Orientation Staff-Orientation & First-Year Programs - Carnegie Mellon University

The Orientation Staff

The Head Orienation Councelors(HOC) are in-charge of organizing Orientation and the rest of the Orientation staff, tailoring the experience to fit their housing communities' unique environment. Each community has its own dedicated Orientation Staff, including Orientation Leaders(OL) and Orientation Counselors(OC). Generally an OL aids the HOC in coordination of the staff along with ensuring that your entire floor has a genuine Orientation. An OC is entirely dedicated to making your Orientation experience!

The Orientation staff support the Director of Orienation, Anne Witchner, and their respective residential staff. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns at our email, cmuorientation2017@gmail.com. We look forward to when you join us in Pittsburgh!

Meet your 2017 HOCs!


Jeff Zhao

Stever House

Did you ever hear the story of the nervous first-year? I thought not.. It’s not a story the admissions office would tell you. The nervous first-year was an admitted CMU student who was moving away from home for the first time, away from his family and his lifelong friends, to a new city he knew little about. He was nervous about pretty much everything.  He was nervous about taking college classes, he was nervous about doing his own laundry, but above all, he was nervous about making new friends.  Lucky for him, Orientation week was the perfect opportunity for him to step out of his comfort zone and branch out.  Through orientation he met L I T E R A L L Y hundreds of people, some of whom would become his closest friends at CMU, and over a the week of action-packed Orientation events, his nervousness slowly melted into excitement.  As you may have guessed by now, that nervous first-year was me: a guy from the small town of Basking Ridge New Jersey entering his fourth year studying Electrical and Computer Engineering here at Carnegie Mellon.


As you also might have guessed, that nervous first-year is you. Even though your initial fears may be different than mine, I can say for sure that attending Carnegie Mellon is a new, exciting, and life changing experience for everyone, and so a little bit of nervousness is expected.  Everyone’s CMU experiences are unique in their own ways, but the shift from nervousness to excitement (especially during Orientation Week) is an experience shared by many. I fell in love with this school and this city more than I’d ever expected, and the connections I’ve made here are unlike any other. I’m now the Head Orientation Counselor of Stever House, and I’ll be working hard to create a community that will make you feel at home here at Carnegie Mellon.


So without further ado, congratulations on choosing Carnegie Mellon University.  You will find that the people at CMU are passionate about what they do, and encourage each other to reach their highest potential. At CMU, you will be challenged academically, socially, and extracurricularly, and I’m confident that you all are up to the challenge. In fact, the class of 2021+ (you guys) is one of the biggest and brightest classes that Carnegie Mellon has ever seen.


I’ve said a lot, so I’ll leave you all with a few parting words.  Be brave, not fearless; take on challenges not because you’re not afraid of them, but because you are. This approach will open your eyes to new opportunities, will introduce you to interesting people, and will help you grow into the best possible version of yourself. Enjoy the rest of the summer and I can’t wait to meet all of you this fall!


Orientation Love,

Jeff Zhao


Katelyn Smith

Donner House

Hi friends!


My name is Katelyn Smith, I’m the Head Orientation Counselor for Donner house!! A native of the Northern Virginia area, I’ve fallen in love with Pittsburgh over the last four years and I’m so excited for you all to begin calling this area home. I’m just starting my fifth and final year in the School of Architecture, and I’m also getting a minor in Physical Computing through CMU’s IDeATe program.

I often say that the choice to attend Carnegie Mellon was the best choice I ever made. The community I’ve found here, as well as the lessons I’ve learned have absolutely changed my life for the better. CMU has allowed me to not only dive deep into areas I wanted to explore, but also discover new interests.


I genuinely hope each of you have a similar experience. The people you find here will be just as passionate as you are about what you are doing- and that won’t always be solely academics. I encourage you to get involved in all the activity going on around campus. The students here are incredibly diverse in both their background and their interests, so feel free to try new things and meet new people. For many of you, this will be second nature, as you eagerly sign up for every mailing list for any club that sounds remotely interesting. To you I say this: always remember that you are your top priority. Find something that will center you through your time here as you get pulled in different directions.


The Carnegie Mellon family is always here to support you, and we are so very excited to meet you. During Orientation week, you will find an army of students, faculty and staff ready and willing to help you kick off this chapter of life, whatever your individual needs may be. As you embark on this journey, the path before you may not be the same as the person next to you, there are so many ways to move forward. But we will all be starting together, ready to support you and send you off in the best way possible.


I still need to come up with a signature,



Nate Christie


Dear Class of 2021+,

My name is Nate Christie, and I am the Head Orientation Counselor for the Oakland community. I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering. I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, and I love this city. Many new students hear Pittsburgh and think of a small old steel town, but this city has long since transformed into a hub of technology and the arts.  We’re consistently ranked as the most livable city by the Economist, Livability, and Forbes magazine.  I've been to six continents, but Pittsburgh remains one of the most culturally diverse cities I've seen.  I'm very excited to show many of you around town in August.


My first day on campus certainly felt overwhelming.  The orientation staff helped me loosen up and start conversations with the people that would become my closest friends over the next four years..  If you're sweating it, don't worry.  We put a lot of work into making sure that feeling doesn't last.


See you soon,



Apeksha Atal

Mudge House

Hello hello Class of 2021+!

My name is Apeksha Atal, and I will be the Head Orientation Counselor for the lovely Mudge Mansion. I’m a rising senior in Biology in the Mellon College of Science, with an additional major in English Literary and Cultural Studies. I was born in Portland, Oregon, and have been living all over India since I was ten years old. Right now, for the record, I call Bangalore my home -- but let’s be real, Pittsburgh is basically homebase.


It’s weird being so far away from home. My own parents were unable to drop me off in Mudge when I first got here, and it was difficult for me to open up and get as excited as other students who had their parents around. I remember picturing myself sitting alone in a room full of families, going through programming, and scrolling through old pictures on my phone with some sappy backing track playing in my head. The reality was much different. My Orientation Counsellors opened my eyes to what I was sulking away from. They were the source of energy I needed to discover opportunity at this university, and they were the mentors I needed to guide me through it all.


I hope that our incredible staff will make your experience just as special this year, and that you find your own sense of home here. Just know that even though you’re coming into this without your family by your side, you’ve got another one waiting for you right here. Your undergraduate experience will include some of the best years of your life, and I promise that you will not have to face them alone.


Words cannot describe how excited we are to welcome you to your new home. In the meantime, we send our heartiest congratulations your way, and hope that you’re taking this time to reflect on your high school experiences, and figure out what you want to get out of your Carnegie Mellon experience. As you’ll soon discover, this is a very special place to be, no matter what you’re studying, doing outside of the classroom, or anticipating for the future.


Welcome welcome welcome, with very Mudge love,

Apeksha Atal


Emily Ernst


Hey, Class of 2021+! Congratulations on your acceptance to CMU (and your acceptance of us, too)!


My name is Emily Ernst and I am the Head Orientation Counselor for Morewood Gardens and E-Tower. I'm about to start my senior year in the School of Drama focusing on dramaturgy, and I'm originally from Cleveland, OH. I enjoy going to Pirates games, but I'm an Indians, Cavs, and Browns fan through and through. I am also an avid crossword enthusiast, Food Network watcher, and fan of all things astronomy.


One of the best things about Carnegie Mellon is our deep and rich diversity. We are diverse not only of kinds of people, but also of interest. Although I am student in the College of Fine Arts, I'm proud to say I have friends from every college on campus. We range from biology to scenic design to cello performance to biomedical engineering, and our incredible club system encourages students to step outside of their major and sing in an acapella group, race buggies, or celebrate culture and identity. Our peers have touched all parts of the globe, and we are so lucky to have a community like CMU's!


Pittsburgh is also an incredible city that I have grown to love over the past three years. Museums, libraries, great theater, and sports are all over the Oakland area (where CMU and our neighboring universities are located). Despite the weather being slightly unpredictable, Pittsburgh is an amazing city. We can't wait for you to get here and see it for yourselves!


Please know that we, the 2017 orientation staff, as well as your new professors, friends, and peers, want the best for you during your time at Carnegie Mellon. We are resources, helpers, and lifelong collaborators, and we are so excited to meet you.


With Pineapple Love,

Emily Ernst


Ricardo Tucker

Residences on the Hill - Hamerschlag & Scobell

Hi Class of 2021+!


Hope you guys are just as excited to come to CMU as we are to welcome you here! My name is Ricardo, and I am one of the Head Orientation Counselors for the Hill with Mikaela! I’m entering my senior year studying Computer Science with a minor in Animation & Special Effects through the IDeATe interdisciplinary program, and am also starting an accelerated Master’s track with the Entertainment Technology Center. I’m from Leesburg, Virginia (only one town over from Katelyn!), and for fun I like video editing and photography, playing an obscene amount of Super Smash Brothers, and creating my own games!


Even if you aren’t the most thrilled to be here right from the start, I’m positive you all will grow to love it as much as I do! The best advice that I can give to you all is to fully take advantage of all the opportunities that CMU hands to you, especially starting with Orientation Week. The purpose of this week is to connect you with all of the resources available at this school and have you begin forming friendships that’ll last you for the next 4+ years. There is a unique energy around the school during orientation week, which is why it’s always been my favorite time of the year! This is the time to begin exploring new things, looking into new clubs to join or meeting people that you normally wouldn’t talk to. I guarantee that your time at CMU will be infinitely better if you get in the habit early!


The other HOCs, the entire rest of the Orientation staff, and I are all so excited to welcome you to Carnegie Mellon. See you in August!


The Hill is ILL,





Mikaela Lewis

Residences on the Hill - Boss, McGill, Henderson, and Margaret Morrison Apartments

Dear Class of 2021+,

Congratulations on being accepted to a wonderful university!  My name is Mikaela Lewis and I am one of the Head Orientation Counselors on the Hill with Ricardo!  I am a rising senior studying Biological Sciences and Psychology, and I will also be starting my Masters degree in Health Care Policy and Management in the Heinz College this fall.  I grew up in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, but I also call Naples, Florida home now as well.  When not focusing on school, you can find me listening to musicals or eating any food accessible at the moment.


I am so excited to meet you all and get to know you better in August!  While preparing over the summer to start college can be scary, just know you have a huge Tartan family waiting to welcome you at CMU.  I came from a smaller high school and was intimidated, at first, by how many people I would meet and how many new experiences I would encounter in college.  Orientation week was the perfect way for my nerves to settle before classes began.  Through bonding with my floor, dorm, and academic college, I immediately knew how diverse the students at CMU were.  Everyone comes from a different background and has different interests, but everyone comes together at CMU to share their unique passions.  You will do things at CMU that you won’t have a chance to do anywhere else, and that is what is so unique about our university.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself and try new things, because putting yourself out there can open up new avenues you never thought you’d explore.  You may even find your new passion by trying something new.  Orientation week will give you time to explore yourself, get to know your new home for the next 4+ years, and learn about new opportunities, especially from your fellow classmates.


Orientation week was life changing as a first year student, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.  Get ready for the excitement, knowledge, and energy that comes with Orientation week.  I couldn’t be more excited to welcome you to CMU and watch you embark on your new journey!


Red team go,