More Than 100 New Flexible Course Offerings for 2020

The Cathedral of Learning from an aerial perspectiveAs undergraduate students prepare for a semester guided by the new Flex@Pitt model, they will have access to more than 100 new courses and programs designed to accommodate learning regardless of location. They will also have the option to choose courses that explore the ways COVID-19 has transformed the world around them.

One of a few examples is COVID-19 and the City, a first-year course in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Urban Studies Program created by interim director Michael Glass. The course examines the ways the virus has impacted life in urban settings and how those issues tie into urbanization, globalization and overall public health. The three-credit course, which uses Zoom and Canvas in addition to in-person instruction, features weekly video interviews with experts providing on-the-ground insights from across the globe, in addition to Glass’ own lectures.

“If you look at the 1918 influenza pandemic, SARS or the great plague of the 17th century, they all did something to cities. They all had some sort of impact people had to accommodate moving forward. I think it’s fair to say COVID-19 is going to be a similar sort of situation,” said Glass.

“There are some things we can anticipate and some things we can’t possibly predict that are going to change in the way that we live our lives as citizen residents. So let’s have a look back to try and project ourselves forward,” he said.

Frayda Cohen, director of undergraduate studies in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program, has also adapted the course Gender and the Politics of Food to reflect how COVID-19 has impacted the subject.

“Ironically the pandemic has given me a really terrific opportunity to recast this class and connect it to what’s happening in terms of food shortages, essential food workers and the global supply chain,” she said in a video on the Dietrich School’s YouTube channel.

A new course in the Dietch School’s Department of Political Science titled “The Politics of COVID” will cover a wide range of views of how governments across the world responded to the virus. The course, led by a different scholar in the department each week, was developed by Michaël Aklin, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies, and political science graduate student Ignacio Mamone.

Global influences

Those few courses are only a sampling of nearly 100 new offerings in the Dietrich School this year.

Some of the language disciplines have also introduced new options. Giuseppina Mecchia, an associate professor in the Department of French and Italian, has introduced the course Euro Chic: The Invention of Fashion.

The Department of Music has introduced the course, Music and Race: Afrofuturism, which is taught by William S. Dietrich II Endowed Chair in Jazz Studies Nichole Mitchell. The course focuses on futuristic imaginings of the African diaspora and will cover artist and scholars such as Janelle Monáe, W.E.B. Du Bois, Octavia E. Butler, Beyoncé, Alisha Wormsley and more. In the spring, the department will also introduce the course, “African Americans and the Legal System.”

Students with majors focused on international studies are being accommodated by Pitt Study Abroad with several program options in Vietnam, China and South Korea. Students will take courses in their home countries through study abroad providers in each location and will connect with advisors via teleconference.

Three new graduate level certificate programs—Mediterranean Studies, Transatlantic Studies and Transnational Asia—have also been approved.

In addition to new courses, the University’s largest school has introduced a revision to its credit overlap policy. With the Dietrich School Undergraduate Council’s approval, as of fall 2020, up to eight credits may be overlapped between any two majors, two certificates and/or a major and certificate. Up to eight credits may be overlapped between a major and minor and/or certificate and minor and as many as four credits between two minors.

New courses and programs have been added outside of the Dietrich School as well.

Applications are now being accepted for the School of Education’s new online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, which will be offered for the first time in fall 2021. Delivered in a 100% online format, the 30-credit professional degree is ideal for K-12 teachers and offers training in new instructional methods that are responsive to the changing education landscape.

The School of Computing and Information is now offering Applied Data-Driven Methods courses as part of its Master of Library and Information Science program. The coursers are for students without computer science backgrounds who seek expertise in data-driven methods. Course offerings include an Introduction to Data-Centric Computation; Managing, Querying and Preserving Data; Applied Predictive Modeling; and the Art of Data Visualization. These courses are being piloted as electives within the School’s Master of Library and Information Science program, but are open to interested graduate students from across campus.

The Pitt-Greensburg campus has approved a new Data Analytics major. The major consists of core coursework in information science, mathematics and statistics that students can complete in eight semesters. The core courses include introduction to information, systems, and society; database management; programing in Python; statistical methods; regression; principles in data analytics; and the ability of students to select electives within the discipline based on their interests. Students will also complete a practicum, internship and capstone that will provide experience with multi-disciplinary approaches in data analytics in preparation for the workforce.