Carnegie Mellon University

Dietrich College is like a family, but this family is large and covers many, many disciplines.

We created Students of Dietrich to bring our college into focus and to learn more about one another—our interests, our struggles and our triumphs. Take a moment from your busy day to pause and reflect with some of the students in our Dietrich family. It could be someone in your class, someone you pass in the hall or a new friend.

Daphne Yang

yang-800x800-min.jpegDaphne is a member of the class of 2022. She is an information systems major who hails from Sunnyvale, California.

What are you grateful for right now?

Even though everyone's bummed about remote work, I'm grateful that my remote location and home happens to be California. I've been able to meet a lot of other interns since a lot of them are in the Bay Area and because of the proximity to the headquarters. Having access to the beach and mountains is something I don't have over the school year at all, and especially in the summer the weather here is really nice. The food here is also great (no hate to Pittsburgh food though).

What are you doing this summer?

This summer I am at home doing a remote software engineering internship at Facebook.

What is your biggest struggle right now?

There are a lot of things that are out of my control. I mean that's pretty normal, there are always things out of your control, but I feel like I have always grown up being pretty anxious about wanting to do certain things.  So my biggest struggle is just accepting that I cannot control everything and just trying to make the most out of family/ home situations.

Joanna Miao

joanna-miao-800x800-min.jpegJoanna is in the class of 2022. She is an information systems major from San Jose California.

What are you doing this summer?

I’ve been spending lots of time with family and friends while picking back up hobbies, such as sketching. I’ve also been working as a software engineering intern at Apple.

What is your favorite thing about tech?

The main reason why I was always so interested in getting into tech was because I always had the question of where is tech going to take us in the future? Especially as we go farther down the line with technology such as AI (artificial intelligence).  Something that bothered me was that technology just seemed to be advancing, it was never about helping a community or using technology to address a certain issue. I am very passionate about accessibility and inclusion and those two topics are emphasized in the classes that I take for HCI (Human-Computer Interaction Institute). Hearing about other projects people work on and seeing how technology can change people’s lives for the better is very inspirational and that is the main reason why I love working in tech.

What is your favorite project you have worked on?

I think the most rewarding projects are the ones that I learn the most from and where I am challenged the most.  One project that I want to highlight is an IS course for IS called Application Design and Development (67-272).  Basically one of the big projects is building a full web app from backend to frontend.  That was my first time ever working with a full stack project. I started off pretty front end heavy, and this was the first time where I realized that I could do both.  It was definitely a challenging project but after that I felt a lot more confident in my own skills and I was more willing to challenge myself.

Devon Renfroe

renfroe-800x800-min.jpegDevon (DC 2021) is a graduate in applied second language acquisition. Originally from Southwest Florida, Devon is now studying Korean as part of the 2021 Critical Language Scholarship program.

What does communication mean to you?

True or meaningful communication is trying to see the world from somebody else's perspective rather than trying to get them to understand the world from yours. 

Who are the most influential people in your life?

The first group of students I ever taught was a class of students from all around the world. They were influential because that was my first exposure to how important language and intercultural communication is. They showed me how there are so many different equally valid ways to live life and to think about things.

What is your favorite aspect of the Korean language?

My favorite thing about Korean is that because the language is so different from English there are so many things that it lets you see in the culture that you would not be able to see or understand if you did not speak it. For example, there are certain hierarchies that project certain types of relationships that we do not have in America or in English. This allows me to see people and understand relationships differently than I do in English.  That is why I keep coming back to Korea. It is like unlocking a whole new world of ideas and relationships I can have.

Crystal Brandenburgh

brandenburgh-800x800.jpgCrystal is getting a Ph.D. in history in Dietrich College. She’s originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

What has been your greatest challenge?

I guess the amount of new things I've had to adjust to this past year. I'm from Iowa, so it's very different from Pittsburgh, like completely different. So trying to adjust to being in a new place, being in a new program, and then also being without my normal support system, I think that's been the most challenging thing. I didn't expect how long it would take me to feel like normal or feel like I belong somewhere.

What are you excited for right now?

I'm just excited to have a community again. I feel like everybody has been so isolated this past year. I'm just excited to be around people and get to make more friends and feel like I have a support system around me, which I didn't when I moved to Pittsburgh.

Anything else you would like people to know?

I love cats, I like books. This is kind of the extent of me as a human being right now.

Supti Roy

supti-roy-800x800.jpgSupti (Class of 2021) is part of the master’s in professional writing program in Dietrich College. She is from Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

What is your favorite CMU experience?

I have been mostly remote, so there have not been many experiences that I've had on campus. But I will say that even over Zoom, the people I've met have made my grad school experience incredible, and I’m really inspired by all of my professors and fellow peers.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

Strong female writers everywhere have influenced me, especially writers like Jhumpa Lahiri. She's Bengali like me, so that makes me happy. She decided to learn Italian later in life and became so fluent that she now writes in Italian, and I thought that was pretty cool. I read her book “In Other Words” and it was incredible. She's a really talented writer and a great storyteller.

What is your favorite piece of media?

I have so many favorites that it’s impossible for me to choose just one. My favorite book that I have read recently is called “The Song of Achilles.” It is a retelling of the events of the Iliad from Patroclus’ perspective, and it’s wonderful.

Alex Kirsch 

alex-kirsch-800x800-min.jpegAlex (Class of 2021) is part of the master’s in professional writing program in Dietrich College. She hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

What is a Pittsburgh adventure you have had?

So whenever I got accepted to CMU, I knew that the semester would be fully remote. In August right before classes started, I went for a walk around campus, even though I wasn't going to be on campus. [I wanted to] see what I would be missing, in a way. And so I went down to campus with my now fiancé, and showed him what it was like. We explored all the buildings that we could go into and you know just the outside of campus as well because it was a really nice summer day. And then we went right across the street to Phipps Conservatory afterward, which is one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh. So it was a really nice day.

What has been your greatest challenge at CMU?

I [started] grad school at CMU during a pandemic, and it was really hard to have a normal college experience. I started actually forming friendships in the spring, which is later than anyone would in a normal year. I think that was the greatest challenge, forming those friendships and relationships remotely because you don't have the walking to class interaction or "Oh, we're both free. Let's go get a meal," that spontaneous kind of activity. When it's remote, it all has to be planned. It all has to be scheduled. And then doing things online is more exhausting than being in person. I think after a long day of Zoom classes, not many people want to do a Zoom hangout afterward, so it's even harder to interact. I think that's the hardest thing, starting and having a whole year of grad school remotely.

What are you excited for right now?

I'm excited at the possibility of being in person in the fall. Even though it's my last semester as a grad student, having one semester on campus is going to be a really great experience, so I'm super excited for that. 

Right now, I'm excited about my internship [which is part of my master’s program] and the possibilities that are coming through that. One of my projects this summer will be to write a script for an instructional video for using one of Salsesforce's products. I'll be writing a video script for this product. I've done technical writing. I've done some creative writing. But writing a video script is a bit more like the two are meshed together. It will be really interesting to try out this new style and get to do something new with this internship.

Zachary Leventhal

zachary-leventhal-800x800-min.jpegZachary (Class of 2023) is an economics and mathematical sciences major from Brookeville, Maryland.

What sparked your passion for economics?

As a kid growing up I always really liked math. Even before I was ten I always told people I wanted to be a mathematician when I grew up. In high school I took AP government and AP econ. I really liked the government course and then taking econ I was like ‘oh this is cool’ because it's like a combination of politics/policy stuff with a lot of math going on. I was also taking calculus at the time so in the econ graphs I could see how they were just optimization but hiding the calculus. I just thought that was a really great combination. Yeah, the rest is history.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I am excited for the internship that I am going to have this summer. I’ll be interning at the Federal Reserve. A lot of thanks goes to the people in the Economics Department who have helped me out. I am hoping to do a PhD in economics and I think an opportunity like this is really helpful toward that goal. I feel that I am on the right path.

 Is there anything you want to be remembered for in your career?

One thing that I've really gravitated towards is the economics of education, or more generally using economic thought to solve education problems. I went to public school and grew up in a big public school district. One thing I really enjoyed was hearing from my teachers about all of these different problems. It made me realize that even though I came from a privileged background, the public school I was going to still had issues to be solved. Not to mention on a macro level how the U.S. education system dims in comparison to a lot of other countries. There are a lot of ways that things can be improved and a lot of ideas that can be explored through economics.

Abigail Savit

abigail-savit-800x800-min.jpegAbigail (Class of 2021) is studying international relations and politics and is from Long Island, New York.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

My parents. I’m an only child so my parents are who I grew up with. They are the reason that I am the person that I am, and the reason why I like the things I like; whether that's baking, or the kind of humor, or TV shows, or movies or just viewing life as an adventure. 

What is your greatest struggle right now?

I guess my greatest struggle right now is not knowing what I am going to be doing after I graduate. There are some things in the works but nothing is definite yet, and I don’t like not knowing.

What are you grateful for?

Right now I am grateful that I am living in a house with my friends, which we never would have gotten to do if it wasn't for the pandemic oddly enough. It is nice getting to see them every day because during the school year if we were super busy we wouldn't always get to see each other. Now we have dinner together every night, play board games and just hang out in each other's rooms.

Sam Abodo

sam-adobo-800x800-min.jpegSam (Class of 2023) is studying international relations and politics and is from New York City.

What is your greatest struggle right now?

I've had a hard time reading books for fun outside of classes recently. I still keep up with foreign policy news daily but finding time for an actual book is hard with classes and extracurriculars. Hopefully that changes next semester.

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for my friends. My time at CMU this semester has been pretty rough, so it is always great to have some good friends to rely on and to have some fun with on the weekends. Now that it is getting warmer I would say that I am especially grateful to have friends that are willing to go out and play sports and not just stay inside the house the entire time. It has been really great for mental health. 

What is your happiest moment in college so far?

My mom came to visit last semester, which was a pretty happy moment. She actually had not been to CMU even though New York City isn't that far but it was really fun. I showed her around Dietrich and Pittsburgh, and we ate some good food. That was one of the happiest memories, just being able to show my mom ‘this is my school!’ Before all she saw was pictures or FaceTime so that was definitely a highlight. It came at a time where school was a little stressful so I appreciated it.

Practicing Mindfulness and DIY Pots

pullen-400x400.jpgCristina Pullen (Class of 2021) is a professional writing and international relations and politics double major from Brownsville, Texas.

What are you grateful for right now?

Wi-Fi and plants. Without Wi-Fi, we would have little to no connection so I am grateful for the connection that we do have. With plants, it's just such a mindful thing to wake up every day and nurture something other than yourself. They just make every space a little brighter. I got my first plant during COVID, and I put googly eyes on the pot! It's growing really tall and strong, it's pretty beautiful.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I brought a Holocaust survivor to CMU to give a talk. The standing ovation of 100-plus students, staff, faculty and Pittsburgh residents was just incredible. It gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love for my community. I am very proud to have been a part of bringing that all together. This was right after the Tree of Life shooting so it was a really important moment in history.

What is your biggest dream?

If I could do anything, my dream would be to change the educational system in any community that I am in. If I end up in a tech company for the next 10 years and I earn enough money to be financially stable, I would love to go into educational policy and change the way people learn. I want to open up doors for everyone, not just one type of learner. I think that education can change peoples’ lives and ultimately change how the world works.

Graduation Season

ruel-besford-400x400.jpgRuel Besford (Class of 2021) is an international relations and politics and biochemistry double major from Woodbridge, New Jersey.

What are you grateful for right now?

I'm grateful that I am inside and not cold. More seriously, I am happy I made it to this point. I am about to graduate from university. This was a relatively bumpy road, but the journey is nearly done. I am extremely hyped that I was able to complete two degrees in four years and I am extremely happy that I can go onto my next chapter and don't have to worry about any long-term regrets from not being able to finish this one.

Favorite artist (any form)?

I've been really into Thundercat because I used to play bass. I like the way he plays, and I like other compositional things in his albums. He's a very interesting guy, very good at blending genres.

Greatest struggle right now?

Definitely not being able to live my ideal senior year life because of the pandemic. I can't celebrate with people, can't be outside for too long. That overall loss of social interaction is the biggest struggle.

Plugging the Dietrich Mentorship Program

taipe-400x400.jpgCatherine Taipe (Class of 2022) is an international relations and politics and social and political history double major from New York, New York.

What are you grateful for right now?

I am the most grateful for being able to be physically in Pittsburgh right now. I am living off campus. Being able to walk to campus, even just to see my friends or people passing by, is super nice. Having the campus community [nearby] is something I am grateful for. I could be home in my room alone so it's nice to be here.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

I have two different mentors in Dietrich College. I met the first one in the Dietrich mentorship program. I connected to someone in the English Department: Korryn Mozisek. She's been a rock for me, someone I can rely on just to talk with or work things out. Throughout the pandemic we made an effort to talk at least once a month just to check in. A close second, basically a tie, is my boss for a newsletter within Dietrich which I write and edit: Ayana Ledford. She's a part of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for Dietrich and Heinz. She is the most inspirational for the same reasons. At first she was just my boss, but as we worked through this newsletter, we formed a friendship. I really do rely on her for a lot of different things. She's someone who has made my CMU experience so much better.

What is your favorite book?

A book I really enjoyed was from a class I took with professor Jay Aronson. He assigned it to us. It’s called “Policing Life and Death” by Marisol LeBrón. We were encouraged to read strategically, but I ended up reading it cover to cover.

French Moms and Pittsburgh Weather

madelinecech-800x800-min.pngMaddie Cech (Class of 2022) is tackling two majors, behavioral economics, policy and organization and decision science. She is also pursuing a minor in business administration. Maddie hails from Cincinnati, Ohio.

What are you grateful for right now?

I'm grateful for being able to live with a close pod of my friends and for my family members being healthy. I’m also grateful to be able to spend time with my friends in a safe way and for Pittsburgh weather being nice enough that we can go out, enjoy the day and play soccer.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

My mom. I feel like she's the one who has given me such a different perspective on the world, coming from France and having all these different attitudes about just regular day-to-day things. She's always pushing me to think about others but do what's best for me. It's nice to hear that sometimes, especially from my mom. She followed her passion and made her own path, and I’m inspired to do the same. 

Finding Creativity as a Technology Major

claudia-osorio-800x800-min.jpegClaudia Osorio (Class of 2022) is majoring in information systems and is also pursuing minors in Sonic Arts and Intelligent Environments. She joined Dietrich College from Brooklyn, New York.

What are you grateful for?

Life. I am really grateful for the opportunity to experience life and everything it has to offer. Going to Carnegie Mellon I have a lot of privilege, and I am able to experience and learn so many things that most people are not able to. It has opened so many doors for me to just find out more. I feel that I’ve found my life’s purpose. I know that I will be helping a lot of people and that the work that I do has the potential to reach so many lives.

What is your favorite college memory?

During orientation for Dietrich College, we went to the Heinz History Center. I went with my roommate at the time, and it was a really great way to get to know each other, just looking around at all the art and all of the exhibits. I had previously met my roommate at the Celebration of Diversity weekend, and this was the first time we really had the chance to hang out as college freshmen. I think it was a really good opportunity to meet other freshmen as well, and I honestly just had a really great time.

What has been your greatest challenge at CMU?

Finding ways to challenge myself outside of academics. I've recently started to pick up various hobbies that are more on the artistic side. This is not something I typically do as a technology major, but I find myself really enjoying it. I can definitely sense that sometimes I am too meticulous about things, I'm not as carefree as I could be, so I think just allowing myself to get more creative in anything I make is a skill that I'm currently working on. 

Gratitude and History Courses

eric-wan-800x800-min.jpegEric Wan (Class of 2022) is from Missouri City, Texas.  He is studying statistics and machine learning and social and political history.

What are you grateful for right now?

I am grateful for my girlfriend and my friends and my parents for being extremely helpful and supportive with COVID. Also by extension that definitely goes to the professors in my classes, my advisors who are more than willing to help me when I send them emails and my classmates who engage with the professor during Zoom lectures.

Who has been your most influential professor?

Dr. Vaughn-Roberson, he goes by Clayton in class. He got his Ph.D. I think a year ago from the History Department. I took two classes with him, one on the Black urban experience and one on the civil rights movement. Both are on race, economics, social and political history, and it's all really interesting. He goes more in depth into various movements and people, and it covers a lot of things that normally don't get discussed in the mainstream, such as different ideas and ideologies. It makes the course really interesting because you are learning a lot of new information, and it gives you a lot to think about.