The 2019–20 academic year marks the inauguration of new majors, innovative online programs and collaborations among different schools across the University of Pittsburgh. Here are the highlights:
New joint majors
The School of Computing and Information (SCI), which is now admitting incoming first-year students for the first time, launched two new majors this fall, offered with the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences: Digital Narrative and Interactive Design (DNID), in collaboration with the Department of English and Computational Biology with the Department of Biological Sciences.
DNID will combine the narrative, world-building and media studies of the Department of English with the coding, software development and human-computer interface strengths of SCI.
According to Adam Lee, associate dean for academic programs at SCI, it’s an exciting blend of storytelling and technology.
“This new major will enable students in the Dietrich School to gain skills in computational technology, while providing a path for SCI students who are looking for creative outlets for their skills,” said Lee.
The hard skills obtained in this major include building games, interactive literature, virtual reality environments and other interactive media experiences in a variety of fields. Students interested in careers in tech, nonprofits, social media or politics could be candidates for this new major, according to Lee: “Companies want people who can ask interesting questions.”
Zach Horton, assistant professor in the Department of English, helped co-create the program, which he said stands out not only at Pitt, but nationally.
"Instead of just combining two different majors together — half of one and half of another — it really attempts to create something more than the sum of its parts,” Horton said. “The basic concept we're working with is that new technologies open up new narrative possibilities and that narrative is fundamentally part of coding and design.”
In computational biology, biologists model complex systems and analyze large amounts of data. The new computational biology major was created to meet the growing demand of careers in this booming field.
“Computational biology has its roots in the bioinformatics major, with some updates that include newer, relevant courses such as data science and a senior seminar,” said John C. Ramirez, senior lecturer with SCI, who also helped develop the curriculum for the new major.
“Students who have an interest in biology or natural science in general and who also enjoy problem-solving and computer programming, should definitely consider computational biology as a major option,” he said.
The major also incorporates a new computer science course titled Introduction to Computing for Scientists, which trains students in Python, a programming language.
New programs for working professionals
The School of Education launched an online certificate in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Education. The 12-credit online program helps K-12 teaching practitioners understand how to develop STEAM programming at their own institutions. In addition, the school offers a standalone continuing education course that professionals can take without committing to the 12-credit certificate program. Professionals who enroll in the continuing education course will then have the option to continue into the STEAM Education Certificate program.
The School of Law now offers a graduate certificate program, Human Resources Law Online. A fit for working professionals in human resources, law and business administration, the program will prepare graduates to take on more advanced human resources roles. Graduates will be eligible to sit for industry-based certification exams offered by the Society for Human Resource Management and the HR Certification Institute.
The School of Computing and Information launched its Professional Institute with two leading-edge programs in cybersecurity. Through a blend of in-person and online courses from SCI, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Law, the 15-credit Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity, Policy and Law provides students with the skills to tackle the legal and public policy issues of cyber threats in today’s world. Additionally, the nondegree Professional Education credential in cybersecurity provides critical skills to meet the demands of the market.
Set to launch in January, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will offer an online Master of Science in Health Informatics to train professionals to use data to improve the quality of care. In collaboration with Noodle Partners, a company that helps universities build online and hybrid programs, the program aims to connect technology, health care and business while transforming data into decisions.
Synergy in Swanson
A change almost two years in the making, the Swanson School of Engineering Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will adopt new curricula for its two undergraduate programs, electrical engineering and computer engineering. Faculty, alumni, industry experts and students provided input in the creation of the new curricula with the goal of providing greater synergy between the two fields, spark more hands-on learning and prepare students to enter the workplace by catering to employer demands.
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Programs in Nutrition, Sports Medicine
The Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences launched its major in nutrition science this fall. The program will train students to apply the science of food and nutrition to the well-being and health of people. Students interested in the program can apply in the spring term of their sophomore year to begin the program in the fall term of the junior year.
A new accelerated five-year BS-MS degree also began this fall, the Dietitian Nutritionist Program. The curriculum is a combination of didactic coursework and supervised practice, affording graduates a strong foundation in medical nutrition therapy and eligibility to sit for the Registration Exam for Dietitians. The program also offers opportunities for students to complete a 12-week rotation in a specialty area of nutrition.
The one-year Master of Science program in Sports Science within the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition will provide training in sports science, nutrition, sports medicine and research. The program includes coursework and a clinical practicum working with Pitt Athletics, the Pittsburgh Penguins and other sports organizations focusing on optimizing human performance.
New major, center in GSPIA
The Graduate School of Public and International Affairs debuted a social policy major this fall.
In addition, led by Sera Linardi, associate professor in GSPIA, the new Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation aims to bridge academic research in quantitative social science and practical social innovation. The center will translate real-world problems from the community into a set of academic research questions and leverage expertise from researchers in economics, operations research, political science and computing.
More news from Pitt's campuses
- The Department of Computational and Systems Biology in the School of Medicine launched a Computational Biomedicine and Biotechnology Master’s program to train students to translate cutting-edge computational technologies into real-world advances in biomedicine and technology.
- Faculty from multiple Dietrich School humanities and social science departments have come together to create a graduate certificate in Digital Studies and Methods. A blend of classroom and studio-based learning experiences, the program will train students to acquire a proactive, mindful engagement with digital methods and their powerful uses within and across disciplines.
- The Department of Chemistry’s general chemistry sequence of courses will now utilize a free online textbook for its General Chemistry I and II classes, a result of funding received through an initiative led by the Office of the Provost to expand awareness and access to Open Educational Resources. Students can access the OpenStax textbook for free online or purchase a print copy for $55.
- Mastering the University, a College of General Studies course designed to maximize students’ potential for success while at the University, now offers a special section for veterans, led by the Office of Veterans Services.
- The School of Education launched three new Master of Science programs. The Clinical Exercise Physiology master’s program trains students for research careers in exercise and physical activity for the prevention and treatment of chronic health-related problems. The Health and Physical Activity Programming and Promotion master’s program prepares students to develop programming that promotes health and physical activity in various settings, such as the work place, schools and medical facilities. Additionally, a new Health and Wellness Management master’s program is offered jointly with the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.
- Pitt-Greensburg’s psychology program continues to grow with the addition of two new minors: clinical psychology and legal psychology. Clinical psychology allows students to develop knowledge and skills to communicate and work with mental health, counseling, or social work professionals in the counseling fields. Legal psychology provides students with an overview of how psychological theory and research are becoming increasingly relevant to legal policy and judicial decision-making.
- The Dietrich School is offering four new minors: Hispanic Language and Culture, Hungarian, Mediterranean Art and Archaeology and LGBTQ and Critical Sexuality Studies.