Orientation Staff-Orientation & First-Year Programs - Carnegie Mellon University

The Orientation Staff

The Head Orienation Councelors(HOC) are in-charge of organizing Orientation and the rest of the Orientation staff, tailoring the experience to fit their housing communities' unique environment. Each community has its own dedicated Orientation Staff, including Orientation Leaders(OL) and Orientation Counselors(OC). Generally an OL aids the HOC in coordination of the staff along with ensuring that your entire floor has a genuine Orientation. An OC is entirely dedicated to making your Orientation experience!

The Orientation staff support the Director of Orienation, Anne Witchner, and their respective residential staff. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns at our email, cmuorientation2016@gmail.com. We look forward to when you join us in Pittsburgh!

Meet your 2016 HOCs!


David Ott

Stever House

Hi Friends!

Welcome to the Carnegie Mellon University community. My name is David Ott but you can call me Dott. I am from Glen Rock, New Jersey, I study Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering. and I am the Head Orientation Counselor for Stever House! Many of you may be anxious, unsure, and excited for your next 4+ years, but I can assure you that they will be some of the most enjoyable and rewarding times of your lives.

I came to CMU and Pittsburgh from a small town and everyone knew each other. I did not know what to expect out of a big, diverse city and campus. I am so glad I was able to get out of my hometown bubble and experience all the incredible things that CMU and Pittsburgh have to offer. Orientation was the first thing that opened me up and integrated me into this school and city. Orientation made me feel comfortable and it introduced me to friends I would hold close throughout my time here. I hope this year’s orientation week can do the same for all of you! You will be challenged both socially and academically, meet many people from different cultures and backgrounds, and create memories that will last for the rest of your life. Get excited for orientation!

Keep your hearts and minds open to new and unfamiliar situations. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. You never know what interesting opportunities await you.

Make the most of your summer and I can’t wait to meet all of you in August!




Evans Hauser

Donner House

Hey there!

Congratulations on choosing CMU! You along with some of the most intelligent and interesting students are now on an extremely rewarding path that will expand your life experience in ways than you or I could imagine. When you first arrive, the Orientation staff will great you with open arms. Orientation is an action-packed week of events that give you a chance to meet your class, CMU, and the greater Pittsburgh area. Because of the energy brought by the student body and fresh invigorating environment, many Tartans look back on Orientation fondly as one of their top moments during their stay at CMU. You may meet your best friend during Orientation, be inspired to pursue a path that was previously unknown, or simply start to become acquainted with your dorm community and CMU’s incredible facilities.

These new experiences may come easy, which is incredibly inspiring to me. If moving to a new place gives you butterflies, embrace the feeling and hold onto it, since that nervousness is what makes moments like Orientation special. Throughout my time at CMU my butterflies wake and I’ve given into them, allowing myself to shy away from taking initiative to capture an opportunity. For all the missed hackathons, sports, friends, social events, jobs, and other opportunities I will never know about, CMU has offed me a thousand paths more just as fullfilling. Your week of Orientation and time at CMU will provide the same circumstances, so you will have ample opportunity to create your experience and if something slips past, you can always be assured of another opportunity to follow.

Thank you for reading through my letter so far! If you made it this far, you are welcome to know a little bit about me. I am the HOC for Donner House, which means that I will be organizing some of the major events for Orientation and joining your CA, Sarah Duncan, to put together the programming for Donner. When I’m not playing water polo or reading a book, you can find me programming, since I study Electrical and Computer Engineering. My friends say that I’m California In’n’Out. My dance moves are horrendous, second only to my singing, though any time I hear music I have an insatiable desire to shake it out and belt out a couple bars. If you see me during Orientation or the school year, please say hi and introduce yourself, it would make my day to hear about what you are passionate about. The other HOCs and I are extremely excited to meet you and are hard at work making your Orientation experience full of great moments.

Yeah Donner!

Evans Hauser


Josh Zak

Residence on Fifth

Welcome to Carnegie Mellon, Class of 2020+!

Hi friends! My name is Josh Zak and I am the Head Orientation Counselor (HOC) for the beautiful Residence on Fifth. I am a rising senior in the Science and Humanities Scholars program pursuing a major in Chemistry with a track in Materials Science and a minor in Japanese Studies. I think I can speak for all of the HOCs when I say we are so incredibly excited to join you as you embark on your own Carnegie Mellon journeys here over the next couple of years.

In my experience, CMU is a place where you can challenge yourself in so many ways. Not only do we have world-class academic programs, we are also a student community full of different people with different interests who are all heading down different paths, but we have one thing in common: this university. We (including you!) as students have the freedom to pursue our passions and discover what really gets us excited about life alongside some truly amazing classmates. For me one of those passions has been Orientation, so I cannot wait for you all to experience it with me.

As someone who has dedicated more time and heart to Orientation than any other program on campus, I would like to tell you that it is a time of self-discovery and class unity. If you truly allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone, you are going to meet so many new people and I can assure you that you will be inspired by the unparalleled passion of your peers. Orientation gave me the feeling of support and community that has driven me to make the most of my time here at CMU. I hope you will allow it to do that for you as well.

By no means am I saying that I wasn’t daunted by the thought of starting over and trying to find my way in college, and I’m sure that’s what a lot of you are feeling right now. I want to take this opportunity to challenge you to put that aside and embrace the lovingly awkward, supportive community that I know CMU to be. Capture every moment that you have here and make memories and friends that you will never forget.

I am so excited to join yinz (I grew up in Pittsburgh, ok?) as you begin your time here at Carnegie Mellon.

Welcome home!

Josh Zak


Laurel Beatty

Mudge House

Dear Class of 2020+,

My name is Laurel Beatty, and I am the Head Orientation Counselor for Mudge House! I’m a rising senior studying music, and I’ll also be starting my Masters degree in Arts Management in the Heinz College this year.

I grew up about 45 minutes away from Carnegie Mellon, which made it seem like moving a relatively short distance wouldn’t be a big change. However, leaving home is leaving home no matter how short or long the distance, so it’s a huge adjustment for everyone. My fears began to ease after my first night of Orientation as I started to feel comfortable in my new “home,” and the week turned out to be one of my most defining Carnegie Mellon experiences. I knew immediately that I wanted to be an Orientation Counselor, but I never would have imagined then that, three years later, I would be one of 7 Head Orientation Counselors planning Orientation 2016. We’re so lucky to have one of the most highly ranked Orientation programs in the country, and it brings people together in a way that I’ve never seen in any other setting. There are so many students and faculty members that might never cross paths if it weren’t for this program, but instead, the week’s activities allow incredible relationships to be developed.

The biggest things that set Carnegie Mellon apart from other schools are the opportunities and the passion. You’ll do things here that you would never have the chance to do anywhere else. Everyone is passionate about what they do, largely driven by the fact that people aren’t afraid to be themselves. My advice to you is to take advantage of the incredible resources provided to you. If you put yourself out there, your CMU experience will teach you that you’re capable of much more than you ever imagined! Orientation is the perfect environment to take that first step out of your comfort zone and become part of the unique and very welcoming Carnegie Mellon community!

Orientation week itself is full of so much energy and excitement (and exhaustion!), but as I look forward to your first and my fourth and final Orientation, I couldn’t be more excited to help you start to shape the first moments of your Carnegie Mellon experience during this fun-filled and exciting week!

I can’t wait to meet you all in August!


Laurel Beatty


Mya Snyder

Morewood E-Tower

Class of 2020+,

Hi! It’s me, Mya...from school!

Welcome to the Carnegie Mellon Community! Carnegie Mellon has a habit of enrolling some of the most passionate, caring, and eccentric people in the world, and I’m so excited to meet you during Orientation!

A little about me: I am the Head Orientation Counselor for Morewood E-Tower, the Land of the Pineapples. I am a rising 5th year majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Engineering Studies, but more importantly, I’m a crocs-enthusiast and a lover of Hawaiian shirts (particularly ones with pineapples on them). I’m from the Poconos, PA (*pokes nose*), but I’m happy to call unpredictable Pittsburgh home now.

If you’re feeling a bit scared about life away from home, I can tell you that I was feeling the exact same way four years ago. I was a nervous-wreck coming to college. I was terrified of never finding friends, never fitting in, never finding a major I was passionate about, and almost everything else that comes with going away to college.  However, I can honestly say that buying into orientation was the best decision I made. Putting myself out there and being myself openly in front of everyone I met that week helped me learn to never underestimate the importance and the great reward that comes with showing everyone who I was. Carnegie Mellon is a beautifully diverse place, and coming here with an open mind will take you farther than you could imagine. Be open minded with yourself and everyone you meet in order to get the most out of your orientation and college experience.

The beauty of college, and CMU in particular, is that there is no one you have to be other than yourself. I challenge you in your first year here to truly be yourself. No matter how weird, quirky, nerdy or out of the box you consider yourself. Because - trust me - I know how wonderful each and everyone one of you are. From the first moment you set foot on CMU’s campus, a world of opportunity is open to you. I can’t wait to see the amazing paths you take, and I can’t wait to meet *YOU* at Orientation 2016!

All my pineapple and Orientation love,



Nikhil Nilakantan

Residences on the Hill

Dear Class of 2019+,

Welcome to the family! Congratulations on completing your high school careers and being accepted to a truly incredible university; you all have qualities only a handful of people in this world possess, and I cannot wait to see how you use these qualities to make your mark. My name is Nikhil Nilakantan, and I am an Electrical and Computer Engineering major from Sinagpore. I am also the Head Orientation Counselor for all the house communities on the Hill, along with my partner in crime Niko Torres.

So here you are, fresh-faced and bushy-tailed – and nervous, no doubt - ready to embark on a journey that no one, maybe not even you, knows where it leads. But if I may, allow me to give you some tips for the road ahead that I wish I had when I began my adventure. One, be fearless. You’ll hear it over and over again, but college is a time when you should be tearing down walls, not putting them up; college is a time when your comfort zone triples and quadruples in size; college is a time when you realize the full potential of what living in this world means, so embrace the challenge and push yourself to explore and experience.  Two, don’t forget the details. Put your heart, mind, and soul into even the smallest acts. It’s those small acts that remind us why it’s important to stay healthy, be happy, and reach for success. And third, laugh. Every day. Take pride in what you do and where you are and never forget that a smile is one of the most powerful gestures. It can provide comfort, deal forgiveness, lift spirits, and start relationships.

But perhaps most importantly, prepare yourselves for a whirlwind first week at Carnegie Mellon. Orientation is the launch pad for all your college careers, and, make no mistake, by the end of the week you will all be ready to lift off. So invite the awkward, open your mind, and you will forever be thankful you did. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.”

Looking forward to meeting all you superstars,

Nikhil Nilakantan



Niko Torres

Residences on the Hill


My name is Niko and I’m one of the Head Orientation Counselors for the Hill along with Nikhil! I’m so incredibly excited for all of you to move onto campus and join our amazing Carnegie Mellon community. You are about to enter a week full of new experiences, new people, and a lot of great memories that you’ll hopefully carry with you throughout your time here.

I remember when I first moved in and all of the anxieties I had about what college would bring for me. I was nervous that I would be way too overwhelmed by everything, I was worried that my transition to college wouldn’t be smooth, and I wasn’t even sure if Carnegie Mellon was the right school for me. Although I had all these apprehensions, I quickly learned that almost everyone else had similar feelings, and that I was not alone in my thoughts. I soon became a part of an incredible campus community that valued me just as much as I valued it. Through all of the people that I interacted with and experiences that I had during Orientation and my first year here, I realized that I had developed an amazing support system and newfound sense of my place within this community. We strive to create a first-year experience that hopefully provides you all with a similar outcome. 

I hope that this summer leaves you all with a meaningful bridge into the next chapter of your lives at Carnegie Mellon. Orientation week is by far my favorite week of the year for so many incredible reasons, and I’m super pumped for you to be embraced into the craziness of it all. I can’t wait to meet all of you in August!