By SUSAN JONES
The new Catalog of Opportunities being developed by the Office of the Provost will not only give students a one-stop location to find Outside the Classroom Curriculum events, research projects, internships and other activities, but it also will make it easier for faculty and staff to connect with students, according to Joe McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies.
“The catalog largely came about because it seemed, historically, Pitt students would essentially stumble upon activities that they wanted to engage with outside the classroom through serendipity,” McCarthy said.
The OCC list created by Student Affairs helped group some of these activities in one location, but they have very little disciplinary slant and no academic credit, McCarthy said, and the onus was on Student Affairs to track down the activities.
Other units at the University also have created similar lists, such as the College of Business Administration, the University Center for International Studies and, mostly recently, the Honors College.
“It had grown to the point that the provost’s office decided that we really wanted to facilitate integration,” he said.
Some of the competencies among the OCC, Honors College, UCIS and Business lists definitely had overlap, McCarthy said. For example, one of the competencies under Student Affairs’ OCC is global and cultural engagement, and “needless to say the UCIS focus area goes much more in depth, so they have much more specific view of that particular competency.”
For advisers or faculty who are student advisers, the Catalog of Opportunities also gives them access to their students’ dashboards, so they can “really get to understand the passions of their students both inside and outside the classroom now and help to integrate those activities,” he said.
Students also can easily keep track of all the activities they’ve engaged in through the catalog’s dashboard. It will help students complete the interdisciplinary distinctions, which were started in fall 2019, McCarthy said, “because there’ll be more opportunities that qualify in each of the relevant areas.”
Entering an event, internship or research opportunity is much simpler now for faculty and staff, he said. The catalog is populated in much the same way as the University Calendar — individuals can submit an event and, generally, each unit will have dedicated publishers to review the posts.
Unlike the University Calendar, events can be targeted to a particular group. “If you have an event that’s for a particular target group, you just make that clear in the entry,” McCarthy said. “And then students know that kind of opportunity is available, even if it’s not available within their discipline. They can then go and talk to whomever the appropriate stakeholders are within their unit to try and get the same kind of opportunity for their area.”
The catalog is particularly good for posting research opportunities and internship possibilities, which would not be appropriate for the calendar.
McCarthy said in chemical engineering, his home department, “for years we tried to figure out a way to efficiently communicate to our undergraduates when we had undergraduate research projects that were available, and the means for them to reach out to faculty. Sometimes you can do that at seminars, sometimes you just post a flyer outside your door. But both of those have a very limited scope of your audience. Now, you could post this in the catalog and you’re going to hit an incredibly broad audience. But again, much like those very specific events, you can tailor it to an audience and make sure that students understand who it’s aimed at.”
The Catalog of Opportunities launched this past spring, with information from the four current dashboards — Student Affairs’ OCC, Business OCC, Honors College and UCIS. “We wanted them to help us debug that integration,” McCarthy said.
Those groups will continue to publish activities within their areas, but they will also show up in the catalog for everyone to see.
Gloria Mou, project manager in the provost’s Academic Innovation Team, said they are working to introduce this new platform to faculty and staff now and identify who will be designated publishers in each unit. For students, the catalog is very similar to the OCC and other activity dashboards they’ve used in the past.
They have contacted several units and conducted some introductory sessions. Right now, it’s only available to people on the Oakland campus. Any faculty or staff member can sign on with their Pitt ID at catalog.pitt.edu and become a contributor, but their submissions will be reviewed by their department’s designated publisher.
There will be more training sessions in the future, very similar to the University Calendar publisher training.
The University Calendar will remain the primary source for University-wide events, Mou said. They are working University Communications & Marketing to integrate the two systems, so that if you add a tag to an event in the calendar it also will post to the Catalog of Opportunities.
“We don’t want to make faculty and staff life more difficult,” McCarthy said.
Mou said you also can post your opportunity on the department website and then just enter a link to it on the catalog.
They hope to get the catalog populated with more events and opportunities before the fall and then introduce it to new and returning students during Welcome Week.
Any units or departments interested in learning more about the Catalog of Opportunities, can contact Mou at email@example.com, the account for all personalized education initiatives. Also, check out a short video about the program.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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