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November 23, 2016

People of the Times

Three Pitt employees are among this year’s Fuerza Award honorees. Diego Chaves-Gnecco, Gloria J. Rodriguez-Ransom and Melanie Weiser Krugel were honored at a Nov. 18 event at Alloy 26 on the North Side. The awards, presented by Cafe con Leche, celebrate the contributions of Latino/Latina leaders in the Pittsburgh region.

• Chaves-Gnecco, a faculty member in pediatrics at the School of Medicine, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and founder/director of the program Salud Para Niños.

A graduate of Gimnasio Moderno in Bogotá, Colombia, he earned his MD from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Following his residency in pediatrics at Hospital Universitario San Ignacio, he came to Pitt in 1998 as a faculty member in the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, where he worked until 2002. He obtained a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Public Health in 2000.

In 2002, he started his residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital and joined its community oriented residency education (CORE) program, an area of concentration in the pediatric training program that aims to train leaders in community health and child advocacy.

As part of his CORE training, in 2002 he created the region’s first pediatric bilingual-bicultural clinic in southwestern Pennsylvania, which has since expanded into the program Salud Para Niños (Health for the Children).

• Rodriguez-Ransom, a licensed professional counselor, works in the Office of Child Development providing mental health supportive services to children, their families and school age/early education providers.

A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she came to Pittsburgh to attend college in 1991. She received a BA in psychology from La Roche College then earned an MEd in school/community counseling at Duquesne University.

She led the creation of the Latino Family Center for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, along with Latino community leaders and Latino families.
She is active in the Latin American Cultural Union, currently serving as vice president.

• Weiser Krugel, assistant director of student and diversity recruitment for the Katz Graduate School of Business, is president and founder of Pitt’s Hispanic and Latino Professional Association (see Sept. 3, 2015, University Times) and is involved with diversity and inclusion initiatives across campus.

Additional information on the awardees is at


A researcher from the National Institutes of Health with a strong background in inflammation research has been recruited to join the Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research at Children’s Hospital. The institute’s faculty and programs are part of the School of Medicine.

Scott Canna is the fifth scientist appointed to Children’s Mellon scholars program, which enables promising researchers in the early stages of their careers to pursue potential breakthrough research projects in biomedicine.

Canna’s research focus is on autoinflammatory disorders where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. In particular, he studies an inflammation-inducing molecule called IL-18 and how it may contribute to human diseases including macrophage activation syndrome, a potentially life-threatening complication of certain childhood inflammatory diseases.

Canna comes from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, where he was the Metzger Scholar of Translational Research and head of the autoinflammatory pathogenesis unit. He received his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins and his medical degree from George Washington University.


Judith Yang, a Swanson School of Engineering faculty member in chemical and petroleum engineering, has been elected a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) “for seminal contributions to in situ environmental transmission electron microscopy, the fundamental understanding of metal oxidation and the application of nanomaterials and catalysis.”

Yang is among 15 members of the APS Division of Materials Physics to be named fellows this year. The APS caps the number of new fellows elected each year to 0.5 percent of its 51,000 international members.

Nominees are evaluated based on exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise, including outstanding research, application, leadership or service and contributions to education related to the field of physics.

Yang joined the Pitt faculty in 1999 and has received numerous awards including a 2005 Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award.


A leadership transition is on the horizon at the Swanson School of Engineering’s Office of Academic Affairs.

Mary Besterfield-Sacre

Mary Besterfield-Sacre

Mary Besterfield-Sacre, faculty member in industrial engineering, has been appointed associate dean for academic affairs effective Jan. 1. Larry Shuman, Distinguished Service Professor of Industrial Engineering, will remain senior associate dean for academic affairs through his retirement in spring 2018.

Besterfield-Sacre will assume full responsibility for the Swanson school’s academic affairs Jan. 1, 2018. These duties include the first-year (or freshman) program, transfers, scholarships, EXCEL and Investing Now, and the international, co-op and innovation and entrepreneurship programs, in addition to ABET and new academic program development.  She will continue to direct the Engineering Education Research Center.

In addition to her academic role, Besterfield-Sacre is founding director for the Engineering Education Research Center in the Swanson school and serves as a center associate for the Learning Research and Development Center.

Her principal research is in engineering education assessment. Besterfield-Sacre’s current research focuses on innovative design and entrepreneurship, engineering modeling and global competency in engineering.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering management from Missouri Institute for Science and Technology, a master’s degree in industrial engineering from Purdue and a PhD in industrial engineering from Pitt. Before returning to Pitt, she was an industrial engineering faculty member at the University of Texas-El Paso.

Shuman’s research has focused on health systems planning, engineering ethics and most recently on improving the engineering educational experience.

Within the Swanson school he has led the development of the cooperative engineering education and study-abroad programs. Under Shuman’s leadership, 45 percent of Swanson school seniors graduate with at least some form of international education experience.

Shuman and Besterfield-Sacre are leading a Swanson School effort to introduce innovation and entrepreneurship across the undergraduate programs.

“Mary and Larry have worked hand-in-hand over the past few years to transform our undergraduate engineering curriculum, and I am very pleased that one will be passing the torch to another,” noted Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “Larry is internationally recognized not only within the industrial engineering discipline, but also for his impact on engineering education. Likewise, Mary’s own research has helped to transform how our faculty teach, and how our students engage with one another in the classroom. I thank them both for their contributions to the University and the Swanson school.”


Amanda Godley

Amanda Godley

Amanda Godley, a faculty member in the School of Education, has been named co-editor of the journal English Teaching: Practice and Critique for a two-year term.

This peer-reviewed international journal encourages critical, reflective practice and classroom-based research on issues related to literacy.

Godley is a faculty member in English education and language, literacy and culture. She holds secondary appointments in the Department of Linguistics and in the gender, sexuality and women’s studies program. She is affiliated with the University’s Center for Urban Education and the Learning Research and Development Center.


Poet Yona Harvey, faculty member in English in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, is the recipient of the 2016 Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards’ Established Artist Award.

Sponsored by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, the awards recognize exemplary artistic achievement by an established artist and an emerging artist each year. Candidates were nominated by artists and regional arts leaders and chosen by an independent panel that reviewed applications and work samples. Recipients are awarded $15,000.

Harvey is the author of the poetry collection “Hemming the Water,” winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University and finalist for the Hurston-Wright Award. Her work has been anthologized in several publications, including “A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry” and “The Force of What’s Possible: Accessibility and the Avant-Garde.”

Harvey, along with emerging artist awardee fashion designer Tereneh Mosley, will be recognized during a public program Dec. 5 at the August Wilson Center.

The Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards event is part of the Investing in Professional Artists: The Pittsburgh Region Artists Program, a multiyear initiative established jointly by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

The awards program was conceived in 1991 as the Creative Achievement Awards by Carol R. Brown, who was president of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust 1986-2001.

Brown oversaw the transformation of a 14-square-block area of Downtown Pittsburgh from a red light district to a nationally recognized model for arts-based community redevelopment.

The awards went on hiatus 2002-11. In 2012, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments resurrected the awards and renamed them the Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards.

—Compiled by K. Barlow

The People of the Times column features recent news on faculty and staff, including awards and other honors, accomplishments and administrative appointments. We welcome submissions from all areas of the University. Send information via email to:, by fax at 412-624-4579 or by campus mail to 308 Bellefield Hall. For submission guidelines, visit

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