Getting to Know M. Shernell Smith

M. Shernell Smith is the Housefellow for four housing communities within the part of CMU’s campus known as the Intersection – Margaret Morrison Apartments, Woodlawn Apartments, Roselawn Houses, and Spirit House (dedicated to members of CMU’s Black Student Union). She also serves as the College Liaison for the School of Engineering (Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy, and Civil and Environmental Engineering), as well as the Assistant Director in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs for Multicultural and Diversity Initiatives.

Shernell completed her undergraduate studies in biological sciences and honors interdisciplinary studies at the University of Central Arkansas Honors College. She earned her master’s in education for higher education administration at the University of Arkansas.

In the photograph, Shernell (far right) poses with a group of 2014 student staff members for the Intersection.

Having been at Carnegie Mellon University for more than 10 years, Shernell has initiated and implemented countless programs throughout her tenure. Let’s learn more about Shernell!

How did you come to join CMU?

I came to CMU to work in what is now the Student Life office. I was the first Housefellow for the first-year community of Stever House (it was called New House at the time). I also worked as the coordinator for community service and service-learning initiatives.

Why are the communities in the Intersection so awesome?

The part of campus known as the Intersection is what I like to call a “neighborhood of communities.” It features a number of vibrant and diverse housing communities and apartment styles that meet the ever-evolving needs of our upper-class residents. The Intersection is unique because it’s the only residential area of campus that features five different housing communities with the bonus of a cohesive lived experience. This is why we consider this part of campus a “neighborhood” of experiences.

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

Two quotes come to mind for me:

“Learning is a life-long endeavor that should be filled with new passions, new curiosities, and new challenges that search for new meanings and tap into new possibilities.”

“Meaningful engagement is at the heart of diversity.”

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

I am heavily involved in social activism though the Thomas Merton Center, the Urban League, and the YWCA. I am also passionate about sustainability and environmental issues, jazz music, cultural and Broadway shows, and gardening. Trying out new recipes is always fun, too.

All-time favorite book: To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

It is also one of my favorite classic movies. I am a huge fanatic when it comes to black and white cinematography.

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

I would want to have dinner with Maya Angelou. She was a refined culturalist and feminist. A phenomenal woman, indeed. She understood the power of words to empower social change and personal enrichment. Two of my favorite quotes from her are:

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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?

There is nothing like my love of seafood and the improvisation of jazz music. So my meal of choice would be a steaming bowl of seafood jambalaya with a side of buttery cornbread. And, as always, the Louisiana hot sauce provides an extra special kick while Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or even Harry Connick Jr. plays the background music!

Getting to Know Renee Camerlengo

Renee Camerlengo is the Housefellow for three Oakland community CMU apartment buildings: Clyde House, Shady Oak Apartments, and Neville Apartments. She also serves as the Student Affairs Liaison to CMU’s Qatar campus and as the College Liaison to the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Is it possible for Renee to wear yet another hat? Yes, indeed. She also advises the Fifth Year Scholar program. Clearly, her 16 years at Carnegie Mellon University have kept her plenty busy.

Renee completed her undergraduate studies in communications and English at SUNY Oswego. She earned two master’s degrees – one in higher education from the University of Vermont and the other in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.

In the photograph, Renee (directly above the CMU sign on the right) poses with a group of Carnegie Mellon alumni at a recent wedding of a former Resnik/West Wing CA and RA.

Let’s learn more about Renee!

How did you come to join CMU?

I had the opportunity to lead the Carnegie Mellon Student Life team.

Why are your CMU Housing communities so awesome?

The residents are so varied and interesting … everyone has a story to share!

Share one of your most prized CMU memories.

Too many to pick one: the time students took my dining room chandelier to hang in their Carnival booth; former CMU President Dr. Cohon’s conversation with students from the Doha campus at the memorial for Carnegie Mellon University victims of 9/11; the 10-year anniversary of our Qatar campus; every commencement day; the annual holiday concert in the grand hall; and learning how to Bhangra dance!

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

That we can all find a sense of resilience! And how grateful one can be for small kindnesses from others.

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

I’m learning to make beaded jewelry. I like to cook and am trying to train my crazy dog, Stella!

All-time favorite book: To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

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

Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. I admire her courage and trailblazing spirit.

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?

Chocolate-covered pretzels!

Join Renee at the Open House for Clyde House – Carnegie Mellon University’s global living-learning community – on Sunday, February 1, at 2 pm. Clyde House is for students with intercultural interests who want to explore their roles as global citizens. If this sounds like you, we encourage you to attend!

Getting to Know Lucas Christain

Lucas Christain is the Housefellow for Welch House and Henderson House and serves as the Director of Community Standards and Integrity as well as the Student Affairs College Liaison to the Mellon College of Science (MCS). He completed his undergraduate degrees in history and sociology, as well as a master’s in college student development, at The University of Iowa. This is his eighth year at Carnegie Mellon University.

Lucas is pictured above with his wife and two children. Now, let’s learn a bit more about Lucas …

How did you come to join CMU?

I am close friends with David Chickering, the Housefellow for Morewood Gardens. Both he and I attended The University of Iowa and also worked together at Iowa. David encouraged me to apply for a CMU housefellow position in 2008, and I’ve been here ever since. My wife and I love Pittsburgh and find the city and Carnegie Mellon to be welcoming communities. In fact, we’ve decided to raise our two boys here and have convinced my parents to move to Pittsburgh.

Why are your housing communities so awesome?

Henderson and Welch, or “WeHe” as the two communities are affectionately known, are a tight-knit community where students tend to live for two to three years, creating a sense of familiarity and consistency within the community. Also, the wellness theme in Henderson House is a shared experience and unifies the members of the community. While this is true, the residents make the communities awesome.

Share one of your most prized CMU memories.

I have had the opportunity to work with some incredible students in my time at CMU. Picking one story or one experience is difficult. However, I can say that the most prized memories I have are of the relationships that I have developed with students that last beyond our shared time at CMU. Building genuine connections with students is the most rewarding part of my job.

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

Slowing down is important. When you slow down, you do better work, you are less stressed, and you can actually see the nuances and uniqueness of each situation at hand. When we work too quickly, we often focus on completing a task versus accomplishing a goal or enjoying the experience.

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

I’m passionate about wellness and well-being. I run regularly and enjoy the balance it provides me. I’m also very interested in music, food, and the brewing and distilling science of beer and spirits.

All-time favorite book: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

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

Country western musician Johnny Cash. I’m always glad to take people for coffee or tea and tell them about my appreciation for Johnny’s life, music, and legacy.

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?

Szmidt’s Old World Deli is a restaurant in Greenfield. I would order their Keege pastrami sandwich, which has grilled pastrami, pepper jack cheese, sautéed banana peppers, and roasted garlic mayo on homemade bread. It’s terrible for you, but so good for your stomach and soul. I often order the Keege and a bag of salt and vinegar chips when I take a day off from work to read and relax. It’s a wonderful thing!