To suggest an accolade, please fill out a submission form.
Running on a treadmill

Pitt Honored in Healthiest Employers of Pittsburgh Awards

The University of Pittsburgh has been named an honoree for the Healthiest Employers Awards.

Since 2009, the Healthiest Employers Awards aim to recognize leaders in corporate wellness across the U.S. The Healthiest Employers company researches over 8,000 employers nationally to assemble trends, challenges and practices to enhance corporate wellness programs. Employers are assessed on their health and wellness programs using six fundamental areas of health programming:

  • Culture and leadership commitment
  • Foundational components
  • Strategic planning
  • Communication and marketing
  • Programming and interventions
  • Reporting and analytics

Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Benefits John Kozar is helping develop Pitt’s health and wellness program for faculty, staff and students. “This honor helps create an awareness of the University’s wellness efforts. It also further supports our designation as a Live Well Allegheny Workplace by the Allegheny County Health Department,” said Kozar.

Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Dave DeJong agrees. “Pitt is dedicated to bringing the best health and wellness services and resources to its faculty, staff and students. As a healthy employer, we are paving the way for other higher education organizations to follow our lead and support their employees in health,” said DeJong.

The University of Pittsburgh was recognized for its dedication and commitment to employee health and wellness as a large employer in the Western Pennsylvania region. One such example is the Wellness for Life program for faculty and staff, which focuses on proactive health management, positive lifestyle choices and physical activity. Pitt employees can visit the on-campus UPMC MyHealth@Work Health and Wellness Center to treat a variety of health issues, partner with a health coach to make healthy lifestyle changes and get in shape and explore Life Solutions services to help balance work and the stresses of daily life.

The University of Pittsburgh

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) turns 50 this year. 

The school began as one of the smallest schools on Pitt’s campus in 1969 and has grown to be one of the most prominent today.

“We are fortunate that the leadership in SHRS sees the challenges as opportunities to demonstrate our collective innovativeness in educational delivery. This is especially evident as we boldly move into the arena of distance education,” said Anthony Delitto, who has served as the school’s dean since 2015. 

Read more about the school over its half-century existence in the latest edition of FACETS, SHRS’ magazine.

Lisa Bodnar

Lisa Bodnar Named Committee Member for Infant Feeding Study

Lisa Bodnar, professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology, has been named a full member on the National Academy of Medicine's “Committee on Scoping Existing Guidelines for Feeding Recommendations for Infants and Young Children Under Age 2.”

The committee will review existing documents and resources about what to feed and how to feed infants and children from birth up to two years of age, and assess descriptions of best practices for implementation strategies to support communication and dissemination of feeding guidance. They'll then inform stakeholders about the feasibility of consolidating feeding guidelines and/or harmonizing guidance for feeding infants and children up to two years of age, and will make recommendations about communication strategies.

Bodnar’s research focuses on discovering the healthiest weight and dietary patterns for pregnant women and their children. 

Paul Leu

Paul Leu Receives Award to Lead Effort for Better Smartwatch and TV Screens

Paul Leu, associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, will lead a collaborative study that aims to replace indium tin oxide with metal “microgrid” conductors to improve performance of organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs.

Leu will work with Electroninks, a technology company in Austin, Texas, thanks to a $1 million award from the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

OLEDs are present in smartwatches and 4K television screens. Indium tin oxide is expensive, doesn’t perform well enough for larger areas and can crack with repeated touching or swiping. By using a new metal patterning technique that prints the metal grid directly on glass or plastic, the team aims to create “microgrid” conductors that can outperform indium tin oxide at a lower manufacturing cost.

Andrea Hergenroeder

Andrea Hegenroeder Receives Distinguished Teaching Award

Andrea Hergenroeder, associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Physical Therapy, is this year's recipient of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award. 

Hergenroeder was selected for creating life-long learning habits in the classroom, using creative and cutting-edge teaching methods and technologies, and developing experiential learning activities that support students through all stages of learning.

Her research interests include physical activity and its role in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, health promotion in physical therapy practice and measurement of vital signs and clinical responses to exercise among others.

Lia Winter

Alum Lia Winter Finalist in Innovation Competition

Lia Winter (ENGR ’17) was recently a finalist in the 2019 Collegiate Inventors Competition

Winter’s entry is a trademarked patent of hers, the EasyWhip, a double-loop stitching apparatus that leverages removable, connected needle portions, resulting in a new whip stitching method that improves graft accuracy, reduces the need for costly revision surgeries and provides better overall outcomes for patients.

While studying bioengineering at Pitt for her undergrad work, she also volunteered in cancer research at the former Pitt Summer Academy, investigating the use of native immune cells to induce cell-mediated autophagy as a cancer therapy.

Steven Abramowitch

Steven Abramowitch’s Work in Diversity Initiatives Receives Honor

Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering, recently received the Biomedical Engineering Society 2019 Diversity Lecture Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to improving gender and racial diversity in biomedical engineering. 

Abramowitch has made an impact through his career in women’s health and the Swanson School of Engineering’s diversity initiatives.

Since starting PITT STRIVE, the engineering school’s program focusing on engagement with and awareness of under-represented minorities, the Swanson School has surpassed historic levels of minority enrollment in the PhD program. Through the study abroad programs, Abramowitch has helped undergraduate students see the impact of engineering through the lens of another culture, and with CampBioE, he has educated more than 1,000 middle and high school students, with more than 40% participation from under-represented minorities and low-income students since the diversity campaign began in 2014.

Timothy Grebeck

Autism Awareness Advocate Timothy Grebeck Wins Thornburgh Forum Award

Graduate student Timothy Grebeck began educating those around him about what it was like to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was in the seventh grade at a regional school. Diagnosed with ASD at age nine but tired of being bullied, he says he chose as a young teen to devote his life to make sure others like him didn’t suffer the same way. Grebeck (EDUC ’19) is currently a graduate student at Pitt studying childhood and special education in the School of Education and the founder of the advocacy group Talking 4 Autism. Recently he was presented with the 2019 Dick Thornburgh Forum Disability Service Award, at a ceremony in the William Pitt Union Lower Lounge. It’s an annual honor from the Dick Thornburgh Forum on Law & Public Policy.

“Changing the world for the better starts with changing the viewpoint of just one person,” said Ginny Thornburgh, as she handed Grebeck a check for $5,000 for his future work.

Through Talking 4 Autism, Grebeck provides intimate personal presentations about the world of autism to college students and faculty as well as corporate employees. “I expect and encourage people to ask things that are uncomfortable to talk about because that is how we all learn,” he said.

The award ceremony's keynote speaker was Ted Kennedy, Jr., chair of the board of the American Association of People with DisabilitiesListen to Kennedy’s keynote speech.

Erika Ninos

PittServes’ Erika Ninos Wins National Student Support Award

Student Affairs staff member Erika Ninos, sustainability program coordinator in the Office of PittServes, has received the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) Supportive Staff Member Award.

This national award recognizes a staff member who has gone above and beyond in supporting students. She was chosen for this student-nominated national award from among five nominees. 

Ninos was nominated by Student Office of Sustainability program associates Ellie Cadden and Zach Delaney, who praised her mentorship, patience and dedication. 

“One message that I have taken from her is to always recognize how powerful students are to implement tangible and positive change on campus,” wrote Cadden in her nomination. 

Wrote Delaney: “I've learned how to be an ambassador for social justice, environmental activism and everything else due to her. She has been supportive of me emotionally through difficult class schedules, working two jobs, taking summer classes, has been professionally supportive of me in my efforts on campus to serve the community here and the ones around me, and has dedicated her time on this campus to its general betterment.”

The award was presented Oct. 12 at the Students for Zero Waste Conference in Philadelphia, hosted by PLAN.

Pitt Police officers

University of Pittsburgh Police Department Named Corporate Citizenship Award Winner

The Pittsburgh Business Times announced on Oct. 9 that the University of Pittsburgh’s Police Department won a 2019 Corporate Citizenship Award for their “Most Wanted” food drive program.

The program, spearheaded by Sgt. Mark Villasenor, collects unwanted food from students’ dormitories when they leave campus at the end of the semester and uses it to stock The Pitt Pantry, a volunteer-run food pantry that serves Pitt community members who meet the federal guidelines for food assistance. They partnered up with pantry coordinator and Sustainability Program Assistant Ciara Stehley to stock shelves, cut out coupons and pass out groceries on a weekly basis. Community Relations Officers Heather Camp, Mallory Jarzynka and Guy Johnson helped with this effort. 

Devised in 2014, the food drive now gathers more than 1,500 pounds of nonperishable goods like pasta, cereal and canned goods annually. During the drive’s first year, Pitt’s police department collected enough food to fill 11 dorm move-in carts—this year, they filled 45.

The food is also given to CHS South Oakland to help fight food insecurity on campus and in the Oakland Community. The Community Relations Unit has also contributed its efforts to Special Olympics of Western PA, Adopt-A-Highway, United Way of Allegheny County, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Cops and Kids Camp and Camp Cadet.

Greg Scott, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for business and operations, said, “We are committed to strengthening communities … and thanks to the Pitt Police’s work, it truly shows.”

The Corporate Citizenship Award honors Western Pennsylvania individuals and companies that demonstrate significant contributions to society. The winners of the award are chosen by an online nomination process. Read more about the Pitt Police’s award-winning program in the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Lawrence R. John

Lawrence R. John Elected President of Pennsylvania Medical Society

Lawrence R. John, a clinical instructor for the department of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine was recently sworn in as the 170th president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

The society is a physician-led organization representing all physicians and medical students throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

John also was elected by the society’s statewide House of Delegates in 2017 to serve one-year terms as vice president (2017-18) and president-elect (2018-19) before assuming the role of president for the 2019-20 term. He is also a family medicine physician affiliated with UPMC St. Margaret.

Rachel Ann Brickner

Writing Program Alum Recognized by The Missouri Review for Audio Essay

Rachel Ann Brickner (A&S ’09, ’18G) was recognized by The Missouri Review for its 12th annual Miller Audio Prize for her audio essay, “How to Survive a Fire.”

The Miller Audio Prize recognizes work in four genres: poetry, prose, humor and audio documentaries. 

Brickner, who earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018, is also a part-time instructor in the Department of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.

Murat Akcakaya

Engineering Team Receives NSF Funding to Study Brain in Rehabilitation Research

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Northeastern University received a combined $1,181,757 from the National Science Foundation to develop a brain-computer interface (BCI) system that will be implemented in augmented reality, allowing for better detection, assessment and rehabilitation of unilateral spatial neglect. Unilateral spatial neglect is a deficit in attention that can occur in individuals who experienced a stroke.

The Pitt side of the team is led by Murat Akcakaya, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering.

The researchers plan to focus on visual neglect and address the shortcomings of current rehabilitation by reaching beyond the clinical setting and taking activities of daily living into account. They will develop a noninvasive, portable and cost-effective tool that can be used to help guide rehabilitation programs in real-time.

Lambert in a dark suit, blue shirt and swirly blue tie

Robert F. Lambert (SCI ’95G) Named to Bank Board of Directors

Robert F. Lambert (SCI ’95G) has been named the newest director of York Traditions Bank, effective September. Besides earning his master’s in library and information science from Pitt, he is also a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania and of Penn State University. 

Lambert has served as president of York County Libraries in Pennsylvania since 2016. His history of community leadership includes serving as Controller for the City of York from 2008–16.

“I am excited to join the Board of Directors of York Traditions Bank to help support its mission as a valued community partner,” said Lambert in a press release. “The Bank’s commitment to investing in the communities it serves is exemplary. They are a highly visible, consistent force for good! I look forward to serving its stakeholders and contributing to the organization’s future success.”

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis and Caroline Runyan headshots

Two Scientists Win High-risk High-reward Grants for Research Programs

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, assistant professor of computational and systems biology in the School of Medicine, and Caroline Runyan, assistant professor of neuroscience in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, have won NIH Director’s Awards for pursuing major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that require trans-NIH collaboration to succeed.

Carvunis’ research focuses on addressing questions about the uniqueness of different plant, fungi and animal species. These questions include how new genes can emerge without having parent genes, how networks of interacting molecules form and change within cells and how these networks differ across species.

Runyan’s work looks at the brain’s ability to flexibly control perception and behavior in different situations. Specifically, she images and manipulates cells and circuits to learn how the brain is able to shift gears quickly, as well as how it processes different types of sensory information depending on behavioral context.

Carvunis and Runyan both won New Innovator Awards. Part of the High-Risk High-Reward Research Program, these honorees are early stage investigators within 10 years of doctoral or postgraduate training who propose innovative, high-impact projects in the biomedical, behavioral or social sciences.

a statue on Pitt's campus

Pitt Law Boasts Highest First-time Passing Rate for Pennsylvania Bar Exam

The rate of first-time takers who passed the Pennsylvania bar exam from Pitt’s School of Law is 91.36%—the highest in the state. Eighty-one Pitt Law graduates sat for the test for the first time this past July, and 74 of them passed. Pitt Law was followed in the rankings by Dickinson, with a rate of 88.46%, Penn with 88.24% and Duquesne with 87.88%. The overall state average was 80.6%.

The rigorous two-day test, which includes six hours of written essay questions and 200 multiple choice questions, was given at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia on July 30 and 31. Pitt Law offers bar exam prep courses and provided therapy dogs on site for its local test-takers, as well as boxed lunches with notes of encouragement signed by Pitt Law staff and faculty.

“We congratulate the Class of 2019 on their incredible achievement, which reflects their collective hard work, perseverance and support of one another,” said Pitt Law Dean Amy J. Wildermuth. She also credited Rob Wible, Pitt Law’s director of academic success and bar exam services.

“He is our cheerleader-in-chief,” she said. “His day-in and day-out support of our students made all the difference.”

The Cathedral on a blue sky day with American flags planted in the foreground yard

Pitt Celebrates Veterans Week 2019 With Films, Photos and Food

Beginning Nov. 1, the Office of Veterans Services will host Veterans Week 2019 with a series of events aimed at building bridges, promoting understanding and encouraging dialogue. 

Community members are invited to events such as an annual drive for toys, coats and gloves (running through Dec. 6, email for information); a screening of the film “The Weight of Honor” and a Pitt Military Community Appreciation Brunch. The week will end with the 100th Annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown Pittsburgh. For more details and to RSVP for the events, please visit this form.

Additionally, the School of Social Work will hold a continuing education workshop titled “Working with Veterans and their Families,” on Nov. 15. The workshop aims to better prepare social workers to be a more effective helping professional in relating to and intervening with veterans and their families, and will cover topics including Veterans Administration scope and resources, suicide prevalence and intervention with veterans, working with post-traumatic stress and understanding and working with military sexual trauma.

two people walking on campus with the bright sun behind them, obscuring their faces and bodies

Pitt Ranked a Top 50 Best Global University

The University of Pittsburgh was again named among the world’s top 50 universities in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities rankings. Pitt landed at No. 47, tied with University of Minnesota.

In the latest ranking, the magazine evaluated a list of the world’s top 1,500 universities — which includes institutions from the U.S. and more than 80 other countries. The universities were rated based on 13 different indicators measuring their academic research performance and their global and regional reputations.

Several Pitt programs ranked in the top 50 by subject, including Surgery at No. 3, Clinical Medicine at No. 18 and Psychiatry/Psychology at No. 19.

Other programs in the top 50 are:

  • No. 23: Neuroscience and Behavior
  • No. 23: Oncology
  • No. 34: Pharmacology and Toxicology (tied with University of Pennsylvania)
  • No. 36: Arts and Humanities
  • No. 39: Immunology
  • No. 42: Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems
  • No. 49: Microbiology (tied with University of Toronto)

Pitt students come from 108 countries and all 50 states, in addition to the U.S. Territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Internationally, most students come from China, India and Korea. The Pitt Study Abroad program sends more than 1,800 students per year across its five campuses to over 350 programs in more than 75 countries on six continents. The university has also ranked among the top producers of Fulbright U.S. Students.

Panther statue

Six Rising African American Leaders Recognized at 2019 Sankofa Homecoming Farewell Brunch

As part of the annual Sankofa farewell fellowship brunch at Homecoming, Pitt’s African American Alumni Council is honoring six recent graduates with Rising African American Leader (RAAL) awards. Six outstanding leaders of Black Greek organizations will also be recognized. Since 2013, the RAAL awards have honored young professionals who excel in their careers and community contributions. The 2019 awardees are:

  • Brian Burley (BUS ’13G): Director of economic inclusion at Allegheny Conference and author of YNGBLKPGH, Burley is an entrepreneur, speaker and one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 and Under 40 in 2017. He was also recognized for his efforts with diversity and inclusion by Whirl magazine.
  • Rodney Kizito (ENGR ’15): A doctoral student in industrial engineering at the University of Tennessee and research and development engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy, Kizito is actively involved with under-represented middle and high school students and Pitt Excel students and mentoring programs.
  • Emiola Oriola (A&S ’13): Founding program manager of the Pitt Office of Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement and founder of My Father’s Business International, Oriola is an itinerant minister, spoken word artist/poet and PhD student. He is also a 2016 One Young World U.S. Ambassador and a recipient of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 Under 40 award.
  • Jade Richardson (A&S ’14): Founder and CEO of Totally Screwed Up, Inc., a company that supports people affected by scoliosis and spinal fusions, Richardson was Miss Black Pennsylvania USA 2018 and a devoted member of the Pitt Alumni Association Young Alumni advisory team.
  • Lauren Wallace (BUS ’12, EDUC ’14G): Director of recruitment in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Wallace was named an honoree to Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 under 40 list by the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project. Wallace holds multiple leadership positions with Urban League of Young Professionals. Wallace also established and implemented the Pittsburgh Admissions Collaboration, a partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools, Community College of Allegheny County and Pitt. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Education Program in the School of Education.
  • Christina Whittaker (BUS ’10): Founder, transition strategist and career planning coach with, Whittaker for 10 years worked as a marketing executive with Fortune 100 companies. She is a community advocate dedicated to transforming K-12 urban education.

photos of each of the winners

H2P spelled in sparklers in the dark

African American Alumni Council to Honor Five During Homecoming 2019

At the Sankofa 50th Commemoration Gala on Saturday, Oct. 26, part of Homecoming 2019, five distinguished alumni will be honored by Pitt’s African American Alumni Council (AAAC). The gala recognizes alumni who have excelled in their careers and carved a national footprint with outstanding contributions to society and the University community.

Visit AAAC’s website for more information about the group’s 2019 Homecoming activities.

Daniel Armanios, Rhodes Scholar and Marshall Scholar

A 2007 summa cum laude graduate of the Swanson School of Engineering, as well as the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Armanios received the Goldwater Scholarship in 2004 and the Truman Scholarship in 2005. In 2007 he was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, with which he earned two master’s degrees at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

After earning a PhD in 2015 at Stanford University, Armanios returned to Pittsburgh. He is an assistant professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University where his research focuses on the public policy impact upon China and Africa concerning the interrelationship between entrepreneurship, high-tech innovation, infrastructure and public organizations.

Yvonne Cook, president of the Pittsburgh Highmark Foundation

A 1991 graduate of the College of General Studies, Cook went on to earn a master’s degree in public management at Carnegie Mellon University.

Cook is president of the Highmark Foundation. In 2018, the foundation granted nearly $3 million to health and wellness related nonprofits in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Previously, she was an official on the staff of Allegheny County Executive Jim Rodney. 

In 2017 Cook created the exhibition “Instill and Inspire: The John and Vivian Hewitt Collection of African American Art.” The landmark show was presented at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in downtown Pittsburgh. An accompanying book of the same name was published by University of Pittsburgh Press.

Marvin Perry Jones, varsity athlete and retired Pan American airline pilot

A 1959 graduate of the Swanson School of Engineering, Jones earned a bachelor’s degree from the mechanical and aeronautical departments.

A letter winner in each of the years he competed for the Panthers in varsity track and field from 1955-1959, Jones was a member of the 1955 relay team that won the IC4A championship in New York City.

Upon graduation, Jones, through ROTC, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, achieving the rank of captain by the time of his honorable discharge six years later. He was the first Black pilot to fly for Pan American Airways in 1965. In 1986, he became the airline’s first African American captain. He was a founder and president of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. His generosity to Pitt has earned him membership in the Chancellor’s Circle for many years.

Charles Smith, former NBA player and Olympian

A record-setting Panther basketball player, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from the Dietrich School in 1988 and that same year won a Bronze Medal in the Summer Olympics. He played 10 seasons in the NBA before becoming an NBA Players Association executive.

Smith is the leading scorer in Panther varsity basketball history with 2024 points. He blocked 236 opponents’ shots, also a Pitt record. 

The first Pitt student to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, Smith was the third overall pick in 1988. Smith played on four NBA teams, four years each, including the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks.

Smith is currently head of sports and entertainment at MediaCom and is the executive in residence at St. Francis College. In 2018 he was inducted into the Pitt Athletic Department Hall of Fame. 

Carol Wise, chief operating officer of Dallas Area Rapid Transit

A 1979 graduate of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Wise earned a master’s of public administration from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in 1981. Wise is executive vice president and COO of Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Wise was among the first staffers appointed to the Pitt Black Studies program (now the Department of Africana Studies) in 1969. While assisting students in their quest of higher learning, she completed her own Pitt degree in urban studies as an adult learner. 

Having worked in Washington D.C., four states and the Asian Pacific rim, Wise is now a leading transportation executive, winning the 2019 Women Who Move the Nation award from the National Association of Minority Transportation officials.