Dean Krishnan's Milestone Reports were delivered as College-wide messages to all faculty, staff, and students during the Spring 2020 semester. These weekly reports provided updates on Heinz College's rapid transition from in-person to remote teaching, learning, and research activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while also detailing challenges and highlighting exceptional efforts by individuals and the College's partners.
March 21, 2020
Dear Heinz Community,
This week you were put to the test. And by all accounts, you’ve answered with vigor. All of our 249 courses moved online and although there are some growing pains as we get better with technology and technique, the reports I’ve received from faculty and students have been very positive. But of course a great educational experience involves much more than classes. Our Student Affairs team is working diligently on some more fun, communal activities to break up the isolation many of us are feeling. And our Career Services team is hosting virtual job fairs and informational programs on searching for jobs from a distance. Similarly for faculty, we plan to offer seminars remotely to maintain our intellectual community. None of this is a perfect substitute for the normal, but I am proud of the resourcefulness that so many of you are showing.
I plan to hold virtual office hours for any member of the Heinz community this Wednesday, March 25 from 4-5pm. You can access via this link: https://cmu.zoom.us/j/712504941.
The office hours are first come, first served, but if they are popular I plan to hold these regularly for the remainder of the semester. I will stagger the hours of future office hours to accommodate those at our remote campuses. For students, your program directors are also planning to hold weekly virtual office hours and they will be in touch with those details.
Finally, CMU has been active in assisting healthcare leaders and policy makers on smart responses to the pandemic. For example, Professor Kathleen recently participated in this webinar on “Combatting Digital Disinformation During a Global Pandemic.” You will need to click on the register button and provide your name and email id to listen to the webinar. I hope you find her presentation and the panel discussion as interesting as I did.
Thank you for your patience and hard work this week. Please remain safe and vigilant as we embark on week two of this extraordinary test.
March 28, 2020
Dear Heinz community,
Our second week of remote work is now in the books. I continue to hear that, while not perfect, the online courses have been working well for the large majority of you. There had been concern that when more universities moved online this week, Zoom and the “last mile” on the Internet would be overwhelmed. I am relieved as I am sure you all are that this has not been the case and the technology has held up. I am also delighted that many of you are “leaning in” to this challenge and have heard stories of experimentation and innovation in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. Our alumni relations team hosted our first ever Virtual Alumni Reunion last night and, in what might be my favorite example of online creativity, MAM Director Jessica Bowser Acrie held a “MAM Pets Meet and Greet” last night. I truly applaud these efforts to maintain our community when we need it the most.
As I mentioned last week, CMU has rich intellectual capital that can be used to combat the outbreak and soften its aftermath. Several of these stories are now live at https://www.heinz.cmu.edu/ and I hope you will take a look.
Now I turn our attention to some challenges we must confront.
The Employment Landscape
The economic slowdown is likely to have significant impact on the employment prospects of May graduates from our master's programs. This week the Heinz and Central CMU career services centers polled 151 frequent employers of CMU students across all major sectors about their hiring intentions for the rest of 2020. 70% of respondents indicated that hiring will proceed as normal and 30% indicated that hiring will be cut back or frozen. These numbers are likely to deteriorate even further if the solation continues and the economic effects reverberate. The slowdown is likely to affect different industries differently and therefore will affect graduates of our different degree programs differently.
We must be particularly sensitive to our international students who are here on student visas and those who aspire to work in industries which suffer early in economic downturns. There is no magic solution here; I wish there were. But you have my commitment that Heinz College will be as flexible as we can in our policies and career support for graduating students. In the meantime, you must keep working at the process- networking, attending online job fairs, meeting with your career advisors, and sharpening your personal story.
In addition, I am re-emphasizing our policy that all Heinz graduates in good standing will have full access to our Career Services resources, including interview access, for one year after graduation. If we need to extend this access longer, we have that ability and will review the policy next fall. Your career advisors will keep you aware of any adjustments and additional resources as they occur. In addition to career services, my senior management team and I are also looking into other ways in which we can assist our students deal with this crisis.
A related issue to the full time employment is summer internships. Once again, students should continue to approach their internship with a good process in consultation with their career advisors. Internships have been an important element of the Heinz experience since our founding and we believe you are a better trained graduate when you have this experience. Many firms are still hiring and you should pursue these opportunities enthusiastically. Similar to our approach with graduating students, we will be do our best to support all of you who are making a serious effort to secure an internship but are unsuccessful. There are a number of alternative options to traditional internships that we are considering for these students which we will communicate in the coming weeks as the number without internships becomes more clear. I can report that approximately 20% of you have secured internships already, which is in line with the numbers from this time last year.
In closing, as you all know we have significant challenges that lie ahead. But we will assess them honestly, communicate them openly, and overcome them together. I hope you will join my next session of virtual office hours this Wednesday April 1 from 6:30-7:30pm EDT. I chose this time as it is a reasonable hour for Australia, Los Angeles, DC and Pittsburgh locations. Until then, we press on…
April 5, 2020
Dear Heinz Community,
We’ve now completed our third week of social distancing and there’s much to report but before I do, I understand that many of you are posting your “#HeinzAtHome” pics on Instagram. Here is a pic of where I have been spending a good bit of time at home. I have also become a fan of virtual backgrounds in Zoom (I’m partial to Golden Gate at sunset)!
On a more serious note, Provost Garrett announced this week that courses will remain online through August 1. I am hopeful and it is our intention that we return to the classroom in August ahead of the Fall semester. On Wednesday, I held another virtual office hours session and I appreciate that so many of you turned out. I’m finding that this forum is a great way to crowdsource ideas from our community and our senior management team is considering many of the ideas you raised, such as more flexible program structures and finding ways for students to participate in faculty projects related to the pandemic. I will hold another session this Wednesday, April 8 at 6:30 pm EDT. These are individual appointments so you will be placed in a Zoom waiting room, first come, first served.
I continue to hear promising reports about both internships and full time hiring. As I mentioned last week to first year students, you should keep up the hard work of searching for a great internship. These next two weeks are critical. We are continually assessing the situation and will likely announce alternative options during the week of April 20 for students who have tried to find internships but were unsuccessful.
While adjusting to teaching in an online setting, many of our faculty are bringing their considerable talents to bear in the fight against COVID-19. An example this week is a thought provoking article in Politico by Professor Jon Caulkins in which he makes the case for bringing much of the economy back online now. Some of his recommendations may remind many of you students of concepts you have studied in your management science and DMUU courses. I encourage you again to look at the numerous articles about faculty working on COVID-19 at Heinz.cmu.edu.
This week Prof. Sarah Mendelson, who leads Heinz in D.C., will launch a lecture series entitled “Lessons in Leadership in Times of Crisis.” The first one features Mr. Tony Pipa from Brookings Institution to speak about his work on the ground in the early aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The event will be held from 12:15-1:15 on Thursday April 9 and you may access it here. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting topic and I encourage all of you to participate.
Finally, I have a request for all of you. Since this weekend was to be admitted student weekend and our future Heinzers were not able to enjoy the experience, it would be wonderful to have current students and faculty make themselves available to answer questions and share their experiences with these prospective students. If you are willing to do this, please let David Eber (firstname.lastname@example.org) know. It is these small sacrifices in difficult times which will make all the difference.
Until next week, keep your chins up – we are getting there.
April 12, 2020
Dear Heinz Community,
Mahatma Gandhi said, "The future depends on what you do today." My updates in the coming weeks will contain the usual specifics but for this week, I hope you’ll indulge a brief departure to acknowledge the efforts of a few members of our community who are “doing something today”.
- Realizing that many of their classmates may have low or no-paid summer internships, the following students are leading an important fundraising drive to support the Internship Opportunity Fund: Brianna Holzman, Yunxi Hun, Whitney Jefferson, and Jamila Jordan. I hope that any of you who are in a position to support their efforts will join me by making a contribution here.
- Hearing that internships are harder to secure than in prior years, the following faculty have stepped forward and are designing research opportunities for students this summer: Alessandro Acquisti, Silvia Borzutzky, Pedro Ferreira, Rayid Ghani, Kim Hyatt, Karen Lightman, Sarah Mendelson, Dan Nagin, Mike Smith, Rick Stafford, and Rahul Telang. More info on these opportunities is available through the Career Services Center and a complete list of internship alternatives will be announced the week of April 20.
- More than 100 of you attended our “Leadership in Times of Crisis” event this week. Sarah Mendelson from our Washington, DC campus is moderating a series of these discussions with leaders who have navigated disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The next event is this Friday, April 17 at 12:15pm.
- Alumna Vanessa Buffry is leading an effort to refurbish more than 3,000 laptops to allow schoolchildren in Pittsburgh to study remotely. Vanessa’s extraordinary initiative was featured this week in the Post-Gazette. Alumna Leah Lizarando’s 412 Food Rescue is piloting a program in which lunches are distributed to Pittsburgh children using school buses. Our Metro21 Institute is helping to expand the reach and efficiency of these efforts.
- Lauren Prastien and Eugene Leventhal (MSPPM '19) have created the incredibly entertaining and informative Consequential podcast. This week they released a special episode called “Pandemics, Public Data, and Privacy.” If you need a break from screen time, Consequential is a great listen during your walk or jog and is available on all major podcast networks.
Finally, I have two reminders for events this week. My virtual office hours are Wednesday April 15 6:30-7:30pm. CMU will be hosting several fun activities during Virtual Carnival this Thursday through Sunday. I encourage your participation in both of these events.
Our progress will be the sum of the hundreds of individual contributions that each of you are making and the hundreds more that you inspire by your example. You truly embody our founding credo of “Intelligent Action.”
April 18, 2020
Dear Heinz Community,
I write to you tonight with a heavy heart as a dear member of our community, Paul O’Neill, passed away this morning. Paul’s storied career as U.S. Treasury Secretary, CEO of Alcoa, Chairman of RAND, and devotee to the Pittsburgh region is an inspiration. He served Heinz College as a member of our Dean’s Advisory Council since 2006 and you have probably taught or taken courses in the O’Neill Classroom in Hamburg Hall, which we dedicated in 2017. Paul was a frequent guest lecturer in Professor Lassman’s and Branstetter’s courses and his grandson, Ian, graduated from our MSPPM program in 2014. I am really going to miss Paul. Please see our tribute to him at Heinz.cmu.edu.
This sad news caps another very eventful week. Let me first share two very positive developments. First, our deadline for fall enrollment was yesterday and we were watching very closely to see how the pandemic and resulting economy would impact the students’ decisions to attend CMU. I’m pleased to report that applications increased 8% from last year, which is a very positive signal and a testament to the wonderful reputation that we’ve all built together. Second, our corporate and government partners continue to step up, and while hiring is not at the levels we saw two months ago, many are continuing to hire—in fact, 137 of our first year students have already secured summer internships. Many of the policy students will be interested in the upcoming virtual non-profit and government job fair that our Career Services group is hosting. We’ve had a tremendous response rate to that event from interested organizations. To all of you on the job search, keep at it!
On Thursday I met with my Dean’s Advisory Council, a group of our most committed and successful alumni and supporters. They tell me that their industries—technology, real estate, manufacturing, financial services, and non-profits—are all feeling the economic pinch. But importantly, they also tell me that when things turn around, they will be first in line for your talents. Upon hearing about the situation here at the College, several of the DAC board members offered employment opportunities for students and agreed to make generous donations to the Internship Opportunity Fund that will support many of you this summer. I am so profoundly grateful to this group and thank them as I know you do.
Finally, I’d like to share three stories that are currently on Carnegie Mellon’s homepage. First, there is a great story recapping Jon Caulkins’ views on restarting the economy. You might remember Jon’s byline article on this topic in Politico two weeks ago. Second, Dean Dijour and Bennett Huffman, two of our undergraduate information systems students, helped Professor Po-Shen Loh develop an anonymous contact tracing app known as NOVID. The app uses Bluetooth and ultrasound waves to detect proximity between people and allows users to track their own potential exposures. I encourage you to read the article and download the beta version. Third, I’m proud to congratulate two Heinz students, Lauren Grubbs and Rachel Hanes and one recent grad, Katie LeFevre, for being named 2020 finalists in the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program.
I hope some of you were able to see some of the Virtual Carnival events this weekend. My favorite was the talk by Keith Webster, our Dean of Libraries, about Andrew Carnegie’s educational vision and how it grew to become the place we now call home. I learned a few things about Carnegie Mellon that I hadn’t known! I understand a recording of the talk will soon be available if you missed it.
My office hours this week are again on Wednesday from 6:30-7:30pm EDT. Do stop by.
April 26, 2020
Dear Heinz College Community,
We are now in the home stretch and as the semester winds down, I’d like to address a few important administrative matters. As you know, most of our first-year masters students are required to have summer internships in order to graduate. While many have been able to secure those internships (161 as of yesterday), many have not. The internship experience has been integral to a Heinz education since our founding in 1968 and we would like to do what we can to remain true to that legacy and help students with this important learning opportunity. Today we are announcing a number of terrific alternative options to traditional internships. I ask students who are still searching to look them over carefully and choose one that aligns with their career and personal interests. While these are high quality alternatives and will ensure learning and enable students to market themselves upon graduation, these experiences are not perfect substitutes for a traditional internship and I encourage students to continue looking for the next couple of weeks.
I am also happy to announce that, due to the hard work of student volunteers with the IOF, generous donations from staff and faculty, the support of great alumni and corporate partners, and substantial contributions by the college, all students who participate in the internship alternatives will receive a modest stipend to assist with living expenses this summer. Additionally, students with low-paying and no-paying outside internships will also be eligible to receive stipend support. Donations are still coming in and we will calculate and divide the stipend pool in late May. An honor roll of our supporters in this effort is here and I am profoundly grateful to them.
You should have seen the announcement about CMU’s virtual degree conferral ceremony on Sunday, May 10 at 10am EDT. Following this ceremony, we will be holding a short College ceremony to announce this year’s Heinz award winners. Details will follow in the coming weeks. You may recall that a few weeks ago, I announced our plan to celebrate our 2020 graduates in person as soon as that is possible. We continue to look forward to that celebration in the fall.
This week, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge some good work being done in our satellite campuses. Dan Green, from our Los Angeles campus, has been conducting a series of excellent panels each Friday with entertainment industry executives. The reports I’ve heard is that these panels are very educational and have helped students understand the impacts of the pandemic on their industry. Similarly, Danura Miriyagalla, from our CMU Australia campus has launched a series entitled, “Four Periscopes,” which discusses the world after the pandemic with north, south, east and west perspectives (hence the title). The series was originally created for a CMU Australia student audience, but has been a success and is now being rolled out to all CMU alumni in East Asia. I also had the opportunity Friday to attend a town hall meeting with all the members of the CMU Australia community. I want to thank Prof. Emil Bolongaita for his leadership of CMU Australia and am very proud of all the students, staff and faculty whose transition to online and journey through this crisis has mirrored our journey here in Pittsburgh. Finally, Sarah Mendelson from our Washington, DC campus continues this week with the popular “Lessons in Leadership in Times of Crisis” series. This week’s guest is Bill Taylor, former US Ambassador to Ukraine, who gained popular attention with his recent testimony to Congress during President Trump’s impeachment investigation. I hope you’ll join this fascinating discussion on Friday May 1 at 12:15 pm EDT here.
This week you may have seen the exciting announcement about Covidcast, a CMU collaboration with Facebook, Google and the CDC to map and forecast the coronavirus. This effort was led by our colleagues Ryan Tibshirani, Roni Rosenfeld, and Jodi Forlizzi. I really enjoyed this week’s Good Morning America interview that George Stephanopoulos did with Mark Zuckerberg on the collaboration.
I will end by thanking our colleagues who are contributing to the effort to help the Commonwealth of PA determine how to safely reopen the economy, which Governor Wolf announced on Wednesday night. Special thanks to Heinz College colleagues Rick Stafford, Scott Andes, and Rayid Ghani and to all of the others across CMU who are playing an essential part.
My office hours this week are again on Wednesday from 6:30-7:30pm EDT.
Wishing you a healthy and peaceful week as we continue to endure together.
May 3, 2020
Dear Heinz College Community,
With spring finals coming to a close this week, we look to graduation and beyond. You might have seen the announcement this week about the Heinz College Awards Ceremony, scheduled for Sunday May 17 at 11:00am EDT. This virtual event will follow the CMU conferral of degrees ceremony and will give us a chance to honor a few of the students and faculty who have distinguished themselves over the past two years. I very much look forward to these events and to celebrating in person in the fall.
As we turn our attention to activities this summer, I was pleased to see widespread student interest in the internship alternatives that opened for application on Thursday. These activities will give students a meaningful summer experience if a traditional internship proves elusive. You should check these opportunities from time to time – the descriptions are updated as our external partners provide more details. The deadline to apply for these opportunities is next Friday, May 15. I also commend our Career Services department for a very well-attended public and non-profit job fair on Thursday. The number of partners who participated is a good signal that, as one alumnus recently told me, “we are built for the times.” The CMU approach is what the world needs right now.
Many of you are wondering whether we will return to normal operations for the fall semester. On Friday, Governor Wolf announced that 24 Pennsylvania counties will move from a “red phase” to a “yellow phase” on May 8, meaning that certain businesses in these counties may open with precautions. Allegheny County is still considered a “red phase” county but we are monitoring our progress closely. In the meantime, President Jahanian instructed faculty and staff this week to begin preparations for various scenarios including remote, hybrid, or delayed starts to the fall semester. We are hoping for the best but will plan for what may come. Updates from the Provost’s office will keep us informed over the course of the summer.
In the spirit of shaping a resilient future, yesterday CMU kicked off a new program called 17 Rooms, a series of 17 discussions about sustainability, modeled on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. These should be interesting and important discussions and I encourage you to attend. My thanks to all of my CMU colleagues who are leading these discussions and especially Heinz colleagues Silvia Borzutzky, Leah Lizarando, Corina Paraschiv, Scott Andes, Karen Lightman, Kim Hyatt, Sarah Mendelson, and Dan Nagin.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I mentioned how much I enjoyed a presentation by Keith Webster, our Dean of University Libraries, entitled “Carnegie & Education: His Legacy in the 21st Century.” It is now available for streaming and, as we begin to look to the future, this lecture is a terrific reminder of our foundation.
This week’s office hours will be 6:30-7:30pm EDT on Wednesday May 6.
Best of luck wrapping up this historic semester.
May 10, 2020
Dear Students, Dear Faculty Colleagues, Dear Dedicated Staff,
Thank you! On March 17, I wrote you to say that I did not know what the future would hold but that we would face it together. For as uncertain as things were then, my confidence was high that our way, the CMU way, offered great hope for a healthy reemergence. Your effort has not disappointed.
Next week, 675 of you will cross the threshold from students to alumni. And so I charge you with carrying the CMU way into the world. I charge you with continuing the effort we, together, have started here.
We are now at the end of our Spring 2020 semester and it is worth reflecting on what has transpired since Spring Break. Our 249 courses went online in little over a week. Faculty adapted and students adjusted. Almost all of our activities – faculty research, thesis defenses, career counseling, final presentations, alumni reunions, and even retirement parties continued in the ether. You celebrated, you collaborated, you carried on friendships, you checked on one another, you laughed.
Three developments during this ordeal have filled me with such pride. First, the speed with which we were all able to assess and adjust to our new conditions was astounding. You demonstrated this trait of great leaders. Second, many of you were deeply thoughtful about aspects of the Heinz experience that have actually improved under these conditions and should be preserved. You innovated and future generations will benefit. Third, our community is leading so many efforts, locally, regionally, nationally and globally, to help society return to better than normal. These efforts prove our founding principle. These efforts demonstrate our bent for Intelligent Action.
I hope you will join for us for next Sunday’s virtual conferral of degrees and our Heinz College Awards Ceremony, events which will celebrate all of our graduates. I also remind you to drop by our very popular 17 Rooms sustainability discussions this week in your downtime.
This concludes my final weekly milestone report of this historic semester. We will focus now on planning for the various scenarios that this fall’s semester may bring. The President, Provost and I will be communicating periodically as these plans come together.
Proudly your dean,