Getting to Know Michelle Mirabella

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.

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.

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12 Helpful Hints from Housing Services at Carnegie Mellon

It’s back to school time! In case you are stressing about what’s already in your room (so you don’t have to pack as much), wondering about washing clothes and keeping your favorite refrigerated snacks nearby (as in an arm-reach from your desk), or worrying about what happens if you accidentally lock yourself out of your room (it happens), this blog is for you. Below are 12 tips from Housing Services to get you prepared for move-in day and the exciting year ahead!

1. The ‘basics’ are provided.

What are the basics?

  • a twin extra-long bed
  • built-in closet or wardrobe
  • dresser
  • desk and desk chair
  • trash can
  • recycle bin
  • cable television hook-up
  • wireless or wired internet
  • toilet paper, trash bags, light bulbs, vacuum cleaner (just ask your RA!)

(Apartment or suite-style rooms will have additional living room and kitchen furniture.)

 2. Definitely pack this stuff.

  • clothes (and remember, it gets cold in Pittsburgh … brrr!)
  • clothes hangers
  • desk lamp
  • laundry basket/bag and laundry soap
  • mugs, cups, plates, utensils
  • reusable water bottle
  • storage bins
  • toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, etc.)
  • umbrella (it also rains a lot in Pittsburgh. Despite the rain and snow, we promise Pittsburgh is awesome!)
  • surge protector/power strip
  • school supplies
  • university documents

Don’t want to pack sheets and blankets? You don’t have to! The Carnegie Mellon Bookstore partners with the Student Dormitory Council and Bed, Bath, and Beyond to offer a full line of linens (designed to fit extra long mattresses), comforters, towels, blankets, and many other supplies to make your move-in transition smooth and effortless. Order by July 30 to ensure your selections and to make sure they will be delivered to your room on time. 

Another little tip – start with packing the essentials and then buy more items as needed once you are here. Many stores are just a short shuttle or bus ride away, and the university store has many essential items, too.

3. Easy in, easy out. Inspect your room once you are checked in.

Upon checking in, each student must inspect his or her room, apartment, or house and complete an electronic Living Space Condition Report (eLSCR) as accurately as possible. This report plays an important role in tracking damages from check-in to check-out and is the main component of spring closing inspections.

So, once you are checked in, log into the Housing Portal  to complete your eLSCR. Watch the tutorial on exactly how to do it:

4. You can “cook” and cool in your own room.

microfridgeMicrowaves and mini fridges are permitted within the residence halls. Residents may bring their own compact microwaves (under 700 watts) and mini-refrigerators (smaller than 4.5 cubic feet and operate on 110/120 VAC).

If you’d rather not worry about measurements and wattage, you have the convenient option of renting a microwave refrigerator/freezer (all in one compact unit) that will be installed in your room prior to when you move-in, if you order by August 10. To rent one, click here. (These also get removed after move-out in the spring.)

5. Doing laundry is a cinch at CMU.

Laundry services are included for on-campus residents. To wash and dry clothes, simply load up a machine, choose your cycle, and push start. Why can’t all things in life be that simple? To make things even more convenient, use this handy-dandy Laundry Viewer to see if washers and dryers are available before walking to the laundry room.

6. I locked myself out. What do I do?

7. Don’t suffer in silence … submit a work order!

Housing Services is here to help you with (most) of your facility maintenance needs. All non-emergency requests for maintenance in the residence halls (including furniture requests) should be submitted via the Housing Portal. (Only students who are checked into their room will be able to submit a maintenance request.) When submitting a request, make sure to be as detailed as possible so that we can address the problem in the best way possible.

Our goal is to complete all maintenance requests within seven working days. An exception to this goal is during opening, when maintenance requests come in at a high volume. Please note that maintenance requests (particularly those for lofting or de-lofting) may take up to four weeks after classes start to complete – we appreciate your patience during this very busy time!

Watch the tutorial video on how to submit a maintenance request:

8. How and where can I print?

For an on-campus student resident, a personal printer is not needed. Save money on ink and paper by using the campus printing stations, many of which reside in residence halls. Each student receives $40 per semester in printing, just swipe your CMU ID to print.

Printing stations are located in Morewood Gardens, Mudge House, Donner House, the Hill Service Center, West Wing, and Residence on Fifth.

9. Visit the student front desks.

Front desks are located in Donner (open 10 am to 2 am, daily), Morewood Gardens (open 24/7), Mudge (open 10 am to 2 am, daily), Stever (open 10 am to 2 am, daily), and the Residence on Fifth (open 24/7) to provide safety, security, and customer service for our residents and guests. (The Morewood Gardens Makerspace desk is open from noon to 12 am, daily.) The desks offer a variety of equipment available for check-out, including:

  • cooking supplies
  • pool cues/pool balls
  • board games
  • DVDs
  • remote controls
  • ping pong paddles
  • music room keys
  • red moving carts

These desks are staffed by students, who are happy to answer any questions you might have!

10. Get involved.

There are many ways to get involved on campus, and getting involved in your residence hall community is one way. The committees below look for feedback from current students about how to improve the Carnegie Mellon residential and student experience. Look for more information on bulletin boards or our social media sites!

11. Find a student job on campus.

Are you interested in an on-campus job? If so, start by utilizing Handshake, our campus wide recruiting system. Housing Services posts multiple year-round positions, such as the Desk Services Assistant position and Office Assistant position.

12. Start planning for semester breaks.

Depending on the building you live in, your building may close for winter break, so be sure to plan travel accordingly. Most buildings close on Tuesday, December 19, at 12:00 pm, for Winter Break, and re-open on Friday, January 12, at 12:00 pm. The buildings that remain open are Morewood E-Tower, Morewood Gardens, the Residence on Fifth, Shirley Apartments, Webster Hall Apartments, and Fairfax Apartments.

Thanks for reading and we hope these tips are helpful! Housing Services is  anxiously awaiting your arrival!

Contact us at housing@andrew.cmu.edu or 412-268-2139 with any questions you may have.

Getting to Know David Chickering

David Chickering (pictured above with his daughter) is the Housefellow for Morewood E-Tower. In addition to his role as Housefellow, David is an Associate Director for Residential Education, the Student Affairs college liaison to the Schools of Art and Music, an instructor for the environmental course called Privilege, Responsibility, and Community, coordinator for RA (Resident Assistant) recruitment, selection, training, and assessment, and the liaison to the university’s neighbors on Beeler Street.

David earned his undergraduate degree in theatre and English and his master’s in higher education, both from the The University of Iowa.

A member of the Carnegie Mellon community for 14 years, David has lots of great stuff to share!

How did you come to join CMU?

I was looking for a selective school with creative students. I was also looking for a city with a National League baseball team, green spaces, good coffee, and character. I did not know much about Carnegie Mellon or Pittsburgh before I was asked to apply. I have fallen in love with both.

What are you looking forward to for the Morewood E-Tower community in the year ahead?

I took a year away from being active in a house orientation, so I am excited to help set the tone for an amazing year in E-tower throughout orientation. I am looking forward to watching a random group of students take ownership in creating a supportive community.

What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students?

I learned from a student and his friends to wear two different styles of socks every day. There are so many reasons to do so. I highly recommend it.

Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?

I am pretty sure that I love my family. So, I do lots of family stuff – hiking, camping, biking, coaching kids sports, and carrying stuff. I like to eat and cook good vegetarian food. I am pretty proud of my Indian cooking skills. I collect and ride vintage scooters. I garden and drink copious amounts of good coffee.

What’s your all-time favorite book?

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Tell us at least one thing that’s on your bucket list.

Buckets. You can’t have a bucket list without buckets.

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?

Empathy is important. People are complex. Get to know people. You will learn a lot and things will make more sense, or less sense. Either way, you will be better for it.

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Getting to Know Thomas Rainey

Thomas Rainey (pictured above holding baby Oliver, fellow Housefellow Helen Wang’s son) is the Housefellow for Mudge House, a large first-year residence hall (and mansion) in the Morewood corridor of Carnegie Mellon University’s campus. In addition to his role as Housefellow, he also serves as Coordinator of Residential Education.

Thomas completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, in psychology and students affairs in higher education, respectively.

How did you come to join CMU?

I first visited Carnegie Mellon with members of my graduate program, and I truly fell in love with the energy of campus. Later, I did an internship with M. Shernell Smith, now a fellow housefellow, in the Multicultural Initiatives office. During this time, I met so many extraordinary students and was incredibly excited when a housefellow position became available. I applied and was fortunate enough to be selected. I enjoy my work here every day.

What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students? 

Embrace your passions. Maybe that means coming off as nerdy or awkward, but that is the true beauty of Carnegie Mellon. It’s the acceptance and celebration of what makes you uniquely you and the sharing of that with others that really allows you to embrace who you are and what you love.

Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?

I love to read Japanese manga (comics) and I love to watch football and basketball. I enjoy lifting weights and am trying to get into running more. I also enjoy watching documentaries and reading books and articles of all genres. I enjoy any form of music that tells a great story. Most importantly, I am an avid chicken wing enthusiast. If you want to know the best place to get wings in Pittsburgh, let me know.

All-time favorite book: The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Tell us at least one thing that’s on your bucket list: Skydiving!

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?

I would encourage them to be open to new experiences and to embrace the best versions of themselves. This university has so many amazing things to offer, so during your time here take advantage of as much as you can but also pace yourself and enjoy the amazing ride.

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Getting to Know Mandy Best

Mandy Best is the Housefellow for Donner House, a first-year residence hall affectionately known as “Big Blue.” In addition to her role as Housefellow, she is also a coordinator for Residential Education, spearheading Spirituality and Interfaith Initiatives for the campus community, and advising INSPIRE (Interfaith and Spirituality Embassy) – a student group focused on advancing interfaith cooperation and spiritual well-being at Carnegie Mellon University. She also serves as staff support for the Council of Religious Advisors (CORA), a group of religious and lay leaders organized around supporting and encouraging religious and spiritual life within the campus community.

Mandy completed her undergraduate studies in psychology at Geneva College. She went on to earn her master’s in education in school counseling from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

How did you come to join Carnegie Mellon?

When I finished my master’s degree, I was doing mental health counseling with children in their homes. Though it was incredibly important and meaningful work, I really wanted to find a job in education. For years a friend had been telling me that I would be a good fit for the Housefellow position at CMU. When there was finally an opening, she called me and said, “it’s time!” I applied, interviewed, and got the job, which happened to start two days after my wedding. So I cancelled my honeymoon, packed up my house, and here I am! (And we were fortunately able to reschedule our trip for the following summer!)

What makes the Donner House community so awesome?

During orientation, Donner residents learn this simple truth: “Donner is blue. Blue is nice. Therefore, Donner is nice!” Donner is a community full of history, folklore, pride, and its residents bleed blue! There’s something about Donner that’s infectious.

Housing Blog Donner

The building itself is set up in a way that encourages its residents to get to know others throughout the entire building — not just their roommates or floormates — so it really does feel like a big blue family. This means residents have many, many opportunities to form connections with others.

Also, Donner is situated in an ideal location on campus. Because of its close proximity to the design, architecture, and art studios, and to Skibo gym, Donner often draws large groups of both art students and athletes. (And, occasionally, art students who are athletes!) We are truly a diverse community that embraces and celebrates different and unique interests, passions, and personalities.

The residents of Donner House also run a completely student-managed website about the Donner community: http://cmudonner.weebly.com/. There’s bios about the residential staff, information about events, and frequently asked questions. Check it out!

What kinds of special first-year programs take place in Donner?

Donner has a few events that are unique to our community. Most notably are Pohlees and Whale Week. Pohlees is an annual variety fair hosted in Donner which features a coffee-house talent show, food, games, crafts, and other activities throughout the house. The week leading up to Pohlees is Whale Week, where we jam-pack the house full of things that are blue: tie-dye, blue food, blue crafts, and if we’re lucky, painting the Fence blue! It’s a big celebration of all things blue … and, of course, by extension, nice!

What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students?

Our students have taught me that if you really believe in an idea, you shouldn’t delay in finding a way to make it come to life.

Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?

Mandy and her husband enjoying nature in Glacier National Park in Montana.
Mandy and her husband enjoying nature in Glacier National Park in Montana.

I can’t seem to stop making things. My main creative interest is quilting, but I also dabble in hand-lettering, crocheting, baking, and folding tiny origami stars. I’ve recently learned how to make jewelry out of precious metal clay. It has been a really fun process to learn and gives me an excuse to own a torch and light things on fire in my kitchen, which of course is endlessly amusing.

I also love being outside in nature. I’m passionate about the work that’s being done at Camp Lutherlyn, a summer camp where I spent several years working with the summer-time and year-round staff. I now serve on the board of directors and try to find any excuse possible to spend some time at camp.

All-time favorite book?

This is a hard question, because I read a lot but I never read the same book more than once. I love anything and everything by Anne Lamott, and I was fascinated by Katniss and the Hunger Games world. I recently read Neil Patrick Harris’s autobiography which was written as a choose your own adventure. I highly recommend it if you want a good laugh. I think maybe my all-time favorite book is still out there waiting for me to pick it up. I guess I need to keep reading!

Tell us at least one thing that’s on your bucket list.

Oh there are so many things! I’ve always wanted to join an ice hockey team. (Who knows if I’d be good at it – I can skate, so that’s a start!) I want to buy a camper and drive across the country with my husband and our dog. I’d love to learn to play the ukulele. I recently bought tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway, so I’m looking forward to checking that one off the list.

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?

Be intentional with and protective of your time. Don’t just do things because you think you “should” or because it seems like that’s what everyone else is doing. Reflect on what’s important to you, what you love, and what you value, and craft your life in a way that is consistent with that and nothing else.

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Getting to Know Kristine Kengor

Kristine Kengor is currently the Housefellow for the Stever House, a first-year residence hall located on Morewood Avenue. Additionally, as a coordinator for Residential Education, she spearheads community service and civic engagement initiatives across the Carnegie Mellon campus, including in the residence halls. One specific campus initiative that she co-directs is PACE (Partners Allied in Civic Engagement), a collaborative student and staff program aimed at increasing participation in civic engagement activities and creating a pervasive culture of civic engagement across campus.

Kristine completed her undergraduate studies at Bucknell University, where she studied economics and political science. She earned her master’s in higher education administration at Penn State University and is currently working towards her doctorate in social and comparative analysis of education at the University of Pittsburgh.

How did you come to join Carnegie Mellon?

My good friend and colleague Bryan Koval (Housefellow for Morewood Gardens) told me about the position because he thought it would be a great fit for me. I had worked in residence life in the past and was working in service learning at the time. Since this job was a combination of both of those areas, I jumped at the opportunity. Plus, it was a chance for me to come home to Pittsburgh, be closer to my family, and go back to school.

What are you looking forward to most for the Stever community this coming year?

This year in Stever I am most looking forward to making this place feel like a home. I want students to walk into our building and feel like they have the ability to entirely be themselves and to truly exhale when they come home. PACE (Partners Allied in Civic Engagement) is also focusing their educational programming on Environmental Justice this year. I am looking forward to collaboration between PACE and Stever to focus on sustainability and the fact that Stever is a LEED Certified building.

What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students?

I continually learn from this line of work and from students that we cannot possibly know what struggle or challenge someone is going through unless we really take the time to slow down and listen to each other.

Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?

Kristine 2
Kristine with Cooper at Allegheny National Forest

Because I am in school a lot, much of my “free time” is spent on school work! I am interested in social class identity development within higher education, specifically for students at schools like Carnegie Mellon. I am also passionate about being part of my church community, helping retired racing greyhounds find their forever homes through Steel City Greyhounds, trying new restaurants around the city, and sampling craft beers.

All-time favorite book?

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. It’s his autobiography about his relationship with his wife, with C.S. Lewis, and with Christianity.

Tell us at least one thing that’s on your bucket list.

This past summer I purchased a passport to America’s national parks while I was in the Grand Canyon. I would love to fill that by camping at as many national parks as I can!

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?

Don’t over do it! Allow enough time in your schedule so that you can enjoy your experiences while fully engaging in the classes you are taking.

Kristine 1
Kristine with the 2015-16 Steering Committee at Stop Hunger Now

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Getting to Know Lenny Chan

Lenny S. Chan is the Housefellow for Doherty Apartments and an Associate Director for Residential Education. He also serves as one of the College Liaisons for the College of Engineering.

Lenny earned his bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in college student personnel, both from Slippery Rock University.

How did you come to join CMU?

After earning my master’s degree while working full time, I was looking forward to a new adventure. I began my career at Carnegie Mellon working with Greek Life, specifically with the fraternities and special events (Greek Sing and Greek Council). After three years, I transitioned into a housefellow role in the Oakland community. For seven years, I was the Housefellow for Fairfax Apartments as well as other housing communities in Oakland. I have also been Housefellow for Morewood Gardens and worked with the student conduct process for many years. This is my first year working with Doherty Apartments.

What are you looking forward to for the Doherty community in the year ahead?

I am looking forward to spending time with and learning more about the residents of Doherty. The relationships I get to have with students is one of the best parts of being a Housefellow. Each year is different and I am excited about the opportunities the Doherty community will offer.

Share one of your most prized CMU memories.

This is challenging since I have so many. I would have to say every commencement day. There is something so special about being on campus that day. Regardless of the weather or anything else that is going on in life, commencement makes you feel good about Carnegie Mellon and the work that is done by students, staff, and faculty throughout the year. It’s great to see students and their families so happy and excited.

What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students?

Be passionate about something. Whether it is a professional or personal interest, find at least one thing and go all in.

Lenny and Jennifer's rescue pups, Finn and Riley, looking totally adorbs.
Lenny and Jennifer’s rescue pups, Finn and Riley, looking totally adorbs.

Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?

I enjoy reading nonfiction and learning about local history. I look for ways to engage in the Pittsburgh community. Pittsburgh is a great city and has so much to offer, and I try to take advantage of those things as much as possible. My wife, Jennifer, and I enjoy eating at local restaurants, supporting local businesses, and attending events in the Cultural District. We also have two rescue dogs, Finn and Riley, who are a big part of our family.

All-time favorite book: When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Always a tough question since there are so many choices. I would love to have dinner with John F. Kennedy. It would be great to talk about his life, what he could have accomplished, and what he thinks about the state of things today.

You get to eat a meal where fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol get completely wiped off the books. What would be your food of choice for this very special (and sadly impossible) meal?

Pizza, all of the pizza.

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