As a Carnegie Mellon student, you’re busy. You have class in an hour, a paper due tomorrow, and a midterm exam next week. On top of everything else, you’re hungry, so it’s hard to concentrate. But your next meal isn’t exactly what you want to be thinking about. So, what are your options?
You could put off eating until after your classes, run to the grocery store, buy ingredients, and cook a nutritious meal at your apartment or residence hall. Of course, by the time you’ve done that, you’ve lost at least two hours of what might have been productive work time — and you could be in for a long night ahead. Alternatively, you could grab a couple of snacks, which will energize you for a while … until you crash and burn a few hours later. With deadlines approaching, the last thing you need is to feel sluggish. There’s got to be a better option, right? There definitely is.
Nutrition Is Paramount to Success
“As a college student, your mental and physical health is as important as your education and extra-curriculars. In fact, nutrition is essential to success,” says Jessica Tones, dietitian and nutrition educator for Carnegie Mellon Dining Services. “Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods has been linked to improved cognition and mental functioning, in addition to lower stress levels, lower rates of chronic disease, and lower incidences of mood disorders. Having a dining plan helps you nourish your body consistently throughout the day.”
Of course, the problem is that stress and poor nutrition often go hand in hand: stress or lack of time leads to poor food choices, which in turn leads to a diminished physical and mental state that further increases stress in a vicious cycle. This cycle can be hard to break, but Carnegie Mellon’s dining program is designed to provide students with, convenient meal options for every palate.
A Healthful and Convenient Way to Eat on Campus
CMU’s dining plans offer a range of options and choices for students throughout their time as an undergraduate student or graduate student. They offer convenience for students who live or spend a lot of time on campus because dining locations exist on nearly every part and corner of campus. Additionally, investing in a meal plan removes the stress of figuring out where your next meal is going to come from, making it easier to take care of yourself (and treat yourself) when you’re busy or stressed.
Community Dining Plans
Students Say It Best
But don’t take Dining Services’ word for it: many current students enrolled in meal plans rely on them to stay healthy — and end up being pretty happy, too.
Russell Holbert, a soon-to-be-senior studying music, said this about his meal plan: “I love having a meal plan! It let’s me be social while eating my meals and helps me attend more events on campus. I don’t worry about finding time to shop and cook. It’s been such a convenience being able to get food where and when I want it, and it has helped me maintain commitments around campus at any time of day.”
After all, mealtime shouldn’t just be a study break. It’s an opportunity to explore campus, socialize with friends, and even meet new people. And with the extra time afforded to Russell by having diverse food options at his fingertips, he can take advantage of everything Carnegie Mellon has to offer, including extra-curriculars and special events.
Kanisha Vaughn, a junior studying psychology, echoed Russell’s sentiments: “I personally like having a meal plan because I like the convenience of being able to get food on campus, especially at times when I’m on campus late or need to grab quick food in the middle of the day. I would love to be able to cook regularly, and I did try it for a while, but I often get home late at night, and once I’m in my dorm room, I usually don’t want to have to cook — in fact, I usually just want to go directly to sleep. So it’s nice knowing that if I have the time and desire to cook, I can; but if I don’t have time to cook one week, I don’t have to force myself to take the time out to do so, since I have a meal plan.”
Dining Is Here to Serve You!
At Carnegie Mellon University, dining plans vary based on students’ needs and interests; they’re flexible, so students can get the most out of their meal plan. With more than 30 locations across campus, you’ll never have to eat at the same place twice in a row (unless you want to), and you’ll always have access to a satisfying meal, whether it’s an early breakfast or second dinner late at night. Chances are, you’re already busy enough — don’t let meals stress you out even more!
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.
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 email@example.com.
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!
National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
The National Nutrition Month® theme for 2016 is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives.
Carnegie Mellon University Dining Services is celebrating National Nutrition Month® with a series of events and by highlighting some of the healthy and delicious food options we offer across campus throughout the academic year.
Attend a National Nutrition Month® Event!
Make sure to stop by one or all of the following special events taking place on Wednesdays throughout the remainder of March.
March 23, 10:30 am – 1:00 pm
Tazza D’Oro in the Gates Hillman Complex
Tazza D’Oro will be handing out free samples of its new homemade, healthy grab-and-go items (see below). While you’re noshing on yummy free samples, you can also spin the nutrition trivia wheel with our PHAs for fun prizes!
March 23, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The Underground in Morewood Gardens
More prize wheel nutrition trivia with PHAs will take place later in the day at The Underground, with free samples of the UG’s fruit and nut salad on Wednesday, March 16, and the filling of the bean and rice wrap on Wednesday, March 23.
March 30, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Merson Courtyard outside of the Cohon Center
Celebrate spring and locally-sourced food at the first Farmers Market of the semester! Chef Vic will conduct a cooking demonstration and delicious items will be available for purchase including but not limited to fresh hand-pulled mozzarella, baguettes, focaccia and Italian bread baked fresh from Breadworks, hot house grown herbs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and Naturi yogurt.
Do Something Good for You: Eat Healthy!
We can all agree it’s not easy to eat healthy all the time … but it certainly is easier when your healthy food choices are also delicious. Below is a short list of good-for-you foods that are also tasty at dining concepts across campus:
While the amazing sandwiches are what The Exchange is known and loved for, super healthy and yummy salads are also offered on the menu – bulgar wheat kale salad, cucumber feta olive salad, and a create-your-own option. Choose to top your salad with the homemade avocado cilantro vinaigrette and you get an extra dose of mono and poly unsaturated fats, both heart healthy fats.
Featuring exclusively vegetarian, vegan, and superfood specialties, Evgefstos offers a diverse range of cuisines from around the globe, with plant-based ingredients seasoned and prepared to take on the flavors of Asia, India, and the Mediterranean. Lunch offers steamed veggies, made-to-order flatbreads and wraps, veggie burgers, homemade hummus, fresh falafel, and more. Dinner features a build-your-own theme each night of the week, plus hot and cold sides to add to a meal. A campus favorite for more than 10 years, Evgefstos is open Monday through Friday, 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, in the Cohon Center.
The owners and operators of The Exchange in Tepper offer a super healthy smoothie at Stephanie’s in the Mellon Institute and at the Red Oak Café in Oakland, called OTY. It’s made with oats, tea, and yogurt with antioxidant-ripe fruits and nutrient-rich whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Pictured here is the Blue Power OTY, packed with blueberries, lemon, vanilla, and hibiscus.
Every Tuesday and Thursday at the Global Flavour station in Resnik, enjoy chef-prepared fresh, lean proteins and super food greens … grilled! Grill’n’Greens offers whole foods at their best – simply prepared and bursting with flavor and nutrition.
Tazza D’Oro, located in the Gates Hillman Complex, serves drinks and food with ingredients that are organic and locally-sourced whenever possible. New items on Tazza’s menu include a wild mushroom panini for lunch and the following grab-and-go items: a beans and greens sandwich, hummus and veggies, kale/roasted butternut squash/goat cheese salad, Mediterranean salad, quinoa salad, chickpea salad, and bottled chocolate milk from Brunton Dairy. And check out the long list of local growers and suppliers Tazza partners with to source its ingredients:
JL Kennedy Farm
Goat Rodeo Farm
Gluten Free Goat Bakery
The Pomegranate, now located in Tartans Pavilion in Resnik, serves fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices and is considering adding fresh-squeezed carrot juice to the menu as well.
“Savor the flavor of eating right” at the Tartan Express food truck from March 28 through April 1 with the vegetarian special that week – kale earth ramen!
Research shows that eating a healthy breakfast increases energy, improves concentration, enhances academic performance, and helps maintain a healthy weight. Now, you can get a breakfast burrito at El Gallo de Oro in the Cohon Center, Monday through Friday, 7:00 am to 10:30 am. If you order the block breakfast, you also get a piece of fresh fruit. A protein, beans, veggies, and fruit … sounds like a good way to start the day!
You might think that to be a CA you have to be some kind of superstar RA. I don’t think so. In fact, I consider almost all of my current RAs to be better than the RA I was.
This gets at the core of what it means, to me, to be a CA: strive to make others better than you could be yourself. It’s a selfless role in many aspects, but there’s a lot in it for you as well.
Be a Mentor and an Open Book
There are two things that I would like to point out as important when thinking about how you would be as a CA:
First, bring your best self to the table, so that you can be someone the RAs can learn from and look up to. As a CA, I try to embody the kind of leader for the RAs that the RAs should strive to be with their floor. This is a high level of responsibility and leadership because your influence trickles to the whole of the building.
Secondly, and quite importantly, a good CA comes into the role willing and able to recognize and learn about their own flaws. In this regard, you must remember that it is not all on your shoulders. You have your housefellow, other housefellows and CAs, and your staff to support you.
Two Rules of Thumb
When I began my role as a CA, I kept in mind times when I was an RA and took on extra work myself to help others get their jobs done. After gaining advice about this from my housefellow, I decided to make it one of my main focuses starting out in my new role, and I learned two major things are critical as a CA:
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Everything you don’t have to do yourself, get an RA or someone else to do it. You can’t possibly take on all the responsibilities given to you as a CA and that’s a big reason why you have a staff with responsibilities that go beyond caring for their own residents.
Extend trust. When I was tempted to take over the duty of an RA (running a dorm event, for example), I stopped and reminded myself to trust them a little more. As a CA, I must teach them to fish for resident engagement, not take the rod from them.
It’s part of my job to delegate and trust. Even if the RAs fail, they will learn something. If I do it for them, they lose the potential of learning something and/or being successful, and I lose the gesture of showing my trust in their abilities. This learning experience alone has made my role as a CA worth it already. I have learned so much about being a leader and leading a team, skills that will carry through to multitudes of future roles.
Truth Be Told
Alright, honesty time. After being an RA, I didn’t really want to be a CA. I took a year off from student life. When I was thinking about jumping back in, the CA role was really the only one that made sense. But I was hesitant. I thought I would miss the residents too much and it would be all administrative stuff.
But now, I am so enjoying the position and it has felt so right. Most of my time is still spent with people, just more intentional and with deeper connections. What I failed to realize before is that by investing in a staff versus working directly with residents, RAs are so much more reciprocating – they want to work with you. Residents do too a good portion of the time, but with RAs it’s almost guaranteed that they’re in this to learn and grow with you, and that’s really exciting.
Even the administrative parts – I now can navigate Giant Eagle so well and am a pro at Google Drive. But jokes aside, even the administrative parts become meaningful because if you do it right, everything becomes attached to wide resident impact. That full cart of groceries leads to seven-floor events that brought delight to 50 different residents coming back from a long day of schoolwork. Those well-written meeting notes and staff emails lead to your RAs growing as leaders and making meaningful conversations with residents.
The Ripple Effect
And it doesn’t really matter that this is secondhand impact. That was my greatest fear – that I would lose that visible joy on our residents’ faces. Now it is replaced with joy on your RAs’ faces in your one-on-ones when your RA glowingly tells you about that amazing floor event or really deep conversation. You still get to bask and participate in that joy as a CA, perhaps on an even bigger scale. That has made it so worth it, and so much more fun than I ever thought it would be.
Take the Good with the Bad
One last thing – it may seem that being a CA is fun as long as everything goes well. I want to say that the bad things also have a captivating place. Something I’ve taken away, even after a semester of being a CA, is that it’s very hard to faze me. An RA can come in and talk about a terrible resident situation and now I have learned (not as knowledge, but perhaps more like the behavioral psych sense of stimulus and response) how to face any alarming new situation with a calm and reasoned approach.
Previously as an RA, I had two pretty well-behaved floors. Called EMS once in two years. Not a ton of “issues.” I thought I may not be ready for the CA role – I wasn’t really “experienced.”
If that’s you, well, don’t worry. You’ll learn either during CA training or even the first few situations how to be calm and respond to situations. You’ll learn to trust yourself and smartly rely on others to assist you.
Take the Chance at Something Great!
So that’s all I got for now. In short, I am so thankful for this opportunity. Someone told me there’s really no other campus leadership position like being a CA, and I agree. If you’re on the fence, just apply! Too many great people miss out on these kinds of things because they convince themselves out of it, when the humble people are the best leaders. The worst that can happen is you learn something – go for it!
Your friendly neighborhood Mudge CA,
This blog was written by Erik Pintar, a Carnegie Mellon University fifth year senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering and human-computer interaction.
More specifically, he directs advisory support for fraternity and sorority chapters, regularly meeting with chapter leaders to provide advice, help them achieve their specific chapter goals, and problem solve. Additionally, Jesse works to facilitate collaborative working relationships and partnerships among Greek chapter advisors, alumni, and national headquarters, as well as with Carnegie Mellon campus partners such as Housing Services, the CMU Alumni Association, and the Office of Community Standards and Integrity. He also directs the Greek community standards process and the Standards of Excellence (a chapter assessment program).
Before CMU, I worked with the Greek community at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. I loved the job, but knew that I eventually wanted to come back to Pittsburgh, my hometown. Coincidentally, the summer I started looking for new opportunities, the position within Greek Life at Carnegie Mellon became available. After researching the institution, meeting students and staff members, and visiting the campus, I knew it was the right place for me.
Being a member of a Greek community can mean many things: being a mentor, taking on leadership roles, organizing community service opportunities, creating lifelong friendships, and carrying legacies and traditions forward. What inspires you most about Greek Life at CMU?
Our students truly guide their own experience, and that’s really inspiring to me. As a staff, the Greek Life team embraces an advisory approach in which we focus our energy on student support, rather than telling our students what to do and how to do it. We work to understand the goals of our Greek organizations, give them advice on how to achieve these goals, challenge them when appropriate, and allow them to do the work.
When our students are afforded this responsibility, they create a Greek community focused on self-governance, shared accountability, and high expectations. With this framework, it’s amazing what our Greek students are able to achieve.
Share an example of when a Greek Life event or initiative made a tangible and positive impact on campus or the broader community.
Many people may not know that the 1000plus Day of Service used to only happen once a year and that the Carnegie Mellon Greek community used to host a similar program called The Greek Day of Service, which was coordinated annually by our office and Greek students. The Greek program grew to the point where it made sense to combine efforts with 1000plus.
To me, it was encouraging and inspiring to see the Greek community take a very successful program and join forces with another incredible program on campus, thus leveraging the event’s strength in numbers and impact.
What is an important life lesson you have learned from working with students, Greeks in particular?
It’s okay to not be the smartest person in the room (at CMU, I rarely am!). Rather, understand your personal strengths, experience, and expertise, and be confident in what you bring to the table as a result.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?
I love dogs! I have two of my own – Kevin and Livvy – and I walk dogs every week at the Humane Animal Rescue shelter. If you see me walking on campus after work, there’s a really good chance I’ll have a dog with me. I also enjoy playing soccer, softball, and running. This is largely to counteract my unhealthy obsession for pizza.
All-time favorite book.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. It was my favorite childhood book. I’ve probably read it a few hundred times.
You could travel anywhere in the world for free and stay for a month. Where would you go and why?
I love skiing and have been doing it since I was 4 years old. My dream would be to spend a month in British Columbia checking out the ski resorts and heli-skiing some remote mountains. To me, skiing is a perfect combination of adrenaline rush and peaceful relaxation.
What advice would you give to someone living in Greek Housing?
Your Greek housing experience hinges largely on your chapter’s respect for the house. Treat the space with pride, and others will do the same. If your members work together, you will benefit from a clean environment free of unnecessary distraction and a place you can look forward to showing off to your guests.
There are a lot of support mechanisms in place to ensure your Greek experience is a positive one. Feel free to reach out to your chapter leadership, Housing Services, or SLICE should you ever need help or guidance!