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A Campus of Living Values

Love, dignity, courage, humility, resilience, curiosity and power are foundational for CMU’s path forward

The Forming the Future Initiative is CMU's strategic planning process and roadmap for how CMU advances the mission of the university. The effort started in 2022 with a campus-wide conversation about values. Love, dignity, courage, humility, resiliency, curiosity and power are the resulting values that were selected by the campus community to guide CMU in the years to come.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Cher Hendricks, PhD, is helping to facilitate the initiative. Hendricks was among many strategic planning committee members who voted to affirm the values and was pleased by the impact observed so far.

"Having been involved in several strategic planning exercises over the years, what really stands out about CMU’s process is the time we spent identifying and defining our values,” Hendricks said. “We didn’t take this work lightly, and once completed, we haven’t simply put the values on a shelf and forgotten about them. We use them to guide our work, our priorities, and our decisions.”

Izzy Burns, Andy Smith and Erica Schroeder

When CMU student-athlete Izzy Burns isn’t competing for a beach volleyball championship, she brings music to the world. A competitive volleyball player who is also a passionate song writer, the lyrics and melodies Burns creates often exemplify CMU’s values. Critics once said health-related limitations would keep her from pursuing a passion for singing. But recent music milestones reached by Burns' hard work and perseverance demonstrates resiliency is a value alive and well in her life.

Andy Smith is a CMU Maverick who is bravely battling cancer. His courageous daily efforts to heal have shown CMU students, faculty and the larger community what true courage looks like. When faced with the most sobering challenges life can offer, Smith brings dignity to daily interactions with people offering them his attention and communicating how he feels with candor and openness. In this way, Smith inspires others to imagine they could be better tomorrow by being braver today. He exemplifies the campus values of courage and dignity as he shows others a viable pathway to walk when facing difficult obstacles.

Wresting requires physical power to win. When she isn’t on the mat grappling for CMU’s women’s wrestling team, Erika Schroeder uses a different kind of power — one she finds in her spiritual life. Schroeder defines love through her faith, that in turn allows her to approach the world in a different way using her voice and music to encourage others to love and care for one another.

All three students are emblematic of CMU’s living values. Students like them help the campus community define what it means to be a Maverick, and to be part of a campus united in values.

Burns, Smith and Schroeder are living out love, dignity, courage, humility, resilience, curiosity and power — the values that underlie CMU’s Forming the Future strategic planning initiative.


The resonance of Burns’ voice is obvious to anyone who hears her sing. Less obvious to her fans is the fact that she has overcome more than 20 airway surgeries occurring near her harmonious vocal cords. Many aspiring musicians would struggle to overcome a single such surgery, but Burns has never been deterred. Before releasing original country music songs on major streaming services like Spotify in 2022, Burns recovered from the latest of tracheotomy procedure, that over the years, have been a constant in her life — medical reminders that breathing isn’t something to be taken for granted. Burns’ music isn’t just art. It’s a way to help her focus on keeping airways clear, breathing strong and perspectives optimistic.

Pursuing a career in music and showbusiness isn’t easy for anyone, under any circumstance. Competition is high and technology has expanded the number of artists looking to enter the market. Burns has taken on challenges that some might believe would make the effort even more difficult. Burns doesn’t see it that way.

“My health-related challenges are not challenges at all,” said Burns. “In fact, my surgeries and all the people who said I couldn’t do ‘this’ or wouldn’t be able to do ‘that’ just drove me harder and faster and further towards my dreams.”

As CMU continues to define and explore the first principle value of resilience, Burns is serving as one of the many examples of students who are living out resiliency in their everyday lives.

Underserved populations and students who are first in their family to attend college are also examples of how resiliency is alive and well and is a very real part of the campus community. The ability to overcome challenge, and pursue her dreams, makes Burns a Maverick and helps others on their pathway to becoming one. 

Courage and Dignity

Former CMU rugby standout Smith had many life dreams including playing professional rugby. The vision he held for his future was dashed when Smith learned a brain tumor was the cause of ongoing symptoms that made his experience as a student difficult. Further tests revealed the tumor was cancerous. This knowledge changed Smith’s life.

In attempts to remove the tumor, additional complications occurred that resulted in further difficult news for Smith. Added mobility challenges on top of the pain he endured surrounding cancer treatment further complicated his life. Smith's story was told through an episode of Making Mavericks on the Maverick Network, CMU's video platform service, that detailed Smith’s journey and was showcased during a campus-wide Forming the Future Initiative planning event last fall. Smith served as a speaker for the occasion resulting in a standing ovation. Sharing his story gave CMU staff and faculty perspective as they began to explore CMU’s values. Living out CMU’s values, Smith inspired and helped campus see how courage can help CMU accomplish its mission.

Smith has shown the community and the world that life presents challenges and will test people in ways that can't be predicted or fully understood. But he also revealed courage in the face of changing circumstances and dignity in relation to others and himself, can serve as reminders that students can traverse the world and navigate life best when courage and dignity lead the way.

Love and Power

Schroeder is familiar with physical power. As a standout on the women’s wresting team, she understands what it means to bare physical strength. As a NWCA All-American, she finished the 2021-2022 season with a winning record placing 3rd in the Maverick Open. On the mat the way she grapples with opponents is obvious. Off the mat, Schroeder exerts power in a different way and for different purpose.

Much of her time and life are devoted to her personal faith. Her beliefs encourage an offering of love to people and to serving others. One way she serves is through her gift of singing and playing the guitar within her faith community.

In October 2022, Schroeder collaborated on a campus music video called Campus of Love. The song was a parody cover from the Grammy-nominated band, The Plain White Ts and their song called Rhythm of Love. The video co-started CMU’s Rowdy mascot, who offered free hugs to anyone on campus as Schroeder sang and performed the song in various high profile locations around campus. The project resulted in Rowdy receiving hundreds of hugs from students, faculty and staff.

“At first I was reluctant because I had never done anything like it before,” said Schroeder. “I’m used to being on the wrestling mat but being in a music video that was something new.”

Schroeder’s initial hesitancy was tempered by a willingness to join the project when she learned more about why the video was being made.

“When I learned that the video was something that aligned with my own values in terms of encouraging love, it was a way for me to help bring the idea to life here on campus, so I decided to give it a try.”

The song was well liked on social media attracting a response from Plain White Ts' guitarist Tim Lopez who commented on the post along with CMU President John Marshall. Marshall encouraged Lopez and Schroeder to sing the song together. The collaboration between Schroder and Lopez is something CMU is exploring this spring.

Schroeder believes the connection between love and power is important when it comes to the two being foundational CMU values. For Schroder, power is only powerful when it’s practiced through values and motivated by love. 

CMU’s values first approach to future planning isn’t accidental. In 2021 when President Marshall assumed the role of president, he began his tenure by sharing a vision for campus. The vision was based on CMU being a Human Scale University. This concept included an idea that CMU should be a scale model of the world that students and the campus community want to see in the future. In order to build this future, Marshall contended a strategic planning conversation “has to begin with values.”

“When it comes the Forming the Future Initiative, and our path forward, we cannot describe what we are going to do in the future if we haven’t determined why we are doing it in the first place,” said Marshall. “Establishing how we tackle our mission as a university by defining our values first has always been the way forward in my mind.”

Marshall has observed that when an individual or community invests time to define and understand values, the values are then discovered to be all around in plain sight.

“As we have worked to define our values, and as people have started speaking about love, dignity, courage, humility, resiliency, curiosity and power, we began to notice that these things are actually already inside us and being shared every day on campus," he said. “Sometimes is just takes focusing to notice.”

Burns, Smith and Schroeder serve as high profile examples of how CMU’s university values are alive and well on campus. There are many more, everyday ways both large and small, that the CMU community works together, living out campus’ values, in order to build a Human Scale University, and by extension, the world CMU would like to see in the future.


Written by David Ludlam