Carnegie Mellon University

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CMU Community News

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May 20, 2020

Supporting Community Connections at CMU

By Mandi Semple

Reaching out to others can nurture a positive state of mind, now more than ever. 

That’s the premise behind efforts by Carnegie Mellon’s Community Health and Well-Being team to provide virtual engagement opportunities and resources to students, faculty and staff through organized group workshops and individual interactions.   

“Our goal is to support our community members’ connection to one another, and the university, during a time of unprecedented physical distancing,” said Maureen “Mo” Dasey-Morales, associate vice president for Community Health and Well-Being. “These virtual opportunities are a way for us to reach out and make sure people are okay.” 

This past week, Stephanie Laughton, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering, and Justine Sherry, an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department, checked in with each other.

“We asked them to engage in a StoryCorps type conversation, where stories are shared between and among people to build connections and create a more just and compassionate world,” said Kelley Shell, health promotion program director at University Health Services. “Having a one-on-one conversation, even with someone you don’t know, can really help you feel connected because you realize that we really are all in this together.”

This video chat is the first time the two met each other. Their conversation started around the commonality of teaching online and then evolved into what this “new normal” is like as part of everyday life, as everyone’s circumstances are unique.

Listen in to their conversation.

Laughton completed her undergraduate degree at Duke University and is currently in the final year of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. program at CMU.

During her time at Carnegie Mellon, Laughton has been very active in student government and is a teaching assistant. While transitioning to online classes has taken some of the joy away from teaching, Laughton feels the experience will move her career forward when she starts professorship after graduation. 

Laughton says she has been impressed by CMU students’ commitment to achieving their educational goals and the level of care provided by faculty and staff. 

“Keep up the good work! Even though it is a different kind of hard work, we are more independent and more aware of what we are learning,” she said.

Sherry has been an assistant computer science professor at CMU for two and a half years. She misses teaching in-person, chatting in line at Tazza D'Oro about weekend plans, and seeing students tabling for their clubs.

While social distancing has taken the fun of being around people on campus, it gave Sherry more time for her hobbies like baking and going to parks.

“While doing these things alone isn't as fun as doing them with friends, I am grateful for the extra time,” she said.

Sherry believes reaching out to other people remedies loneliness. She encourages everyone to stay connected with their friends and have some fun together from a distance. During quarantine, she has been playing online games with her friends and students. 

At Carnegie Mellon, individual and collective well-being is rooted in healthy connections, both to people and to campus resources, says Dasey-Morales.

“How we care for our holistic selves and others is important to our success and well-being,” she said. “Reach out to others to see how they are doing, connect with a professor or staff member you’ve always wanted to meet or learn from, or engage with a CMU club or organization to explore what they have going on virtually.

“Now more than ever, let’s support and hold each other up, as one CMU community.”

If you are interested in opportunities to connect, check out these upcoming Community Health and Well-Being workshops:

May 27, Noon – 1 p.m.
Nurture Your Psychological Well-being During Your Job Search

June 2, 2 – 3:15 p.m.
Compassionate Motivation: How Our “Inner Critic” Keeps Us Stuck

June 19, 1 – 2 p.m.
A Little Piece of Home: Nurturing the Connection with Home as an International Student

June 18 and 25, July 2, noon – 1:15 p.m.
Rhythms: Mental Health and the Menstrual Cycle