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Rachel Ann Brickner

Writing Program Alum Recognized by The Missouri Review for Audio Essay

Rachel Ann Brickner (A&S ’09, ’18G) was recognized by The Missouri Review for its 12th annual Miller Audio Prize for her audio essay, “How to Survive a Fire.”

The Miller Audio Prize recognizes work in four genres: poetry, prose, humor and audio documentaries. 

Brickner, who earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018, is also a part-time instructor in the Department of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.


Murat Akcakaya

Engineering Team Receives NSF Funding to Study Brain in Rehabilitation Research

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Northeastern University received a combined $1,181,757 from the National Science Foundation to develop a brain-computer interface (BCI) system that will be implemented in augmented reality, allowing for better detection, assessment and rehabilitation of unilateral spatial neglect. Unilateral spatial neglect is a deficit in attention that can occur in individuals who experienced a stroke.

The Pitt side of the team is led by Murat Akcakaya, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering.

The researchers plan to focus on visual neglect and address the shortcomings of current rehabilitation by reaching beyond the clinical setting and taking activities of daily living into account. They will develop a noninvasive, portable and cost-effective tool that can be used to help guide rehabilitation programs in real-time.


a statue on Pitt's campus

Pitt Law Boasts Highest First-time Passing Rate for Pennsylvania Bar Exam

The rate of first-time takers who passed the Pennsylvania bar exam from Pitt’s School of Law is 91.36%—the highest in the state. Eighty-one Pitt Law graduates sat for the test for the first time this past July, and 74 of them passed. Pitt Law was followed in the rankings by Dickinson, with a rate of 88.46%, Penn with 88.24% and Duquesne with 87.88%. The overall state average was 80.6%.

The rigorous two-day test, which includes six hours of written essay questions and 200 multiple choice questions, was given at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia on July 30 and 31. Pitt Law offers bar exam prep courses and provided therapy dogs on site for its local test-takers, as well as boxed lunches with notes of encouragement signed by Pitt Law staff and faculty.

“We congratulate the Class of 2019 on their incredible achievement, which reflects their collective hard work, perseverance and support of one another,” said Pitt Law Dean Amy J. Wildermuth. She also credited Rob Wible, Pitt Law’s director of academic success and bar exam services.

“He is our cheerleader-in-chief,” she said. “His day-in and day-out support of our students made all the difference.”


The Cathedral on a blue sky day with American flags planted in the foreground yard

Pitt Celebrates Veterans Week 2019 With Films, Photos and Food

Beginning Nov. 1, the Office of Veterans Services will host Veterans Week 2019 with a series of events aimed at building bridges, promoting understanding and encouraging dialogue. 

Community members are invited to events such as an annual drive for toys, coats and gloves (running through Dec. 6, email pittvets@gmail.com for information); a screening of the film “The Weight of Honor” and a Pitt Military Community Appreciation Brunch. The week will end with the 100th Annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown Pittsburgh. For more details and to RSVP for the events, please visit this form.

Additionally, the School of Social Work will hold a continuing education workshop titled “Working with Veterans and their Families,” on Nov. 15. The workshop aims to better prepare social workers to be a more effective helping professional in relating to and intervening with veterans and their families, and will cover topics including Veterans Administration scope and resources, suicide prevalence and intervention with veterans, working with post-traumatic stress and understanding and working with military sexual trauma.


two people walking on campus with the bright sun behind them, obscuring their faces and bodies

Pitt Ranked a Top 50 Best Global University

The University of Pittsburgh was again named among the world’s top 50 universities in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities rankings. Pitt landed at No. 47, tied with University of Minnesota.

In the latest ranking, the magazine evaluated a list of the world’s top 1,500 universities — which includes institutions from the U.S. and more than 80 other countries. The universities were rated based on 13 different indicators measuring their academic research performance and their global and regional reputations.

Several Pitt programs ranked in the top 50 by subject, including Surgery at No. 3, Clinical Medicine at No. 18 and Psychiatry/Psychology at No. 19.

Other programs in the top 50 are:

  • No. 23: Neuroscience and Behavior
  • No. 23: Oncology
  • No. 34: Pharmacology and Toxicology (tied with University of Pennsylvania)
  • No. 36: Arts and Humanities
  • No. 39: Immunology
  • No. 42: Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems
  • No. 49: Microbiology (tied with University of Toronto)

Pitt students come from 108 countries and all 50 states, in addition to the U.S. Territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Internationally, most students come from China, India and Korea. The Pitt Study Abroad program sends more than 1,800 students per year across its five campuses to over 350 programs in more than 75 countries on six continents. The university has also ranked among the top producers of Fulbright U.S. Students.


Willa Doswell headshot

Willa Doswell Named 2019 Woman of Excellence by New Pittsburgh Courier

Willa Doswell, associate professor in the School of Nursing, has been named a 2019 Woman of Excellence by the New Pittsburgh Courier.

The awards are given annually to 50 African American women who have made significant contributions to the community.

Doswell will be recognized at a luncheon in downtown Pittsburgh on December 12, 2019. She is also a member of the Internal Advisory Council for Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers.


Headshot of Lauren O. Wallace

Lauren O. Wallace Recognized on 40 Under 40 List

Lauren O. Wallace (BUS ’12, EDUC ’12G), director of recruitment in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, has been named an honoree to the 40 Under 40 List by Pittsburgh Magazine and Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project.

The award annually recognizes 40 “outstanding” individuals who meet the age requirement whose “creativity, vision and passion” enrich the Pittsburgh region. Since 1998, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, educators, nonprofit executives and public figures have been among the recipients of this honor.

Wallace is also currently enrolled in the Doctor of Education Program in the School of Education.


Holger Hoock headshot

Dietrich School Awarded $1.5 Million Grant to Transform Doctoral Education in the Humanities

The Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh has been awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a transformation of doctoral education in the humanities.

The four-year, $1.5 million grant will fund Humanities Engage, a comprehensive plan to prepare doctoral students to become scholar-leaders ready to pursue high-impact careers within and beyond a changing academy. The grant will foster an ongoing culture change as programs, faculty and graduate students embrace the full spectrum of postdoctoral humanistic careers.

“The support from the Mellon Foundation will help us prepare our graduate students to face challenges in an interconnected yet divided world,” said Kathleen Blee, Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean of the Dietrich School. “Validating these diverse career outcomes is a vital part of transforming the culture of humanistic doctoral education.”

The grant will support significant curricular change and the creation of an immersive fellowship program, including funded summer fellowships across the non-profit, public and corporate sectors.

The initiative will also support a new position of director of graduate advising and engagement to modernize cultures of mentoring.

“I’m very excited about the immense potential of this novel position to help us model the benefits of expansively team-based mentoring,” said Holger Hoock, associate dean for graduate studies and research and J. Carroll Amundson Chair of British History in the Dietrich School.

Hoock, who is also principal investigator of the initiative, added, “The director will help advise PhD students on their professional development, support their evolving career aspirations and connect them with opportunities across the campus, city and region as well with our alums. They will serve, too, as a resource to the graduate faculty as we reimagine the broader importance of humanities PhDs and the societal impacts of humanistic training.

Humanities Engage builds on the Mellon-supported Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh project (2015-19) and Humanities Careers, which was funded by a Next Generation Humanities PhD planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The initiative also benefits from the Public Humanities Fellows Program piloted by the Humanities Center, which created opportunities for graduate students in local arts and cultural institutions.


Ann E. Cudd

U.N. Forum Focuses on Pittsburgh as Leader in Advancing Sustainable Development Goals

A forum during the 74th United Nations General Assembly featured Ann E. Cudd, Pitt’s provost and senior vice chancellor, along with Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and other local leaders who highlighted regional accomplishments to advance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a more peaceful, prosperous planet with fair and inclusive societies.

The efforts were summarized Sept. 23 in New York City during a “Spotlight on Pittsburgh” panel discussion to showcase the best of American leadership and innovation to achieve the SDGs. The goals were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2015 after years of discussion and input from millions of people — especially young people — around the world. The SDGs include 17 global goals to realize “The Future We Want.”

Provost Cudd and Mayor Peduto were joined by James Garrett, provost and chief academic officer of Carnegie Mellon University; David Finegold, president of Chatham University; and Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Pitt’s highlighted commitments included: the Millennium Fellowship, with 14 students selected for this United Nations Academic Impact/MCN program who will focus on SDG projects; two Community Engagement Centers established in partnership with residents and stakeholders in traditionally underserved Pittsburgh neighborhoods where the University has made long-term commitments of investment, infrastructure, programming and staffing; and the Pitt Success Program to expand access and affordability through a new financial aid program that has already dramatically increased the percentage of Pell students.

“The University of Pittsburgh is proud to work together with city leadership and our neighboring universities to advance a common and powerful commitment to participate in active, effective and transformative efforts framed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals — all meant to benefit our students, our region, and the world,” said Cudd.

Read more about the United Nations General Assembly forum on the Office of the Provost’s website.


Paul Cohen headshot

Pitt’s Newest School Builds Its Expertise With New Faculty

The School of Computing and Information (SCI), established in 2017, SCI is Pitt’s first new school in 20 years – and has a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and modeling to solve global issues.

New faculty members with backgrounds vital to building the school’s expertise have recently joined the school.

“SCI is very excited to welcome 18 new faculty,” said Paul Cohen, founding dean. “Each faculty member has a deep understanding of cross-disciplinary collaboration and a commitment to furthering SCI’s mission of making the world a better place through polymathic education and the science of interacting systems.”

SCI welcomed the following faculty at the start of the fall 2019 term:

  • Wonsun Ahn, visiting lecturer. Ahn obtained his PhD in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a Samsung Frontier founding member. His research interests include computer architecture, compiler optimization, scripting languages, speculative parallelization and parallel computing.
  • Katharine Anderson, visiting assistant professor. Anderson models and analyzes the structure, formation and dynamics of scientific collaboration networks, skill diversity and synergy and the complexities of human capital. She earned her PhD in economics from the University of Michigan in 2010.
  • Amy Babay, assistant professor. Babay’s research focuses on modeling and designing new internet services with demanding performance requirements and on building dependable critical infrastructure systems. Babay received her PhD in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in 2018.
  • Jacob Biehl, associate professor. Biehl comes to Pitt after a decade with FX Palo Alto Laboratory, Fuji Xerox’s computer science research laboratory in Silicon Valley, California. He earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008.
  • Seong Jae Hwang, assistant professor. Hwang’s research areas include medical imaging, computer vision and machine learning with an emphasis on modeling disease progression. He earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2019.
  • Stephen Lee, assistant professor. His research interests span several areas of computer systems, including distributed systems and cyber-physical systems, with an emphasis on domains such as smart cities, smart buildings and transportation. He earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019.
  • Eleanor “Nora” Mattern (SCI 14G), teaching assistant professor. Mattern returns to Pitt, where she earned her PhD, after serving as a librarian at the University of Chicago. Prior, she held a joint visiting position with the University Library System’s Digital Scholarship Services and SCI at Pitt. With SCI, she previously taught courses in preservation, archival ethics and metadata and archival access systems and developed experiential learning projects.
  • Luis de Oliveira, visiting lecturer. Oliveira graduated from the University of Porto, Portugal, with a PhD in 2016, with a thesis focused on wireless communications and localization for small teams of mobile robots. His current research interests are the preservation of reproducible software execution, real time communication protocols for teams of mobile agents and anchorless localization using RF signals.
  • Song Shi, visiting assistant professor. Shi’s research includes examining new media interventions for development and social change initiated by activists, NGOs and the government as detailed in his monograph “China and the Internet: Using New Media for Development in Social Change.” Shi received his PhD in communication and media studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2013.
  • Xulong Tang, assistant professor. Tang’s research interests include modeling and designing high-performance computing and parallel computer architectures and systems. He earned his PhD in computer engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 2019.
  • Lingfei Wu, assistant professor. Wu is a computational social scientist whose current research aims at unleashing the power of artificial neural network techniques to overcome cognitive and social constraints of human knowledge creation. Additionally, Wu co-founded one of the largest non-governmental science associations in China, which is the incubator of three million-dollar AI startups in self-driving, natural language processing and urban planning.
  • Joseph Yurko, teaching assistant professor. Yurko’s background spans both machine learning and traditional engineering applications. He comes to Pitt from Arconic, a manufacturing company, where he served as a data scientist. He earned his PhD in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Additional faculty who joined SCI in the last academic year:

  • Kayla Booth, research assistant professor. Her research interests include diversity and social inclusion, social and health informatics, and social media. She obtained her PhD from Pennsylvania State University.
  • Matt Burton, lecturer. Burton was previously a visiting assistant professor at SCI before becoming a lecturer. His research interests focus on infrastructure studies, data science, and scholarly communication. He holds a PhD in information from the University of Michigan.
  • Timothy Hoffman, lecturer. Hoffman is a former corporate trainer for software development and former assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University. His interests center on developing software tools to streamline the grading and administrative aspects of course management- along with tools to assist department researchers working on issues such as early identification of struggling students, tools for tutoring and remedial work for struggling students and the gathering of meta data relating to pedagogy.
  • Vinicius Petrucci, lecturer. Petrucci was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He obtained his PhD in computer science at Fluminese Federal University in 2012. He is a member of ACM.
  • Marcia Rapchak, lecturer. Rapchak’s research interests span multiple areas and include information literacy, academic libraries, computer-supported collaborative learning and critical librarianship. She obtained her EdD from Duquesne University and has several recent publications. Rapchak is the 2018 recipient of the Routledge Distance Learning Librarianship Conference Sponsorship Award.
  • Erin Walker, associate professor. Walker completed in PhD in 2010 at Carnegie Mellon University in Human-Computer interaction. Her research uses interdisciplinary methods to improve the design and implementation of educational technology and then to understand when and why it is effective.

 


headshot of Toi Derricotte

Professor Emerita Receives Award from Modern Language Association

Toi Derricotte, professor emerita in the Department of English within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been recognized by the Modern Language Association (MLA) with its Phyllis Franklin Award for Public Advocacy of the Humanities.

Derricotte received the award along with her colleague Cornelius Eady, with whom she co-founded Cave Canem, a national poetry organization that cultivates “the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.”

“The contributions that Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady have made in African American and African Diasporic poetry are immeasurable. Their visionary work at the Cave Canem Foundation helped open doors once difficult to access for black poets.” said Dawn Lundy Martin, director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.

“Derricotte made Pitt the beacon for African American poetry and poetics that it is today, and we remain grateful for her lasting contributions —a gratitude that remains visible in our having a chair in poetry named in her honor,” said Gayle Rogers, chair of the Department of English.

The namesake of the award, Phyllis Franklin, served as MLA’s executive director from 1985 until 2002. Derricotte will be presented with the award at a ceremony in January.


headshot of Maureen Porter, wearing black, blue and white patterned blouse

Education Professor Receives Outstanding International Educator Award

Maureen Porter, associate professor in the School of Education, received the David Portlock Outstanding International Educator Award.

The award is given by the Pennsylvania Council of International Education and recognizes international educators “who have exhibited evidence of ongoing mentoring of colleagues in the field, exemplary leadership in international education on their campuses and consistent contribution to the field as seen in presentations, papers, publications or other academic enterprises.”

Porter, who has developed education projects around the world in countries including Bolivia and Ethiopia, said the award is an honor because it recognizes how her programs have been sustained for many years.

“It shows that people can look to the School of Education as a destination for pedagogically sound and culturally inclusive international education programs,” she said.


David Birnbaum headshot, Kathryn Haines headshot

Two From Pitt Receive Grants from National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities granted awards to two Pitt professionals for their work in the following categories: Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities and  Landmarks of American History. 

David J. Birnbaum, professor and chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was awarded an Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities Grant from NEH.  The award of $249,456 will support “Advanced Digital Editing: Modeling the Text and Making the Edition,” a two-week summer institute on the theory and development of digital scholarly editions.

Kathryn Haines, associate director of the Center for American Music within the University Library System, received a Landmarks of American History Grant of $169,803 to support “The Homestead Steel Strike and the Growth of America as an Industrial Power,” a two one-week workshops for K-12 educators.

Birnbaum and Haines’ awards were part of $29 million total in grants to fund 215 humanities projects and programs across the country to “support vital research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.”


Cathedral of Learning with blue sky and white clouds in background

Pitt Online Master of Science in Nursing Program Ranks Near Top in National Ranking

The University of Pittsburgh was ranked in the 15 Best Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs for 2020 by Best Health Degrees.

Pitt placed third in the ranking for its online MSN program. The ranking website makes note of the University’s “cutting-edge” research in STEM fields like nursing, which “increases the prestige of such programs.”

“Few train nurses for clinical management roles as the program at Pitt does,” according to the ranking’s statement on Pitt’s placement in its annual list. “Nurses who want to advance to management roles but still work in the clinical side of nursing should consider Pitt to be one of the best MSN programs for their needs, and one of the top RN to MSN online programs overall.”


Cathedral of Learning with blue sky and white clouds in background

Pitt Online Master of Science in Nursing Program Near Top in National Ranking

The University of Pittsburgh was ranked in the 15 Best Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs for 2020 by Best Health Degrees.

Pitt placed third in the ranking for its online MSN program. The ranking website makes note of the University’s “cutting-edge” research in STEM fields like nursing, which “increases the prestige of such programs.”

“Few train nurses for clinical management roles as the program at Pitt does,” according to the ranking’s statement on Pitt’s placement in its annual list. “Nurses who want to advance to management roles but still work in the clinical side of nursing should consider Pitt to be one of the best MSN programs for their needs, and one of the top RN to MSN online programs overall.”


Two students walking on campus with sun shining between them, silhouetted

Pitt Expands Access to Students With Financial Need by Joining American Talent Initiative

The University of Pittsburgh has joined the American Talent Initiative (ATI), an alliance of 120 four-year institutions united in a goal of enrolling, supporting and graduating 50,000 additional talented, lower-income students by 2025.

“The question of whether or not the University of Pittsburgh should join the American Talent Initiative ended in an enthusiastic yes,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “It shares our commitment to graduating — and not just enrolling — exceptional students. And it aligns seamlessly with our ever-evolving suite of access and affordability efforts, which aim to connect more deserving students and families with a world-class Pitt education.” 

This is the University’s eighth initiative since 2014 focused on enhancing access to Pitt. Members of ATI convene regularly to share best practices and data and also will contribute to research that aims to enhance support for students from lower-income backgrounds.

Pitt is one of only 320 institutions in the United States to meet ATI’s eligibility criteria, which require institutions to graduate at least 70% of their students in six years. This constitutes less than 8% of the approximately 4,200 higher education institutions in the country.

Earlier this year, the University launched its seventh initiative — Pitt Success — which matches federal Pell Grant support dollar-for-dollar and is the only program of its kind in the nation.

“In joining the American Talent Initiative, I am very excited that we will be able to collaborate closely with institutions that share our deep commitment to educational access and equity,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd. “We are eager to contribute to discussions with our peers in ATI so that, working together, we can address this critically important challenge in lasting ways.”


M. Najeeb Shafiq headshot in sportcoat, shirt and tie

School of Education to Serve as New Home Base for International Society

The School of Education now serves as the new home base of the Comparative and International Education Society, following the recent appointment of M. Najeeb Shafiq as executive director. Shafiq, who serves as professor of education, economics and international affairs at Pitt, holds appointments in the School of Education, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Economics.

According to its website, the society “organizes and provides conferences, publications, professional networking and research support for the field of comparative and international education,” and represents members “from over 1,000 universities, research institutes, government departments, non-governmental organizations and multilateral agencies.”

As the new home institution of the society, the School of Education is poised to have greater exposure to the study of global issues in education, Shafiq said. The school is expected to host events with significant leaders in the field, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Policy Institute, the RAND Corporation and the American Institutes for Research.


Ryad Benosman and Feng Xiong headshots.

Pitt Researchers to Create Vision System Mimicking Human Sight

New research from the University of Pittsburgh will develop a neuromorphic vision system that takes a new approach to capturing visual information that is based on the human brain, benefiting everything from self-driving vehicles to neural prosthetics.

The project will receive $500,000 from the National Science Foundation. Ryad Benosman, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who holds appointments in electrical engineering and bioengineering, and Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, are leading the effort.

The team will use a “spiking neural network” with realistic dynamic synapses that will enhance computational abilities, develop brain-inspired machine learning to understand the input, and connect it to a neuromorphic event-based silicon retina for real-time operating vision.


Sylvia Rhor, wearing green long-sleeve top, resting hand on her chin leaning on a white cube

University Art Gallery Director Sylvia Rhor Samaniego Selected for Getty Leadership Institute

University Art Gallery (UAG) Director Sylvia Rhor was one of 35 museum leaders from around the globe selected to participate in the 2019 Getty Leadership Institute Executive Education for Museum Professionals this past June.

The Getty program, now in its 40th year, combines online coursework and a residency program on the campus of Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif.

While there, Rhor discussed museum industry challenges with peers from around the world, including directors, curators and education representatives from the British Museum, The Barnes Collection, the Van Gogh Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and others. They talked about how to keep museums and galleries relevant to their communities and the importance of expanding diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on all levels of museum administration and programming.

As the representative of one of six academic museums in the cohort, Rhor said the Getty program reinforced her commitment to academic museums such as the UAG. “They can be testing grounds for innovative and challenging programs and ideas, and a platform for new methods of building exhibitions and programs,” she said, “and they offer a flexibility and nimbleness that other public institutions might not always have.”


Jason Rosenstock headshot, wearing blue collared shirt with tie.

Interim Associate Dean for School of Medicine Chosen

Jason Rosenstock, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, has been selected to serve as interim associate dean for medical education at the Pitt School of Medicine.

In this role, Rosenstock will ensure high-quality teaching in courses and clerkships for each year of medical school. This includes overseeing instructional support, academic development, facilities management, evaluation and feedback, student assessment, educational technology, faculty development and program evaluation.

“I’m honored to have been chosen for this role. I’ve spent most of my career working in medical student education, and this position gives me an opportunity to build on the successes of our school. It will be challenging, and a learning process for me, but also fun and rewarding,” he said.