Carnegie Mellon University

Dear CMU Ambassadors,

Fall semester is well underway here at Carnegie Mellon. Thanks to months of university-wide planning by countless dedicated community members and partners, we have been able to successfully execute our hybrid model, which offers flexibility in serving in-person as well as remote students. We continue to be optimistic, but not overconfident! While this is indeed one of the most unique academic years in our history, despite these challenges, we are advancing excellence across all aspects of our mission — in education and research as well as the student experience. I have never been prouder to be a Tartan!

About 60% of our students have chosen to study on or near our campus in Pittsburgh, which means we are caring for those who are here physically, while ensuring that the other 40% who are studying around the world stay connected and engaged. Many of our courses are being taught exclusively through remote instruction, but our hybrid model has allowed us to restart some in-person classes. Throughout this time, every decision is driven by research and data, and our dedicated faculty and staff are working to maintain a safe environment and care for the mental and physical well-being of our student body. I am truly grateful for the commitment and care they have shown at every step of this journey.

I am also incredibly proud of our students, who are diligently following our requirements for masks and social distancing, among other public health and safety measures. In addition, thanks to a comprehensive testing strategy that includes weekly surveillance testing, we have not experienced any significant outbreaks. The continued vigilance of our entire Tartan community will be needed to continue on this positive path, and we are deploying a variety of strategies to help them maintain important habits.

First, some news related to our COVID-19 response:

  • recently donated $1 million, as well as a pro bono team of 12 fellows, to support our Delphi Research Group for the next six months. Delphi is the team behind COVIDcast, a multi-dimensional tool that visualizes real-time COVID-19 indicators to help predict the spread of the disease. CNBC highlighted the group’s work, which has collected a valuable trove of anonymous data about the pandemic from more than 30 million people via a Facebook survey.
  • College of Engineering researchers collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC have developed an inexpensive, accurate COVID-19 antibody test that delivers results in 10 to 15 seconds. The process is a potential game-changer to provide rapid testing and help control the pandemic.
  • CMU data scientists are helping to support safe voting during the upcoming U.S. general election by analyzing more than 35,000 polling places to guide recommendations that will help preserve in-person voting during the pandemic.
  • As online learning becomes more and more commonplace, the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation is leading our efforts to embrace the innovative opportunities it provides. Through faculty partnerships, they have created the Signature Course Initiative to deploy our learning engineering approach to 15 classes — and a model that can shape education’s future.
  • When some students missed out on internships this summer due to shutdowns, one Tartan was inspired to use that time to help solve real-world societal challenges. What emerged was the COVID-19 Innovation Project, which brought together 250 CMU students from around the world in teams focused on six action areas, from food insecurity to the environment.

Despite a global pandemic, university business marches on and that includes bolstering priorities that enhance CMU’s mission. One of our ongoing university initiatives is focused on sustainability. I am pleased to share that CMU recently released our report from the world’s first Voluntary University Review, one of the commitments of our Sustainability Initiative. The VUR will help us track our progress toward 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to make communities around the world more just and equitable. We look forward to sharing with you more about this important initiative in the coming years.

In addition, CMU faculty, staff and students are actively engaged in advancing work that matters across a wide range of areas. Here are a few examples:

As always, I am deeply grateful for all that you do to support Carnegie Mellon. I offer my best wishes to you and your loved ones and hope that you are staying healthy and safe.


Farnam Jahanian
President and Henry L. Hillman President's Chair