Perspectives and Projects Showcased at Year of PittGlobal Event

On Wednesday, April 25, at a Year of PittGlobal showcase event, a six-foot-tall, double-sided poster display bisected the first-floor hallway of Wesley W. Posvar Hall from the entrance on Bigelow Boulevard nearly to the escalators to the second floor. More than 40 posters were displayed – about two-thirds of all the funded proposals.

Featured on the posters were events ranging from music and dance performances and movie screenings to conferences for international students and projects that supported health care providers in Nigeria. Coordinators of many of these events were on hand to describe their projects to PittGlobal showcase attendees.

“The Year of PittGlobal has been phenomenal, and to see it all come together like this is really impactful,” said Belkys Torres, executive director of global engagement at the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) and co-chair of the Year of Pitt Global steering committee.

Pitt’s citizens around the world

The showcase in Posvar Hall celebrated the Year of PittGlobal, an initiative that over the course of the 2018-19 academic year included programming designed to advance the University’s mission locally and internationally by demonstrating how Pitt impacts the world through education, research and innovation.

“Our citizens — that is, our students, our faculty and staff, our communities and campuses, our local and global networks — they all engaged freely in collaborative dialogue and activities,” sad Randall Halle, Klaus W. Jonas Professor of German Film and Cultural Studies and steering committee co-chair.

Activities throughout the year shared a common goal, he said: “Improving the quality of life, health, prosperity and social mobility of people at our University, here in Pittsburgh and around the world.”

Supporting projects that impact Pitt’s global reach

The Year of PittGlobal was fifth in the Year Of series sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd attributed the success of the Year Of initiatives to the University’s ability to bring campuses together as a community united around a single broad theme. “It’s wonderful to see the programming that directly supports the strategies outlined in the Plan for Pitt — in this case, its focus on global impact and engagement,” said Cudd, who also remarked that she was pleased to see significant participation across  University campuses.

In fact, regional campuses received 15 percent of Year of PittGlobal funding, said Cudd. She highlighted a passport lottery at Pitt–Bradford, a Step Afrika! dance performance at Pitt–Greensburg and Japanese and Caribbean music programming at Pitt–Titusville. 

Overall, through the year, the provost’s office funding resulted in nearly $1 million in projects, events and programs. Funds were appropriated to a wide range of conferences, events, panels and other academic pursuits by the steering committee, which Halle called an “absolutely amazing collection of people to be engaged with.”

Abisola Olaniyan and Chinwoke Isiguzo, students in the Graduate School of Public Health, spoke about how “really straightforward” proposal process for Year of PittGlobal funding was, as compared to the submission process for some other grants. They worked with Patricia Documet, associate professor of behavioral and community health sciences and clinical translational science and scientific director of the Center for Health Equity, to learn more about the breastfeeding experiences of Somali women in Pittsburgh.

As project coordinator for the Year of PittGlobal, Shawn Reming had some contact with every proposal submitted for funding, but different levels of involvement with each. “Depending on what they needed — some had all the resources and just needed funding. Some needed a little extra help,” he said. For those that needed minimal help, he assisted with advertising and promotional materials.

Reming also worked personally with the European Studies Center at the University Center for International Studies and the Department of History to invite Jon McCourt, civil rights and community activist, to speak about his experiences with conflict in Northern Ireland. “He’s done peace work all over the world since then, so it was really cool to have him come,” said Reming of that experience.

Overall, Reming said, “It’s been a great year. Things have gone really well. Lots of great response from everybody. It’ll be exciting to see another Year Of.”

Looking forward: a local home for PittGlobal

Cudd teased the audience by hinting about an upcoming announcement of the theme of the next Year Of. “For now, we can be assured that the discussions, collaboration and knowledge generated through the year of PittGlobal will continue to expand and be integrated into the culture at Pitt for years to come.”

Following the provost’s remarks, Ariel Armony, vice provost of global affairs and director of UCIS, invited those in attendance to have a sneak peek at a new space that, after three years in the making, will open in August: the Pitt Global Hub.

As a group, participants made their way back past the posters to the new space on Posvar Hall’s first floor, where Torres shared an overview of the design concepts, ideas and planning that went into the space.

The hub features contemporary furnishings, multicultural design elements that honor diverse cultures and a huge digital screen that, every hour, “travels” to new global destinations by showing photos and news. The open space embodies the idea of Pitt at home in the world, Torres said.

Construction is ongoing, but should wrap over the summer in time for UCIS to celebrate its opening with fall events.

“For students, it’s going to be an incredible resource,” said James Cook, associate director of the Asian Studies Center at UCIS. “So many of them walk in and out of here going to class, but to actually see that as a place to congregate will be really fantastic.”

  • In opening remarks, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd likened inheriting the Year Of initiatives to a common saying she heard growing up on a farm: When folks lucked into something, they “landed in a field of clover.”
  • Ariel Armony, vice provost of global affairs and director of the University Center for International Studies, asked attendees to “continue talking with us. There are many things that started this year that are fantastic, extraordinary. I was thinking that that you look at these posters and it’s like you want to go inside the poster and there’s a world there.”
  • Prior to the showcase event, the steering committee met for the final time. “It’s been a day of goodbyes and congratulations and celebration,” said Belkys Torres, executive director of global engagement at the University Center for International Studies and Year of PittGlobal steering committee co-chair, but she also noted that it included planning for the future. “We’re going to have several projects that move on this particular year,” she said.
  • Randall Halle, Klaus W. Jonas Professor of German Film and Cultural Studies and steering committee co-chair, introduced the showcase and event. "One of the things we also celebrated was the fact that the University Center for International Studies had its 50th anniversary.... With that, I really think that the Year of PittGlobal was part of that aspect of the University that is at the heart of what makes it Pitt."
  • Abi Fapohunda, instructor in the Department of Africana Studies, received matching funding to develop a curriculum on cancer screening for health care providers in Nigeria, where the mortality rate for women with cancer is very high. “We were able to train about 114 doctors and other professionals,” she said.
  • Al Thiel, director of student involvement, and Sheila Confer, director of the Academic Villiage, gave Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd a brief overview of the myriad events that took place at Pitt–Greensburg, including “They Call me Q,” a one-woman performance exploring issues of cultural identity through multiple characters.