Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh is the best college in the United States for Computer Science. I found myself in Pittsburgh for the weekend between two halves of a business trip and decided to explore the CMU campus with a friend who is an alumnus of the school as my guide. When traveling for business, it's always worth it to make time for some fun. In Pittsburgh, I get bonus points for enlisting an accomplice to show me around. Friends with local knowledge know the best places to see and eat and the special stories that accompany those places enrich the experience.
Pittsburgh's Conflict Kitchen - Juneteenth
Pittsburgh University is adjacent to CMU and I'm including some sights from the Pitt campus as highlights from the walk since CMU and Pitt students tend to mix freely. The border between the two universities is definitely wide open. I met my friend, Andrew, in Pitt's Schenley Plaza and started with a bite of lunch. Conflict Kitchen serves a changing menu but always from war torn regions. Imagine our surprise when we found out they were serving a Juneteenth menu featuring Southern comfort food. I suppose Conflict Kitchen was harkening back to the American Civil War in this case. I enjoyed barbeque chicken and a strawberry lemonade to fuel my tour of Pittsburgh's elite universities.
Dave and Andy's Ice Cream, A Pittsburgh Institution
Despite a large lunch, I still somehow managed to save room for ice cream at Dave and Andy's, a Pittsburgh institution. My friend fondly remembers visiting here regularly as a CMU student. Dave and Andy's smells divine thanks to the freshly prepared waffle cones. Worried about leaks? Dave and Andy's has you covered. Dave and Andy's secret is to place a single M&M at the bottom of the cone. It's a brilliant and elegantly simple solution! You'd never guess that I was at CMU, a university full of the country's best engineers and computer scientists :-)
Sliding into Home Plate Like a Real Pittsburgh Pirate
Thanks to my friend's insider knowledge of all things Pittsburgh, I learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball stadium used to be located where the Pitt campus stands today. Wesley W. Posvar Hall now stands on the site and hosts the former home plate from Pittsbugrh's Forbes Field. Baseball greats like Hank Aaron and Honus Wagner once swung their bats over this very plate. Apparently, Babe Ruth hit the final three home runs of his career while standing behind home plate at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. Pitt is home to some fascinating history that I would have missed entirely without my local friend showing me around.
CMU's Textured Brick
On to CMU! The buildings at Carnegie Mellon University feature a lovely textured brick. My friend gave me a hot tip about this photo spot looking up the staircase. If I didn't know a student or alumnus, I might not have even ventured inside. It definitely pays to have friends when you travel.
Science or Art at CMU's Kraus Campo?
Continuing our tour of CMU, we walked to Kraus Campo, a lovely spot on a warm summer's day. Kraus Campo was commissioned by CMU alumna Jill Gansman Kraus and Peter Kraus and represents what you can do when you have a donor with deep pockets and an eclectic interest in art. Integrating landscape and contemporary art from well-known Carnegie Melon graduates, Kraus Campo is meant to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of CMU. Regardless of the significance, it's a cool spot for a photowalk on-campus on a summer's day.
Paint the Fence at CMU
"The thing that students paint" seems to be a recurring theme at colleges and universities. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, student groups painted the tunnel. At CMU, they paint the fence. My friend tells me that there are well defined rules for painting the fence at CMU. You can only begin in the middle of the night and if you leave the fence unguarded, another group can paint over your work before dawn. Paint and defend seems to be the mantra at CMU.
CMU's Margaret Morrison Carnegie College
My friend took me to see Margaret Morrison Carnegie College, formerly the women's college at CMU. Once again, if I wasn't with someone who knew their way around and was familiar with all the local stories from campus, I would have missed this entirely. Margaret Morrison Carnegie College closed as a separate entity in 1973 and the buildings are used to this day for other CMU programs.
My friend pointed out the words encircling the courtyard of the Margaret Morrison Women's College building (click the photo below to access the full panorama).
However humble, these are woman's high prerogatives,
To make and inspire the home
To lessen suffering and increase happiness
To aid mankind in its upward struggles,
To Ennoble and adorn life's work,
I'm really glad times have changed. It's hard to imagine going to an institution of higher learning with the expectation that your sole goal is to make and inspire the home and aid your man. Inside the building, we found quotes from students who attended Margaret Morrison Carnegie College and CMU and the struggles they faced as aspiring scientists and engineers who happened to be women.
I went to night school for six years for my masters because women could not enroll in the day school in engineering. I was the only woman surrounded by curious males. I completed my courses in metallurgy, but they gave me a chemistry degree because the engineering department would not grant degrees to women --1937
I was a brilliant mathematician and appealed to the Dean to take advanced math and science classes. The answer was unequivocally no. --1938
As a freshman in secretarial studies, I chose the highest math course offered in Margaret Morrison, but I had studied most of the material in high school. I went to the Dean for special permission to take math courses in the engineering school. She went to bat for me, and I got necessary math credits to become certified to teach high school math. --1943
You have this bridge you have to walk over and you just don't look down --1999
I earned a PhD in Chemistry from Stanford in 1999 and faced none of these roadblocks. I'm grateful to these women for paving the way.
Bleeding Tartan at CMU
Continuing our tour of the CMU at the student union, I looked up and saw tartan flags flying overhead. I learned that CMU was founded by a Scot, thus making plaid a logical choice for the school colors.
Chihuly in the House at CMU
At CMU, fine art is definitely appreciated. We spotted a Dale Chihuly chandelier brightening up the student union.
Walking to the Sky at CMU
My favorite art installation at CMU had to be Walking to the Sky. The sculpture is essentially a giant metal rod with people walking up it. According to my CMU alumni friend, people either love or hate this work of art. I guess I just have a strong sense of whimsy and found this thing inspiring.
The Gates Center at CMU: Nerd HQ in Pittsburgh
Carnegie Mellon boasts the top computer science department in the United States. I had a chance to visit the Gates Center, home to the CMU CS department. The building almost pulses with brainpower. It's also pretty architecturally interesting with a leafy looking metal fence leading the way to what I like to think of as Nerd HQ :-).
Pitt's Cathedral of Learning
We came full circle and finished our tour of the university campuses of Pittsburgh back on Schenley Plaza and the nearby Pitt Cathedral of Learning. I discovered the awesome Cathedral of Learning on my last trip to Pittsburgh but it was great to visit again and go up in the elevators to enjoy sweeping views over Pittsburgh. Apparently, the Cathedral of Learning is a popular study spot for both Pitt and CMU students.
Are the universities of Pittsburgh worth a visit? Both Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh are tremendously interesting campuses with a rich history. The college campuses both really come alive when you have a chance to explore them with a former student.