Year of Diversity, new centers confirmed at Board of Trustees meeting


By Alexa Bakalarski / News Editor

In the Assembly Room of the William Pitt Union, Pitt’s Board of Trustees looked back on the University’s progress during the 2015-2016 academic year and outlined plans for the year ahead.

At their annual meeting Friday morning, the Board approved funding of four capital budget projects to remodel campus facilities, elected three new board members, re-elected current trustees and approved a statement of trustee commitment and responsibilities.

Board of Trustees Chairperson Eva Tansky Blum thanked the Board for their work this year before two board committees, Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Pitt Alumni Association President Jeffrey Kondis reported to the Board.

“As my first year as chair draws to a close, I cannot thank you enough for your support and your dedication and your love of Pitt,” Blum said.

In his report, Gallagher announced the creation of Centers for Urban Engagement, Pitt’s University Center for Teaching and Learning and a new facility that will be “a hub of innovation” as part of the University’s Plan for Pitt. He also confirmed that the 2016-2017 school year will be Pitt’s “Year of Diversity.”

“Do we press forward, exactly as we have? Or do we have a responsibility to take our success and build on it by creating something only Pitt can achieve?” Gallagher said. “We must put excellence into action in order to make a difference.”

Pitt’s University Center for Teaching and Learning aims to further new and innovative teaching practices at Pitt while working with faculty. Cynthia Golden, the current director of Pitt’s Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education, will serve as the new center’s director. The new center will incorporate CIDDE as well as new faculty.

“Successful outcomes require a shared vision, teamwork, core knowledge, global perspectives, evolving technology and diverse partners,” Golden said in a release. “Pitt is using these principles to reimagine our approach to teaching and learning in an endeavor that will build upon existing expertise to empower faculty as leading teachers and prepare Pitt students for lives of impact.”

Within the center, there will be three related resource centers. The Diversity in the Curriculum center aims to expand existing Pitt programs to increase faculty awareness of diversity issues and promote an inclusive learning environment. The Mentoring Center plans to teach faculty how to be both effective mentors and mentees while strengthening relations between faculty and students. The Center for Communication will teach faculty how to articulate their research to different audiences.

The Center for Teaching and Learning will also include a course incubator team of experts to change course curricula based on research. There will also be a micro-credentialing program for faculty to receive additional credentials, as well as a Teaching and Learning Exchange, which will create a network for sharing educational practices. The center will launch in the upcoming fall semester.

“To define our leadership role, we must be leaders in improving education, in educational innovation, in transforming teaching,” Gallagher said. “To bring more of our students to their fullest potential, we must be known for creating a learning landscape that is more individualized, more targeted, more meaningful and more responsive.”

Gallagher also announced the creation of Centers for Urban Engagement to strengthen Pitt’s ties to urban Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The centers, each with a neighborhood ambassador to connect the local community to Pitt, will focus on specific needs and interests of the community that relate to work by Pitt faculty, students and researchers.

“From our very founding, Pitt has served to advance the region that it is part of, from our closest neighborhoods, to the region of western Pennsylvania, to our global economy,” Gallagher said. “Our communities benefit from this work, and so does the University. We know that we cannot realize our full potential isolated in an ivory tower.”

To continue fostering innovation at Pitt, Gallagher announced the creation of an innovation center on the 2.1-acre land parcel across the street from Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. The center will promote collaboration between businesses and Pitt researchers, faculty and students. UPMC will be a key tent and partner of the center, Gallagher said.

“Today’s announcement is only the beginning,” Gallagher said. “This is basically announcing the beginning of a collaborative, multi-state cohort exploratory process, but it’s one that we’re anxious to roll up our sleeves to start tackling … We want this new center to embody Pitt’s new entrepreneurial spirit.”

Gallagher said though Pitt has “taken the first steps” to becoming more diverse and inclusive, more needs to be done. As part of the upcoming Year of Diversity and promoting diversity under the Plan for Pitt, Pitt will be launching a mentoring training program in September to help local minority- and women-owned businesses expand their expertise and professional networks.

“The themes of diversity and inclusion sit at the heart of Pitt’s academic mission, which is to make the world better through knowledge,” Gallagher said. “Given potential is not defined by our social, racial, economic or cultural differences. To the contrary, differences in human experience and perspective enhance the process of learning.”

At the meeting, the Board approved four capital budget projects for renovations in the Cost Sports Center, the Chevron Science Center, the Space Research Coordination Center and on the twelfth floor of the Cathedral of Learning. The projects add a total amount of $11,702,700 to the Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Budget.

The Board’s three new members include President and Chief Investment Officer of the Dietrich Foundation Edward Grefenstette, retired U.S. Army Surgeon General Patricia Horoho and current PAA President Jeffrey Kondis. The Board unanimously re-elected Blum as chairperson and also re-elected the other Board members, as well as the trustees of Pitt’s Trust Board. Former Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and John Verbanac will both continue to serve as university directors for the UPMC Board of Directors.

Gallagher said he wanted to end his report to the Board with “one clear takeaway.”

“While this has been an amazing year, it’s been so in more than one way. Yes, we’ve extended and advanced our reputation and our excellence,” Gallagher said. “But we have also defined new goals that translate that reputation and that excellence into impact. We are aspiring to be a University that can transform the very ways we learn, teach, discover and grow.”

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