Carnegie Mellon University

A photo of Remy Goldberg, Liam O'Connell and Stanford Becton

October 19, 2020

Extracurriculars Complete CMU Experience

By Felicia Lucot

Jason Maderer
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-4376

Before the pandemic changed campus operations, Remy Goldberg would cross Forbes Avenue lugging a massive keyboard. Her peers would follow suit, carrying boxes filled with props on their way to the Tepper Quad to set up for theater rehearsal.

Preparing rehearsal spaces is just part of the role of stage manager, Goldberg's previous role for Scotch 'n Soda, Carnegie Mellon University's entirely student-run theater group and one of the nation's oldest student theater organizations.

From the figure skating club to Greek life to the Kiltie Band, Carnegie Mellon offers more than 300 clubs and student organizations. Goldberg is among a cohort of students who said that getting involved outside the classroom has enhanced their CMU experience — though their experiences are different this semester due to COVID-19.

Goldberg, a rising sophomore studying chemistry, has been involved in performing arts for most of her life, but wanted step away from acting and dancing when she arrived at CMU. She came across an application for an assistant stage manager position with Scotch 'n Soda and discovered a new side of the arts, along with a new group of friends.

"I was greeted with open arms," she said. "The first moments I was there, I knew I found this group of people that I wanted to be with for the next four years."

While a highlight of joining Scotch 'n Soda has been the people she's met, Goldberg says that what she's gained both personally and professionally have been invaluable.

Goldberg is developing a new set of skills, transitioning from stage manager to public relations coordinator for the group. She handles publicity and social media for the organization, and is learning to use Adobe Creative Cloud software, things she says she wouldn't have exposure to without this role.

"I've loved every minute of it, but it's a lot of work. Making rehearsal schedules, setting up rehearsal spaces and coordinating tech week has helped me develop important organizational leadership skills," she said.

While CMU is known for its interdisciplinary academic programs, Goldberg says that students have diverse interests outside the classroom as well. In fact, most of the members of Scotch 'n Soda aren't theater majors.

"I think of CMU students as motivated people who work hard and are goal-oriented, but we still know how to have fun and get involved in things outside of academics," Goldberg said. "If you want more out of your college experience, you just have to look around."

Scotch 'n Soda's fall slot, "Behind Closed Doors," will be shown virtually November 13 and 14. Students who are on campus or learning remotely can find information on group meetings, workshops, subtroupes and how to get involved this semester on the Scotch 'n Soda website.

Advocating for students

For Liam O'Connell, getting involved outside of the classroom means advocating for his peers. O'Connell has been a member of CMU's Undergraduate Student Senate for three years, and now serves as the Senate chair.

"I wasn't a student government type of person before, and I was never involved in it in high school," said O'Connell. "I joined out of curiosity and saw that it was a place where I could advocate for CMU students and make campus a better place, so I decided to stay."

O'Connell is proud of the positive impact the Senate has had on campus. A few notable changes include working with campus administration to revise the drop voucher system, and improving the relationship between the Career & Professional Development Center and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. His goal for the upcoming school year is to demonstrate how the Undergraduate Student Senate can be an ally to any student.

O'Connell's advice for incoming students is to join something out of curiosity to find your fit, and to not be deterred from getting involved by CMU's academic demands. And even during a pandemic where most extracurricular activities are virtual, there are still opportunities to participate.

The biggest change in Senate operations this semester is that all General Body Meetings and committee meetings will be hosted over Zoom. As always, meetings are open to any member of the CMU student body. Information about meetings is available on the Student Senate website, and updates on the initiatives they're working on are provided on the @cmusenate Instagram account and on Facebook.

"Getting involved with the Senate can be as simple as reaching out to us with your concerns or thoughts on how we can make our campus a better place, and anyone can contact their representatives or a committee chair on our website," said O'Connell. "Because of how rigorous our academics are, joining an extracurricular is a good way to complete your experience and get to know people in a context outside of work. We always welcome students reaching out to us or attending meetings, especially in a semester when we're all in different places!"

O'Connell is earning a degree in architecture and social and political history, and views architecture and advocacy as a complimentary pair. He plans to use what he's learned — both academically and from his time in Senate — to develop cities that are just and equitable for all.

"I've always been interested in the history of cities and urban policy. There are a lot of blind spots around underrepresented people and vulnerable people," he said. "We need to use the mechanisms that we have from disciplines like architecture to be a voice for people who have been left out of these spaces in the past."

Football and fashion

Stanford Becton played cornerback for the Carnegie Mellon University Tartans for four years. Off the field, he's taken advantage of every opportunity to lead and learn at CMU.

Becton, a fifth-year senior studying professional writing, is a leader in Greek life on campus and in the Pittsburgh community. He serves as treasurer in the Omicron Psi chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., a city-wide Greek organization open to students at all local Pittsburgh universities. He's also a member of the University of Pittsburgh National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), and previously served as the social media chair for the Duquesne University NPHC.

This fall, Omega Psi Phi is using social media to stay connected with the campus community. Students can find out more about upcoming programs and virtual events on the @opsi1927 Instagram account.

In addition to football and Greek life, Becton has served in multiple leadership roles to produce the annual SPIRIT fashion show, is a resident assistant in campus housing, and works as a staff writer for CMU Athletics.

Becton says the most important thing he's learned from his leadership roles is the value of networking.

"It's not always about what you know, but who you know," he said. "Playing football and walking in a fashion show are two completely different things, but I've been able to connect with new people from different spheres of campus that I wouldn't have met otherwise."

When it comes to juggling academics and a number of extracurricular activities, Becton says that the more involved he became, the better his grades were. He also credits his academic advisor, Laura Donaldson, for helping him plan a balanced schedule.

Becton's proudest extracurricular accomplishment has been founding the Black Male Summit, an annual event designed to provide mentorship for and promote unity among the Black male community at CMU. He pitched the idea, planned the event, and acquired funding for the program, now going on its third consecutive year.

This semester, there will be a number of discussion-based, virtual events held by the Black Male Collective centered around the Black experience, leading up to the 3rd annual Black Male Summit on February 6, 2021. Despite the virtual nature, the aim of these events are the same; to strengthen connections among the Black male community at CMU and to provide a space to discuss the issues facing this group. Students looking to get involved are encouraged to subscribe to their mailing list and follow @cmublackmen on Instagram.

For Becton, the most rewarding aspect of being a student leader is the legacy he'll leave behind.

"I want to leave a solid foundation for the Black Male Summit and make sure there is a pipeline of people who will move it forward when I'm no longer a CMU student," he said.

"The Black Male Summit and NPHC presence at CMU is small, but my hope is for these organizations to grow and gain more exposure. I want students to be able to continue to have these opportunities long after I graduate."

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