Aurora Sharrard

Aurora Sharrard now Pitt's executive director of sustainability

Aurora Sharrard has been promoted to Pitt’s executive director of sustainability.

In her leadership role, Sharrard spearheads sustainability initiatives and green practices throughout the University, advancing Pitt as a global sustainability leader. A national environmental expert, Sharrard leads Pitt Sustainability strategic planning, implementation and analytics, collaborating across departments to reach collective goals.

Sharrard joined Pitt in 2018 to lead the first Office of Sustainability, championing innovative solutions that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, incorporated sustainability into the curriculum and embedded a culture of sustainability university-wide.

Prior, Sharrard worked at Green Building Alliance for 11 years, leading the nonprofit in advancing innovation in the built environment. She holds a master’s and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in green design from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tulane University.

Social work research associate professor selected for Fulbright Specialist Program

Mary Beth Rauktis, research associate professor in the School of Social Work, was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Program grant, part of the larger Fulbright Program, to travel to Assam, India, in August.

Rauktis will work with faculty and students at Don Bosco University, which offers a two-year MSW program and a doctoral program at its Tapesia campus. Her seminars will touch on subjects including global perspectives of social work; locating the self in the journey of social work; and principles and approaches of child- and family-centered social work practice. She will also assist faculty in preparing their textbook on community-engaged practice and research.

2 Pitt professors rank among top marketing researchers

Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration researchers have again been recognized as among the most productive in their field by the American Marketing Association.

J. Jeffrey Inman, associate dean for research and faculty, and Peggy J. Liu, the Ben L. Fryrear chair in marketing, tied for No. 42 among all marketing scholars worldwide on the companion Author Productivity in the Premier Marketing Journals list (2012-21). The professors contributed nine of the 57 publications from Pitt Business’ marketing faculty members between 2012 and 2021.

Pitt Business’ marketing area ranked No. 14 on the recently released University Research Productivity in the Premier Marketing Journals list compiled by the AMA’s Doctoral Student Special Interest Group.

Pitt Law Professor Kevin Ashley receives CodeX Prize

School of Law Professor Kevin Ashley, also a senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center, received the second annual CodeX Prize.

The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics announced the recipients at this year’s CodeX FutureLaw 2022 Conference, which brought together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, investors and policymakers worldwide to focus on how technology is changing the legal profession and the law itself and how these changes affect us all.

Edwina Rissland, University of Massachusetts Amherst, also received the award, which acknowledged the pair’s work on case-based reasoning in automated legal analysis and the development of the HYPO system while Ashley was at the University of Massachusetts for precedent-based legal rationale.

The CodeX Prize is given to individuals for a noteworthy contribution to computational law — an idea, article, book, computer application, computer tool, organization, etc., that has had a significant and enduring positive impact on the field.

[Read more here]

2022 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring winners announced

The Provost’s Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring recognizes outstanding mentors who have the greatest impact on students seeking research doctorate degrees.

Up to four awards are presented each year and come with a $2,500 prize to the graduate faculty member.

This year’s awardees included:

The group was honored publicly March 30 in the William Pitt Union at an event hosted by Provost Ann E. Cudd. This marked the seventeenth year for the award.

Pitt Police department promotes four officers

The University of Pittsburgh Police Department announced four promotions, which took effect on April 3.

Brooke Riley and Michael Mock were promoted to lieutenants, and Jessica Urban and Scott Dubrosky were promoted to sergeants.

“I believe we are very fortunate to have such high caliber personnel in our department," Deputy Chief Holly Lamb said. "These four individuals will bring integrity, a great work ethic and leadership abilities to their new positions. These values will serve as examples for everyone, which will make the department much better as a whole.”

Riley, who joined the department in 2013, has spent the last three years as supervisor for the Community Programs Unit, which provides outreach to the campus community. She also oversees the Citizens Police Academy and the department's internship program.

Mock joined the department in 2005 and has overseen the emergency dispatchers and implementation of the Emergency Notification Service and the Rave Guardian mobile app. He also assists in compiling the data used to ensure the University is in compliance with the federal Clery Act, which requires that schools report campus crime data

Urban is a member of the motorcycle unit who's spent seven years with the department.

Dubrosky's 11 years with the Pitt Police department have been spent in a number of roles. He's a member of the department's Specialized Emergency Response Team, serves as a field training officer and firearms instructor, and he is an instructor in the Active Killer program, which provides guidance on situational awareness and reaction to a real-time campus crisis.

As per department policy, all officers have four-year college degrees.

Bradford’s Ogundayo receives Fulbright to study in Burkina Faso

’BioDun Ogundayo, associate professor of French and comparative literature at Pitt–Bradford, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to study, teach and research in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa.

Ogundayo, who is the director of Africana studies and foreign languages at Pitt–Bradford, will spend the 2022-23 academic year teaching in the Department of Anglophone Studies at the Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation.

“I will be bringing a relevant and specifically American cultural, academic and cross-cultural input and perspective to their curriculum,” Ogundayo said. He hopes to connect his Pitt-Bradford students with his new students in Burkina Faso through the videoconferencing platform Zoom as well.

When not teaching, Ogundayo plans to conduct research on how the oral traditions of the country’s dominant ethnic group, the Mossi, shape Burkinabe attitudes, conversations and responses to the challenges of Islamist fundamentalism and violence facing the country.

Ogundayo has published on African spirituality, ethics and modern African politics, the African American experience and the African diaspora and has long been interested in the myriad of cultures that are part of the African diaspora.

At the University of Pittsburgh, he is involved with the University Center for International Studies and the Center for African Studies, and designed and managed Pitt­–Bradford’s undergraduate certificate in African Studies. He plans to use what he learns in Burkina Faso to contribute to the University’s curriculum, diversity initiatives and Center for African Studies.

Ogundayo is uniquely qualified for these studies, in part because of his fluency in English, French and dialects of several West African languages. A native of Nigeria, he attended boarding school in Ghana some 100 miles south of Ouagadougou.

Ogundayo has taught at Pitt-Bradford since January 2001. He earned his doctoral degree in French and Francophone literature and cultures at the State University of New York at Buffalo, a master of arts in French from Queen’s University in Canada and a master of arts and bachelor of arts in French from the University of Lagos in Nigeria. He also studied for a master’s degree in International Management at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash.

Dietrich School's Blain and Harvey named Guggenheim Fellows

Two professors in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have been named 2022 Guggenheim Fellows.

Historian Keisha N. Blain, an associate professor in the Department of History, and poet Yona Harvey, an associate professor in the Department of English, are among 180 individuals chosen from nearly 2,500 applicants for the prestigious award, which recognizes “prior achievement and exceptional promise” among its broad selection of scientists, writers and artists across 51 fields of expertise.

The Guggenheim signifies excellence, thought leadership and innovation of craft among its recipients. Grants from the fellowship vary between $35,000 and $45,000 to use as the recipients choose.

Blain is an accomplished historian and writer focusing on African American history, the modern African diaspora and women’s and gender studies. A two-term former president of the African American Intellectual History Society, Blain has received wide praise for her writing: her book “Set the World on Fire” won the 2019 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians, and her recent book “Until I am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America” was recognized by Smithsonian Magazine as among the best history books of 2021.

“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,” which she co-edited with Ibram X. Kendi, garnered significant media attention and debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

In addition to her research and book writing, Blain holds fellowships at New America, Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights and the Institute for Advanced Studies, as well as being an opinion columnist for MSNBC. Blain has been on the faculty at Pitt since 2017, having received a bachelor’s of history and Africana studies from Binghamton University and her doctorate in history from Princeton University.

Harvey is the author of the poetry collections “You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love,” which won the Believer Book Award for Poetry and “Hemming the Water,” winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She co-wrote with professor and essayist Roxane Gay “Marvel’s World of Wakanda” and co-wrote with author and MacArthur “genius grant” winner Ta-Nehisi Coates “Black Panther & the Crew.” She has also worked with teenagers writing about mental health issues in collaboration with Creative Nonfiction magazine. In addition, she is the recipient of the inaugural Lucille Clifton Legacy Award in poetry from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Harvey earned her undergraduate degree from Howard University, a Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh.

“I’m honored. I’m thrilled. I think I’ve accepted it as real now,” Harvey wrote on Twitter in reaction to the announcement. “Congratulations to all Fellows. Thank you thank you thank you.”

Pitt professors elected to Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) elected University of Pittsburgh faculty members Fabrisia Ambrosio and Ramakrishna Mukkamala to its College of Fellows

Ambrosio, associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, was recognized for outstanding contributions to the novel field of regenerative rehabilitation, which integrates applied biophysics and cellular therapeutics to optimize tissue function.

Mukkamala, a Swanson School of Engineering professor, was elected for pioneering contributions to developing and advancing novel, physiology-based hemodynamic monitoring technologies.

They are among 32 current faculty in School of Medicine and Swanson School of Engineering named AIMBE Fellows.

The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers in the country. The most accomplished and distinguished engineering and medical school chairs, research directors, professors, innovators and successful entrepreneurs comprise the College of Fellows. AIMBE fellows are regularly recognized for their contributions in teaching, research and innovation.

Ambrosio and Mukkamala were inducted with 151 colleagues who make up the 2022 Class of Fellows during AIMBE’s 2022 annual event on March 25.

Katz's Liu and Dietrich's Reed named Rising Stars by Association for Psychological Science

Peggy Liu (pictured), Ben L. Fryrear chair of marketing in the Katz Graduate School of Business, and Rebecca Reed, assistant professor of psychology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, have received the Association for Psychological Science’s Rising Star designation

The honor recognizes researchers early in their careers whose innovative work has advanced the field and signals great potential for continued contributions.

Liu’s research and teaching expertise is in consumer behavior with a focus on work that increases the appeal of health activities in social contexts. In 2021, Liu won $115,000 in the Pitt Innovation Challenge with Jacqueline Burgette from the School of Dental Medicine, for their “Healthy Teeth Healthy Me Family Activity Box” to prevent tooth decay in vulnerable children. [Read more about Liu’s research.]

Reed directs the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Lab at Pitt. Her work focuses on biopsychosocial factors that contribute to healthy physical and cognitive aging. She uses biological and psychosocial measures in the laboratory and in daily life settings to examine these processes over time.

DNP nurse-midwifery program receives full accreditation

Five years after the DNP nurse-midwifery program was granted pre-accreditation status from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education, it’s been elevated to initial accreditation through February 2027.

It’s the first midwifery program in Western Pennsylvania and the only DNP Midwifery program in Pennsylvania.

“A lot of people did a lot of work to make this happen,” said Nancy Niemczyk, an assistant professor who played an instrumental role in getting the midwifery program started at the School of Nursing in 2016. “I’m really proud of the whole staff.”

“I’ve been practicing as a midwife in Pittsburgh since 1995 and since 1996 I’ve been saying, ‘we need to get a program in Pittsburgh,’” she said. “Before this, the nearest places to become a midwife were at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, or the University of Pennsylvania.”

Read more on the School of Nursing website.

Leigh Patel elected to National Academy of Education

Leigh Patel, professor in the School of Education, has been elected to the National Academy of Education, an honorific society of scholars and educators who make outstanding contributions to the education field.

She is one of 17 new members elected from around the United States.

As a member of academy, Patel will serve on expert study panels that address pressing issues in education and will be a mentor for the organization’s professional development fellowship programs.

Patel is a transdisciplinary scholar who studies the narratives that shape how people are treated in society. She is an internationally known scholar of education, ethnic studies, critical higher education studies and literacy.

“This is a significant honor that means a great deal to me,” Patel said. “There are a number of Black, Indigenous, migrant and decolonial women in the Academy doing quality research that impacts the possible futures of Black and Brown children. Their work has deeply influenced me, and it’s an honor to be in the same group.”

Pitt Public Health will lead data coordination for a trial on condition in preterm infants

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has selected the University of Pittsburgh as the Data Coordinating Center for a $5.5 million trial to help guide parents on treatment options for patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA — an extra blood vessel that develops in utero and allows blood circulation to skip the lungs of a developing baby.

Wendy King, associate professor of epidemiology at Pitt’s School of Public Health, and Stephen Wisniewski, vice provost at Pitt and co-director of Pitt Public Health’s Epidemiology Data Center, are principal investigators on the trial titled, “Percutaneous intervention versus observational trial of arterial ductus in lower gestational age infants,” or PIVOTAL. 

Usually, either before birth or shortly thereafter, the extra vessel shrinks and closes. But sometimes, particularly in premature infants, the PDA is large and more likely to stay open, which may require the infant to be put on mechanical ventilation and lead to problems that strain and enlarge the child’s heart. The best course of action to help the newborn — medication, insertion of a catheter or corrective surgery — isn’t always obvious.

“Using the best data science methods is critical to answering clinical questions, which in this trial could prevent chronic lung disease, intestinal injury, brain damage, congestive heart failure and even mortality among preterm infants,” King said.

In preterm infants on breathing support with PDAs that affect the flow of their blood, the trial will compare cardiopulmonary outcomes such as days free of mechanical ventilation following PDA closure via a minimally invasive heart catheter closure-device versus supportive care without closure. The study also will evaluate safety and improvement in neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Alejandro Hoberman earns Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award

Executive Vice Chair of Pediatrics Alejandro Hoberman received the Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award for 2022 from the Clinical Research Forum, a nonprofit association of clinical research experts and thought leaders from the nation’s leading academic health centers.

Hoberman is the first person to receive this award twice from the forum.

This year's award recognizes Hoberman and his research team for a study entitled “Tympanostomy Tubes or Medical Management for Recurrent Acute Otitis Media.” First published in May 2021 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study found no long-term benefit to surgically placing ear tubes in a young child’s ears to reduce the rate of recurrent ear infections compared to use of episodic oral antibiotics.

In 2015, the Clinical Research Forum recognized Hoberman for his team’s findings in “Antimicrobial Prophylaxis for Children with Vesicoureteral Reflux.”

Nicole Scheff named Award in Pain scholar by Rita Allen Foundation

The Rita Allen Foundation named Nicole Scheff, assistant professor of neurobiology, a 2021 Award in Pain Scholar.

The award celebrates four early-career leaders in the biomedical sciences whose research holds exceptional promise for revealing new pathways to understand and treat chronic pain.

The scholars, nominated by the United States Association for the Study of Pain, will receive grants of $50,000 annually for up to three years to conduct innovative research on critical topics on the biological mechanisms of pain.

“With millions of people in the United States suffering from chronic pain, the pain research field holds increasing importance for public health,” said Elizabeth Good Christopherson, president and CEO of the Rita Allen Foundation.

Scheff’s research seeks to understand how peripheral neurons evolve and adapt during cancer initiation and growth. She will investigate whether therapy targeted to neurons innervating the cancer can alleviate pain and slow the formation of tumors.

“My father, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Kentucky, taught me at a very young age to score electron micrographs for synapse loss in different areas of the cerebral cortex,” Scheff said. “This ‘father-daughter quality time’ sealed the deal for me to become a neurobiologist.”

She thanked Brian Davis and Michael Gold, professors of neurobiology at Pitt, for their support. “Both continue to inspire me to go beyond normal limits and to try out new and different ideas that might contradict current views.”

Waverly Duck wins Scholarly Achievement Award for book ‘Tacit Racism’

Waverly Duck, an associate professor in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, won the North Central Sociological Association's Scholarly Achievement Award for "Tacit Racism."

A three-member committee of association judges called it a “wonderful piece of research and scholarship.”

The book, co-authored with Anne Warfield Rawls, lays out the many ways in which racism is coded into the everyday social interactions of Americans.

“Tacit Racism,” published by University of Chicago Press, will be honored during an awards ceremony at the group's April 1-2 meeting in Indianapolis.

Alaina Roberts

History professor Roberts a finalist for Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Alaina E. Roberts, assistant professor of history in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, is a finalist for this year’s Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the history category.

In her book, “I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land,” Roberts tells the history of Indian territory during the Reconstruction era and the ways African-American and Native American history are tied together. Digging into archival research and family history, she connects debates about Black freedom and Native American citizenship to westward expansion onto native land.

This year’s winners will be announced at an award ceremony on April 22, marking the 42nd year of the prize recognizing literary achievement.

Three from Pitt presented at SXSW 2022

Three people from the University of Pittsburgh presented at SXSW 2022.

Dan Ding, associate professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, participated in, “The Technology Making Fitness More Accessible,” on March 11. Ding, who also has appointments in the Department of Bioengineering and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, discussed new tech to make fitness more accessible to people of all abilities, including adaptive sports and wheelchairs designed for activities like hiking.

Assistant Professor Lori Delale-O’Connor and Medina Jackson, P.R.I.D.E. director of engagement in the Office of Child Development, both from the School of Education, shared experiences, curiosities and more around promoting innovation as Black and Latinx educators for Black and Latinx youth during their panel, “Shifting Power in Educational R&D,” on March 8. They discussed how to make the world of academic research and development more diverse and equitable.

Hear the presentation by Delale-O'Connor and Jackson.

The 10-day festival in Austin, Texas, brings together entertainers, technologists, education specialists and other innovators to discuss the future of their industries.

Winners of the Black Excellence Service Award announced

The virtual Black Excellence Bash held Feb. 25 marked the conclusion of the University of Pittsburgh’s 2022 K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program.

The event brought together Pitt people, community members and stakeholders to announce and honor the recipients of the Black Excellence Service Award. The winners include current and former Black students, faculty or staff who were nominated for making significant contributions to the community through their time, actions, talents and dedication, and as role models for compassion and service.

Winners were announced across five categories — students, staff, faculty, businesses and alumni:

  • Jorden King (EDUC ’22)

  • Taylor Robinson (A&S ’21)

  • Channing Moreland, inaugural director of the SHRS Wellness Pavilion at the Homewood Community Engagement Center and senior director of strategic programs and services in School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ Office of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement

  • Khamara Turner, senior access and early engagement coordinator in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid

  • Karen Gilmer, award-winning costume designer and lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

  • Alecia Young, founder of YOGAMOTIF

  • Khristen Scott, assistant professor of English in the Dietrich School

  • Rev. Paul Abernathy (GSPH ’06)

  • Tre Tipton (A&S ’19)

Jumoke Davis (CGS ’05), Pitt’s new director of video production, served as the host while introductions were made by Kimberly Williams, a research associate and instructor in the Department of Anthropology, and Clyde Wilson Pickett, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.

Danielle Obisie-Orlu (pictured above), a junior and the 2021-2022 Allegheny County Youth Poet Laureate, closed the ceremony with a performance of her original poem “The Becoming” — an ode to the contributions of Black Pitt community members at Pitt and the overall blue, gold and Black experience.

Education’s Kokka receives nearly $1 million NSF grant

The National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program awarded Kari Kokka a $996,249 grant. Kokka is an assistant professor of mathematics education in Pitt’s School of Education and the primary investigator for the five-year grant-funded project titled "Partnering with Teachers and Students to Engage in Mathematical Inquiry about Relevant Social Issues."

"The project partners with the math department of one Pittsburgh public high school and helps teachers learn to use social justice mathematics with their students," said Kokka.

The award is part of an NSF-wide initiative that supports early career faculty with the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early career faculty build a firm foundation to sustain a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

Kokka has long worked to combine justice and education. Born and raised in California, her high school honors classes didn't reflect the school's population, which Kokka recalls as 88 percent students of color. This experience, combined with being a fourth-generation Japanese American whose family was unconstitutionally incarcerated in internment camps during World War II, informed her understanding of white supremacy and racism from a young age.

"That's why I became a teacher — to work towards justice," Kokka said.