Emily Cunningham

M.A. in Higher Education Leadership

What is your current position?

Coordinator of Greek Leadership Development and Housefellow at Carnegie Mellon University

Tell us about any graduate assistantships you did through SOLES.

I had the wonderful opportunity to get involved in many different places. My SASC graduate assistantship was in Fraternity and Sorority Life, which further instilled in me my passion of working with values-based organizations and developing meaningful relationships with extraordinary students. Since my position was housed in the Student Leadership and Involvement Center, I was able to work alongside other graduate assistants to understand their roles and responsibilities.

From there, I also took on the role of being a Rainbow Educator which taught me the importance of being an ally to the work of others in the department and how to form relationships across campus, and helped me with my facilitation skills (aside from learning lots about diversity and inclusion at USD). I was trained in restorative justice and also served as a conduct officer, as well as a specialized conduct officer for sexual assault cases. This has helped me immensely because I currently handle all of the conduct cases for both organizations and individuals within Fraternity and Sorority Life. Understanding ways to identify educational sanctions and be unbiased was important. Additionally, being trained as a Sexual Assault Officer is important in my current role because that is something that I not only talk about daily in my work with fraternity men, but it is also something I present on regularly for risk management. Unfortunately it is something that I see often and deal with conduct cases for, so I feel confident in ways to identify help, support Sexual assault survivors, and hold others accountable.

How does your masters degree help you in your current professional role?

The role that I had working at USD prepared me immensely for the type of work that I am doing at Carnegie Mellon in that I had a great deal of student interaction and trust in the way that I engaged with students which was phenomenal preparation. More specifically, because I am developing all of the curriculum and teaching all of our leadership courses, initiatives, and programs for Fraternity and Sorority Life, I feel that the emphasis SOLES puts on leadership is so beneficial. The type of programming that I am creating is based upon theories learned within the program as well as learned experience at USD. Lest I forget, the relationships formed with faculty, staff, and colleagues has allowed me to build my network and bounce ideas off of folks across the country. I am able to fully be present to organizational leadership, dynamics at play, and have garnered more cultural awareness.

How did you complete your international experience?

I completed my international experience in Sri Lanka where we focused on community building and comprehending Sarvodaya, which is a grassroots organization in the country. I find that I am still learning from the experience that we had there each time that I reflect on it. Currently, I am most present to the takeaway of just being able to appreciate other cultures and people. It has helped me to challenge why I, as an American, do things the way that I do them instead of questioning the “other.” This has been impactful in my work because I work with not only a large majority of minority students, but also many international students. It has caused me to ask more questions, to appreciate differences, and to think about what global leadership will look like with the students I work with.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career?

SOLES has impacted my career and goals in more ways than I can even list. Most notably, this is where I found my passion for masculinity work. With the help of a colleague, [doctoral student] Nick Franco, who continuously pushed me to seize opportunities outside of USD and encouraged my work, I have gotten very involved with this work both in my current career and otherwise. I have found that much of this work is the underpinning of why things are the way that they are in fraternity and sorority life as well as campus life. This has helped me to challenge the process and be innovative in my approach to interacting with students and developing program, and the ways that I develop meaningful relationships.

Which class impacted you the most?

The Organizational Change and Leadership class impacted me most because it actually challenged me in ways that I have never been challenged. Particularly, it taught me to really be aware of myself and the role that I play, but Zachary Green knew just the ways to challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone without pushing me away. It was valuable to see the dynamics at play, analyze the dysfunction in my own organization, and to take that with me to identify those things proactively.

Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?

Absolutely! [Doctoral Graduate Assistant] Nick Franco is a major support system for me and a great encourager of the work that I do. He is a wonderful representation of the SOLES program. Of course, [Doctoral Graduate Assistant] Jess Williams, being the incredible friend that she is has always helped me to process in ways that make sense. Christopher Newman is just a phenomenal resource. Christopher was probably the staff that I most connected with because he was real and honest. I did not feel that Christopher was putting on a show for anyone else, or was incongruent with his values or that of the SOLES department. I am thankful for him and the ways that he supported me – academically, personally, and in my role on campus. He truly served as an advocate for me and cared about the students. Cheryl Getz was a great resource and someone that I loved engaging with.