Carnegie Mellon University

Scholar Class of 2017-2018

Aliaa  Essameldin

Aliaa Essameldin

Computer Science, Scholar Class of 2017-2018


"Being a Carnegie Mellon student has opened my eyes to a world of opportunities I did not know existed. From a newly-discovered interest in the arts to my ability to work with world-class professors and researchers, CMU has taught me that you should never stop exploring, nor ever doubt your ability to make a real change. So when a chance to stay for an extra year presented itself, I could not help but hang to it as tightly as I could. To me, staying for a fifth year is not only about the extra classes that I will attend nor the skills that I will develop, but it's also about being able to share this insight with others. Through my community project, I hope to create an environment for programmers all over the world to explore their interests in as much depth as possible and discover their true potential as well as show it off to the world."

Aliaa is a senior in the Computer Science program. Raised in Egypt and moving to Qatar when she was 15, Aliaa has embraced the leadership opportunities at CMU-Q: she was president of the Computing Club, head of academics in the Student Majlis (Student Union), Head Orientation Counselor and a volunteer in the CS4Qatar, CS4Qatar for Women and Botball outreach programs. She has also worked as a course assistant in courses such as Writing for Academic Practices and Parallel Data Structures and Algorithms. In addition to her involvement in campus life, Aliaa conducted research projects both on and off campus. She is now working on her senior thesis in the Networking Systems Lab. During her semester in Pittsburgh, she developed an interest in the arts, especially in film photography, which inspired her to apply to the Fifth Year Scholar program so she can return to Pittsburgh and take more arts classes. Aliaa has proposed a community project called The Hack Games, which will allow computer scientists and programmers to develop and show-off their skills to potential employers.

Michael  James

Michael James

Drama, Scholar Class of 2017-2018


“I believe we have enormous power to influence change in our world when we recognize the way in which much of our lived experience was constructed through the successive events of our history. I see opportunities for such change at many scales. I apply my analytical and technical mind to the design of tools, services, and policies and my expressive and critical mind to the design of conversations, artwork, and activism. My time at Carnegie Mellon and the faculty, staff, and peers I have learned from have helped me develop in these diverse ways and recognize the complementary value of diverse methods. The wonderful people I have met here have also taught me to be gentle with myself and others in a world of violent expectations and actions.”

Michael came to Carnegie Mellon University from Houston, Texas because he wanted to go to the best school for theatre design. While the breadth of the university’s offerings factored into his decision at the time, he could not have imagined the diversity of opportunities he has encountered. Michael declared Video & Media Design within Drama his sophomore year, but it was not until he attended Odyssey that January that his relationship to design and technology grew to where it is now. That conference led him to add a Human-Computer Interaction course and a few months later he was accepted into the additional major. This changed his trajectory and led him to his current work and studies around social change. Michael is studying behavior, structures, culture, and ideology at Carnegie Mellon and the influence they have on stress, mental health, and wellness in order to identify and act on opportunities to make Carnegie Mellon a happier, healthier place. Michael has enjoyed time in Treblemakers, Spring Carnival Committee, and IMPAQT and currently leads the Carnegie Leadership Consultants and serves on the Student Body President’s Cabinet.

Lauren Valley

Lauren Valley

Art, Scholar Class of 2017-2018


“Over the past four years, I have had the opportunity to work with students across majors, develop skills and training on machinery I didn’t know existed and create work I didn’t think I was capable of. CMU has a way of bringing out the best in its students, and I truly believe that what I gained from Carnegie Mellon, I couldn’t have gotten from any other school.”

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Lauren knew she wanted to attend Carnegie Mellon from the time she was in fourth grade, but it wasn’t until her junior year she learned of the school’s reputation. Carnegie Mellon prides itself on interdisciplinary collaboration, and the moment Lauren got to campus, she sought out ways integrate technology into her artistic practice. Sophomore year, Lauren became involved in the IDeATe program and her work saw an immediate shift towards robotics. Lauren’s work attempts to expose the humor and humanity in robots through video, sculpture, performance, and installation. In addition to making art, Lauren loves sharing her knowledge with others. During her fifth year, she hopes to continue this skill share by developing a set of guided robotic projects for middle and high school students.

Electric Women is an online gallery curated and edited by Lauren Valley featuring the work of female artists of color at the intersection of art, science, technology, and social practice. Conceived as a response to the lack of diversity in art spaces, Electric Women aims to highlight innovation across new media and the women behind it.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Electrical and Computer Engineering, Scholar Class of 2017-2018


“I am in love with the Carnegie Mellon community.  One of the things that make our community so wonderful is its very diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives.  I think we can do more to explore the distance between these backgrounds and perspectives, both for the voices in our community which are not heard, but also for those in our community who do not understand those voices.  The exploration and questioning of my own identity privileges is helping me to both understand my current self better, as well as become a better person.  These questions about privilege and identity are often messy and imperfect, but I am always glad to have asked.  Through the Fifth Year Scholar program, I hope to continue this exploration and challenge for myself, but also to share in this questioning with other members of our campus community.”  

Nick came to Carnegie Mellon from Blacksburg, Virginia, a small college town in the Appalachian Mountains. Nick is majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering, with a double major in Engineering and Public Policy. While he has learned a lot in his classes, some of his most salient growing experiences have been through other campus involvements: being a Community Advisor, a Course Assistant, an upper class Ambassador for first year students, an Orientation Counselor, and a member of the University Disciplinary Committee and Academic Review Board. These experiences, as well as his everyday interactions with his fellow students, have helped Nick to learn from the perspectives of others. His project goal is to imbue campus culture with a comfort in uncomfortable dialogue. He hopes to accomplish this through a recurring retreat for student leaders, to develop listening and dialogue skills.