Students make way up to the Summit

Four days before the semester began, while many Carnegie Mellon students were relishing what remained of their vacations, about 300 others were already back in class. These were the attendees of Summit 2008, a three-day program offering dozens of diverse classes taught by students, Carnegie Mellon faculty, and local professionals.

“[Summit] gives you time to do the stuff you’ve always wanted to do,” said Aneeb Qureshi, the president of Summit.

Leaving Differential Equations or Interpretive Practices for the school year, students at Summit are able to take more esoteric classes, from knitting to gun shooting and anime drawing to personal finance.

“The quality of each class was improved [from last year],” Qureshi said. He added that classes this year had an 80 percent participation rate, the highest in Summit’s history.

In an effort to make classes more appealing, Qureshi and Summit’s other leaders looked at the class evaluations from previous years, replacing classes that no one liked with options they hoped would be more successful.

Gun shooting, one of this year’s new additions, was a popular attraction.

“It was a huge hit,” said sophomore Amandeep Chawla, a double major in MechE and BME who attended Summit for the first time this year.
“I was [at the range] for a long time,” said Chawla, who had never fired a gun before Summit.

Second-time attendee Lauren Krukar also tried her hand at gun shooting, but she found that the kayaking class (held in the UC pool) took her the most out of her element.
“It’s something I probably would have never done on my own,” said Krukar, a sophomore majoring in ECE and EPP.

“I decided to take totally different experiences,” she said. Krukar found that even quilting, which she took for the second year in a row, covered different techniques than last year.

Summit 2008 also changed to accommodate Odyssey, a new leadership program for sophomores sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. Summit and Odyssey students ate their meals together, an arrangement that had its plusses and minuses.

Having to accommodate Odyssey students reduced Summit’s overall capacity, a number primarily determined by the eating space in Rangos, Qureshi said.

Still, some Summit students enjoyed socializing with Odyssey members, Chawla said, including himself in that description.

“People are willing to make friends,” he added, comparing Summit to a less-confusing version of Orientation.

Summit began in 2005 as a project of fifth-year scholar student Roger Ma, who aimed to ing to Qureshi, Ma came up with the idea when a friend of his couldn’t take a woodworking class because it conflicted with his engineering classes.

Ma modeled Summit after MIT’s Independent Activities Period, a four-week program between the fall and spring semesters. Though Carnegie Mellon’s version is on a considerably smaller scale, some students argue that less is more.

“I really like the one [at Carnegie Mellon] because it gives you an open experience into something new,” Chawla said, adding that he would rather commit to a new subject for three days than four weeks.

In its first year, Qureshi said, Summit had about 130 participants, a number which more than doubled in 2006 to almost 300 students. Since then, attendance has remained about the same, and Summit’s student leaders have focused on making it better, rather than bigger.

“We had a lot of people return,” Qureshi said.

Though many Summit attendees were first-years, he noted that they came from different colleges within Carnegie Mellon and that 10 percent were graduate students.