Nicolas Hurt’s creativity comes out in his short films, shot with interesting camera angles and infused with wit. But he brings something else to the artistic world of filmmaking - a keen business sense honed from his study at the Tepper School of Business.
His interdisciplinary corradiation is a leading factor in his being named one of Carnegie Mellon University’s Fifth Year Scholars, a program that offers a handful of standout undergraduates the opportunity to spend an extra year on campus to continue their studies and work on innovative projects. A business administration major and a film studies minor, Hurt is one of only three Carnegie Mellon students in the class of 2013 selected for the honor, which provides free tuition, a $7,000 fellowship and the freedom to pursue a project of their own interest.
Hurt plans to write and direct a short film that dramatizes Andrew Carnegie’s relationship with Henry Clay Frick in the 1890s, revealing how their partnership in the steel industry disintegrated into a violent rivalry. The film “will investigate the lives of two charismatic leaders and holds a certain relevance to issues of wealth and labor that our nation faces today,” he said. “Ultimately I seek to deliver an enthralling portrayal of our school’s founder through the medium of film.”
“Nicholas is a good example of someone who looks for interdisciplinary opportunities and takes the initiative,” said Stephen Pajewski, director of the Undergraduate Business Administration program. “He is at the top of his class and he is very creative.”
As vice president of The CMU Filmmaking Club, Hurt said his marketing and consumer behavior classes at Tepper have undoubtedly made him a better film producer.
“I know that movie producers can’t be successful if they don’t have a business background,” he said. “You might be able to make a movie, but who says you can sell it? A business degree is so flexible. You can apply it to any industry.”
Fifth Year Scholars have the freedom to take any classes they want. Hurt plans to take a math and some philosophy classes -- just for fun.
“You can think of it as an extra year to figure out what your plan is after Carnegie Mellon,” said Hurt. “But it is also an extra year to do everything at Carnegie Mellon you never had a chance to do.”
Also honored as a Fifth Year Scholar is ZhiJun Huang, an economics and mathematics major. Her project is to launch a Web site that allows students to rate landlords and streamline the process of finding off-campus housing.
She knows from her own experience how daunting it can be to find a good apartment and how frustrating it is when a landlord ignores repair requests. Her frustration led to inspiration: Why not create a site that lets students find apartments quickly, view photos and rate landlords?
“Like Yelp.com, students will be able to comment on landlords, “she said.
Huang envisions the site possibly having a mechanism where tenants and landlords could negotiate disputes. Negative comments on a landlord would be expunged from the site once the problems were resolved.
She said landlords could also potentially use the site to evaluate a renter’s credit history. Student renters could also find roommates with similar interests by logging on. It is like building a community in the student rental business.
Renee Camerlengo, assistant dean of student affairs, said the selection committee was impressed with her innovative idea.
“Her project is a standout,” said Camerlengo. “She is already doing interesting work in statistics and economics.”
Huang has had an interest in entrepreneurship ever since she was 16 and started a business selling therapeutic machines. She gave the proceeds to an orphanage in her native China where she had volunteered as a youth. Combining entrepreneurship with social causes has long been her priority. She said her goal is to “innovate and make things better”.
She is thrilled for the opportunity to spend an extra year at Carnegie Mellon.
“I want to stay in this environment and keep my mind sharp. It is a really nurturing school,” she said. “It is a good jumping board to do anything you want to achieve.”
Afnan Fahim, a computer science major from Doha Qatar, is also a new Fifth Year Scholar. His project will examine ways to bridge computer science students’ experiences between CMU’s main campus in Pittsburgh and the CMU campus at Education City in Doha, Qatar.