Town Hall discusses wellness, minorities

Credit: Abhinav Gautam/Photo Editor Credit: Abhinav Gautam/Photo Editor Peter Boatwright, Carnegie Bosch professor of marketing, spoke about “Transformative Research, Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” (credit: Abhinav Gautam/Photo Editor) Peter Boatwright, Carnegie Bosch professor of marketing, spoke about “Transformative Research, Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” (credit: Abhinav Gautam/Photo Editor)

Making the Carnegie Mellon experience last a lifetime, balancing work and wellness, and better representing minorities on campus were just some of the items up for discussion at Wednesday’s campus-wide strategic planning town hall meeting.

The university’s second town hall this academic year drew in an array of campus members, including undergraduates, graduates, exchange students, staff, faculty, and administrators, leaving many to stand on the edges of the packed Posner Center conference room.

Richard Scheines, dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, spoke first about the ways in which Carnegie Mellon can enhance its learning experience, one of the main focus areas for those charged with creating the university’s new strategic plan.

Among a number of points listed in the slideshow, Scheines focused on the ideas of forming “meaningful interdisciplinary experiences” and creating “the degree with long tails.” He first proposed that students from different majors study topics such as sustainable energy, immigration, or privacy to show how differing viewpoints bring different ideas. He then proposed that students have opportunities for research later on in their undergraduate careers.

Scheines also proposed that the university better merge creative disciplines like art and music with more academic majors like business and politics.

Focusing on the concept of creating a degree that lasts longer than four years, Interim Provost Nathan Urban proposed that the university provide opportunities for high school students and graduates to continue learning from Carnegie Mellon through initiatives such as programs for high school students or technology-enhanced learning and access to additional programs for alumni. Urban described the idea of alumni as a “subscription to a CMU degree for decades thereafter.”

Next, James Garrett, dean of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT), introduced Carnegie Bosch professor of marketing Peter Boatwright to discuss facets of “Transformative Research, Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” which was identified as a focus area in early discussions of the strategic plan.

Boatwright suggested that the university try to have broader societal impact, nurture innovation, be known as a place where people go to learn about leading innovation and entrepreneurship, and that the university broaden support for faculty and students. Gary Fedder, CIT’s associate dean for research, proposed campus members work with the private sector, have flexible work spaces, have more entrepreneurs in residence, and connect to alumni, among other ideas, to achieve these goals.

Speaking about the campus experience, Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno and Vice Provost for Education Amy Burkert asked those attending the town hall, “how can we maintain our excellence in all domains while ensuring a commitment to wellness for all campus members?”

“One of the things — the challenge — is this sort of implicit notion ... that there’s somehow some conflict between really working as hard as we want people to work and quality of life,” said Caroline Acker, head of the department of history. “Whereas I think what we’re looking for is that level of hard work that is compatible with quality of life that does not have a lot of wasted energy.”

John Lehoczky, interim vice president, addressed the issue of diversity on campus, asking members how the university can promote diversity in all three strategic planning focus areas, as well as recruit diverse members to the campus community. Lehoczky cited “low representation of minority groups and women in the student body, staff, and faculty” and in “the leadership of the university at all levels” as one of the hurdles to achieving this diversity.

Last, K. Jimmy Hsia, vice provost for international programs and strategy asked attending members how Carnegie Mellon can present itself in a world where an international presence is “not a luxury.” Among his questions, Hsia asked how the university can consistently be top in the world, address the world’s “most pressing problems,” and act quickly on international opportunities.

The third campus-wide town hall for the strategic plan will occur in March, with a specific date and time to be determined. For a recording of this town hall, visit