New and Transformed Spaces Enhance Academic Mission, Campus Life

  • The Schenley Quad has been transformed into a pedestrian friendly space for students to gather. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • An even warmer Pitt welcome awaits campus visitors in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid’s new presentation space in Alumni Hall. The Welcome Center, which seats 119 people, typically hosts three admissions presentations a day and can be reserved for other uses. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Students can get help with financial aid forms and meet with financial aid counselors at the new Financial Aid Wellness Center in 130 Thackeray Hall. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Renovations on the 10th and 11th floors of the Cathedral of Learning include an interior staircase connecting the University’s Department of Philosophy, Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Center for Philosophy of Science on contiguous floors. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Comfortable seating with a view of campus and multiple group study rooms are among the amenities on the renovated Hillman Library fourth floor. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Hillman Library’s fourth floor is the first to be renovated in a multiyear floor-by-floor update of the 50-year-old building. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Computer labs on the ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning were updated over the summer. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Pitt–Bradford’s newest residence hall, Livingston Alexander House, opened this fall. The building houses 170 first-year students. (University of Pittsburgh)
  • Pitt–Greensburg President Sharon P. Smith and Brooke Stewart, valedictorian of the UPG class of 2018, begin a new tradition. Each fall, daffodil bulbs will be planted on campus in recognition of the students graduating the previous spring. (University of Pittsburgh)
  • Construction is underway on a 7,000-square-foot Chemical Engineering Building at Pitt–Johnstown. The building is expected to be completed in time for occupancy in spring 2019. (University of Pittsburgh)

The new academic year brings the first reveal of renovations at Hillman Library, updated computer labs and study spaces and great new green spaces for gathering.

These are just a few of the dozens of updates and upgrades that were completed while many University of Pittsburgh faculty and students were away for the summer.

Universitywide, 44 projects were completed, said Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor, Facilities Management.

New room at the top in Hillman Library

The fourth floor of Hillman Library has reopened — it’s the first floor to be completed in the multiyear top-down “reinvention” of Pitt’s 50-year-old central library.

Seven miles of shelves were cleared before renovations to the fourth floor began in 2017. Books are back, amid expanded study space: 11 reservable group study rooms — plus dissertation and reading room areas — all in brighter surroundings.

Meanwhile, on the third floor, University Library System staff members are emptying shelves in anticipation of the next phase of the Hillman transformation.

Cathedral of Learning student computing labs

New computer labs on the ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning feature larger spaces for collaborative or individual work. Students can use the lab’s Mac, Linux or Windows PCs or bring their own device. And users can get answers from trained lab monitors.

There is also a virtual tour.

A renovated technology classroom nearby is equipped with 24 Windows PCs. Faculty can reserve a room online.

Philosophy connects

Finally, a unified philosophy: The Department of Philosophy, Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Center for Philosophy of Science, which had been scattered among eight floors in the Cathedral, have been brought together on floors 10 and 11, connected by a central staircase. They’ll each retain their unique identities while benefiting from shared spaces.

A warmer welcome, easier aid

About 82,000 visitors tour the Pittsburgh campus in a typical year. A brand-new presentation space on the third floor of Alumni Hall ensures that these prospective students and families are welcomed in a style worthy of a world-class research powerhouse in one of the world’s most livable cities.

Work is continuing on the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid’s first-floor welcome center; upstairs admissions staff members hold three presentations a day in the new space, which features theater seating for 119 people and a mural of the Pittsburgh city skyline. 

The financial aid staff has moved from Alumni Hall into the Financial Aid Wellness Center in 130 Thackeray Hall, more conveniently located near the Office of the Registrar and the Student Payment Center. Students may schedule an appointment or simply walk in for assistance or to meet with a financial aid counselor.

Brighter studying in Posvar Hall

Renovations on the second floor of Wesley W. Posvar Hall include a multitude of individual and group study spaces. Glass partitions have replaced brick around the galleria to brighten the interior of the Brutalist-style building.

The updates are an extension of improvements that have expanded outside-the-classroom study spaces and revamped a trio of auditorium-style classrooms on the ground floor to better serve today’s more interactive teaching and learning.

New outdoor spaces

Faculty and students returned to a more verdant campus for the start of the 2018-19 academic year.

A pedestrian mall has replaced parking spaces on the Schenley Quad to create a greener, multipurpose area for formal and informal gatherings. Lawns, benches and planters have replaced asphalt and concrete to create outdoor student-friendly areas.

Outside Heinz Chapel, the tranquil sound of a cascading fountain beckons visitors to pause amid flower beds of hydrangea, boxwood and liriope in a new European-style formal garden. Donors to the garden will be recognized at a private dedication next month.

The dapper bronze gentleman seated in a relaxed pose on a bench outside the Cathedral of Learning lawn depicts the late Thomas E. Starzl. The statue was unveiled in June in tribute to the famed surgeon whose groundbreaking work in immunology and transplant surgery earned him renown worldwide as “the father of organ transplantation.”

Renovations at the regional campuses


The first residents of Livingston Alexander House have moved in at Pitt–Bradford. The 170-bed residence hall for first-year students is pursuing LEED Silver certification for its environmentally friendly and energy-efficient features. It will be the campus’s first LEED-certified building.

The KOA Dining Hall in Frame-Westerberg Commons has undergone a renovation. The most visible changes in the dining room include a new salad prep area, an expanded pizza area, new carpeting and an additional 50 seats. Behind the scenes, the kitchen has been redesigned for better workflow and 15-year-old appliances have been replaced.


A collaborative learning space in Smith Hall features an 80-inch touchscreen monitor and student seating with whiteboard tables, laptop computer plug-ins and 32-inch monitors that are networked for screen sharing. The project was funded through a federal Strengthening Institutions Program grant.

Pitt–Greensburg has gone greener with the installation of water fountain bottle-filling stations in Smith Hall, Powers Hall and Chambers Hall near the gymnasium. Six more are in the pipeline.

A reflection garden near the upper entrance to Millstein Library is the gift of Pitt–Greensburg president emeritus George F. Chambers, given in memory of his daughter Bonnie Chambers, who was a library specialist there for more than 20 years.

A new tradition is taking root: painting the campus gold with daffodils in honor of this year’s crop of Pitt–Greensburg graduates. This fall, 236 bulbs are being planted for the Class of 2018.

Tables and chairs are being updated in Wagner Dining Room to enable a variety of seating options. High-top seating is being added near the windows. Bobcat Station and the Hempfield Room also have new seating this fall.


Construction is underway for a Chemical Engineering Building that is expected to be completed in time for occupancy in spring 2019. It will connect to the east side of the Engineering and Science Building and will house two teaching spaces/classrooms, a chemical engineering lab, faculty offices, and student study areas for the chemical engineering program, which was added in 2015.

Work begins this month on the REACHland Connect project, designed to link campus and community with culture and commerce. The first phase includes a paved bike path and sidewalk connecting Pitt–Johnstown, the University’s College Park Apartments, Penn Highlands Community College, Richland School District, Highland Community Library, Richland Township Municipal Building and the Richland Town Centre.


In February, the University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees approved a new vision for the Pitt–Titusville campus as an Education and Training Campus Hub. In August, that vision took a significant step toward becoming reality as the University received a commitment from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to help to transform some campus buildings into structures suitable for the new campus Hub. 

Under the campus hub model, partners will offer specialized programs with active input from regional employers — a move that will directly address the region’s education and training needs. Pitt–Titusville will continue to offer programs for traditional college-age students in addition to developing programs for nontraditional students that may include online, evening, intensive and executive learning options. Pitt students in Titusville will have the option to complete programs at the Education and Training Campus Hub or seamlessly transfer to other University of Pittsburgh campuses to advance their education.