is currently pursuing a master’s in information systems management through CMU’s Heinz College, and in the future is looking to move into the field of technology consulting.
How did you come to join Carnegie Mellon?
I am actually a native to the Pittsburgh area, and growing up I knew what a great school Carnegie Mellon was. When I was accepted in 2011, I was really excited for the opportunity to go here, and I have been here ever since!
I’ve been involved in Student Life pretty much my entire time at CMU. I was a Resident Assistant twice, a Community Advisor my senior year of undergrad, and an active member of the Student Dormitory Council. As I was graduating from undergrad and getting ready to start my graduate work, it just so happened that Shirley Apartments was going to be transitioning to a first-year community. I was offered the chance to be Housefellow for that community, and that’s where I’ve stayed
What makes Shirley Apartments so awesome?
I think there are a lot of pretty great things about life in Shirley. One of my favorite things is just walking through the halls in the evening and smelling all of the food everyone is making. Every apartment in Shirley has a kitchen, and people definitely take advantage of that. We have multiple potluck events throughout the year because few things are more fun than sharing your favorite dishes with your friends.
I also think what’s great about Shirley is that it’s such a small community. It’s the only community on campus where you can learn everyone’s name in the first week without really trying. It so quickly becomes a tight-knit community where people feel really comfortable with one another, and that leads to really great adventures, discussions, and experiences.
What kinds of first-year programs take place in Shirley?
The most popular programs we have in Shirley are definitely the Thanksgiving potluck, Milkshakes in the Yard, and Shirnival. When everyone in the building has a kitchen, why not make an awesome Thanksgiving meal together as a house? We have the Thanksgiving staples, but we also have a lot of fun dishes that people want to share with their friends which makes for a really unique and delicious meal.
Shirley has a side yard creatively referred to as “The Yard.” As a celebration for the last day of classes, we all go out to The Yard and make milkshakes, hit a piñata, and play games. It’s a great way for everyone to have one last shared experience together before they leave for the summer.
Shirnival is an event run by Shirley’s House Council during Spring Carnival. The House Council hosts games, holds contests, and has fun prizes for people. It’s a really unique event because houses typically don’t have events during Carnival, but Shirley wanted to do its own thing and they had a really good time with it!
Share one of your most prized CMU memories.
My favorite day (or days depending on the weather) every year is Raceday for Sweepstakes. The buggy races are just such a cool experience, and my first Raceday is really special to me. The swarms of people, the jumbotrons, the excitement. It all just adds up to a really fun day for anyone involved, whether they are spectating or participating.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?
I am into sports, superheroes, and learning. I try to follow as many sports as I can, and have played nine different sports competitively in my life. I also spend a lot of time watching superhero TV shows and movies because they’re just a lot of fun. In terms of learning, I’m always finding new things I want to learn about. Currently I’m working toward being fluent in Spanish, learning how to do sports analytics, and learning how to cook.
All-time favorite book:
My favorite book is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I first read it in eighth grade and it’s been my favorite book ever since! It’s not a particularly long read so I reread it every once in a while.
If you could give first-year students one single piece of advice as they start their journey here, what would it be?
My best piece of advice for first-year students is always this: you’re going to change in college, so accept that and make it change that you want to see in yourself. College is a chance to hit the restart button on how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. Take advantage of that to become a person you are proud of.