One of the prominent Carnegie Mellon buzzwords that I repeatedly heard when I visited campus was “collaboration.” While I understood that academic departments and faculty often work together at CMU, I don’t think I fully grasped the significance this term would have on my next four years.
Coming in as a freshman, a shy and reserved freshman at that, I had one goal: to help the women’s basketball program grow. I had absolutely no idea what my role on the team would be and whether I would see playing time my first year. All I knew was I ready to work hard to help the program become a force to be reckoned with.
Four years later, we’ve have done exactly that. My junior year we secured the program’s first winning season since 2002-03. We made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 and battled our way to making the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. My senior year we won the ECAC Championship and tied the school record for wins in a season with 21. We were also regularly ranked in the nation’s top 25.
The success and transformation of the CMU women’s basketball team in my four years here is the epitome of “collaboration.” From my first few weeks on campus, I was blown away at how willing people are to help each other out and how collaboration truly does breed innovation and change. It started with my team. I was fortunate to have some of the best people I have ever met take the court with me every day. Even though we all came from different backgrounds, had different majors, and even different styles of play, we all wanted to bring the CMU basketball team to the national stage. As a captain, I had the chance to collaborate with other captains as well as our coaches to figure out how to best motivate the team and turn the program into a culture where toughness and grit were the expectation. While there were most certainly challenges along the way, I was able to get valuable guidance and input for those around me.
The collaboration extended beyond just our team. I had the honor of being one of the women’s basketball representatives on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council where I was able to get advice and bounce ideas off of other student-athlete leaders as well as hear about how they best work with their team. The athletic training and strength and conditioning staff gave so much additional support that made my teammates and me the best athletes we could be. I was able to partake in leadership seminars where I got to learn from professionals about how to be an effective leader. Even the basketball players who came before me, who helped start the process of building a strong program, contributed to the change in culture.
All these people have their own lives and goals, but the remarkable thing is they all had a part in helping CMU women’s basketball become the team it is today. I think that’s what’s so incredible about Carnegie Mellon and what has made my experience particularly cherished. I came in as a freshman with a goal and was met with an outpour of support and camaraderie from so many people who have worked together to make special things happen. At CMU, you never feel alone in what you’re doing and with the diversity in skill, background, and experience the chances for collaboration are unparalleled. Success is possible only through interaction and my CMU experience is a complete testament to that.