New Academic Programs Take a Worldly View

It’s the Year of PittGlobal at the University of Pittsburgh, and an array of new academic programming embodies the year’s theme.

In spring 2019, Pitt will begin to offer Water in Central Asia, an interdisciplinary series of three undergraduate courses through the University’s Central Eurasia Initiative — a partnership between the Asian Studies Center (ASC) and Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (REEES).

Meeting students where they are

Derek Fischer took over the role of director of the Academic Advising Center in the Dietrich School a year ago, bringing with him more than 10 years of academic advising experience and a vision to engage students in new ways.

That vision includes meeting students where they are. Literally.

This fall, peer advisers — Dietrich School undergraduates who offer guidance and assistance to their Dietrich School classmates on how to get the most out of advising — will come to residence halls to help first-year students work through questions common among new students.

The initiative, spearheaded by adviser Tom Converso, was developed to help resident assistants (RAs) respond to students’ questions related to academics. When a student has concerns about the enrollment process or academic support opportunities like peer tutoring, an RA can work with a peer adviser to answer the questions.

Meeting students where they are also means going online, which is why the center has increasingly taken advantage of Skype as a way to engage with students. Using Skype allows advisers to establish personal connections with students, even before they arrive on campus.

“Extending our services beyond the walls of our office allows us to provide advising that is more personal, supportive, engaging and effective, as we help students create their own personal Dietrich School experience,” said Fischer.

Rotating over a three-year period, the courses will explore the past, present and future of water in that region and will be taught by instructors in history, political science and the College of Business Administration, respectively. The courses will satisfy requirements for not only ASC and REEES credentials but also the Global Studies Certificate and the Engineering for Humanity Certificate offered through the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the Swanson School of Engineering.

Students in these courses will interact with students at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan through virtual peer-to-peer exchanges.

“The course cluster combines a key social issue — clean water — with the chance to explore a virtually unstudied region, namely Central Asia,” said Nancy Condee, director of REEES and co-chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “Students looking for a career path with lifelong growth potential will find that these courses open the door to a fascinating career choice. Moreover, Pitt’s close health sciences ties to Nazarbayev University, the leading English-speaking university in Central Asia, offer a network of contacts for professional development.”

As one of 23 projects that received funding from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s Pitt Seed program, Water in Central Asia will also offer separate study-away programs at a Native American reservation and in Washington, D.C. 

The Water in Central Asia project has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Humanities Connections Program.

Critical minors introduced

The Department of Linguistics’s Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center for the first time offers students the opportunity to earn a minor in nine of the languages already being taught at the center. The center specializes in languages that are not often taught at U.S. universities; many of these languages are considered critical with regard to national security and economic prosperity by the U.S. Department of State.

The nine minors are Hindi, Irish, Modern Greek, Persian/Farsi, Quechua, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish and Vietnamese.

“Languages, and the cultures they are a part of, hold the key to all kinds of knowledge — what it means to be human, how people understand health and our environment and more. We access this knowledge and different ways of viewing the world through learning language,” said Alana DeLoge, instructor of Quechua and a PhD candidate in the linguistics department.

“Fluency in another language gives you access to more opportunities like jobs and the chance to live abroad,” said Claude Mauk, center director and senior lecturer in the linguistics department. “Language study is also a great way to get to understand people from another culture who have different perspectives, expectations and values. Having a minor in one of these languages will get you that and a credential that someone like a future employer can easily understand.”

In addition to four semesters of the language, each minor also requires students to complete a related elective. The electives originate from not only the center’s available language and culture courses but also classes in other departments in the Dietrich School like Bollywood and Indian Cinema and Viking Age Scandinavia.

Other academic highlights:

  • The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business has four new Master of Science tracks: accounting and business analytics, finance and business analytics, marketing science and business analytics, and supply chain management and business analytics. These tracks were developed in response to a workforce need for candidates with applied analytical skills and experience in interpreting customer trends, according to Sandra Douglas, director of Katz’s Master of Science Programs. Pitt undergraduate students who graduate with a 3.25 cumulative GPA or better and 3.0 GPA or better in at least six credit hours of quantitative courses can receive a GMAT waiver to apply for Katz’s MS programs within a year of their graduation.
  • Professionals — and graduate students — can choose from two new graduate certificates in the Swanson School of Engineering: physical metallurgy and construction management. Both certificate programs are primarily intended to enhance the qualifications of people already working in these fields.
  • The Center for Parents and Children, based out of Pitt’s Department of Psychology, is a new resource for Pitt faculty and researchers looking to make the jump from basic to applied research in the community. The center is devoted to helping at-risk families and improving the lives of Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable children. By collaborating with trusted community agencies, the center aspires to enhance the quality of family-based intervention models offered in Allegheny County.
  • The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has enlisted the support of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program to re-establish a program.
  • In an effort to reduce textbook costs for students, the University Library System has made multiple copies of four popular textbooks available on reserve at Hillman Library through a pilot program. The books are: “Principles of Operations Management: Sustainability and Supply Chain Management,” 10th Edition; “Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers,” 11th Edition; “Writing That Works: Communicating Effectively on the Job,” 12th Edition; and “The Constitution of the United States,” Third Edition.
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