Together, for Good
Working toward social change is part of what it means to be a Tartan. Whether it's direct service, economic development, community organizing, mutual aid, social innovation, advocacy, protests and demonstrations, community-engaged teaching and research, voting and political activities, deliberative dialogue or socially responsible daily behavior, it's all happening here at CMU. Read on for inspiring stories of how our community comes together, for good.
Together, for Critical Education
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Isabel C. Brum Cancio came to the United States for college at CMU. Her life experiences, both at home in Puerto Rico and in Pittsburgh, have shaped her commitment to making education more inclusive and increasing the quality of instruction for students everywhere.
"Many public schools in Puerto Rico lack the funding to provide adequate resources for their students. The local government, along with the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, has shut down many public schools over the past decade, worsening accessibility barriers. The only public university system in Puerto Rico has experienced excessive budget cuts that placed several programs at risk of losing their accreditations or being shut down."
Seeing what has happened in Puerto Rico over time inspired Isabel to become involved in education initiatives. She was a tutor in high school and knew she wanted to continue that work during college. During her first year at CMU, she became involved with the Leonard Gelfand Center.
Through the Leonard Gelfand Center, Isabel supports middle and high school students and teachers create inclusive environments in the classroom and helps the students learn through formal tutoring and by connecting with the students to talk about future opportunities, like internships and scholarships.
"I get to know the students, help them complete their coursework, and have conversations with teachers about how best to support them individually."
She's had the opportunity to connect with many Pittsburgh communities and education initiatives, including at the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, Taylor Allderdice High School, the City Charter School, Westinghouse Academy, and with ASSEMBLE, a community center in Bloomfield that provides students with a safe and educational space while their guardians are at work.
"Working with the Leonard Gelfand Center, I have seen first-hand many of the ideas that I learn about in my classes take place in the classroom. For example, I understand the importance of having people who students can relate to in their schools. Since I am from Puerto Rico, I can bond easily with LatinX students and students of color, often better than their white teachers can."
For Isabel, dismantling accessibility barriers and simultaneously providing high-quality education is an ongoing process that all can contribute to in some way.
"Education impacts the livelihood of individuals and the communities they comprise: better education correlates with a better quality of life."
Together, for a Brighter Future
Together, for a Brighter Future
President of CMU's Graduate Student Assembly, Divyansh Kaushik is active in democratic engagement work to influence government policy issues, including in the areas of science and research.
“I believe that everyone has the potential to make a difference in the world, and that by helping others to realize their altruistic potential, we can make the world a better place for everyone.”
Divyansh is deeply inspired by Senator Robert F. Kennedy, former attorney general and civil rights leader, and particularly what he said during a speech in 1968:
“The cruelties and the obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It will not be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”
This resonates deeply for Divyansh because he sees the times we live in as revolutionary, whether it be fighting against global poverty, inequality or climate change. He believes that young people, as well as those who enjoy the great privilege of higher education, must take the lead, through research or alongside it.
“Many of us fall into the belief that there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, miseries and injustices. But remember, it was a 32-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal, a 25-year-old John Lewis who led hundreds of voting rights activists to the apex of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama, and a 21-year-old Vivian Malone who sued the University of Alabama to become one of its first Black students.”
Like those before him, Divyansh is working to change the world. He and other CMU GSA activists have filed Amicus Briefs in lawsuits impacting students, hosted research showcases on Capitol Hill to build a bridge between researchers and policymakers, advocated for policies to improve higher education, and helped highlight student experiences in Congressional hearings.
“An important part of this work is making sure you're keeping your eye on the prize and identifying where the most impactful use of your time is, and track back from there.”
His focus on impact and tracing back steps has made him most impactful on Capitol Hill. Over the years, GSA has evolved into a reliable source for policymakers to engage with, and he knows this engagement will result in impact.
At the core of Divyansh’s commitment to making a difference in the world is that everyone, no matter who you are, can be a change agent. He believes that CMU must demonstrate an institutional commitment to providing every student the platform and ability to engage in civic engagement - to stand up for their ideals, to act to improve the lot of others, and to strike out against injustice.
“Students must consider and seek out the levers that they have access to and the foundations upon which they can place them … be it their previous experience in the Peace Corps, their research agenda to design new carbon capture technologies, their personal passions to register people to vote, or their experience in student government. No matter what you decide to do, remember that you can make a difference in the world.”
Together, for Economic Empowerment
Guillermo Velazquez is the executive director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC), which focuses on economic empowerment and community development for the Hispanic community in the region.
Guillermo Velazquez is the executive director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC), which focuses on economic empowerment and community development for Hispanics in the region, including increased opportunities for advancement, equal access, and recognition of the Hispanic’s community positive impact on the regional economy.
Carnegie Mellon partners with PHDC through the Pittsburgh Summer Internship Program (PSIP). The Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation has been a host site for PISP since 2019 because CMU students have a real opportunity to make a tangible impact in the city. By interning with PHDC, students have been able to partner with members of the Latinx community to advance ethnicity equity.
The Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation is an organization that supports economic development for the Hispanic community in the region. PHDC helps with overcoming language barriers, assists Hispanic immigrants start new businesses, ensures existing Hispanic businesses receive support to grow, and provides assistance with housing and employment. PHDC also play a key role in attracting Hispanics to Pittsburgh.
“Through our work at PHDC, we’ve learned that if the Hispanic community is supported it thrives. Other organizations and government entities are acknowledging the positive impact that Hispanic people have in the region.”
Each summer, two CMU students intern at PHDC, and Guillermo says the work they do is crucial.
“Ideally we would also have internships during the fall and winter, as well. PHDC would also benefit from having special research-based projects that would focus on statistics surrounding the Hispanic community in the Pittsburgh area.”