Carnegie Mellon University

Natalie Salazar among other students in class

August 18, 2022

Tartan Trailblazer

With support from the CMU community, Natalie Salazar makes history as the first Latina and Tartan Scholar student body president

By Lauren Sisco

For Natalie Salazar, a first-generation student from Houston, Texas, navigating college was a daunting journey.

But it was one she was determined to make.

“I didn’t want to play it safe and stay close to home,” Natalie says. “I had never been to Pittsburgh, and no one in my family had heard of CMU. But the recruiter who came to my high school was so approachable and understanding that as soon as I met him, I hit the ground running.”

Soon after being accepted, Natalie traveled to campus on her own for Diversity Weekend and found herself in a sea of students with parents who were full of questions. Without her own parents there, she felt a little alone and in over her head. She visited the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion while on campus for some insight — and found refuge and inspiration. Key to that was her initial encounter with M. Shernell Smith, associate dean and executive director of the center.

“The first person I met at the center turned out to be one of the most important mentors I've had,” Natalie says. “She told me that I would have so much support at CMU and that really set the tone for the sense of community that I wanted.”


That support, along with Tartan Scholars — a CMU program that helps high-achieving students with limited resource backgrounds to thrive during college — and the York Family Scholarship, has helped to make it possible for Natalie to pursue her academic passions and work toward her degree in business administration at Tepper School of Business. After graduation in spring 2023, she plans to pursue a law or master’s degree and work toward social justice and equity in the United States.

“Scholarships have opened doors that have changed the trajectory of my career and life,” Natalie says. “As a Tartan Scholar at CMU, I have found support and made a family of my own. I like to call it an ‘identity group’ because it really encompasses who we are.”

As an incredible conclusion leading into her final year at CMU, she was recently elected student body president for the upcoming academic year, an achievement that she finds both amazing and humbling.

“Scholarships have opened doors that have changed the trajectory of my career and life.  As a Tartan Scholar at CMU, I have found support and made a family of my own. I like to call it an ‘identity group’ because it really encompasses who we are.”

Natalie Salazar, 2022-23 student body president

This summer, she was the student signer for a community-wide communication using her new title for the first time.

“I got chills when I read the email signature, ‘Class President,’” Natalie says. “I still can't believe it!”

While working on her convocation speech for first-year orientation, Natalie had the opportunity to reflect on her time at CMU.

“I am the first Tartan Scholar and first Latina to serve as student body president,” Natalie says. “I’ve always thought, ‘How am I going to make my mark?’ Now I can really see the impact that I — and my community — have made.”

“I’m excited to leave a legacy.”