Swanson engineers a path for fall semester


Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Pitt’s Benedum Hall houses the Swanson School of Engineering.

By Benjamin Nigrosh, Senior Staff Writer

Senior leadership at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering is currently reviewing every space in the School, from hallways to classrooms to bathrooms to study spaces, to ensure available teaching space in Benedum Hall is compliant with University regulations, Mary Besterfield-Sacre said.

“The Swanson School’s leadership team adheres to the directives set by the University’s Healthcare Advisory Group, senior leadership, Environmental Health & Safety and others,” Besterfield-Sacre, the associate dean for academic affairs, said.

Although Pitt is implementing the new Flex@Pitt teaching model, which allows students to experience classes “in person, remotely, synchronously or asynchronously,” it is unclear when in-person classes will begin. Officials would not commit on Thursday to a specific or estimated date for when fall classes will move from online only to in person. The fall semester will still begin remotely on Aug. 19, but the University previously said classes would transition to in-person instruction on Aug. 24.

Besterfield-Sacre said most Swanson classes will have the opportunity for in-person engagement, with a minority of courses requiring fully online engagement, as there are no classrooms large enough to accommodate such large class sizes. According to Besterfield-Sacre, course content will not be “significantly altered” by the transition to virtual learning options.

Swanson’s labs are in the process of reopening, Besterfield-Sacre said, in accordance with guidance from Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Rob Rutenbar. David Vorp, the School’s associate dean for research, and his office are taking requests to reopen labs.

Swanson’s Activity Area Plan is currently being “finalized,” Besterfield-Sacre said, and will include guidance on how the school will function under Pitt’s three-tiered reopening system.

Besterfield-Sacre said she is confident about the safety of faculty, staff and students as they return to Swanson. She said the School has been “routinely” surveying students and faculty on their comfortability with the new Flex@Pitt teaching model and concerns for returning to campus, and has found “most” students are comfortable with the current guidance.

“Engineers have a passion for problem solving, and so from the very beginning of the pandemic, when the stay-at-home order was enacted and in place, our faculty and staff put in tremendous hours to ensure that classes could continue and that we are as prepared as possible for the fall,” Besterfield-Sacre said.