Carnegie Mellon University

The Charpie Leadership Institute

The Charpie Leadership Institute is a robust two-semester learning experience for second-year undergraduate students that endeavors to cultivate principled, action-oriented, and civic engaged student leaders, who are agents of positive social change in a complex and diverse world. This program is built on the principles of The Social Change Model of Leadership and includes a one-semester for-credit course on civic leadership development, year-long regular check-ins with a one-on-one mentor, and an individually designed civically engaged project in an impact area of concern to the student.

By participating in this program, students will:

  • Identify and address impact areas at CMU and in the greater Pittsburgh community.
  • Earn course-credit while investing in personal, professional, and leadership development.
  • Gain access of up to $5,000 from a fund earmarked for civically engaged projects and professional development opportunities.
  • Develop networking opportunities with students, alumni, and community leaders.


The Charpie Leadership Institute is open to second-year undergraduate students—from all majors and colleges—who demonstrate significant leadership potential and a passionate commitment to the values of democratic and civic engagement.

Nominations from staff and faculty are accepted, as well as unsolicited applications from students.

All applicants will be required to complete an application that includes a leadership portfolio and forward visioning toward personal and career aspirations. Applicants will also be invited to in-person interviews.

Applications are due March 1st. The application is now available.

Conceptual Framework

The Charpie Leadership Institute is conceptually founded on The Social Change Model (Higher Education Research Institute), which views leadership as a purposeful, collaborative, and values-driven process. This framework is amended with resources from Jordan Harper and Adrianna Kezar's Leadership for Liberation (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators). Leadership for Liberation is designed to address gaps in The Social Change Model that have arisen in the decades since the latter's introduction, by encouraging students to grapple with questions of race, power, and oppression.

Charpie Institute Conceptual Framework

Societal Values include citizenship and fellowship.

Group Values include system challenging, collaboration, power and oppression acknowledgement, common purpose, support networks, controversy with civility courage.

Individual Values include liberation, consciousness of self, storytelling, congruence, and commitment.


The Charpie Leadership Institute is made possible in part by a generous fund established by Dr. Robert Charpie—designated for students who would “make a difference to Carnegie Mellon, the nation and the world”—together with the generosity of the rest of the Charpie Family. Dr. Charpie graduated from Carnegie Mellon with B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in theoretical physics. He recounted many times that the most important lesson learned throughout his career was the importance of identifying and attracting people with strong leadership skills.

Prior to the establishment of The Charpie Leadership Institute, these funds supported the Charpie Scholarship program, which was awarded to newly admitted Carnegie Mellon students with an exemplary academic record and promise of leadership potential. Charpie scholars engaged in leadership training, experiential learning, and civic engaged endeavors designed to cultivate their sensibilities as scholars.