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Hickton in a dark blue blazer and light blue tie

Pitt Cyber Launches Task Force to Prevent Bias in County’s Decision-making Tools

The University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security announced the creation of the Pittsburgh Task Force on Public Algorithms on Jan. 22, 2020. The task force, convened with support from The Heinz Endowments, is a coalition of researchers, educators, community service providers and public and private sector stakeholders that seeks to establish best practices and practical guidelines for the use of municipal decision-making algorithms. The task force is supported by an advisory panel featuring representatives from Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh.

The group will use a combination of community outreach meetings and public comments posted on its website to assess county residents’ major concerns with municipal decision-making algorithms. In summer 2021, it will publish a full report of its research and recommendations for best practices for the technology.

“Increasingly, algorithms are being used to facilitate efficient government. We need to ensure that historical discrimination and existing inequities are not reinforced,” said Pitt Cyber Founding Director and Task Force Chair David Hickton (pictured). “Pittsburgh should lead the way in effective and fair oversight of these systems. We can be a national model, ensuring algorithmic accountability and equity for all residents.”

Kori Krueger

New Paper Offers Insight to Why Couples Post Pictures Online

An article published online earlier this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is one of the first studies to examine the reasons people post pictures of themselves with significant others on online profiles. It’s a well-known and widely-practiced behavior—but the motivations behind the behavior, and its consequences, have received limited research attention until now. 

“There are lay theories that people don’t really think about what they post online, that they just post whatever pops into their head at any given time and that they’re not really thoughtful about the long-term effects of those things,” said Kori Krueger (pictured), a graduate student in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts Sciences’ Department of Psychology and the paper’s first author. “Our findings suggest that there may be a more strategic reason that some people post couple photos, display their relationship status and mention their romantic partner in social media posts” said Amanda Forest, a faculty member in psychology, Krueger’s advisor and co-author on the paper. Forest’s work looks at interpersonal communication and close relationships. 

“It really seems to be a way to protect your relationship from outside interference,” Krueger said.

The Cathedral of Learning

Pitt Law Signs Accelerated Admissions Agreement with Bloomsburg University

Pitt’s School of Law is once again offering qualified students from Bloomsburg University (BU) an Accelerated Law Admissions Program (ALAP) that will save them a full year of tuition and costs.

Pitt and BU signed an agreement Jan. 22 that will allow BU students who have earned at least 90 credits and have completed all major and general education requirements by the end of their junior year, to apply for law school admission, as if it was their final year of undergraduate study. Pitt Law will assess those students as if they were ordinary applicants, but it will waive the usual requirement to have completed a bachelor’s degree before admission. The student’s first year of law school will double as their senior year of college.

This allows those students to achieve a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years instead of seven. 

Said Pitt Law Dean Amy Wildermuth: “We have had several excellent Bloomsburg graduates as students at Pitt Law and this program will strengthen the terrific pipeline between our two schools. Most importantly, both Bloomsburg and Pitt are eager to find ways to help students reduce their overall debt. By decreasing the number of years a student spends in school, this program will have a significant and meaningful impact.”

Pitt Law already offers its ALAP to students at the University’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences and its College of Business Administration. The program is also available for students from Washington and Jefferson College and Carlow University.

Max Schuster

Max Schuster Selected for Emerging Faculty Leader Academy

Max Schuster, assistant professor of practice in the School of Education, was selected for the 2019-2020 NAPSA Emerging Faculty Leader Academy, an honor given to only seven faculty members across the country each year.

The highly selective academy is a one-year program designed for early career faculty in student affairs and higher education graduate programs. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, which supports student affairs administrators in higher education, has 15,000 members from 1,200 institutions around the world.

Schuster (EDUC ’17G) manages the Master of Education in Higher Education program in the School of Education. Read more about Schuster and the Leader Academy.

statue thumbnail

Teaching Center Honors Four with Advancing Educational Excellence Award

The University Center for Teaching and Learning recognized Charline Rowland, teaching consultant; Mark Vehec, web developer; Robin Albright, senior instructional designer; and Tahirah Walker, manager, of teaching support, for earning its 2019 Advancing Educational Excellence award.

The annual honor is a peer-driven award that recognizes teaching center staff members who exemplify the values of the center, demonstrate a positive attitude and commitment to responsibilities, and make above-and-beyond contributions to the University.

Richard Hylton

Richard Hylton Writes Essay Considering African American Art in the Global Arena

Richard Hylton, a postdoctoral fellow, has contributed an essay to The Routledge Companion to African American Art History. In the essay, titled “Status and Presence: African American Art in the International Arena,” Hylton points out that, according to historical accounts, works by African American artists were largely ignored under the wider umbrella of “American art.”

Hylton, who will be based in the Department of History of Art & Architecture (HAA) until summer 2021, says the racially-skewed conceptions of American art continued throughout the postwar period. It was not until the height of the Civil Rights Movement did the exhibition “Ten Negro Artists from the United States” take place in Dakar, Senegal in 1966—the first to present Black art as a distinct grouping. Later, more thematic exhibitions embracing the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement and Black Power were able to showcase the work of African American artists.

Said Hylton: “It is not too difficult to recount the names of any number of white American artists who have enjoyed long established reputations in the international arena. However, their Black American peers, artists such as Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett and Romare Bearden, still remain largely unfamiliar to international art audiences. My essay considers the legacies, institutional practices and attitudes which have shaped and continue to shape conceptions of ‘American’ and ‘African American’ art across the international arena.”

The Routledge Companion book is a teaching aid to anyone studying modern art history, with chapters on subjects ranging from Black folk art and Black public art to the legacy of presenting Black womanhood.

Hylton is a Dietrich School Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow, and the HAA is one of five Pitt departments hosting a diversity postdoc, beginning with the fall 2019 semester. Hylton is teaching a grad course this semester on the very topic of his essay and will also curate an exhibition in the University Art Gallery in 2021. He is a native of London, England and earned his PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Jamie Hanson

Jamie Hanson Wins American Psychological Foundation Award

Jamie Hanson, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), is the recipient of the 2019 American Psychological Foundation Robert L. Fantz Memorial Award.

The Fantz Award recognizes young researchers in psychology who have accomplished basic scientific research or scholarly writing in perceptual-cognitive development and the development of selective attention, and have investigated and written about the development of individuality, creativity and free-choice of behavior.

Hanson’s research focuses on how children and adolescents learn about their environments, how early life stressors impact their developing brains, and how brain changes can result in negative outcomes. His program consists of working with families, collecting data, connecting with communities and sharing information about brain and behavioral development.

Events and Programs Honor Martin Luther King Jr. During Social Justice Week

A number of signature happenings at Pitt are scheduled for the coming week to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Check out the events calendar for details and see below for highlights. 

Kicking it off is the MLK Day of Service on the national holiday, Jan. 20. The Office of PittServes has hit their registration limit with 900 students, faculty, staff and neighbors who are going out into greater Pittsburgh area communities to help make this “a day on, not a day off.” 

Other Social Justice Week events include a symposium of talks on intersectionality and marginalization; an interfaith service; a luncheon honoring senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees Kathy Humphrey; and a career conference

Find details at Student Affairs’ website.

At the regional campuses, the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville will join the Titusville YWCA, the United Way of the Titusville Region and St. James Episcopal Church to celebrate the life and impact of Martin Luther King Jr. Held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, in the church’s parish hall, the event is free and open to the public, and will include a dinner of soup and salad.

Students at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg are invited to participate in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Caring on Jan. 20. 

Marc Coutanche

Marc Coutanche Named Rising Star by Association for Psychological Science

Marc Coutanche, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), has been named an Association for Psychological Science Rising Star.

The Rising Star Award is granted to post-PhD psychological research scientists early in their careers for their innovative work influencing their field of study with encouragement for future contributions. 

Coutanche heads the Learning in Neural Systems LeNs Lab at the LRDC. His research focuses on the cross between neuroscience and psychology, specifically learning, memory consolidation, sleep, perception and computer science. He uses cognitive experiments, brain imaging and sleep studies to examine human cognition and the brain.

View of Pittsburgh skyline from campus

Pittsburgh Among Cities with Greatest Longevity

Besides being the third most livable city in the U.S., Parade listed Pittsburgh as one where residents have a higher chance of reaching their 100th birthday.

Parade cited health care as Pittsburgh’s new economic driver, but also mentioned “culture and top-notch education at all ages.”

According to the University of California, Irvine, talking to neighbors ranked high among habits of those over age 90. Parade highlighted that “community engagement is rich in this city’s distinct and tight-knit neighborhoods,” with Squirrel Hill residents having an average life expectancy of 86 years old.

Allison Shertzer

Allison Shertzer Awarded Grant to Study Housing Market Past for Better Future

Allison Shertzer, associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Economics, recently received a three-year, $607,000 National Science Foundation grant to examine the evolution of real estate values and the standard of living in the U.S. over the period of 1880 to 1990.

Shertzer and her team will combine state-of-the-art methods in housing price index construction with newly digitized newspaper archives, with the goal of making important improvements over existing housing price series.

“We can't really understand what is happening in today's housing economy or make predictions for the future, unless we understand how the price of housing moved during booms and busts of the past,” she said. 

Nishauna Ball and Tom Klemmer

Alumni Added to Board of Sojourner House

Two University of Pittsburgh alumni are now members of the Board of Sojourner House, an East Liberty agency that offers residential and other services to women in recovery and their children.

One is Nishauna Ball (SOC WK ’10, 11G), from Penn Hills, who currently is a program development manager at POWER, the Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery. 

The other is Tom Klemmer (A&S ’87), a Wilkinsburg resident, who is a senior analyst in Global Customer Care for ABB Enterprise Software.  

Ball and Klemmer are two of five new board members for Sojourner House, which partners with other agencies and community groups to fulfill its mission of strengthening family relationships and promoting long-term sobriety and mental health stability.

School of Education Receives $1 Million Grant from Gates Foundation

The School of Education and Remake Learning have received a $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an innovative network of educators of color and learning scientists who will work together to transform how research and development are conducted in education.

Called the Shifting Power initiative, the project aims to change how educational research is performed by bringing in the voices of more educators and students of color. The project will create new advisory group of 20 people from K-12 school districts, colleges and universities, museums and education technology companies. This network is intended to become a national model for implementation.

“Shifting Power is an important undertaking that will center and uplift the voices, identities, power, and brilliance of Black and Latinx educators,” said Valerie Kinloch (pictured), the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education, Co-chair of the Remake Learning Council, and co-principal investigator on this grant.

Kinloch added, “Our network will ensure that they play a leading role in the educational innovations that improve the spaces where our young people learn. We are proud to partner with Remake Learning and the Gates Foundation on this ambitious endeavor, which supports our school’s mission to ignite learning and to strive for well-being for all.”

Read more about the Shifting Power initiative on the School of Education’s website.

Matthew Sterne

Matthew Sterne Appointed Vice Chancellor for Business Services

Matthew Sterne will be joining the University of Pittsburgh as vice chancellor for business services, announced Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations Greg Scott. Sterne comes to Pitt from the Fairmont Pittsburgh, where he is general manager. He will begin Feb. 10.

In this role, new within Business and Operations, Sterne will provide oversight and direction for the University’s auxiliary services, including housing, dining, transportation and mobility; the University Club; University retail stores; the Petersen Events Center; conference services; and mailing and print production services. In this position, he will ensure that each business unit supports the mission, vision and strategic priorities of the University.

“I am delighted to announce the appointment of Matthew,” said Scott. “As Pitt continues to innovate and transform, we have added this new senior leadership role to meet our current and future operational needs, expanding our bench strength to support the exciting, significant growth ahead.”

Scott said that this new senior leadership role was created to meet the current and future operational needs at the University, and that it “expands our bench strength to support the exciting, significant growth ahead.”

Read more about Sterne and his role at Pitt.

Tessa McCarthy

Education’s Tessa McCarthy Receives National Research Award

Tessa McCarthy, assistant professor in the School of Education, received the 2019 Alan J. Koenig Research in Literacy Award.

The award, which is one of the highest honors that can be given to educators of people with visual impairments, is granted to one person every two years. 

McCarthy, who teaches courses in the Vision Studies program in the School of Education’s Department of Instruction and Learning, focuses the majority of her research on the mechanical and pedagogical aspects of teaching Braille reading. 

The School of Education is one of a few dozen higher education institutions in the United States that offer degree and certification programs for educators in vision studies.

Read more about McCarthy and the Vision Studies program.

Shelome Gooden

Shelome Gooden Named First Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research for the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Related Fields

Shelome Gooden was recently named as the University of Pittsburgh’s first-ever assistant vice chancellor for research for the humanities, arts, social sciences, and related fields. She will begin her position on Jan. 1, 2020.

Gooden will provide intellectual leadership across the humanities, arts, social sciences and related areas. She has served as associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Linguistics, researching language contact and sound structure in Creole languages. For the past 14 years, she has served on the executive committee for the Society for Pidgin & Creole Languages and currently serves on the advisory board for an international research group, Creative Multilingualism.

Pitt created this position because the University offers an incredible diversity of modes of research and creative endeavors, and corresponding ranges of research and creative products. 

“Our office (“Pitt Research”) needs to promote and engage with faculty working in all these knowledge domains, and creating this position helps us to do so,” said Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research at Pitt. “I know Shelome’s vision will help to advance the research conducted here at Pitt, and will enhance interdisciplinary opportunities.”

The Cathedral of Learning

Pittsburgh Named One of the Best Places to Find a Job

Pittsburgh is one of the best places to find a job the U.S., according to WalletHub’s “2020’s Best Cities for Jobs” rankings.

Pittsburgh ranked 13th overall, seventh in socioeconomics and 36th for market quality. To determine the ranking, the personal finance website compared “more than 180 U.S. cities across 31 key indicators of job-market strength,” such as “job opportunities to employment growth to monthly average starting salary.”

Scottsdale, Arizona, landed at number one on the list, with Detroit, Michigan, rounding out the list at number 182. 

Pittsburgh at dusk

Pittsburgh Named One of the World’s Smartest Cities

Pittsburgh has been named one of the world’s smartest cities, as part of Newsweek’s 2019 Momentum Awards.

According to Newsweek, each city that made the list is “doing something bold and unique that is leading us into the land unknown.” 

Newsweek noted that Pittsburgh has “undergone a dramatic environmental and technological transformation over recent years,” mentioning the city’s efforts in sustainability as well as several successful smart city projects. 

Lina Dostilio

Lina Dostilio Leads Study on Hyperlocal Community Engagement

Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement, published a new study in conjunction with her work as the inaugural fellow with the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), with support by the Kresge Foundation.

For the study, Dostilio focused on hyperlocal engagement, or “instances in which post-secondary institutions have strategically organized community engagement efforts to focus on a bounded area within a larger city or metropolitan region in ways that enhance the institution’s ability to form partnerships and advance community development.”

The benchmarking report examined the hyperlocal practices of 22 CUMU institutions with a total of 26 engagements across 33 sites—including Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in Homewood

The report also “catalogs the diversity of hyperlocal engagement strategies and investigates which areas of community capacity were of interest to hyperlocal engagements.” Read the full report.

“To me, the benefits of a hyperlocal engagement are the ability to have a sustained institutional platform for partnership, to be able to grow alongside community anchors, and to think together about how we dream and build the future," said Dostilio. "A university’s future is intertwined with the futures of its surrounding communities.” 

Dostilio’s research team included the following Pitt community members:

Panther statue

Pitt Collaboratory Releases Paper on Water Issues

The Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach has released a white paper outlining key challenges to water quality research, monitoring and improvement in the region. The collaboratory, founded by faculty out of the Department of Geology and Environmental Science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, recommended coordinated regional efforts to test waterways for a broader range of pollutants and increased public awareness surrounding water quality issues. The paper, “Water Quality in Southwestern Pennsylvania: Knowledge Gaps and Approaches,” is the second of three examining knowledge gaps surrounding water issues within the region.