Carnegie Mellon University

November 20, 2019

Dear Members of the CMU Community,

In 2016, we convened a task force to embark upon an unprecedented exploration of the holistic CMU experience, motivated by the belief that a healthy mind, body and spirit is the foundation for lifelong success. Our goal was to fortify that foundation for our students, faculty and staff. 

It is a pleasure to write to you today to unveil the final report of the Task Force on the CMU Experience, detailing the accomplishments of the past three years, and to share a path forward for this important institutional priority.  

In my original charge to the task force, I asked them to begin by considering near-term, actionable recommendations for enhancing the CMU experience, with a particular focus on the student experience. But over the years, task force members dug into more complex issues that required sustained effort. As a result, we launched more than 60 initiatives across five broad categories: (1) catalyzing a culture shift; (2) engaging the campus community; (3) investing in people to support a culture shift; (4) innovating spaces; and (5) investing in resources and services. I invite you to dig into the report to read the full scope of these efforts, but a few notable accomplishments that were catalyzed or implemented by the task force include:

  • Expanding health and wellness initiatives and nearly doubling the budget for Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) over the past five years, including expanding clinical full-time staff by more than 60 percent;
  • Investing in student success through changes to the Add, Drop and Withdrawal schedule and overload procedures, as well as enhancements to advising and mentoring;
  • Initiating the CMU tradition of Tartan Community Day, which brought 3,000 community members together in its inaugural year to connect, reflect and have fun;
  • Creating CMULead, a staff leadership development program, and instituting new Faculty Leadership Development workshops; and
  • Investing in infrastructure in ways both big and small, including the $20M renovation project for learning spaces and classrooms as well as the UPLift Challenge. 

In total, more than 225 members of the CMU community worked on this critically important and sweeping mission, not to mention the countless people who were involved in supporting and implementing task force projects in multiple campuses and locations. I would like to express my deepest thanks to all involved, including leaders and participants of the working groups and initiative teams, for sharing a singular vision of what the CMU community could become. From the very beginning, this work was catalyzed by the advocacy of Faculty Senate, Staff Council and by the active participation of student government leaders. We remain grateful for this support.

I also wish to thank the many leaders who have championed this effort, including the deans and the university leadership team. I am particularly grateful to Provost Jim Garrett, whose leadership and dedication to a community of care at CMU is unwavering, and former interim provost Laurie Weingart, who led this work with great vision during a pivotal time. I also would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the task force vice-chairs, past and present: professors Marlene Behrmann and Diana Marculescu and Vice President Gina Casalegno, who leaned into this initiative with tremendous passion and focus. Finally, I wish to mention the dedication of Sarah College, special projects manager in the Provost’s Office, who provided continuous staff support that has made all of our work possible.

Even as the formal charge of the task force has been fulfilled, we recognize this work will always be needed – and it will remain ongoing in units and departments across the university, under the oversight of the provost and the vice president for student affairs. Enhancing the CMU experience has become a campus-wide movement rooted in our shared humanity and my hope is that, no matter your role in our community, you each find ways to contribute.

As we prepare for this season of gratitude, I am reminded how fortunate we are to be part of this institution, where we are committed, in equal measure, to pursuing excellence as well as growing as individuals and as a community.

Warm regards,

Farnam Jahanian
Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair
Carnegie Mellon University