Leaving a legacy: Caroline Murray reflects on her CMU 'homes'

Rockford senior Caroline Murray poses for a photo April 22 in Bovee University Center.

Central Michigan University Rockford senior Caroline Murray breaks down her college experience into four homes.

Her first home was marching band, where Murray played piccolo for two years and found a welcoming community.

The second was Larzelere Hall, where she served as a Resident Assistant for three years.

The third was the Office of Student Activities and Involvement. Here, Murray found her footing in student engagement services as a Peer Involvement Adviser and was able to grow in the Student Government Association.

And her final home, Murray said, is “all of campus.”

During her time at CMU, Murray has become a well-known face as one of the most highly-involved students on campus. She's even been awarded for her involvement, receiving the "Constellation Award" by the Office of Student Activities and Involvement on April 23 for her leadership and "lasting legacy."  

She has also worked as a campus ambassador, student orientation member and Student Organization Specialists creator and program coordinator.

Some of her major involvement began her sophomore year, when Murray co-founded “Pack Your Back” with Bad Axe senior Galen Miller, a nonprofit organization that donates funds and school supplies to children in Flint.

In its first year, “Pack Your Back” donated 500 backpacks full of school supplies. In 2018, the organization provided approximately 15,000 backpacks, raised $125,000 and distributed 750,000 water bottles to the Flint community.

Murray helped create the nonprofit and worked as the grant and research manager, as well as the marketing director. After she graduates, she will continue to work for “Pack Your Back,” but from a managerial role that allows her more flexibility. 

Rockford senior Caroline Murray is embraced by her father after receiving her Constellation Award at the "Student Organization Recognition Awards" on April 23 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium.

While some students might find it difficult to stay involved with so many organizations, Murray said her involvement came naturally throughout her time at CMU.

“I think a lot of people assume when they look at my resume and what I’ve done, I just signed up for a thousand things and it happened,” Murray said. “That’s not the case. All of my involvements and opportunities happened really organically through my other involvements and opportunities.”

Although Murray serves as SGA’s senate leader and spearheaded SGA projects like the “Stamp Out Aggression” campaign, she never originally intended to join SGA. 

As a freshman, Murray was told that “hall council is the easiest way to get involved," so she joined Program Board, thinking that Program Board was hall council. Then, she became an SGA representative for Program Board, thinking that SGA was hall council.

Although she was wrong in both cases, that didn’t stop her from joining the Calkins Hall council E-board or rising in SGA’s ranks; from an accidental SGA representative to RSO Growth and Development Committee Chair, SGA senator and senate leader.

"(Murray's) dedication to making a difference on campus in the lives of students allowed her to get them engaged with programming," said SGA President Jake Hendricks. "She genuinely cares about fostering a positive, healthy campus community."

Despite her numerous leadership roles, Murray said she is ardently against “nametag collecting.”

“You can’t just be a nametag collector, who’s just going through life and doing things just because you want the title to put on your resume and grad school applications,” she said. “I didn’t set up to do 40 involvements, they kind of just happened to me and I’ve been lucky enough they’ve all had this theme of developing students.”

Even with Murray’s busy schedule, she prioritizes self-care: Eating properly, sleeping enough and maintaining close social relationships. 

"Despite all that Caroline does in her academics and extracurricular activities, she tries very hard to stay in touch with me and does so successfully," said Matthew Boak, Murray's friend and former RA coworker. "She is always making sure that she is reaching out to me and lets me know what she's up to, as well as asking questions about what I'm doing too." 

Murray said her “survival” comes down to acting with intentionality.

“For me, it’s remembering the ‘why’ behind everything I’m doing,” Murray said. “If I can look at something and remember why I joined that organization, my deeper purpose helps me stick with it.”

Murray is an economics major, and her original plan was to work as an analyst in legislature. After interning for the Michigan House of Representatives, Murray realized her real interest lies in student development.    

“I have seldom done my involvements for myself,” Murray said, “As a campus ambassador, I help students make that decision to come to college. As an RA, I help develop students in their personal and professional lives. In SGA, I help improve the university and point out some of the errors we’ve made. Even my nonprofit is helping students achieve education.”

Murray will attend Grand Valley State University next year, where she plans to earn a Master’s in higher education. There, she knows there is another home waiting for her.