Getting to Know M. Shernell Smith

M. Shernell Smith is the Housefellow for four housing communities within the part of CMU’s campus known as the Intersection – Margaret Morrison Apartments, Woodlawn Apartments, Roselawn Houses, and Spirit House (dedicated to members of CMU’s Black Student Union). She also serves as the College Liaison for the School of Engineering (Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy, and Engineering and Technology Innovation Management), as well as the Assistant Director in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs for Multicultural and Diversity Initiatives.

Shernell completed her undergraduate studies in biological sciences and honors interdisciplinary studies at the University of Central Arkansas Honors College. She earned her master’s in education for higher education administration at the University of Arkansas.

In the photograph, Shernell (far right) poses with a group of 2014 student staff members for the Intersection.

Having been at Carnegie Mellon University for more than 13 years, Shernell has initiated and implemented countless programs throughout her tenure. Let’s learn more about Shernell!

How did you come to join CMU?

I came to CMU to work in what is now the Student Life office. I was the first Housefellow for the first-year community of Stever House (it was called New House at the time). I also worked as the coordinator for community service and service-learning initiatives.

Shernell with her Intersection RA and CA staff

Shernell and her Intersection RA and CA staff pose at The Fence.

Why are the communities in the Intersection so awesome?

The part of campus known as the Intersection is what I like to call a “neighborhood of communities.” It features a number of vibrant and diverse housing communities and apartment styles that meet the ever-evolving needs of our upper-class residents. The Intersection is unique because it’s the only residential area of campus that features five different housing communities with the bonus of a cohesive lived experience. This is why we consider this part of campus a “neighborhood” of experiences.

What is an important life lesson you have learned from a student or students?

Two quotes come to mind for me:

“Learning is a life-long endeavor that should be filled with new passions, new curiosities, and new challenges that search for new meanings and tap into new possibilities.”

“Meaningful engagement is at the heart of diversity.”

Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests?  What are you passionate about?

Shernell at Sustainability Weekend

Shernell with Carnegie Mellon students at Sustainability Weekend 2016.

I am heavily involved in social activism though the Thomas Merton Center, the Urban League, and the Pennsylvania Women’s Work. I am also passionate about sustainability and environmental issues, jazz music, cultural and Broadway shows, and gardening. Trying out new recipes is always fun, too.

All-time favorite book: To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

It is also one of my favorite classic movies. I am a huge fanatic when it comes to black and white cinematography.

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would want to have dinner with Maya Angelou. She was a refined culturalist and feminist. A phenomenal woman, indeed. She understood the power of words to empower social change and personal enrichment. Two of my favorite quotes from her are:

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

You get to eat a meal where fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol get completely wiped off the books. What would be your food of choice for this very special (and sadly impossible) meal?

There is nothing like my love of seafood and the improvisation of jazz music. So my meal of choice would be a steaming bowl of seafood jambalaya with a side of buttery cornbread. And, as always, the Louisiana hot sauce provides an extra special kick while Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or even Harry Connick Jr. plays the background music!

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