Alumni Story Archives
Below are some of our previous alumni profiles from Dietrich College News.
Behind the Scenes at The HistoryMakers
The HistoryMakers is the largest African-American oral video archive in the world. CMU has many connections to the project, including alumnus Dionti Davis who works for the non-profit.
Lessons Learned From the Software Industry
Adam Gross (DC’94) has weathered the dot-com crash, founded two companies, worked in marketing, product management and leadership roles and invested in startups. Every step of the way he has learned valuable lessons, which he shared with a room full of budding entrepreneurs at CMU.
Startup Sparked By a Quest for the Truth
Dietrich College alumnus Luke Brindle-Khym is passionate about truth and justice – and he’s turned his passion into a career. In 2010, Brindle-Khym launched Quest Research & Investigations LLV, a firm that collects evidence and investigates corporate misconduct.
As the country marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a CMU alumna continues to encourage hope and healing in a unique way. Regina Ress, an award-winning storyteller, actor, writer and educator, travels throughout the country to perform "Compassion, Generosity and Grace: Stories from 9/11."
With a Pogo Stick, the Sky’s the Limit
Nick Ryan (DC’11) was still a student at CMU when he co-founded Xpogo. Today, as the company’s CEO, he works tirelessly to transform the perception of pogo from a toy to a sports lifestyle through events like Pogopalooza.
Beyond the Binary
Apps are ubiquitous. We use them to order food, teach our kids and track healthy habits. And with the help of CMU alumnae Satvika Neti (DC’16) and Ashley Sobhani (DC’16), apps are bringing attention to sexual violence and bystander culture on college campuses.
Snapshots of CMU Psychology Alumni and Their Achievements
Stuart Card (DC’78), a consulting computer science professor at Stanford University, is one of the co-founders of the human-computer interaction field. Kevin Gluck (DC’99) is a principal cognitive scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Jessica Cicchino (DC’09) is the vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Learn about their accomplishments as well as many others in this slideshow.
TV Guides: Alumni Channel Efforts for Kids’ Sake
As co-director and Rita McGinley Chair of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College, Junlei Li is among the CMU alumni who have made sunny and beautiful days in the neighborhood by playing significant roles in educational television.
Meet Mark Patterson
Mark Patterson uses observational data to study how people make decisions. So when it came time to choose a graduate school, Patterson carefully weighed the data — and it led him to CMU’s Department of Social and Decision Sciences.
Having recently finished his Ph.D in behavioral and decision research, he will now direct the Quantitative Social Science Scholars (QSSS) Program.
Shattering Misconceptions About Women’s Decision-Making Power
On the S&P 1500, there are more male CEOs named “John” than there are female CEOs of any name.
The “John Statistic” is just one of the discoveries CMU alumna Therese Huston (DC’93,’96) made while researching her new book, “How Women Decide: What’s True, What’s Not, and What Strategies Spark the Best Choices.”
Using Foreign Languages To Shape Career Paths
In our increasingly globalized world, foreign language education is becoming more critical. Thankfully, CMU students have the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Department of Modern Languages.
Despite no university-wide language requirement, in 2014, 45 percent of CMU students from across the university took a modern languages course. This is a striking contrast to the roughly eight percent of undergraduates nationally who take a foreign language class.
Alumna Receives Rare NSF Fellowship in the Social Sciences
Courtney Wittekind (BXA’13) has received one of 2,000 fellowships through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The $138,000 award will support Wittekind’s doctoral studies in social anthropology at Harvard University, which she will begin this fall.
Grey's Anatomy: Alumna's Heart Is in the Work
It’s been over a decade since Elisabeth Finch graduated, yet she continues to live and breathe the university’s motto, “My heart is in the work.”
Finch, who majored in creative writing and professional writing and minored in drama, is constantly working in various Hollywood writing roles. She’s a writer for “Grey’s Anatomy” and between seasons, Finch periodically works with IAMA Theatre Company.
Alumnus Shares His Secrets To Success
The road to building three billion-dollar companies wasn’t always easy for Lane Bess (DC’83). The entrepreneur turned investor recently told a packed roomful of students that one thing he is extremely thankful for is his CMU education.
“It forced me to be better, and it ultimately helped me,” Bess said.
Solving the Puzzle of Language
When Edward Gibson (DC’91) came to CMU in 1986 to pursue a Ph.D. in computational linguistics, he saw language as a puzzle to solve. Today, Gibson is putting the pieces together by assembling a corpus of texts from non-industrialized cultures, including the Pirahã and Tsimane’ of the Amazon.
The Art of Taking Risks
When faced with a decision do you tend to play it safe or take a chance?
Psychology alumna Kayt Sukel explores risk-taking and how it impacts decision-making in work, play, love and life in her new book, "The Art of Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution & Chance."
Meet The Wall Street Journal’s Newest Copy Editor
While Braden Kelner was working towards his bachelor’s degree in creative writing and professional writing, he had his heart set on one thing—working in journalism. That dream has become a reality.
Coolest Ride in Town
The three-wheeled, battery-assisted bicycle with a lime green, sleek, aerodynamic fiberglass shell surrounding the driver and back seat for two is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon graduates Tanuj Apte and Deepak Vidhani, co-founders of Autopods.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
The scarcity of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers is a hot topic. A longtime tech pioneer, CMU is also ahead of the curve when it comes to gender equity in STEM fields. In the Information Systems Program, women account for 40 percent of students – double the national average of 15 to 20 percent in similar programs.
Creative Writing Alums Take On Hollywood
There is a good chance that your favorite TV show or movie has a connection to Carnegie Mellon University’s English Department. From “Toy Story” to the hottest sci-fi television hits, creative writing alumni are writing, producing and directing.
Hard Work Pays Off
The initial students who participated in the Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program have found out that hard work really does pay off. Since graduating from CMU last spring, they have been working in diverse fields, some extending the research they began as honors fellows, and others, embarking on new academic and career paths.
Toy Story Turns 20
When Pixar's “Toy Story” premiered 20 years ago, it revolutionized an industry as the first computer-animated feature film.
"It still looks fresh, which is very gratifying," said Ralph Guggenheim (DC 1974, SCS 1979), a lead producer on the film and a two-time CMU alumnus. "Visually, we knew other feature films would surpass what we'd done. But we wanted to make it look as good as it could possibly look and set the bar high for anyone who followed us."
Carving Unique Paths in Decision Science
If your career goals as a student include dentistry, a decision science major is probably not for you.
For virtually anyone else, though, studying decision science provides enormous flexibility in pursuing different careers and acquiring resources for responding to life’s opportunities and challenges.
Alum Now Ph.D. Student By Day, Salon Writer By Night
After working as a successful freelance writer and publications manager at the California Shakespeare Theater, Keith Spencer started pursuing a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz – a notable Ph.D. Program.
Spencer, who earned a master of arts in literary and cultural studies from CMU’s Department of English in 2012, is excited to start his doctoral research that will examine bureaucracy from a cultural studies standpoint.
Commanding Presence: Alumna Alysa Ambrose
In December 2014, Alysa Ambrose (DC'95) took command of the USS Gravely, a guided missile destroyer equipped with the Navy's latest combat capabilities. With a crew of 300, the ship is set to deploy for the Persian Gulf in mid-November, returning in June. Ambrose, who majored in psychology, talks about how her CMU education prepared her for her military career.
Recap: I Never Learned To Spell “Successful”
Alumnus Javier Soltero, the corporate vice president of Outlook Program Management at Microsoft, returned to campus for a talk titled “I Never Learned To Spell ‘Successful.’’
Watch the lecture, view photos and more.
Are You Ready For Some Football?
In his new book, Adam Lazarus (DC’06) goes behind the scenes of the legendary Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins teams during former coach Joe Gibbs’ era in the 1980s and early 1990s. Lazarus’ “Hail to the Redskins” looks into Gibb’s career from a fresh perspective.
This Guy: Alumnus Tommy Oliver
Oliver, a double economics and digital media major, is now a major Holly wood producer.
His latest movie is "The Perfect Guy” and is about how one woman's interest in a charming man evolves into fear.
How an Aspiring Med Student Is Using Her English Degree
As CMU alumna Berryhill McCarty (DC’14) goes through the lengthy process of applying to some of the best medical schools in the country, she feels confident that her bachelor of arts degree in English will be valuable to her career in medicine.
“I think studying English promotes skills that enable emotional and intellectual engagement with patients,” said McCarty, who also majored in biological sciences with a neuroscience track.
Professor Puts Talents on Ice
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed CMU’s Sam Ventura.
He’s not a play-making forward, a hard-hitting defenseman or a lightning quick goaltender, but the alumnus and new junior faculty member in the Statistics Department is hoping to make a big impact nonetheless.
Alumni Q&A with Patrick Cavanagh
Patrick Cavanagh (DC’72) started out as a computer and electrical engineer, but an interest in artificial intelligence led him to Carnegie Mellon University, where he could study “the really big computer.” Since receiving his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from CMU, Cavanagh worked on aspects of memory and now focuses on how the visual perception system constructs our three-dimensional world.
English Alumna Wins Major Poetry Prize
Marci Calabretta (DC’11) has won the 2015 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. Part of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award Series, the award is given annually for excellent new book-length works.
News Maker: Alumna Brittany McCandless
It’s safe to say that Brittany McCandless (DC’08) knew she to be a journalist at a young age. To make her dream a reality, the associate producer at CBS This Morning attended CMU to major in the Department of English’s Professional Writing Program.
User Expedition: IS Alumna Rebecca Shore
When travelers visit Expedia's website they may find it assuring to know that Rebecca Shore has traveled the path before them. Find out how her Information Systems degree has helped her career.
Beverley Wheeler To Receive Alumni Distinguished Service Award
Each year, CMU’s Alumni Association honors alumni, students and faculty for outstanding service to the university and alumni who have achieved exceptional success in their chosen professions through the Alumni Awards program.
Beverley R. Wheeler, who graduated with a degree in social relations degree from the Dietrich College, will receive the Alumni Distinguished Service Award.
With a shared passion for making a difference, Dietrich College alumni are making their mark in the NGO, non-profit and community-organizing arena. Their years at Carnegie Mellon helped pave the way.
“CMU was my microcosm,” said Kamilah Woods (DC'02), a project manager and business advisory consultant to federal government clients and public sector entities.
“I get to do wonderful things because I went to Carnegie Mellon,” said Beverley Wheeler (DC’76, HNZ'78), who has served, among other positions, as president and CEO of Center City Public Charter Schools, executive director of the DC State Board of Education and is now an adjunct faculty member in the Heinz College Washington DC program.
“We are truly grateful for this support,” said Randy Weinberg, director of the program. “The funds will be used basically exclusively to enhance undergraduate educational opportunities for individual research, participation in the larger IS community and for service learning experience abroad.”
Bergman-Bock, a senior consultant at Deloitte, and Nuñez, a senior data scientist at Glassdoor, praise CMU’s emphasis on quantitative skills, statistical rigor, and structured curriculum for giving them the skills they needed to rise in their job market.
Michelle Bova (DC’07) and Claire Morgenstern (DC’09) navigated their internships, first jobs and career switches in marketing and the media by drawing on their experiences studying at CMU.
Through their experience at different media outlets, they learned how their skills would translate into the real world.
They both returned to campus recently and presented on the advertising, marketing and public relations panel at “Under Construction: Building Your Future,” an annual event in which alumni share their work experiences with undergraduates and other alumni.
Math and Humanity: Michele Osherow
Manil Suri (S'80, '83) and Michele Osherow (DC'88) didn't expect that their academic careers would lead to them performing around the country. Suri, a math professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Osherow, an associate professor of English at UMBC, co-wrote "The Mathematics of Being Human," a play that embodies the experience they had co-teaching a course on math and literature.
Scotch ’n Software: Jeff Kunins
Last spring, Jeff Kunins (DC’95) became vice president of Amazon’s Kindle Reader apps, responsible for their strategy and engineering across platforms from Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets to Kindle for iOS, Android, and so on.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help further grow one of the world’s most iconic products.” He adds, “Of course I had nothing to do with Kindle’s amazing success so far—my role is to help figure out how we keep innovating for our customers. How do we make Kindle do an even better job of inspiring the world to read more and get more out of reading every day on all their devices?”
Alumna’s Undergraduate Honors Project Draws Support From DARPA
A contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who are seeking to undercut sex traffickers by developing online tools that target a key vulnerability: the need to advertise.
The project began as alumna Emily Kennedy’s undergraduate honors project. Kennedy (DC’12), who majored in Ethics, History and Public Policy, is now a research analyst at CMU’s Robotics Institute.
A Buggy Connection: Samuel Swift (DC’04)
Samuel Swift (DC'04, TPR'09,'12) cemented his lifelong connection to Carnegie Mellon University when he joined the Fringe buggy team. As a founder of the CMU Alumni Buggy Association, Swift has enabled countless like-minded alumni to sustain that same invaluable tie.
Photography in the Trenches
When Dean Putney (DC'11) – an information systems major - saw his family for Thanksgiving in 2011, his mother showed him what she thought was just a family heirloom that had been hiding in his grandmother's closet. Putney's great-grandfather, Walter Koessler, was a lieutenant in the German army during World War I and had carried a camera throughout his service. Looking at the album Koessler had made after the war, Putney recalled what he had learned in his History of Photography class at Carnegie Mellon and knew it was something special.
Rhythm and Brains
Alumna Jessica Phillips-Silver (BXA'99) has music on her mind. An associate researcher in neuroscience and adjunct professor of music at Georgetown University, she is feeling the beat in showing how music is a multisensory experience. Phillips-Silver studied music and psychology at CMU, and immediately drew connections.
By the Numbers
In today's economy every company is a data company. Not only are industries collecting increasing amounts of information, but businesses must analyze it to make smart data-driven decisions. CMU students, like Ross McGowan (DC'12), are counting on the Masters in Statistical Practice (MSP) program to prepare them for tomorrow's jobs.
Literary and Cultural Studies Alumna Publishes First Book
A new twist on Aristophanes, the Greek comedy writer and playwright, is the topic of Emily B. Klein’s (DC’10) first book, “Sex and War on the American Stage: Lysistrata in Performance 1930-2012.”
An Education in Leadership
Daniel Gilman (DC’04) has always been committed to making a difference through politics. Now a City Council member for the 8th Council District of Pittsburgh, the former Carnegie Mellon University student body president credits his CMU experience with helping him get there.
Q&A with Viraj Narayanan
Viraj Narayanan (DC’07) majored in Decision Science. He was drawn to the scientific approach to decision making and could relate to the traps that often derail good decisions.
After graduating, Narayanan joined Decision Strategies International (DSI) – a boutique consulting firm that helps organizations think strategically in an increasingly complex and uncertain marketplace. For the past 7 years he has worked with fortune 500 companies on problems that center around strategic decision making under uncertainty.
Treasury of Ability
As a triple-major in political science, social history and Spanish and a Fifth Year Scholar, Julie Wilson (DC'99) gained valuable life skills and problem-solving abilities. Today, she uses that expertise as associate general counsel of the National Treasury Employees Union, the nation's largest independent union of federal workers.
"CMU teaches its students how to solve problems — an invaluable skill in today's world," Wilson said. "But CMU also teaches students a resilience that is both uncommon and especially valued in the workplace."