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February 18, 2016

Staff participation encouraged for annual Pitt Harrisburg trip

The administration is being asked to permit Pitt employees to attend the annual lobbying event, Pitt Day in Harrisburg, this year without using a vacation or personal day.

Kenny Donaldson, director of regional clubs and advocacy for Alumni Affairs, told the Staff Association Council (SAC) Feb. 10 that his office is seeking administrative approval for this move, as well as videotaping a message from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher to encourage greater involvement in the yearly bus trip, scheduled for March 22.

Donaldson acknowledged that “there hasn’t been much staff outreach” to spark more participation in the event, during which Pitt employees, students and alumni meet with their legislators to encourage future funding for the University.

Charlie McLaughlin, director of commonwealth relations, said his office provides participants with talking points for their meetings with legislators, but urged staff members not to deliver “a verbal form letter. We’re not just asking them for money every year. We’re showing them what they get — telling them your story: Why you think [Pitt] is a worthy investment of the commonwealth.”

The current budget impasse between the governor and state legislature, which has delayed this fiscal year’s budget for more than seven months, makes the event a little more difficult, McLaughlin allowed. But, he added, “Your message means a lot. We’ve all done things as employees of this institution to keep it moving along. And you’ll have the chance to tell that story.”

Also at the Feb. 10 SAC meeting, Mary Bigante, care manager for care and resources support (CARS) in the Student Affairs office, encouraged staff and faculty to use her team’s resources to help troubled students.

While “CARS is not an emergency response unit,” she emphasized, its members — staff from the counseling center, Pitt Police, disability resources and elsewhere — meet weekly, sometimes directly with students, to offer plans and resources for dealing with such issues as anxiety and depression, family or relationship problems and academic difficulties. “We come up with a care plan: How can we assist this student?” she said.

When a student is in crisis, she noted, staff and faculty are often the first Pitt representatives students encounter. “It’s always best to address a crisis [immediately] and have a conversation with a student,” she said. “When somebody is in a crisis, they are more apt to change than at any other time in their life.”

However, she added, a large problem in one area of a student’s life often becomes pervasive in other facets, causing multiple issues. “We need to wrap around that student as a Pitt community,” Bigante said, and get them the proper help.

Bigante suggested contacting her via phone (412-624-5756) or email ( for direction on how CARS might aid students, or consulting CARS’ “Guide to Working With Distressed Students” (

In other SAC news:

• SAC parliamentarian Fiona Seels, a systems administrator in the School of Education, announced that candidates for the school’s dean are being vetted by Provost Patricia Beeson.

• The next Pitt Day at Kennywood is set for Sunday, July 17.

• The Feb. 25 kickoff meeting of the month-long Downtown to Oakland transportation planning process, called Uptown EcoInnovation, which was discussed at the Jan. 27 SAC seminar on bike, pedestrian and car safety, will be held at 6 p.m., 300 Gist St., Uptown.

• Executive Vice President Lindsay Rodzwicz announced that the new employee relations liaison committee chairs are Angela Coldren, in staff relations at the Katz Graduate School of Business, and Michael Wahl, of the School of Dental Medicine’s Office of the Dean.

• The March 16 SAC meeting has been moved to the O’Hara Student Center.

—Marty Levine

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