The Class of 2020 Shares Future Plans, Past Experiences
By Cameron Monteith
Graduates of Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences leave the university with more than just a diploma — they carry with them new possibilities and opportunities as they embark on their separate paths.
Scroll through the memories of several Dietrich College graduates and discover what they have planned for the road ahead.
Cassandra Scanlon recently graduated with degrees from the Institute for Politics and Strategy and the Department of English. She will be staying in Pittsburgh to attend law school at the University of Pittsburgh.
“The faculty here have been so supportive of me and really helpful in making sure I was doing everything I needed to be a competitive applicant for law school,” said Scanlon. “They also encouraged me to follow and explore my passions.”
“The thing that changed most during my CMU experience was my confidence,” said Scanlon. “I really grew into myself as a person and found my voice.”
Scanlon’s advice for current and future students at the university reflects on the opportunities she pursued at CMU.
“Take the time now to explore all your interests,” said Scanlon. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be surrounded by so many talented people in different fields in one place.”
Reflecting on her time before attending university, Oke initially perceived college as a steppingstone to getting a career. Now she thinks differently after her experiences in Greek Life; the Gender, Relationships and Health Lab; and as a residential advisor.
“I was driven before I came to CMU, but I think I was most motivated by my eventual destination: graduating from college,” said Oke. “These days I feel much more motivated by the causes that I support and that need more attention.”
She summarizes her experience at CMU in one word — grit.
“During my freshman fall, I worked really hard to get my grades up and said ‘no’ to a lot of opportunities that came my way,” said Oke. “In my sophomore and junior year, I started saying ‘yes’ to everything because I felt like I closed myself off. Take time with your decisions, and make them after some reflection. Your mind and body will thank you for it.”
Carillon Skrzynski earned a Ph.D. from the Department of Psychology and is entering a post-doctoral position at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Skrzynski’s research at CMU focused on biological and environmental factors that contribute to addictive behavior and understanding the underlying risk factors associated with such behaviors. She will continue this research in Colorado.
“I decided to take this post-doc position because it involves research that I've gained plus the skills and knowledge to investigate found through my time at CMU,” said Skrzynski. “[During my time at CMU,] I've learned about myself, both professionally and personally, and I've also made amazing memories that I will never forget. The time I have spent here has changed me for the better, and I'm incredibly grateful.”
The former graduate student’s advice to incoming graduate students is to enjoy the entire experience.
“Getting a degree is a worthwhile endeavor, but not at the cost of mental and physical health — make sure to take time for yourself,” she said. “Remember to work hard, play hard.”
Gabriella Bettino completed her bachelor’s degree from the Institute for Politics and Strategy this year, and she will be taking part in the Accelerated Master of Science in International Relations and Politics at IPS next school year.
Bettino’s undergraduate journey began very differently than where it ended.
“I started out in a completely different major with totally different goals for my time during and after CMU,” said Bettino. “I'd say that my growth here at CMU has been that of allowing myself to pursue my own passions rather than a path that I felt had been created for me.”
Bettino’s time at CMU was marked by her participation in the Washington Semester Program and being a research assistant. She also completed a brief stint in the university’s athletic program by taking part in Tartan Golf. The graduate emphasizes the importance of reflection.
Bettino advises new students to take to heart CMU’s motto.
“It's a cliché, but really, ‘my heart is in the work’ sums up CMU perfectly,” she said. “I think it really reflects the passion that we have for what we do.”
Jonathan Fritz completed his Bachelor of Science from the Department of Physics from the Mellon College of Science and an additional major in German Studies from the Department of Modern Languages in Dietrich College. Fritz is currently conducting research at CMU until January, when he will travel to Bavaria, Germany, to teach English on a Fulbright Grant.
Fritz came to Dietrich originally to fulfill language and culture requirements for his physics general education requirements. He eventually found himself drawn to the language and continued coursework towards the German Studies degree.
“I was very fortunate to have spent my undergraduate experience with two small and very close academic departments,” says Fritz. “I think that my mentors in the sciences and humanities saw the value in developing my interests across the disciplines, and they often sought unorthodox combinations for a future career in the intersection of science and language.”
If Fritz could sum up CMU in one word, he undeniably claims it to be “experimental.”
“Be open to the changes you see in your interests, motivations and identity,” Fritz advises current and future graduates. “You might observe unexpected outcomes by allowing those changes to happen.”
Michelle Madlansacay graduated Dietrich College with a Bachelor of Science from the Department of Psychology, with an additional major in Global Studies from the Department of History and a minor in Arabic Studies the Department of Modern Languages. Madlansacay will be pursuing a Master’s of Education in human development and psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education this fall.
The former graduate says that Carnegie Mellon made her proud to be herself and to study the things she was most passionate about.
“As I began taking classes, particularly in Dietrich, that were more focused on my interests, and forming relationships with people who shared those similar interests, CMU began to feel more like a home to me,” says Madlansacay. ”While I was able to pursue many of my older academic passions in the humanities, I was also given so much flexibility to explore new ones in the social sciences and find ways to connect them all.”
Madlansacay has spent her time at Carnegie Mellon connecting to people of varying backgrounds as a Residential Advisor on campus, membership in IMPAQT as well as being in the Arab Student Organization. Madlansacay advises prospective and currents students to see oneself as a global citizen.
“More students at CMU should pursue opportunities that allow them to learn more about the global community,” says Madlansacay. “By exposing themselves to different cultures and people, students can gain a better understanding of the greater context of the academic areas they're pursuing and see how all disciplines and all people are connected.”
Zoe Haskell-Craig graduated with a Bachelor in Science from the Department of Physics and a Bachelor of Arts from the Department of History. Haskell-Craig looks forward to the year ahead with optimism and freedom.
Haskell-Craig’s time at the university was characterized by extracurricular activities such as PACE, FORGE and Greek Life. She also held a position as a tutor for Ready to Learn, an experimental tutoring program collaboration between CMU and the University of Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think I necessarily changed as a person so much as I gained confidence in who I am,” said Haskell-Craig. “At CMU I found people who love and support me unconditionally, and that’s given me the freedom to be all the best versions of myself at once.”
Haskell-Craig believes that what makes the wheels turn at CMU is passion.
“Passion is what drives our hard work and dedication: to booth, to student organizations, to research and to each other,” she said. “As long as you work hard, you’ll still learn a lot.”
Shlok Goyal has left CMU this year with degrees from the Department of Statistics and Data Science and the Department of Economics. He is currently working at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a research analyst doing economics research.
Goyal was led to the position thanks to the connections and relationships he had made with his CMU professors, but he believes that was not all that allowed him to become a research analyst.
“My Economics professors here developed my passion for economics and research via discussions in office hours and by guiding me on my research,” said Goyal. “My professors and the Economics Department gave me the confidence that I could contribute to society by helping answer fascinating questions.”
Goyal says that since coming to CMU, he has become more empathetic to different perspectives and more confident in his own capabilities. He sees his transformation as coming from CMU as well as his experiences outside the school.
“Spend more time outside of campus exploring Pittsburgh,” he advices incoming students. “Reach out to new people even in your later years on campus and think big and try to have an impact outside campus.”
Corey Emery has graduated this past academic year with a degree from the Department of Statistics and Data Science and with an additional major in Human-Computer Interaction. He is currently completing an accelerated Masters in Human-Computer Interaction at CMU.
Emery believes that Carnegie Mellon has helped him become more confident and independent, noting the interdisciplinary nature of the institution.
“In high school I think I was influenced a lot by a fear of being judged, but coming to college I jumped more into things like theater, buggy and Greek life and found great people at every turn,” said Emery. “Having that type of community really helped me develop my interests and passions and was a key factor to me developing into a leader in my various activities on campus.”
Emery’s advice to current and future graduates of the university is to pursue opportunities wherever one can.
“Go after what you want,” said Emery. “There are a ton of opportunities . . . focus on your passions and what inspires you.”
Emery’s final thoughts on CMU summarize what he appreciates about the institution.
“CMU is really whatever you make of it,” he said. “No matter what you’re interested in, you can find it here.”