Carnegie Mellon University

Pillar: Unorthodox Culture

That's SO CMU

Being different is woven into the fabric of CMU, so much so that there's a phrase for it: "That is SO CMU." Our intellect is unconventional, our efforts are audacious and relentless, and our fun is quirky. From a tartan for our color, to Buggy, to a poker-playing robot, we've got our own way of doing things. Those traits color every part of the CMU experience, shaping our campus community, and inspiring our students, alumni, faculty and staff to carry that distinctive spirit around the world.

Thought-starters

  • What are some unique experiences, different from other universities, that you've seen at CMU?
  • What is an example of a unique CMU approach that has led to an impactful and important result?
  • What aspects of the process are surprisingly unique or quirky but provide a better outcome or experience?
  • What are some unique traditions, school folklore or lesser known conventions at CMU?

Examples in Action

Today, We Work Video

The founder of CMU, Andrew Carnegie, once famously said “My heart is in the work.” The words stuck and became the university motto. And they stuck because they embody the spirit, the character and the vibe of the university. Marketing & Communications produced a video to share how students, faculty and alumni love to go to work every day — and inspire other like minds to join them. The energetic video set the tempo for a university-wide rebrand, and can be watched, and shared, on all social channels.

 

Thought-Starters & Proof Point Examples

What are some unique experiences, different from other universities, which you’ve seen at CMU?

In the video you’ll find the university’s motto, "my heart is in the work," which identifies with CMU’s distinctive spirit, will-do attitude and uninhibited passion behind everything that we do here — from unique student experiences like Buggy and the Kiltie Band to research initiatives benefiting humankind like driverless vehicles and brain science.

What is an example of a unique CMU approach that has led to an impactful and important result?

As part of rolling out the video to an initial audience of students, faculty, staff and alumni, it was posted to CMU’s Facebook page to a highly engaged audience. Since its debut, it has been shared 418 times and received 87 comments like, “so proud, my heart is in the work — such powerful words” and “pretty righteous.” On YouTube, it is CMU’s 7th most viewed video out of 1,200, with 29K views.

What aspects of the process are surprisingly unique or quirky but provide a better outcome or experience?

A challenge throughout the development of the video was how to express CMU’s unique personality and broad range of disciplines in a short, succinct package. With campus beauty shots and capture of a diverse range of students and faculty, overlaid with a script that encapsulates the university, the video showcases why someone might want to live, work, play or just somehow be a part of CMU.

What are some unique traditions, school folklore or lesser known conventions at CMU?

On a broad scale, CMU is less known for our student experiences and unique traditions. This video provides a glimpse of CMU’s attitude, ambitions and successes from the arts to technology and everything in between.

Learn more information about Today, We Work video

Buggy Races Visitor Experience

graphic of Buggy schematics and motion

There’s a spot on the wall of the Coulter Welcome Center in the Tepper Building that makes students, alumni and visitors stop in their tracks and smile. This life-size display of vintage buggies is an iconic representation of CMU’s quirkiest and most revered tradition: Carnival. Buggy, also known as Sweepstakes, is a competition where teams design, build and race aerodynamic pushcarts. It took the design team from Marketing & Communications in collaboration with CDFD and Moore Ruble Yudell Architects to pay homage to the Buggy tradition through aerodynamically inspired environmental graphics and messaging. 

Thought-Starters & Proof Point Examples

What are some unique experiences, different from other universities, which you've seen at CMU?

CMU is the only institution to have Buggy Races and the community takes pride in this tradition. Student teams commit to long hours of designing and building the vessels and they practice runs to ensure safety while generating maximum speed — all to win one of the coveted awards.

What is an example of a unique CMU approach that has led to an impactful and important result?

Buggy dates back to the 1920s and began as something fun and silly for fraternities to do. It has since evolved into a highly engineered event for fraternities, sororities and independent groups. Students collaborate in teams across academic disciplines to design and build these machines from scratch, taking the knowledge they learn in the classroom and applying it to something tangible. In turn, they learn useful skills that they then take to the workplace.

What aspects of the process are surprisingly unique or quirky but provide a better outcome or experience?

While there is no class or dedicated faculty for Buggy, students continue to innovate and share knowledge of how to build, run and train for the races. It is a true collaboration of alumni and students, reflective of CMU's passionate and collaborative culture of "my heart is in the work."

What are some unique traditions, school folklore or lesser known conventions at CMU?

The Buggy Races have been an essential component of CMU's annual Spring Carnival since the 1920s and are one of the university's oldest campus traditions. It brings together students, alumni, faculty and staff, whether they participate or spectate. It is an event that captures the quirky and collaborative spirit of the university.

Learn more about the Buggy Races

"Farnamoji"

A photo of the "farnamoji"

The "farnamoji" was created to enhance the student experience around President Farnam Jahanian's inauguration activities. Recognizing the growing use of emojis on social media and the fact that the first emoticon was created at CMU — what better way to welcome the president than with his own emoji?!

Thought-Starters & Proof Point Examples

What are some unique experiences, different from other universities, which you've seen at CMU?

The emoticon was created at CMU and we embraced that bit of history by creating our own emoji to welcome the new president of the university. The emoji was used on giveaways and promotional materials to engage with the students.

What is an example of a unique CMU approach that has led to an impactful and important result?

The emoji is just another way to connect with students and alumni via our ever-growing social network. The timing is perfect with President Jahanian starting his own Instagram account @cmufarnam.

What aspects of the process are surprisingly unique or quirky but provide a better outcome or experience?

We are never afraid to build upon the past and innovate our own inventions. This strive to always improve, however big or small, is what defines the culture at CMU.

What are some unique traditions, school folklore or lesser known conventions at CMU?

The emoticon — aka Smiley — was born on Sept. 19, 1982. Proud papa Scott Fahlman, a research professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, never dreamed that his suggestion for identifying a humorous post on a b-board would have such an impact on the future of the e-world.

Learn more about the "farnamoji"