Nathan Urban Plans to Join Lehigh University as Provost

Nathan Urban in a dark suit jacket over a light blue dress shirt. Nathan Urban, vice provost for graduate studies and strategic initiatives, will be leaving Pitt to become provost at Lehigh University this summer.

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd observed that Urban “has served the Office of the Provost in far-reaching ways.”

“Many good things have grown—and will continue to grow—because of Nathan’s many contributions, not only at Pitt but more broadly in the Pittsburgh community,” she said.

“It has been a great honor and pleasure to have the opportunity to work with so many incredibly dedicated and creative colleagues on making Pitt a better university. Working to serve the students and faculty at Pitt to advance their educational and research goals over the last four and a half years has been deeply rewarding and I am proud of our accomplishments,” Urban said. “I am eager to work with President Simon to lead Lehigh at this exciting time in its history.”

Urban was first appointed to the provost’s office in 2015 as vice provost for special projects. In 2017, he was named vice provost for graduate studies and strategic initiatives. In these roles, he has led graduate and professional academic programs and been involved in developing and supporting strategic initiatives to expand them. His work with graduate and professional students has been dedicated to understanding their perspectives about graduate life at Pitt and working to maximize their experiences. Such initiatives include direct connections with students using monthly newsletters, social media channels, events, forums and office hours. Cudd noted that through these initiatives, “he has opened meaningful dialogues and promoted positive change.” 

Most recently, to further foster a sense of community, he helped to establish the newly opened graduate and professional student lounge in the William Pitt Union and, prior to that, worked to expanded the graduate study and dissertation writing rooms in Hillman Library. 

Urban also instituted an annual graduate studies retreat—now in its third year—to bring together faculty, administrators and student leaders from the 14 schools that offer graduate programs. That effort has resulted in increased access to and awareness of mental health resources; the placement of ombudspersons—who advocate for students—in each of the schools; recommendations on a thoughtful use of the GRE in graduate admissions; and a new initiative to improve the mentoring of graduate students. Similarly, at the postdoctoral level, he engaged regularly with the officers of the University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association to assist them in promoting University resources available to postdocs.

Urban was also integral to the efforts the University has undertaken to personalize the undergraduate student experience. 

Urban began at Pitt as faculty member in the School of Medicine and vice provost for special projects. In addition to his role in the provost’s office, Urban is professor and the associate chair of the Department of Neurobiology in the School of Medicine; the associate director of the Brain Institute; and co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a joint venture of Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University. His scientific work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the Hillman Foundation and the DSF Charitable Foundation.

Prior to joining Pitt, Urban spent 13 years at Carnegie Mellon. He joined the biology department in 2002 as a faculty member, was he was the Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences and served as head of the Department of Biological Sciences from 2010 to 2014. He served as interim provost of CMU from 2014 to 2015. 

In addition to the escalating positions of leadership he’s held at the University, Urban is also a Pitt alum, having earned a BS in neuroscience, math and biology and a PhD in neuroscience. He was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, earning a BA in math and philosophy. 

Details of the search for Urban’s successor will be announced in the coming weeks.