Accolades

Yvonne Powers in a grey suit on a white background

HR names new director of employee and labor relations

Yvonne Powers has been named director of employee and labor relations in the Office of Human Relations. Powers will be responsible for the management of the collective bargaining agreements and oversight of the personnel policies for the University. She will work closely with University leadership, managers and union representatives to build collaborative relationships for the oversight of employee and labor relations.

Powers is a licensed attorney with senior level experience in higher education, the private sector and the federal government. She has worked on a variety of HR functions including diversity and inclusion, recruitment, employee relations, employment law, civil rights law, mediation, arbitration, and union contract negotiations/policy development. Most recently, Powers was the assistant vice president of human resources at the Community College of Allegheny County.

Garrett Grindle kneeling on the left and Rory Cooper in a wheelchair on the right.  Both hold up their Pennsylvania Veterans Service Awards.

Cooper, Grindle honored with Pa. Veterans Service Award

On May 6, leaders of the Pennsylvania National Guard awarded Pitt’s Rory Cooper and Garrett Grindle, both of Pitt's Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award for their work protecting veterans and their caregivers during the pandemic.

In April 2020, HERL pivoted from their usual technology research and development to producing nasal swabs, face shields and other medical supplies to meet demand during the crisis. Their work helped keep VA hospitals open and safe for workers, patients and caregivers.

“I am extremely proud of the team at HERL,” Cooper told the VA’s Research Currents publication last spring. “They have risen to the challenge of assisting with VA’s response to COVID-19 and have performed outstandingly. The work of the team at HERL has likely helped slow the spread of the disease and has assisted VA health care providers in saving the lives of veterans.”

Among other titles, Cooper is the FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America Professor and Distinguished Professor of Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and founding director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist at HERL. Grindle is the associate director for engineering at HERL and a research scientist at Pitt.

Read more about HERL’s pandemic pivot.

Jamie Ducar with blurred trees in the background

Jamie Ducar named member of Engaged Scholars Initiative cohort

Jamie Ducar was recently named a member of the 2021-22 Engaged Scholars Initiative cohort. Ducar serves as the director of community engagement in Pitt's Office of Community and Governmental Relations, a role she has held since 2019. 

The Engaged Scholars Initiative is a yearlong program designed to develop community-engagement professionals, empowering them to lead equity-focused work within their institutions and spheres of influence. The 2021-22 cohort will include virtual retreats, monthly meetings, mentorship, scholarly coursework and peer collaboration. 

The initiative is a Campus Compact program, in partnership with the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility at Swarthmore College. Campus Compact’s approach of attracting, developing and retaining critical public scholars from diverse backgrounds across the nation encourages participants to expand their understanding of community engaged work and scholarship. 

“I’m very excited to be a part of the first national ESI cohort. My professional development interests are being realized thanks to Pitt’s relationship with compact. I hope to advance institutional ties to innovative practice, ‘stretch’ my role at Pitt and apply what I learn to our Community of Practice,” Ducar said.

Julie Donohue in a black shirt on a grey background

Health Policy chair one of the editors of new JAMA journal

Julie Donohue, professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Graduate School of Public Health, is among the editors of JAMA Health Forum, the newest peer-reviewed, print journal in the JAMA network. 

The open-access journal’s mission is to publish original research, evidence-based reports and opinion about national and global health policy; innovative approaches to health care delivery; and health care economics, access, quality, safety, equity and reform.

“Our goal is for JAMA Health Forum to play a leading role as a peer-reviewed journal, bringing rigorous evidence forward from a diverse community of authors to inform readers who will use this evidence to improve health outcomes and advance health equity,” Donohue and her fellow editors wrote in an editorial introducing the first issue

Cathedral of Learning with a blooming pink tree in the foreground

Institute for Learning Receives Grant for Middle School Mathematics

The Institute for Learning (IFL), an outreach of Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center, has been awarded a planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to be part of the foundation’s effective implementation cohort. 

The vision for the Gates Foundation effective implementation cohort is that “education agencies, schools, and the organizations that support them have reliable, practical evidence and measures to apply in planning and implementing a high-impact math improvement initiative district-wide.” 

IFL will partner with Canutillo Independent School District, Fabens Independent School District and Tornillo Independent School District, all of which are in the El Paso area of Texas, to design a multi-year plan to develop a high-quality mathematics curriculum for 6th through 8th grade students.

The team working on this planning grant include: Joe Dostilio, IFL mathematics fellow and principal investigator on the grant; Laurie Speranzo, IFL mathematics fellow and lead designer on the project; Beatriz Strawhun, IFL mathematics & bilingual education fellow; Ivonne Durant, IFL leadership fellow; Rosa Apodaca, IFL executive director; Carol Chestnut, IFL mathematics content developer, Aaron Anthony, IFL director of analytics and operations; Chris Schunn, LRDC senior scientist and IFL co-director; and Rip Correnti, LRDC research scientist.

Hands on a laptop

Pitt Cyber announces new affiliate scholars

Pitt’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security welcomes Jacqui Lipton and Jennifer Keating as its newest affiliate scholars. 

Lipton is an assistant professor of legal writing at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Her scholarship focuses on law and digital technology. 

Keating is a senior lecturer and the writing in the disciplines specialist in the William S. Dietrich II Institute for Writing Excellence in the Composition Program in the Department of English. Her work includes exploring the influence of advancing technology on society and the politics of language.

Pitt Cyber affiliate scholars are drawn from faculty across the University of Pittsburgh and are selected for their excellence in cyber-themed research and teaching. Affiliate scholars are a source for transdisciplinary collaboration and innovation across Pitt and beyond.  

Robert Friedlander wearing a black suit on a blue background

Neurology chair named distinguished professor

Robert Friedlander, the Walter E. Dandy professor and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery, has been appointed to the special faculty rank of distinguished professor, the highest honor the University can accord a faculty member.

A noted neurosurgeon and an expert in Huntington’s disease, ALS and stroke research, Friedlander has received a number of significant academic awards and accolades over the years, most significantly an induction into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine in 2019, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. In addition, Friedlander is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians.

Read more about the appointment.

Anna Balazs

Anna Balazs elected to National Academy of Science

Anna C. Balazs, a distinguished professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, is among 120 newly elected members to the National Academy of Sciences, which recognizes distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Balazs, who also holds the John A. Swanson Chair of Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, is internationally recognized for her theoretical and computational modeling of polymers. For the past decade, her research has focused on mimicking biological processes in polymeric materials which could contribute to the advancement of soft robotics or “squishy robots.”

“Throughout her career, Anna has advanced the field of materials and computational modeling, and we are so proud that the National Academy of Sciences has bestowed her with this honor,” said James R. Martin II, dean of Engineering. “Her research has built the foundation for future materials and their use in ways that even only a decade ago were science fiction.”

Balazs, a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Materials Research Society, has also received some of the leading awards in her field, including the Royal Society of Chemistry S F Boys ­– A Rahman Award (2015), the American Chemical Society Langmuir Lecture Award (2014), and the Mines Medal from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (2013). In 2106, she was the first woman to receive the prestigious Polymer Physics Prize from the American Physical Society.

Matt Schultz wearing a blue shirt

Honors College staffer Schultz releases indie horror film

Matt Schultz (A&S ’10), manager of recruitment in the University Honors College, recently debuted “The Boonies,” a feature-length horror film shot primarily in Cambria, Somerset and Allegheny counties. 

Schultz co-wrote and acted in the film, which was released widely in April and had a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles. The plot follows campers who find themselves fighting for survival against cannibals in the Appalachian woods.

Watch the trailer or download the full film on Amazon, iTunes and other video on demand sites.

Students sitting out on a lawn and in a gazebo at Pitt Bradford campus

Pitt-Bradford named Military Spouse Friendly School

The Pitt–Bradford has been named a Military Spouse Friendly School by Viqtory Media for being at the forefront of colleges and universities supporting the goals of military spouses. 

The group evaluated institutions using public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,200 schools participated in the 2021-2022 survey and 194 were selected for the Military Spouse Friendly Schools list.

Pitt-Bradford won the designation for its leading practices, outcomes and effective programs for military spouses. Pitt-Bradford is the only campus in the University of Pittsburgh system and one of only three public universities in Pennsylvania to earn the Military Spouse Friendly designation. 

“Military Friendly is committed to transparency and providing consistent data-driven standards in our designation process,” said Kayla Lopez, national director of military partnerships for Military Friendly. “Schools who achieve designation show true commitment and dedication in their efforts.” 

In February, Pitt-Bradford received the Military Friendly School designation for its 11th year.

Steven Little

Steven Little to received third Controlled Release Society award

Steven R. Little, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, will receive the Controlled Release Society’s Distinguished Service Award at its virtual annual meeting this July.

Little is internationally recognized for his research in drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.

This is Little’s third honor from the Controlled Release Society. In 2018, he received the society’s Young Investigator Award, and in 2020 was elected to its College of Fellows for “outstanding and sustained contributions to the field of delivery science and technology over a minimum of ten years.”

“Dr. Little's leadership of the focus groups of the Controlled Release Society has been transformational for the society as a whole,” said nominator Justin Hanes, professor of Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “I have never seen the young rising superstars of our field so engaged in the CRS, and their engagement is key to the long-term success of this remarkable scientific society. Dr. Little has also been a highly valued member of the CRS board of directors.  He is a visionary and a natural leader. We are so grateful to him.”

Rather than traditional drug treatments that are distributed throughout the entire body, Little’s controlled release research focuses on time-released microcapsules that target specific cells on site. In 2020, Little published a groundbreaking discovery of a new immunotherapy system that mimics how cancer cells invade the human immune system and thereby reduces the risk of transplant rejection. He has also made advancements to the fundamentals of delivery science with predictive models enabling rational design of drug delivery systems, leading to the founding of Qrono Inc., a specialty pharma company in Pittsburgh.

Pitt wins APLU Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Award

Pitt has won the Place award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ eighth annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards.

The “Place” award recognizes a university that is excelling in community, social, and cultural development work. It is one of four awards given out each year.

Pitt was honored for its partnerships in and with the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Homewood, which have become a centerpiece of the University’s place-based community and economic engagement strategy.

“Pitt has taken a multifaceted approach to cultivating talent in Homewood, promoting innovation, and creating an environment fostering economic prosperity through its 20,000 square foot neighborhood-based Community Engagement Center and associated programs at the Manufacturing Assistance Center, BioShelter, and K12 outreach,” the award recognition said. “Building on long-standing involvement in Homewood by various faculty and schools, Pitt made a long-term institutional commitment to partner the breadth of its engagement assets, across all 16 schools and various business units, with community-based partners to pursue impact and opportunities for the residents of Homewood for the next 25 years.”

Examples of work done by Pitt include the School of Social Work partnering with community organizations and the three neighborhood schools to provide holistic support to students and their families; theInstitute for Entrepreneurial Excellence offering a six-month counseling and training program which has graduated 50 entrepreneurs in Homewood and provided consulting services to 21 area businesses since 2017; and the School of Education’s Justice Scholars Program, which has enrolled more than 40 high school students into college bearing classes, qualitative research experiences, and service-learning opportunities all focused on social justice.

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from APLU, which recognizes institutional commitment to regional economic development. To earn the IEP designation, universities conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. 

Sixty-six institutions have been named IEP Universities since the program was launched in 2012.

 

Valire Copeland named to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Valire C. Copeland, a professor in the School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Public Health, and associate director of the Public Health Social Work Training Program at Pitt, has been appointed to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a major federal funder within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Copeland was appointed as a standing member of the Healthcare System and Value Research study section at the agency, which focuses on building evidence to make healthcare safer, more accessible, and more equitable.

“(Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) often asks for reviewers for a single meeting depending on expertise, but an appointment as a standing member is a high recognition that Dr. Copeland is at the top of her field and therefore trusted to make judicious decisions about what work the federal government should be funding in the areas of healthcare access and equity,” said Shaun Eack, associate dean for Research in the School of Social Work. “It also means that the expertise Dr. Copeland brings is viewed as especially deep, as she will sit on study section for all proposals that the Healthcare System and Value Research study section will receive.”

Copeland’s work as a standing member of a study section will involve providing scientific, budgetary and human subjects review of grant proposals related to healthcare safety, access and equity with a panel of other accomplished scholars to inform the federal government of the merits of project proposals received by the agency. 

 

Darris Means in a blue jacket and light striped shirt with a pink and blue bowtie

Darris Means receives Outstanding Publication Award

Darris Means, associate professor in educational foundations, organizations and policy, has received the Outstanding Publication Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) for a co-edited 2020 book, “Case Studies for Student Development Theory: Advancing Social Justice and Inclusion in Higher Education.”

Means and his co-authors were a part of the 2017 Emerging Scholars Program for the American College Personnel Association (ACPA): College Student Educators International. He describes the book as a team effort that also involved more than 70 others who contributed to the case studies.

“We came up with the idea to write a book that would contribute to the field of student development and be helpful to practitioners, students and faculty alike,” said Means. “The book explores the intersection of student development theory and social justice.” 

The book consists of 12 sections of case studies organized by topic. Means edited the sections on spirituality and religion and on social class. The case studies on spirituality and religion, he said, tie to his decade of research on queer Black men in higher education and spirituality. 

Christel N. Temple in a dark jacket

Christel N. Temple wins College Language Association Book Award

Christel N. Temple, a professor with Pitt’s Department of Africana Studies in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has received the 2021 College Language Association's (CLA) Book Award for “Black Cultural Mythology.”

Founded in 1937 by a group of Black scholars and educators, CLA is an organization of college teachers of English and world languages that serves the academic, scholarly and professional interests of its members and the collegiate communities they represent. Part of the CLA’s mission is to encourage scholarly research in and the teaching of Black literatures and cultures as necessary aspects of higher education. The association will also publish a journal.

Temple’s “Black Cultural Mythology” surveys more than 200 years of figures, moments, ideas and canonical works by such visionaries as Maria Stewart, Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead and Edwidge Danticat to map an expansive yet broadly overlooked intellectual tradition of Black cultural mythology and to provide a new conceptual framework for analyzing this tradition.

Among other comments, judges said the book is “a very necessary and long overdue call for the development of a Black (Africana) Cultural Mythology. It is extraordinarily well researched, having been some 10 years in development, and builds on the idea of black culture as ‘a sacred inheritance.’”

Temple, former chair of Pitt’s Africana Studies department, is also an affiliate of the Graduate Program for Cultural Studies, the Critical European Culture Studies doctoral program and the African Studies Program. Her major fields of interest are Africana Cultural Memory Studies, Comparative Africana Literature, Black Nationalism, Pan-Africanism and Afroeuropean Studies. 

Taofeek K. Owonikoko in a black suit and tie

Taofeek K. Owonikoko named new chief of Hematology Oncology

Taofeek K. Owonikoko will join the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Department of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh as chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology. Owonikoko, a physician-scientist board-certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine, also will serve as associate director for translational research and co-leader of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at Hillman. He will hold the Stanley M. Marks—OHA Endowed Chair in Hematology/Oncology Leadership and will begin his appointment on July 1, 2021.

“Taofeek has an extraordinary track record of clinical and academic success and a deep commitment to helping early career researchers and clinicians achieve their fullest potential,” said Robert Ferris, director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “We are thrilled he is joining the senior leadership team at Hillman.”

Owonikoko will lead a division of more than 65 faculty members, who are recognized leaders in hematology and oncology clinical care and research. He will oversee translational research and efforts to expand clinical trial access across the Hillman network of more than 70 sites. 

“I’m very excited to join such an exceptional team of physicians and scientists at Hillman,” said Owonikoko. “I look forward to being an active and engaged member of this community with a strong culture of improving patient’s lives through translation of cancer research from the bench to bedside.”

Owonikoko has co-authored numerous publications and serves on the editorial boards of several organizations. He has also received many awards, including the Michaele C. Christian Oncology Development Lectureship and Award from the National Cancer Institute in 2020, the Heine Hansen Award for Small Cell Lung Cancer research from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer and the Leadership Development Program award from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO). He will begin a four-year term on the ASCO Board of Directors in June 2021.

Helen Cochrane in a black top

Helen Cochrane recognized by Women Who Advance Associations

Helen Cochrane, the program director of the Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics program in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, is one of the 21 Women Who Advance Associations across the international association community. 

Women Who Advance Associations is honoring 21 female association leaders in 2021. According to the organization, "As representatives of civil society, association leaders act as role models and engines for transformation."

Cochrane was recognized during Women's History Month this March.

A student in a blue shirt writing

Princeton Review names Pitt among best schools for making an impact

University of Pittsburgh once again made the Princeton Review’s top 200 list of Best Value Colleges. Pitt ranked #17 on the Top 20 Best Schools for Making an Impact list. 

The Princeton Review chose these schools based on data collected from fall 2019 through fall 2020 via their institutional and student surveys, and on alumni and salary statistics from PayScale.com. They created a return-on-investment rating by weighing more than 40 data points covering academics, costs, financial aid, debt, graduation rates and career/salary data. The 50 schools that received the highest rating were included on the Top 50 Best Value Colleges list.

In conjunction with Best Value Colleges, the Princeton Review also lists the top 20 public schools and top 20 private schools in: Best Value Colleges for Students With No Demonstrated Need, Best Alumni Networks, Best Schools for Internships, Best Career Placement, Best Schools for Financial Aid, and Best Schools for Making an Impact.

Further information can be found on the Princeton Review’s website.

Max Laun in a black suit and tie

Max Laun named director of new online graduate law program

Max Laun (LAW ’88) has been named director of the new International Business Law and Dispute Resolute Online Graduate Certificate Program  in Pitt’s School of Law.  

Laun serves on the boards of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc., the organization that oversees 16 organizations the provide civil legal services to the indigent in Pennsylvania and the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, the nationwide organization committed to improving legal access in both criminal and civil matters.

He was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to serve on the PA Continuing Legal Education Board and serves on the Advisory Council to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law’s Center for International Legal Education. 

Laun retired in April 2020 as vice president, general counsel and chief ethics and compliance officer of Arconic Inc., following the split of Fortune 150 integrated aluminum company Alcoa Inc., into Arconic and Alcoa Corp. He was vice president and general counsel for Alcoa from 2012-16, following 25 years in roles of increasing responsibility in Alcoa’s legal department. 

His major area of legal practice was international mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, and over the course of his Alcoa career, he led transactions on six continents, including major greenfield investments by the company in Saudi Arabia and Iceland, state privatizations in Hungary, Italy, Spain, Russia, China and Venezuela, and other private transactions in more than 15 countries across Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Nicole Sekel in a dark blue jacket

Nicole Sekel joins American Society for Bone and Mineral Research

Nicole Sekel, first-year doctoral student and research assistant in the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, has joined the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR). 

The ASBMR membership comprises basic research scientists and clinical investigators in bone and mineral metabolism and related fields along with physicians and other healthcare practitioners. Current worldwide membership numbers approximately 4,000. 

Sekel graduated from George Mason University with a master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Food Studies. Her research interests include vitamin D deficiency among collegiate athletes and members of the military.