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Reid Helford

Reid Helford Joins Student Affairs at Pitt–Bradford

Reid Helford has joined the Office of Student Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford as a career educator.

In this role, Helford will offer career strategies and professional development to students. His efforts will include working to expand access to the career center and help students form a network by assisting with alumni mentorships and expanding internship and externship opportunities. Additionally, he will help students develop communication skills in professional settings and more actively consider their purpose and direction as they work toward their degrees.

Helford comes to Pitt–Bradford following a decade spent working in prisons, where he helped men transition from solitary confinement to the general population and from prison to the community. A sociologist with a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from the University of Kentucky and master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from Loyola University Chicago, Helford taught academically for 10 years.

Michele Cruse

Alumna Michele Cruse Joins Pitt–Bradford as Associate Dean

Michele Cruse (CGS ’00) has joined the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford as associate dean of student affairs and experiential education in the Office of Student Affairs. In the newly configured position, Cruse will oversee career services, judicial affairs, first-year experience and orientation, leadership development, and community and student engagement.

In addition to her work as director of TRIO Student Support Services at PCC, Cruse has worked in financial aid and student accounts, and as an adjunct instructor. Cruse also owned her own business and served as co-founder of an organization focused on workshops and education for community members, women, disenfranchised youth and those in alternative education.

A native of Pittsburgh, Cruse comes to Pitt–Bradford from Portland (Oregon) Community College where she served as dean of student development. Cruse earned her bachelor’s degree from the College of General Studies. She received a master’s degree at Portland State University and a doctorate in education at Oregon State University.


Carla Chugani

Pitt Professor’s Porch Pantry Supports Neighbors in Need

Before the pandemic outbreak, Carla Chugani, assistant professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Dormont resident, built a pantry with the help of a neighbor. As COVID-19 cases began to be reported in Allegheny County, Chugani moved the pantry to her porch and shared information about its location in a Facebook group.

“It just seemed really important. We saw this immediate need for basic things,” said Chugani.

The response was immediate, with donations including child-friendly staples like juice boxes and fruit snacks, as well as individually wrapped rolls of toilet paper and paper towels.

Chugani is encouraging people to leave donations near the pantry at her home at 2958 Belrose Avenue; she brings items into her home and restocks the pantry as needed. “It’s really moving to see the way this community has come together to take care of its own,” she said.

Read more about Chugani’s pantry at Trib Live.


Carrie Benson

Aspinwall Neighbors Toast Community from Afar

For the neighborhood of Aspinwall, with myriad spots to dine and socialize amidst wide sidewalks in front of large porches, social distancing can feel particularly isolating. Residents on their way to dinner or yoga are used to greeting neighbors out on walks with children or dogs.

That’s why Carrie Benson, Aspinwall resident and prevention and education coordinator in the Title IX Office in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, took to an Aspinwall Facebook page with a neighborly invite: Step out into a brisk Saturday evening and share a toast from their porches.

It worked. At 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, Aspinwall residents raised their toasts to their neighbors and community—even the firetrucks, typically reserved for the Memorial Day Parade, made an appearance.

“It was the easiest party I’ve ever planned,” said Benson. “Aspinwall is built for this type of response to social distancing.”

Read more about the neighborhood toast in Next Pittsburgh.


Mostern in a black and white top

History Professor Advocates for the Humanities on Capitol Hill

Ruth Mostern, associate professor in the Department of History in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of the World History Center, advocated for the importance of federal funding for the humanities on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at the Humanities Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 10.

Mostern had the opportunity to talk to congressional staffers from both sides of the aisle about humanities research at Pitt—including the World Historical Gazetteer, a World History Center project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mostern serves as the project’s principal investigator.

“I am teaching Environmental History this semester, and even before the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, students were exploring questions that are urgent for the present moment,” said Mostern. “This is a chance to make sure that our congresspeople understand how the humanities transforms their districts and the whole world through education, outreach, and new insights about human past and futures.”


the Cathedral of Learning

Pitt Programs Rise in National Rankings, Physical Therapy Program Remains in Top Spot

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) and School of Nursing recently announced new and improved rankings for several educational programs, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 edition of Best Graduate Schools.

Rankings rose for two SHRS graduate programs—occupational therapy is now ranked number three in the country, moving from its spot at number four. Speech-language pathology had the largest jump from number seven to number three. Physical therapy remains number one for the second consecutive rankings report, as well as the audiology program at number seven. No SHRS program rankings fell and no other comparable programs at other schools ranked higher in Pennsylvania.

Pitt Nursing meanwhile is now number six among Master of Science in Nursing programs, moving up six spots from number 12. The Doctor of Nursing Practice programs is now number eight in the country, moving up from number nine.

Every four years, U.S. News collects data by surveying experts who teach and direct programs in multiple health care professions asking them to evaluate their peers. U.S. News surveys only accredited programs.

Pitt Nursing also moved up two spots in the QS World University Rankings to number 16 in the world, ninth in the U.S. These rankings represent a weighted average of indicators that include peer assessment, student selectivity and achievement, mean grade-point average, acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio, faculty credentials and academic achievements and research activity.


Khristen Scott, in a pink top, and Jennifer Josten, in a blue collared shirt.

Dietrich School Faculty Recognized in Inaugural Mentorship Award

Khristen Scott, assistant professor of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and Jennifer Josten, associate professor of history of art and architecture, also in the Dietrich School, received the inaugural Award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring.

The Dietrich School created the award to celebrate and honor the exemplary mentorship of faculty whose practices enhance the overall quality of graduate education. All graduate students and chairs of Dietrich School departments were eligible to nominate faculty, who were then evaluated by an award committee, chaired by Holger Hook, associate dean for graduate studies and research in the Dietrich School. 

Scott and Josten received their awards, along with a cash prize of $1,500. 


Kinloch in a pink shirt speaking at a podium

Valerie Kinloch Releases New Co-Edited Book Advocating for Social Change

Valerie Kinoch, the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education, has released a new co-edited book titled, Race, Justice, and Activism in Literacy Instruction. It advocates for social change by encouraging educators to engage in equity and justice-centered literacy work.

“This book serves as a conversation into how and why we must engage in this work and it contributes to ongoing discussions about how this work could look in schools and communities,” said Kinloch, who is also an American Educational Research Association fellow and the vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English.

The book was co-edited with Tanja Burkhard, postdoctoral associate in the School of Education, and Carlotta Penn, director of community partnerships in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University. Leigh Patel, associate dean for equity and justice for the School of Education, also contributed to the book.

Read more about Kinloch’s new book and a recent book launch event at Pitt.


the Cathedral on a blue-sky day

Philosophy Ranks High in QS World University Rankings by Subject

The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Philosophy, in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, received recognition in the 2020 edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject.

In its latest rankings, global higher education analysts QS Quacquarelli Symonds named the best universities in the world for a study of 48 academic disciplines from over 13,000 individual university programs from around the world.

According to the latest QS World University Rankings, Pitt ranked no. 3 in philosophy. Pitt’s other top-ranked specific subject areas also include nursing and library and information management.

School of Education Faculty Member Wins National Literacy Research Award

Jon-Philip “Jay” Imbrenda, faculty member in the School of Education, is the recipient of the 2019 Arthur Applebee Award for Excellence in Research on Literacy.

The award is known as one of the highest honors in the field of literacy education. It’s given annually to “honor an outstanding article in literary research published in a referred journal in the previous calendar year.”

Imbrenda’s “Developing Academic Literacy: Breakthroughs and Barriers in College Access Intervention,” was the article that won him this recognition. The article reports findings from Imbrenda’s analysis of a classroom intervention in which students from a comprehensive urban high school were given a curriculum designed to prepare them for reading and writing demands of early college coursework. Read more about Imbrenda and his work on the School of Education’s website.


Police officers sit at a table in their uniforms.

Five Partnerships Receive Distinction at Community Engaged Scholarship Forum

More than 250 people attended the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum (CESF), now in its second year at Pitt, on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. 

The day featured breakout sessions, poster presentations, panel discussions and networking planned around the theme of building momentum through community partnerships, which echoes one of the pillars of the Plan for Pitt: Strengthening Communities

“Service has always been a part of Pitt, but we’ve tried our best to move beyond a theoretical format and toward a practical format” for strengthening communities, said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees.

To that end, five projects were honored for reflecting Pitt’s highest community engagement aspirations, two Pitt staff members were recognized for their commitment to engaged leadership and collaboration and one partnership to watch was named. Learn more about the Honorees in @Pitt.

The Community Engaged Scholarship Forum planning committee was co-chaired by Jamie Ducar in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations and Julia Spears in the Office of the Provost. Sixteen schools and offices across the University helped to sponsor the event. 


Piervincenzo Rizzo in a red dress shirt underneath a dark sweater.

Pitt-led Study Leads to Method to Calculate Stress on Rails

A study led by Pitt researchers calculating stress on railways was recently published in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Journal of Nondestructive Evaluation, Diagnostics and Prognostics of Engineering Systems.

The study was led by Piervincenzo Rizzo, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt in the Swanson School of Engineering, and senior author on the paper, and Stanford University researcher Amir Nasrollahi, who was previously a PhD candidate and then post-doctoral researcher in Rizzo’s Laboratory for Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural Health Monitoring Studies.

The two developed a nondestructive evaluation method to measure stress in rails, with the eventual aim of calculating when the ambient temperature will be problematic.


Áurea María Sotomayor-Miletti in a dark shirt.

Áurea María Sotomayor-Miletti Receives Prestigious International Literary Award

Áurea María Sotomayor-Miletti, professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, received the prestigious Casa de las Américas Prize in the essay category. 

Established in 1959, the award is considered the oldest and most coveted prize in literature in Latin America—much like the Pulitzer Prize in the U.S., according to Sotomayor-Miletti.

Sotomayor-Miletti received the literary award for her work titled “Apalabrarse en la desposesión (Ley, arte y Multitud en el Caribe Insular).” She accepted her award earlier this year in Havana, Cuba.


Paul Leu

Solar Project Selected for U.S. Department of Energy Prize

A project developed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has been selected for the American-Made Solar Prize, a U.S. Department of Energy competition designed to incentivize entrepreneurs toward U.S. solar energy innovation and manufacturing.

The project is led by Paul W. Leu (pictured), associate professor of industrial engineering, Sajad Haghanifar, a doctoral candidate in Leu's lab, and Sooraj Sharma, a senior studying materials science and engineering who began developing this project in 2018 through the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation Undergraduate Summer Research Program. The team is evaluating new methods to improve the top glass sheet in solar panels. 

The project is one of 20 that has made it to this round out of the 120 submissions, chosen for the novelty of the solution and how impactful it would be against the problems facing the solar industry. Each team will receive a $50,000 cash prize and is eligible for the next round of the competition, which rewards a cash prize of $100,000 and up to $75,000 in vouchers. The following, final phase of the competition will select two final projects to win a $500,000 prize in September 2020. 

Jaime Booth in a gray shirt in front of a window

Social Work's Jaime Booth Honored for Work with Teens

Assistant Professor of Social Work Jaime Booth was recently awarded the Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research at the organization’s recent national conference in Washington, D.C. She was recognized for using innovative approaches in her research, much of which involves young people in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“I’m engaging with new technology to answer traditional social work questions,” she said of her work. 

Booth, along with Associate Professor of computing and information Rosta Farzan and other partners, is spearheading a pilot project called Data Forerunners. Close to 20 high school students from the Hill District and Homewood are using public data to explore issues in their communities, ranging from crime rates to commuting habits to affordable housing. 

Now she is immersed in the SPIN Project, or Spaces and People in Neighborhoods for Positive Youth Development. Nearly 80 Homewood teenagers, carrying mobile devices equipped with a special app, responded to several surveys a day that asked how they felt about where they were. Did they feel respected? Are there people around that could help them if they need it? A survey at day’s end asked how they felt that day and if they had used any substances. The teens themselves are assisting with the data collection and Booth and the teens will present the findings this spring at local community centers. 

“We want to understand how spending time in safe and risky spaces impacts these young people’s levels of stress and substance abuse,” said Booth. “The ultimate goal is to increase their access to safe spaces while addressing those spaces that are stressful.”

Booth, along with Assistant Professor of English Khirsten Scott also are developing H.Y.P.E. Media, a literacy program in which youth are taught the skills needed to engage new media to rewrite neighborhood narratives for community change. 

a sign at Pitt-Bradford

Pitt-Bradford Building Earns Campus’ First LEED Status

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s newest residence hall, the 170-bed Livingston Alexander House, has earned silver-level LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the first building on the campus to achieve LEED certification.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification that takes into account sustainability considerations that include green construction practices, water and energy efficiency and more.

“It’s about caring for the environment,” said Rick Esch, vice president of business affairs at Pitt-Bradford. “Climate change is real. When you build sustainable buildings, it benefits the environment, the health of residents and the health of those constructing and making the materials that go into a LEED-certified building.”


woman in a PDoG shirt smiling

Pitt Day of Giving 2020 Sets Records

Pitt Day of Giving on Feb. 25 prompted gifts from 7,630 Pitt supporters—alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents and friends from all 50 states and 31 countries, surpassing the goal of 7,000 donors.

“Every year it gets better and better,” said Kris Davitt, senior vice chancellor for Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement. “We have more Pitt Day of Giving social media mentions; people are keeping track of the challenges and leaderboards; and people are talking about the day. It’s all about momentum and the message to simply participate—just join in.”

The annual 24-hour fundraising blitz supports scholarships, research, academic programs, student activities and initiatives across the University. By the time the clock struck midnight, donations totaled more than $1.65 million, with givers designating their support to more than 200 funds including every Pitt school, college and campus. 

A total of $200,000 in challenge dollars sparked friendly competition for support. See the leaderboards for a full list of winners.

More than 1,200 members of the University community joined Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Provost Ann Cudd, Athletic Director Heather Lyke and Panther mascot Roc at an on-campus celebration in the William Pitt Union. The event was livestreamed to viewers across the world.

Social media support added to the excitement. #PittDayOfGiving was the number one trending hashtag in Pittsburgh all day.

Shawn Ellies in his police uniform

Shawn Ellies Appointed Chair of American Society of Industrial Security Pittsburgh Chapter

The American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) Pittsburgh chapter has named Commander of the Pitt Police and Director of Security Shawn Ellies (GSPIA ’08, EDUC ’15) as the chair of the local chapter, leading more 200 members. Additionally, Ellies is a ASIS Certified Protection Professional, having completed a comprehensive certification program recognized as the gold standard for security management professionals worldwide.

Ellies oversees the University’s integrated safety and security needs. He has been a member of the University of Pittsburgh Police Department for the past 23 years in public safety leadership roles including patrol officer, shift sergeant, shift lieutenant, administrative lieutenant, commander of the special emergency response team and commander of operations.

Ellies served in the United States Army for 23 years. He earned a doctorate degree from the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh in administration and policy studies, a masters degree in public policy and management from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and a masters degree in leadership and management from Duquesne University.

Ellies chairs the Veterans Community group on Pitt’s campus.

The Cathedral of Learning behind a field with small American flags standing upright

Pitt Earns 2020-2021 Military Friendly Designation Across Campuses

The University of Pittsburgh has been recognized for its support for students in the military community.

For the ninth consecutive year, the University’s Pittsburgh campus has been recognized as a 2020-2021 Military Friendly Top 10 School

Also receiving recognition for the 2020-2021 year:

The Military Friendly Schools survey is “the longest-running most comprehensive review of college and university investments in serving military and veteran students.” Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,000 schools participated in the 2020-2021 survey with 695 earning the designation.

Military-affiliated students at Pitt are supported by the Office of Veterans ServicesPITT VETS and other entities across all campuses. 


Clapp Hall

Clapp Hall Renovation Awarded LEED Silver Certification

The University of Pittsburgh’s Clapp Hall renovation has been awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.  

It’s the latest among a dozen Pittsburgh campus projects that have received a LEED designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The $34 million Clapp Hall project brought new infrastructure, interior renovations and exterior upgrades to the building that houses the Department of Biological Sciences

Classrooms, laboratories, conference and seminar rooms, support spaces and offices were renovated; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and telecommunication systems were replaced; and a new fire suppression system was installed. The building’s elevator and restrooms were modernized to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Outside, doors, windows and roofing were replaced and the exterior was cleaned and repainted. 

Features contributing to the LEED certification were energy-efficient lighting, water-saving plumbing fixtures, a demand-control ventilation system and a lab exhaust energy recovery system. More than 95% of construction waste was diverted from landfills, 90% of existing building elements were reused and 36% of building materials were regionally manufactured. Clapp Hall also features bike storage and changing rooms for commuters and an indoor air quality system throughout the entire building.

Clapp Hall, part of the Life Sciences Complex, opened in 1956.