Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
The last day to do all-in-one early voting (applying for your ballot and voting it early in person) is 5 p.m. October 27. You may continue to drop off your mail-in ballot in person until November 3, so long as you’ve applied for it before October 27.
A Swanson School of Engineering alumnus and his wife have made a major commitment to the school—which could total more than $10 million when realized—to help support generations of minority students and contribute to a stronger and more diverse workforce, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced today.
“I am extremely grateful for this gift, which supports the University of Pittsburgh’s efforts to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges—the inequity of opportunity,” Gallagher said. “Put into action, this commitment will help students from underrepresented groups access a world-class Pitt education and—in doing so—help elevate the entire field of engineering.”
The anonymous donors have made an eight-figure bequest intention to provide financial aid to undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Pitt EXCEL diversity program at the Swanson School, hoping to encourage others to make similar commitments. Specifically, their gift will provide tuition support for underprivileged or underrepresented engineering students who are residents of the United States and in need of financial aid, said U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II.
“This cornerstone gift allows the Swanson School to develop the workforce of the future by offering high quality educational opportunities to a broader constituency and by developing a platform of learning that extends for an entire lifetime,” Martin said. “The generosity of these donors opens a pipeline for a more socially equitable future of academics and experience that keeps our country at the forefront of innovation and economic prosperity.”
Pitt EXCEL focuses on the recruitment, retention and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates—particularly students from groups that are historically underrepresented in the field.
“Anyone who talks to today’s EXCEL students can see how exceptional these young people will be as engineers and individuals,” said Yvette Wisher, who directs the program. “They, and the hundreds of students who preceded them, are the reason why Pitt EXCEL is a game-changer for so many.”
Since its inception, the program has helped more than 1,500 students earn an engineering degree and become leaders in their communities. Pitt EXCEL also encourages students to give back to others after graduation through mentorship, volunteerism, philanthropy or advocacy.
Martin noted that the gift will accelerate the Swanson School’s ongoing efforts to address the needs of a diverse body of students who represent a transformative demographic shift in the American workforce.
“By 2050, when the U.S. will have a minority-majority population, two-thirds of the American workforce will require a post-secondary education,” he said. “We are already reimagining how we deliver engineering education and research, and generosity such as this will lessen the financial burden that students will face to prepare for that future workforce.”
Mayor William Peduto and the Urban Redevelopment Authority formally launched the “Avenues of Hope” initiative to reprioritize business district investments in diverse city neighborhoods.
Avenues of Hope is a place-based, people-first approach that intervenes across all layers of successful, healthy, and sustainable Main Street development in largely Black and diverse neighborhoods across Pittsburgh, focusing on seven major business corridors. This initiative seeks to invest in existing small businesses and residents, supporting the inclusive growth of these neighborhoods.
The initiative will boost neighborhoods and help support middle-class jobs, families and entrepreneurship. The URA focus will be on housing investment, workforce connectivity, commercial corridor activation, façade renovations, and other impactful MWBE and small business supports.
The Department of Mobility and Infrastructure will assist with paving, sidewalk improvements, traffic calming and pedestrian enhancement, and Public Works will assist in land maintenance, with the assistance of City Planning.
Avenues of Hope will also have an affordable housing component and work in conjunction with the City/URA Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
“Retail follows rooftops. By supporting both business districts and high-quality affordable housing, Avenues of Hope will bring a holistic approach to community revitalization,” Mayor Peduto said.
The avenues currently targeted for the program are Homewood, Larimer, Centre, Perrysville, Chartiers, Warrington and Irvine Street in Hazelwood.
“The URA was asked by the City to prioritize development with a focus on building black wealth and community health. What would it mean to intentionally drive investment into Black neighborhoods in a way that centers the preservation and celebration of Black life in Pittsburgh? Avenues of Hope takes the first step towards this kind of holistic community revitalization, revealing economic justice is about action, not rhetoric,” said Diamonte Walker, Deputy Executive Director of the URA.
Interim Vice Provost for DEI emphasizes importance of recruiting
Computer Engineering in his 26th year at Carnegie Mellon is teaching, advising six Ph.D. students — with a few more on their way — and leading a research group pursuing a National Science Foundation grant to create technologies that help to serve the underserved.
A full plate, for sure, but when university leadership came calling days after announcing 34 action items to promote equity and inclusion, he felt compelled to accept.
“This is something I’m passionate about,” said Blanton, who was asked to serve as Interim Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “We have a lot of work to do, but over the last several years, there’s not only a recognition that something’s got to be done, for the first time there are significant resources being provided to make it happen.”
Blanton has helped make it happen in the College of Engineering as a member of its DEI Planning Committee. Now, he’s bringing his expertise to the university level with a focus on increasing diversity among faculty and students, and expanding CMU’s engagement with the Pittsburgh community.
The College of Engineering has been successful attracting minorities by taking a proactive approach, Blanton said. Faculty and staff have become recruiters at conferences, such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Convention, and have been seeking out opportunities and avenues to expand their search process.
“Alabama football and Duke basketball don’t sit back and wait for superstars to show up at their door. They’re out there fiercely recruiting the best athletes. We have to do the same thing,” said Blanton, who has been recognized by US Black Engineer for his leadership in recruiting.
The College of Engineering has doubled its investment in the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship program at the University of California, which provides academic and research opportunities for women and minorities. Seven Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows have come to CMU and two have accepted faculty positions.
“We have a lot of work to do, but ... for the first time there are significant resources being provided to make it happen.”
Engineering also is a member of the national GEM Consortium, a clearinghouse for prospective minority graduate students. Blanton said Engineering had the most GEM grad students last two years and received the nonprofit’s biggest honor.
“This is a huge accomplishment, and we’re going to easily double that number over the next year,” he said. “All our peers, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Georgia Tech and Michigan are GEM members. But we’re number one.”
Blanton credits Provost Jim Garrett, former dean of the College of Engineering, Jon Cagan, former interim dean of the College of Engineering, and a team of committed department heads for the success. He’s looking forward to spreading the progress across campus.
“The School of Computer Science, Mellon College of Science, Heinz College and the Tepper School all have technical STEM programs and they can easily jump into what Engineering has done over the last several years. I’ve talked to several deans already, and there’s enthusiasm there. They want to see this happen,” he said.
Blanton plans to brainstorm with the Office of Admission on ways to engage and follow up with prospective undergraduate minority students from Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“If we can get Pittsburgh students excited, the next step would be creating a pipeline so they follow through with the application process.”
“I’m wondering if they know the stars of Hamilton and Star Trek 2 went to CMU,” he said. “If we can get Pittsburgh students excited, the next step would be creating a pipeline so they follow through with the application process.”
Local community engagement is another way to help recruit Pittsburgh students. Blanton hopes to have more Pittsburghers — students and parents — on campus after the pandemic.
“There are such amazing things here, from robotics to drama. You have Oscar winners on one side of campus and Nobel laureates on the other, and everything in between. It would be very powerful if we get this community to know more about this place,” he said.
Blanton also wants to increase awareness and expand the reach of CMU’s high school and summer programs post-pandemic.
“I’m a data guy,” he said, “so I’d like to see once they have awareness, are they utilizing the programs, and if not, why not. Are there barriers to these opportunities? If they engage, is it successful for them? Our ultimate goal is they end up at CMU as their next step in education.”
Blanton is encouraged about the current climate at CMU. He said it’s important for the community to become more aware of the efforts taking place and the opportunities to participate.
“A lot has happened, and a lot is happening. I’m very optimistic,” he said.
Shawn Blanton’s work in DEI is informing his research.
Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, Nationally Recognized Leader in Diversity and Global Health, Joins Network from Case Western University.
Allegheny Health Network (AHN) today announced the appointment of Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, MEd, MPPM, FACOG, as the health system's first Chief Clinical Diversity & Inclusion Officer (CCDIO). Effective December 1, Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew joins AHN from University Hospitals/Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, where she currently serves as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chair of Clinical Diversity and Inclusion and Assistant Dean of Students.
In her new capacity, Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew will work with leaders across AHN to shape an inclusive workplace culture at the health system, further advancing its commitment to workforce diversity, cultural competency, and equitable health care delivery and outcomes for all patients and communities served. Her experiences as a nurse, a distinguished professor, a Naval officer, a global health strategist and an obstetrician-gynecologist specializing in global health issues bring a unique perspective to the important role she will play at AHN and in the greater Western Pennsylvania region.
"At AHN, we are committed to cultivating an inclusive, diverse workforce at every level of our organization, and we could not have found a better champion for that cause than Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew," said Cynthia Hundorfean, AHN Chief Executive Officer. "As one of the nation's most respected voices and authorities on the value of cultural diversity in healthcare, she shares our belief that one of the best ways to eliminate disparities in medicine is to promote diversity within the ranks of those who lead and staff our clinical and academic programs."
During her time at University Hospitals, Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew worked to improve the health of underserved women across Northeast Ohio, especially those living with HIV, LGBQTIA+ populations and those experiencing food insecurity. She founded and served as CEO of University Hospitals' WONDOOR (Women and Neonates, Diversity, Outreach, Opportunity, Research) global health program; and in 2014, she was named the University's Chair of Clinical Excellence and Diversity, an endowed position established to promote diversity of academic faculty.
"From her early days working at refugee camps in Ghana and Swaziland, to her experiences as a critical care nurse and her ongoing advocacy for marginalized groups of women, Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew has been on the front lines, witnessing and treating immense health disparities," said Lonie Haynes, Ph.D., Highmark Health Chief Diversity Officer. "She has made it her life's mission to improve health outcomes of her patients, particularly those who are at-risk. We are confident her work, along with our collaborative efforts across Highmark Health, will have a profound and lasting impact on our organization and those we serve."
Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew earned a bachelor's degree in nursing at the University of Pittsburgh, a master's degree in education from California State University and her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She served in the U.S. Navy for 16 years, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander and completing an OBGYN internship at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. She returned to Pittsburgh for a residency at Magee Women's Hospital, and practiced at UPMC for the next 15 years, while also serving as Magee's Director of Global Health Programs. Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew joined University Hospitals in 2010 after receiving a master's degree in public policy from the University of Pittsburgh.
She holds numerous national and international professional appointments, including the American Association of Medical Colleges Group on Diversity and Inclusion; the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics Global Health Task Force; Fellow, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Board of Trustees, Centering HealthCare Institute; Leader, First Year Cleveland; President, Cleveland American Hospital Association Board of Trustees; Co-lead, Committee on Economic Inclusion of Greater Cleveland Partnerships; Vice Chair Elect and Board of Directors, Three Rivers Youth Foundation; and Board of Trustees and Co-Chair of the Women's Leadership Advisory Board, Robert Morris University, among many others.
Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, joins AHN as chief clinical diversity and inclusion officer.
While jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have grown nearly 80 percent since 1990, representation of racial minorities, those with disabilities or from lower income backgrounds and women in these career fields remains low.
It’s something a group of graduate students in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine noticed, along with the current social climate.
To be eligible for the program, students must have a strong interest in microbiology or immunology. Ideal candidates will be interested in pursuing medical or graduate studies in a biomedical field.
Students must also:
Be a member of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group as defined by the National Institutes of Health.
Be 18 years of age or older and currently enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh.
Have completed at least one semester of undergraduate coursework.
Have a working knowledge of computers, standard office software packages (Word, WordPerfect, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, etc.)
“Looking into the fact that Pitt also doesn’t have a lot of retention with minority students, we knew that we needed to do something,” said Ayana Ruffin, a graduate student researcher in Immunology.
Ruffin and several other graduate students in Pitt’s Program in Microbiology and Immunology (PMI) came together to create a new program that aims to promote diversity in health and science. The Microbiology and Immunology Diversity Scholars Program, sponsored by the PMI graduate program, will engage underrepresented minority undergraduate students to consider careers in science, medicine and public health, as well as provide exposure to microbiology and immunology research, and improve diversity in STEM by preparing these students for careers in the biomedical sciences.
“We’re prepping these scholars’ careers in biomedical sciences by focusing on research, mentorship and career development,” said Sidney Lane, a graduate researcher in microbiology and molecular genetics. “We also hope to improve diversity in university faculty by having more undergraduate and graduate researchers become interested in academia.”
The students behind the program’s inception were part of undergraduate or semi-graduate research programs at their respective previous schools. Lane graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami, while Ruffin graduated with her master’s degree from Towson University.
“We realized that without these programs, we wouldn’t be here at Pitt, and Pitt didn’t have a program that other schools we went to for our undergraduate degrees had,” said Ruffin. “We talked to faculty and department chairs about our program idea (at Pitt) and they backed us on this.”
The students also recently held a virtual town hall in early September to introduce and talk about the program.
The program will provide $1,500 in funding per semester (fall and spring) to cover 10 weeks of research working 10 hours or more per week; $3,500 for the summer term to cover 10 weeks of research working 40 hours or more per week (on-campus housing provided); and $500 to participate in national research events.
The program is currently taking applications for the fall 2020 semester until Sept. 21. Applicants will be notified of their selection on Oct. 5 and research begins Oct. 12.
Program leaders said this model can be used by other departments and schools at Pitt to better engage with underrepresented minority students.
“I’m really impressed with these students’ motivation and their wanting to make a difference,” said Jennifer Bomberger, associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Pitt and PMI graduate program director. “We want to maintain the momentum this program has going forward.”
Students who have questions on applying can contact program director Partha Biswas at email@example.com.
Ayana Ruffin, graduate student in Pitt and CMU's Program in Microbiology and Immunology.
Clyde Wilson Pickett, a leading expert in higher education diversity and inclusion strategy, has been named the University of Pittsburgh’s vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. Charged with ensuring a welcome, inclusive and equitable environment for students, faculty and staff across all campuses, Pickett is set to start in July 2020.
Pickett is no stranger to Pittsburgh. An alumnus of the Doctor of Education (EdD) program in Pitt’s School of Education, he served as chief diversity officer for the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), and most recently, as chief diversity officer for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. While at Minnesota State, Pickett was responsible for leading and developing system-wide diversity, equity and inclusion strategy and policy guidance for Minnesota State’s 54 campuses.
In his new role, Pickett will collaborate with University leadership to ensure that Pitt’s mission, vision and strategic priorities are aligned with creating a more inclusive, diverse culture of belonging. He will also lead proactive initiatives, services, connections and education across Pitt’s campuses pertaining to diversity and inclusion. In the last academic year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion underwent a strategic restructure to position itself toward more focused, proactive work with an emphasis on prevention and education.
“There is no one better to serve in the position of vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion than Clyde Pickett,” said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees. “I am delighted to welcome Clyde to the University of Pittsburgh, where his experience and leadership will help us live up to our commitment of making Pitt a more equitable place.”
“I am very excited about joining the University of Pittsburgh and working collaboratively on strategies to further advance equity, access, inclusion and belonging at the University,” said Pickett. “I am appreciative for the opportunity and am committed to working hard to establish strong relationships built on trust, integrity, authenticity, visibility and transparency.”
Pickett has assumed various leadership roles over the course of his career including advancing best practices for diversity; recruitment; and the retention of students, staff and faculty of color. He is an expert in organizational leadership development and data-informed decision-making related to diversity and inclusion. An administrator and scholar with considerable experience translating theory into practice, he has expertise in strategic planning and Title IX.
Pickett’s professional accomplishments include:
At Pitt, Pickett will succeed Pamela Connelly, who served as the University’s first vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion and stepped down in January 2020. Katie Pope, associate vice chancellor of civil rights and Title IX, served as interim vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion while a national search for Connelly’s successor was conducted.
Pitt Names New Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion
As calls for racial justice echo across the country, the University of Pittsburgh has developed a new course to allow students to gain an understanding of the county’s long struggle with anti-Black racism.
The course, “Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance,” will be offered as a required, asynchronous, one-credit offering for first-year students on the Pittsburgh campus starting this fall. Students at the regional campuses, as well as any other interested students, may also register.
“The course is designed to inform us all about Black history and culture, about the multiple forms of anti-Black racism, and about how we can be anti-racist,” said Ann E. Cudd, provost and senior vice chancellor. “It is a deposit on our commitment to transform our institution and our society, beginning with education and focusing on our future through the special class of 2024.”
Leveraging the world-renowned expertise of Pitt faculty and activists in the Pittsburgh area, the course will introduce students to the long tradition of scholarly activism, specifically on the Black experience and Black cultural expression. It will also analyze the development, spread and forms of anti-Black racism in the United States and around the world.
“A talented committee of faculty experts came together from across the University to create this innovative course in response to the persistent challenges around anti-Black racism that drive social divisions and limit opportunities and equity for people of African descent,” said Covington-Ward. “We wanted to make sure that the course provided some historical context, while also looking at ideologies of race and contemporary struggles against anti-Black racism locally in Pittsburgh, nationally and globally as well. We also wanted to focus on the humanity of Black people in creating a course that emanates from their own perspectives, experiences and agency.”
Topics will be presented by different scholars each week, including faculty from the Departments of Sociology, History, Africana Studies and criminal justice in the Dietrich School, as well as the Department of Epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health and the School of Computing and Information.
The course will be centered around three key areas: the roots, ideology and resistance to anti-Black racism. The semester will begin with an exploration of the beginnings of anti-Black racism tying it to African history, the history of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Then, students will discuss the ideology of anti-Black racism and how it connects with the idea of racial hierarchies. The semester will also highlight the theme of resistance and look at strategies that Black activists and their allies have utilized to create a more just and equitable society.
To explore these themes, class discussions will delve into topics such as pre-colonial African history; race, policing and mass incarceration; health disparities; racial capitalism; formal schooling and anti-Blackness; and how to be anti-racist.
Most weeks will have at least one piece of required reading, which will be available through Canvas, along with a list of suggested texts and videos. Students will also learn about future Pitt courses they can take to further their study.
“We hope that this course is a first step in helping students to recognize and challenge anti-Black policies and practices when they encounter them, and to develop strategies to be anti-racist in their everyday lives,” said Covington-Ward.
Aside from the required readings, students will be asked to complete two brief questions after each lecture to check for comprehension. During week seven, in lieu of class, students will be asked to attend at least one synchronous activity during the Black Study Intensive from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, a week in which the Center of African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) will hold virtual performances and creative sessions open to any discipline and the general public.
The course will be graded on a “Satisfactory/Non-Credit” basis.
Source: University of Pittsburgh
Yolanda Covington-Ward, chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Pitt.