Carnegie Mellon University

Laura Donaldson

Laura Donaldson

Assistant Director of Undergraduate Programs and Academic Advisor, English

  • Baker Hall 259
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Pronouns: she/her/hers

Office Location: Baker Hall 259
To schedule a meeting:

Laura advises all majors, additional majors, and minors in Creative Writing, Film & Visual Media, Literature & Culture, Professional Writing, and Technical Writing; she also advises the minors in Humanities Analytics and Gender Studies.

How long have you been at CMU and how did you get here?

I've been at CMU since February 15, 2017. I'd worked at another university for about 12 years as an administrative assistant in a humanities department before my CMU arrival and felt it was time for a change. I'm so thrilled that I ended up at CMU, it really is a dream job for me!

What is something you love about your job and/or what is one of your favorite memories of being an advisor?

The things I love most are my students, hands down. Developing relationships in this life is the most important thing to me, and being able to hold space for my students in this time in their lives is an honor. I also love the fact that I'm in an English department. Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in English, so I clearly have a love for the discipline. I love being around people who are passionate about books, culture, words, writing, etc. It doesn't feel like work. It feels like fun!

When was a time when you struggled or encountered a setback? How did you respond?

When I graduated from high school, I immediately went to college afterward, about 6 hours away from home. After 7 weeks into the semester, I dropped out. I was so homesick, so depressed, so lost. I realized I wasn't ready for college. I felt like I didn't fit in at all - I didn't want to drink or party, and I just felt really embarrassed because of that. I felt like a complete failure, like I was disappointing my family and like I'd be judged by my friends who seemed to transition to college so easily. It was such a dark and difficult time. Afterward, I ultimately felt stronger and more ready to try college again, and I applied to a university much closer to home - and got accepted for what I like to refer as Freshman Year Number Two. It was, without a doubt, the single best decision I've ever made in my life. Truly. That decision has led me to where I am today, a place where I feel like I'm fulfilling my life's and heart's work in a city I love surrounded by people who I can't imagine not knowing. It even led me to meet my husband!

At the time, dropping out of college felt like the worst, most awful, most embarrassing thing in the world to me. I thought I'd never recover from the decision. A little more than a year after making that decision, my life turned in a direction that I consider, to this day, to be one of the greatest gifts I've ever received.

What is a fun or surprising fact about yourself?

I had the honor of flying in an F-16 fighter jet with the USAF Thunderbirds back in 2009 as a Hometown Hero. I pulled 7Gs, did barrel rolls, flew upside down, and more. It was the greatest honor of my life. (And yes, I did throw up.)