Helen Wang (pictured with her son) is the Housefellow for Morewood E-Tower, a first-year residence hall at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to her role as Housefellow, Helen is the director of First-Year student life and the college liaison for CMU’s interdisciplinary programs including the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), BXA Intercollege Degree Programs, and Science and Humanities Scholars (SHS). She’s also the advisor for the Charpie Scholars Program, a Carnegie Mellon scholarship made possible by the generous Charpie family and awarded to admitted students with an exemplary academic record and promise of leadership potential.
A proud Tartan, Helen completed her undergraduate studies in English and psychology here at Carnegie Mellon and earned her graduate degree in American studies with a focus on Asian American literature at the College of William and Mary.
How did you come to join CMU?
I was working on my dissertation in American Studies, very unhappily, in New York City. I wrote to a mentor at CMU, who told me about the housefellow role. My alma mater and a great job? I was sold! The rest is history. I packed up my stuff and moved back to Pittsburgh, and now this place is so much of what home looks like.
What makes the Morewood E-Tower community awesome?
E-Tower is awesome because of the people. We have 40 people from all walks of life interacting on a single floor – it’s so dynamic because you get to know all 40 people really well. Then we work on “unstacking” E-Tower. This means that you will get to know folks on other floors, too.
We are a very reflective house with signature experiences, like our Pensive Pineapple publication, our gender-based programs, and faculty engagement series. But, most of all, we prioritize making meaningful 1:1 relationships in our community and not worrying about posturing. Pineapples (we call our residents “pineapples” because it is the logo of E-Tower) are who they say they are going to be and they stand in support of one another in the good times and the bad.
What kinds of special first-year programs take place in Morewood E-Tower?
We have events like Pensive Pineapple, BQ squared (where we bring faculty in for dinner), E-Tower commencement, Tower Talks (a first-year Ted Talks series), and Fridays @ 4 (our end-of-week happy hour). We also were the originators of The Hunt @ CMU. There are so many different programs that change year to year, but we pride ourselves on there being something to do in the house most, if not every day, of the week.
What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students?
I have learned so much from students, every day and in so many different contexts, but what cuts across them all is that I’ve learned the joys of being “scrappy.” This is how I describe Carnegie Mellon and CMU students — we are scrappy and we want to do amazing things. If we can imagine or will it, we can make it happen. That makes this place a joy to be a part of every single day.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?
I am a certified yoga instructor and I love all forms of yoga. I love to cook, bake, read, and write. I also love my dog!
All-time favorite book.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Tell us at least one thing that’s on your bucket list.
To spend time in a natural foods-based culinary program and to write my book.
If you could give first-year students one single piece of advice as they start their journey here at Carnegie Mellon, what would it be?
Carve out time to reflect and make meaning of the incredible opportunities in your first year. Take a 12-unit course in you — which just means giving yourself space and time to think and breathe. That’s where the meaning is made. Being a CMU student isn’t about doing a million things. It’s about doing two or three things (academics included) really well and building your character from the moments that you intentionally take to reflect on them. You have time. You have space. You just need to insist on it.