New UCSUR director should have cross-disciplinary experience


Members of the Pitt community created a wish list for a future director of the University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) at an open, virtual forum on Dec. 3.

Stephen Wisniewski, vice provost for budget and analytics and chair of the search committee, said the search process is still in its early stages. The job description is being developed, he said, and feedback from the forum will be used to help flesh it out. 

Attendees for the forum mostly comprised members of the search committee for the new director and Pitt faculty.

At the top of their wish list, forum participants said they were looking for a director with experience in cross-disciplinary work in their publications, research and administration.

The new director, attendees added, also should focus on education at the center, not just research. They should have an appreciation for the variety of resources Pitt has to offer and highlight the strengths of the center.

The director will have the chance to increase the center’s regional presence and develop an educational model that involves students in ongoing research, attendees said. They also should be able to highlight research on issues related to social inequity.

Finally, attendees said a successful director would, in three to five years, develop a strategic plan and vision, and create appropriate advisory boards. They added that they’d like to see growth in funding and in how well the director interacts with faculty inside and outside the center.

Ideally, attendees said the new director would collaborate with the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center and find potential opportunities for community engagement.

The University will work with hiring firm Summit Search Solutions to find and vet candidates. The search will be private, which is common among Pitt’s searches, until three or four finalists are selected.

“We try to keep that confidential because we find that if we don’t, it can limit people’s interest because they might be afraid that it gets out at their home institution,” Wisniewski said. “And if they don’t get selected, there could be consequences with their staffing and things of that nature.”

The provost and the chancellor will select the next director. As for a tentative timeline, Wisniewski said he and his team will develop the job description by the end of the year, seek applications at the start of the new year in January and February.

By late February or early March, the search committee will review the applications. Eight to 10 candidates will be scheduled for Zoom interviews in late March and early April.

The finalists will visit the campus in late March and early April. Wisniewski said the plan is to select a new director in April and be in place by the start of the 2022 fiscal year.

Members of the Pitt community can provide feedback in an online community survey.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.


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