Living & Learning at CMU: Catherine’s Experience

Marketing assistant for Carnegie Mellon Student Affairs Operations, Catherine Kildunne is a sophomore linguistics major. She’s involved in Greek life as a member of Tri Delta, is part of Scotch’n’Soda Theatre, and writes for The Cut, Carnegie Mellon’s music magazine. Above, she is pictured (second from the left) with members of CMU’s Summer Pre-College staff during the summer of 2014.

You lived in Stever House as a freshman. What did you love about your Stever experience?

When I joined Stever freshman year, I lived on the third floor as part of themed housing for the Science and Humanities Scholars (SHS) program. We also lived with people from the Humanities Scholars Program (HSP) and BXA Intercollege Degree Program. I loved how tight-knit we all became being a part of these academic programs together, and I also enjoyed the healthy dose of 3ver (Stever + floor 3 = 3ver) pride.

Stever is so conducive to everyone hanging around in the common areas. In fact, some of the most fun came from getting to know people I would never have spent that much time with otherwise.

(Also … air conditioning. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to weather, so air conditioning was key!)

What makes living in CMU Greek housing so awesome?

Fall 2014 sophomoresLiving in my Tri Delta sorority house this year is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. My experience in Greek life has been overwhelmingly positive, so I jumped on the opportunity to live in the house. The most important part for me is definitely the people who have made it so fun. If you ever have the opportunity to live in a house with 28 of your friends, take it!

Also, I can’t forget to mention the fact that the commute to campus consists of walking across the street. I actually didn’t think it would be possible to get closer to campus than my freshman dorm! I was happily wrong about that. The location of my Greek house is something I am endlessly thankful for when it’s freezing or raining (which is, unfortunately, the majority of the academic year).

Favorite place to eat on campus?

It’s definitely The Underground. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from there that wasn’t grilled cheese and French fries. There’s many more options there, of course, but … if I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, it would definitely be grilled cheese.

Share one of your most prized CMU memories.

Probably Carnival 2015. It’s the only time when everyone puts being busy on hold for a second just to relax and hang out with friends, which is something I think is vastly under-prioritized in general.

What’s an important life lesson you have learned in your time here?

I realized the best way to express gratitude for all the opportunities I’ve had is to make the most of my experiences. You have to decide for yourself what you’re trying to get out of university, because it’s practice for real life and you should definitely be deciding for yourself what you’re trying to get out of life.

What’s your all-time favorite book?

This is a hard one, as I love to read … probably something by Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Vonnegut.

What’s something you want to do before you graduate from Carnegie Mellon?

I want to watch the sunrise from the top of a building. I’ve never seen a sunrise before and I think it would be beautiful.

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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John McCauley of Deer Tick to Perform at The Underground on March 2, 2015

John McCauley, the lead singer of the highly-acclaimed band, Deer Tick, will perform a solo acoustic show live at The Underground at 6:30 PM on Monday, March 2, 2015. The performance is free and open to the public.

McCauley has been the bandleader of the legendary Americana group, Deer Tick, since its beginnings. He has written, sung, and played guitar on every track of the group’s five-album discography. The band originally began in December 2004 as an avenue for McCauley’s songwriting, which channeled the gritty elements and sound of Nirvana as much as the lyrics and melodies of Hank Williams. Following the release of the critically acclaimed War Elephant (2007) and Born on Flag Day (2009), the band solidified its current lineup with the addition of guitarist, Ian O’ Neill. Since then, the band has performed worldwide alongside artists like Stevie Nicks, Delta Spirit, Dawes, The Replacements, and countless others. The band released three more albums, most recently Negativity in 2013.

McCauley is well known for his prolific songwriting collaborations outside of Deer Tick as well. He formed the super-group, Middle Brother, with Taylor Goldsmith and Matthew Vasquez, from Dawes and Delta Spirit (respectively), and released the group’s self-titled debut in 2011. In 2012, he formed a new super-group, Diamond Rugs, which featured members of Deer Tick, Los Lobos, The Black Lips, and Dead Confederate. Diamond Rugs released its self-titled garage-rock album in 2012 and recently released its sophomore debut, Cosmetics, on February 24, 2015.

McCauley’s performance at The Underground is free and open to the public, thanks to funding from Carnegie Mellon University Student Activities. The event is organized by the Activities Board, which is dedicated to bringing national entertainment to Carnegie Mellon’s campus. The Underground

The Underground, as part of Carnegie Mellon Dining Services, is offering a special discount during the show, with hand-scooped ice cream for just a $1.50 and 25% off slices of cake. Make sure to come out to see this amazing show and enjoy some great food on March 2 – you don’t want to miss it! Dhruva Krishna

This blog is written by Dhruva Krishna, a sophomore studying creative writing and ethics, history, and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He is a member of Activities Board and loves bringing artists to perform on his campus. Dhruva is a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and an active musician performing and recording throughout Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his bands. Make sure to follow him @dkmusicofficial!

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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Getting to Know Josh Schaldenbrand

Josh Schaldenbrand is the Housefellow for Neville Apartments and the Residence on Fifth first-year community in the Oakland neighborhood of Carnegie Mellon University’s campus. He is also the university’s Coordinator of Community Standards & Integrity.

Josh earned his Bachelor of Arts in history in 2005 and his Master of Arts in counseling in 2008, both from Edinboro University. “Edinboro is located about two hours north of Pittsburgh and 20 minutes south of Lake Erie,” says Josh. “If you have seen the movie, Frozen, then you would be familiar with the weather in Edinboro from October to April.”

How did you come to join CMU?

I previously worked in residence life at three other universities where much of my work was focused on residential education and staff selection and training. I joined CMU in September 2014. During my interview process, I was so impressed with everyone I met and with how invested everyone is in their work. I was also eager to gain more experience relating to community standards and wanted to return to Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised.

What’s awesome about the Residence on Fifth community?

I would be remiss to not point out that flamingos are among the noblest creatures on this planet. Also pink (in all of its shades and hues) is by far the most glorious and majestic color in the history of time. In addition to our symbols of pride, the Rez is a great place to live – exploring Oakland is right at your fingertips! Students are close to a hub of educational activity that bridges the CMU and University of Pittsburgh campuses. This includes the shops and restaurants on Craig Street, the Carnegie Museums and library, and Schenley Plaza. Beyond that, our community is unique in that we are relatively small. This allows for “Rezzies” to get to know one another on a more personal level.

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

Who wouldn’t be looking forward to being the Housefellow for a community named in honor of Grammy award-winning, R&B vocalist, Aaron Neville? Most of the residents of the Neville community were first-year students in the Rez, so I am looking forward to welcoming them back to the Oakland community for their second year at CMU. I am also excited about how the Rez and Neville residents might interact with one another.

Share one of your most prized CMU memories.

Spring Carnival is always a highpoint in the year for me. Timing the buggy races with other staff members is something I love to do. It allows me to see the creativity and hard work of our students in action as they push their teams’ buggy across the finish line. More importantly, the time invested in building relationships with students has been incredibly meaningful for me. Those relationships are what I treasure the most about being a Housefellow and being a part of the Carnegie Mellon community.

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

In this work I have learned many things from students. The most important lesson that I have had confirmed for me is the importance of being authentic. The moments when people are truly themselves are the moments when reflection and resilience can flourish. This applies to good times, bad times, and in between times. The students whom I have been fortunate enough to work with have taught me a lot about how important it is for me to maintain my authenticity and to allow others to see who I am.

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

Josh's pups, Jack and Sam
Josh’s pups, Jack and Sam

I am a doctoral student in the Higher Education Management EdD Program at the University of Pittsburgh and that takes up quite a bit of my time. Beyond that I read, I Netflix, I cook, and I attempt in vain to train my two dogs, Jack and Sam. I’m extremely passionate about Pittsburgh sports teams, specifically the Pirates. Most importantly, I enjoy spending time with my partner, Meredith, and also my nephews, Henry and Baker.

All-time favorite book(s): You could ask me this question and I’d give you one answer on Monday and a different one on Tuesday. Right now I am really immersed in reading for classes, but in reading “for fun” I really enjoy memoirs, biography, and autobiographies because they are often both historical and personal. Most recently I read Eric Clapton’s autobiography.

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

Barack Obama

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?

Mineo’s Pizza in Squirrel Hill.

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