New faculty urged to ‘develop a growth mindset’

Nicole Mitchell and Rob Rutenbar


Provost Ann Cudd recalls a time when higher education faculty assumed that setting a high educational bar would help student talents emerge in the classroom. This “fixed talent mindset … is the way to avoid our responsibilities” to nurture students, Cudd told 145 fresh hires gathered for this year’s new faculty orientation on Aug. 22. Instead, she said, “We are here to create talent and develop a growth mindset.”

That’s the same attitude the University has toward developing its professors, she told those in attendance — about a third of the more than 400 new faculty coming on board at Pitt this year.

“I believe that we as faculty members are on parallel tracks with the students we serve,” she said in the session’s opening remarks. “We want all of you to feel that you belong. And we will nurture your talents.

“We provide support for teaching and learning,” she added. “To do our collective best in our roles as teachers, there is a mindset we need to share: what are the best ways to help our students advance?”

Her goals for the new academic year, Cudd said, include gearing up to seek campus input on a new strategic plan; aiming for new balance on academic services for all faculty, including tenure and non-tenure stream, part- and full-time professors; improving how to evaluate promotion and tenure; and undertaking new construction projects under the campus master plan.

“So it’s a good time to be beginning here,” she said. “There’s much to be encouraged and impressed by and a lot to live up to here.

“I’m happy that you have joined the Pitt family,” she concluded. “We have carefully chosen you. … I encourage you to be mentors to others but also to find powerful mentors who will fuel your progress.”

Vice Provost for Graduate Studies Nathan Urban offered “Lessons for Success” to start the orientation program.

As a first move, he said, “it’s very important to find your people, find colleagues and mentors here at the University. It’s a great opportunity starting today … to find ways to reach out across the University to connect with colleagues you’re not going to bump into every day.

“It’s also important to connect to people at the University prior to when problems arise,” he said, by communicating with department chairs about both issues and successes. Let your colleagues know what you are working on as well, he advised: “In academics we tend to be inward focused. We don’t want to hide what we are doing under a rock.”

It may be tough for new faculty to understand the relationship between their work, or that of their department, and what is happening across the University, Urban allowed. “It’s often difficult to figure out how to get things done in your domain,” he said. “Understanding that complexity takes some time and takes some effort.”

Spend your time doing what you need to be successful, he also told the gathering. The University is not simply raising the bar for faculty and counting on talent to rise to the top, any more than Pitt instructors should be doing that with their students, he said. “We are interested in investing in faculty … to see that they achieve the kind of success they want to achieve. Our interests as a University and our interests as individual faculty are highly aligned. Your success is our success.”

New faculty orientation also included presentations from the heads of the offices of student affairs and diversity and inclusion, as well as the University Center for Teaching and Learning, University Senate and others, followed by breakout sessions.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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