Pitt alum, professor honored for work abroad


By Cristina Holtzer / Staff Writer

Kathleen Musante started her anthropology career sitting in Mexican kitchens in 1970.

Musante, director of Pitt’s Center for Latin American Studies, won the 2013 Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement on Thursday for her work in medical and nutritional anthropology in Mexico, Honduras, Brazil and Ecuador. She was one of two members of the Pitt community to receive a prestigious Sheth Award for International Achievement. Approximately 40 people attended the ceremony held in the Lower Lounge of the William Pitt Union.

Studying nutrition and health worldwide is a lifelong passion for Musante, who said she gained the most insight into other cultures by being in their kitchens surrounded by men and women, “but also by chickens, guinea pigs and goats.”

In her travels, Musante studied the traditions of indigenous peoples in South America and what the food they eat means for their health. She introduces many students to these cultures through various programs at Pitt, including the annual Latin American and Caribbean Festival. Musante also works with Hispanic populations in Pittsburgh to ease the transition into the city and its culture. 

As she accepted the award, Musante said she hopes more Pitt students will have the opportunity to study abroad, and pledged to make a donation to the study abroad endowment “so that more of our students can sit in kitchens.”

“I believe the most effective way to get our students involved in global issues is to get them out of their dorms and into the kitchens, themselves,” she said.

Alongside Musante was Kakenya Ntaiya, winner of the Sheth International Young Alumni Award. Ntaiya, who finished a doctorate program in education at Pitt in 2012, is also nominated for the CNN Hero of the Year Award for her girls’ elementary school in Enoosaen, Kenya.

In Ntaiya’s home village, girls are typically married by age 12 or 13, and she, herself, was engaged to be married at age 5. When Ntaiya was a young teenager in Kenya, she experienced female genital mutilation, which formerly was a common practice there. After the completion of Ntaiya’s school and efforts she made with the Kenyan government, female genital mutilation is not nearly as common or accepted.

“That’s one of the things I do when I’m accepting the students,” Ntaiya said. “I listen to their stories. Most of them tell me that they want to be lawyers. They want to be doctors. None of them will go through the cutting or be married when they are 12 years old.”

Winners of this year’s International Photo Contest, which is sponsored by Pitt’s Study Abroad Office, were also honored during the ceremony. The annual contest is open to students, faculty and staff who want to enter photographs they took while they lived or studied outside the United States.

Students who won this year included Pawan Solanki, who studied in Tanzania; Kilian Liptrot, who studied in Germany; Rachel Mauer, who studied in India; Karen Lue, who studied in France, and Lindsay Hagerty, who also studied in India.

Brian Deutsch, an admissions officer at Pitt’s English Language Institute, was recognized for a photograph he took in Gangjin County, South Korea.

Winners of the Sheth Awards, named after Madhu and Jagdish Sheth, were chosen by a committee commissioned by Vice Chancellor Albert Novak in 2012.

A scholar and marketing chair at Emory University’s business school, Jagdish Sheth taught at numerous universities, including Columbia University in New York and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. He has also worked in the marketing industry.

Jagdish Sheth, who spoke periodically throughout the ceremony, closed the event.

He compared each student who does something exceptional to a diamond that was cut and polished by a diamond cutter. Pitt, he said, is the diamond cutter.

“It is somebody else that gets the potential out of you,” Sheth said. “This country seems to have a knack for getting excellence out of others.”