Carnegie Mellon University

An Eye for Engagement

August 19, 2019

An Eye for Engagement

Dietrich College alumna and volunteer Lex Kochmann used her diverse CMU education to create a highly dynamic life.

By Amanda S.F. Hartle

For many years, Lex Kochmann (DC 1981) lived a life with two passions. By day, she was a vice president at Citigroup in Manhattan. By night, she transformed into a thespian, breathing life into scenes at The Actors Studio.

This unexpected dichotomy of a life steeped in both finance and drama wouldn’t have been possible without her undergraduate years at Carnegie Mellon University.

“CMU gave me the courage to try different things,” she recalls. “I have confidence in my abilities. CMU has a way of bringing that out of you.”

To some, her college selection — in a city she never even visited — to pursue a degree in modern languages and administration and managerial science seemed unorthodox. To her, it was a choice that altered the rest of her life.

As one of the first students to have her education shaped by CMU’s core curriculum, Lex’s course load was a harbinger of what is now the university’s hallmark — a diverse education combining arts, technology, science and society.

She enrolled in a physics course examining cognitive dissonance and economics with Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon surprised herself with success in computational linear algebra with Saj-nicole Joni and rejected sleeping in to take an 8 a.m. Saturday class in calligraphy with Arnold Bank.

“Even back then, CMU had this amazing, diverse approach to education. That mix of being able to study different things and not hear you can’t do that or you shouldn’t do that” really changed me, she says.

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Pictured above: Roommates Jenny McChesney and Lex Kochmann pose for a photo in 1979. Far right: Lex Kochmann in her office in 2019.