Accolades

Bee Schindler

Health Sciences names Schindler as inaugural assistant director of DEI

Bee Schindler has been appointed the inaugural assistant director of the Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office, effective Aug. 1.

Schindler most recently served as the diversity and inclusion training manager and social justice fellowship program coordinator within the same office. In the new role, Schindler will manage and evaluate several programs in the DEI Office’s strategic plan, including the overall diversity recruiting and development strategy.

They also will continue to support the director of Social Justice, Racial Equity and Faculty Engagement in the Health Sciences in development of the Health Sciences Social Justice Fellowship Program.  

Before their appointment to assistant director, Schindler did their doctoral work on “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training in Higher Education: How Enrichment Imbued with Reciprocity Could Sustain the Complex Work.”

Schindler earned an Ed.D. in urban education at Pitt; an masters of social work in advanced generalist practice and programming at Columbia University; and a bachelor’s degree in print journalism at the University of Southern California.

Mark Shlomchik stepping down as immunology chair

Mark Shlomchik, who has served as chair of the Department of Immunology since his arrival at Pitt School of Medicine in 2013, will step down from the position, effective Aug. 1.

Shlomchik, UPMC endowed and distinguished professor, will remain on the faculty, where he will focus on his basic and translational research programs. He also will devote time to pursuing the delivery of personalized T cell therapy for cancer through entrepreneurial efforts such as BlueSphere Bio, a startup he cofounded with his brother, Warren Shlomchik. 

During Mark Shlomchik’s tenure as chair, the Department of Immunology has grown significantly and seen many notable successes. The department now includes 22 primary and 62 secondary faculty, with the recruitment of 10 junior and two senior faculty. Department research funding has tripled under his leadership; and his efforts helped unite the diverse community of immunology researchers at Pitt. He also oversaw the creation of new core facilities for mouse genome engineering, flow cytometry, and gnotobiotic mice and spearheaded the development of the graduate program in microbiology and immunology.

Dario Vignali will serve as interim chair of the department until a permanent successor is identified.

Facher adds new commercial translation role at med school

Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute, added another title on July 1 — inaugural associate dean for commercial translation in the School of Medicine.

This new appointment formalizes the role Facher has played in the School of Medicine over the past several years in promoting the commercial and societal potential of faculty and student innovations and in working with regional businesses to enhance the life sciences innovation ecosystem in the Pittsburgh region, according to an announcement by Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, and Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research.

In his new role, Facher will continue this work with a stronger connection to the health sciences. He also will provide direct accountability to the commercialization needs of the health sciences, especially entrepreneurial activities to advance Pitt’s biomedical research into companies and therapies that benefit people in the region and around the world.

Facher has a long history of leadership in the biotech industry. Before coming to Pitt in 2014, he was president/CEO of SironRX Therapeutics, a private, clinical-stage company developing novel drug therapies. Prior to that, he worked in Bayer’s medical device division as general manager of its Pittsburgh interventional business.

He holds a Ph.D. in human genetics from Pitt and an MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

Octavia Peck Palmer president-elect of clinical chemistry association

Octavia Peck Palmer, Pitt associate professor of pathology, critical care medicine, and clinical and translational sciences in the School of Medicine, has been elected to serve on the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) board of directors as president-elect. Following this, she will serve successive terms as the association’s president from August 2023 through July 2024, and as past president from August 2024 through July 2025. 

“I am elated that AACC’s membership has elected me to serve as president-elect of the association,” said Peck Palmer. “I look forward to working with AACC’s leadership, staff and members to continue to equip laboratory medicine professionals to successfully adapt to the complex challenges and greater demands in health care today. I strive to build upon the organization’s rich history of raising public awareness of laboratory medicine; providing multifaceted educational resources; advocating for health equity; leading global outreach efforts that empower resource-limited clinical laboratories; and driving advancements in the field that improve patient care.” 

Peck Palmer also serves as division director of clinical chemistry and as medical director of UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside hospitals and automated testing laboratories. She is also the assistant medical director of UPMC Children’s Hospital's automated testing laboratory. 

 

Student Affairs announces new roles for Oriola, Vincent-Bryan

Pitt's Division of Student Affairs recently announced two new roles for staffers.

Emiola J. Oriola was named inaugural director of the office of belonging and inclusion. Prior to his appointment, he was the founding program manager for the Office of Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement, also in the Division of Student Affairs, where he helped students, campus and community members across various backgrounds share perspectives and build bridges.

Oriola received his bachelor’s degree from Pitt in psychology, a master's degree in Theology from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and his doctorate in Education from Pitt. His research focuses on experiential learning, global perspectives and building learning skills in students through intentional exposure, communal dialogue and creative expression. He describes himself as a lover of people who strives to build unity in diversity proactively and intentionally.

DaVaughn Vincent-Bryan was named director of involvement and student unions in the Division of Student Affairs. He joined Pitt’s residence life team in 2016 as assistant director for programming, and  most recently served as associate director for residential experience. He created several signature programs including Pitt’s Got Talent, Late Night Breakfast and Panther Pride Week.

Vincent-Bryan, the first in his family to pursue higher education, earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and public communication from the University of Vermont, his master’s in organization leadership from Southern New Hampshire University and is pursuing a doctorate in Education in Pitt’s School of Education with a research focus on fostering cohesion through shared mission development. 

 

“kienes somos nosotrxs” by Mili Rodriguez

Winners of Art of Diversity Showcase announced

Pitt's Art of Diversity Showcase returned this year with nearly 50 submissions including photography, videography and written and visual works.

Presented by the University’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Center for Creativity, the third-annual exhibition ran concurrently with the 2022 Diversity Forum. It featured artwork from members of the Pitt and regional communities intended to expand diversity consciousness, displayed an awareness and understanding of intersectionality, and celebrated minoritized cultures and perspectives, PittWire reported. 

Five first-place winners received $500 awards and four honorable mentions won $250. 

Winners include: 

Writing: “Black Joy” by Alex Tha Great, Instagram @followthagreat

Visual art (2D, 3D, photography): “kienes somos nosotrxs” by Mili Rodriguez, Instagram @confiscatedrubberband (pictured above)

Performance (video, music, slam): “Time” by Black Girl Untold, Instagram @blackgirl.untold

Interdisciplinary (works that cross genres): “Paper Cut” by Lu (Clara) Wang, Instagram @la_schtroumpf

People’s Choice: Marissa Muchnok and Sophie Tayade for their film, “What Will People Say”

Honorable mentions include: 

Writing: “Prayer to a Black Goddess” by Luana Moreira Reis, Instagram @luanamoreirareis

Visual art (2D, 3D, photography): “Our Favorite Color” by Korey Edmonson, Instagram @koreytheartist

Performance (video, music, slam): “Golden Legacies” by Iman Clark, Instagram @iman__c

Interdisciplinary (works that cross genres): “What Are You?” by Eva, Instagram @evameilin

Pitt medicine professor Essien receives faculty development award

Assistant Professor of Medicine Utibe E. Essien has won a Harold Amos Faculty Development Award. The program, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, supports faculty from historically disadvantaged backgrounds in their research and efforts to become senior members of their academic institutions. As part of the program, physicians, dentists and nurses are connected with a senior mentor at an academic medical center to aid in their research.

Essien, whose research focuses on racial and ethnic health disparities and novel therapeutics, will receive $420,000 for his project titled, “A Multilevel Intervention to Reduce Anticoagulant Disparities in Atrial Fibrillation (MIRACLE-AF).”

Past Pitt recipients of the award include Tomeka Suber, Mehret Birru Talabi Esa Davis and Jacqueline Burgette.

Shenay Jeffrey

Jeffrey appointed director of PittServes office

Shenay Jeffrey has been appointed director of the Office of PittServes, effective July 5.

In this role, she is responsible for creating strategic community initiatives to develop students' civic engagement experiences. In her previous role as the office’s assistant director and outreach coordinator, Jeffrey was responsible for establishing and maintaining university partnerships with various Pittsburgh neighborhoods. 

Jeffrey was born in Georgetown, Guyana, and attended secondary school in Nassau, Bahamas. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in health information management from Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in 2010 and a master’s degree in public management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. She also is a doctoral candidate at Pitt's School of Education, with a focus on student civic engagement experiences.

Jeffrey has held various leadership positions in regional organizations such as chapter president of the Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Pittsburgh, public policy and advocacy board chair of PUMP, and board chair of New Voices for Reproductive Justice. She also has received several awards including the Iris Marion Young award for Social Justice from Pitt’s Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program and a Western PA Rising Star award. She was named a Pittsburgh Magazine 2021 40 Under 40 honoree in 2021 and was also featured in the American Dream series in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which focused on immigrant contributions to Pittsburgh.

Pitt 11th U.S. institution to offer MSN in school nursing    

Pitt Nursing is offering a new specialty area for students wishing to pursue their master of science degree in nursing. The School Nursing online program will prepare licensed registered nurses to work in school nursing, which requires advanced skills to address the complex health needs of students.

In the 1960s, 2 percent of children had a chronic health condition, a number that skyrocketed to 25 to 32 percent by 2019, and at adolescence that number jumps to 41.8 percent, according to the School of Nursing.

The program is a continuation of Pitt Nursing’s online 15-credit School Nurse PK-12 certificate. The online MSN in School Nursing will offer an additional 18 credits for a total of 33 credits in the program. Pitt Nursing expects to enroll students in the MSN School Nurse program this fall.

Pitt joins Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship program

The John Paul Stevens Foundation is expanding the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship program to eight new law schools, including Pitt's School of Law, broadening its geographic reach to six new states, and providing financial support to law students who spend their summers in unpaid legal internships serving the public interest.

The Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship Program provides grants to participating law schools to support their students working in unpaid public interest summer internships. Starting this summer, the foundation will provide support to 28 Stevens Fellows at the eight expansion law schools, which in addition to Pitt, include those at Indiana University, Seattle University, University of Idaho, University of Illinois, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi and Willamette University.

The foundation board of directors selected the schools based on factors including a commitment to public interest law, and demonstrated need for financial support for the school’s public interest students. Several schools also have faculty who clerked for Justice Stevens during his tenure at the U.S. Supreme Court, including Pitt Law Dean Amy Wildermuth.

Howe, retired Dietrich School dean, given ACS Pittsburgh Award

W. Richard Howe, retired associate dean of administration and planning for Pitt's Dietrich School, was presented with the 2021 Pittsburgh Award by the Pittsburgh Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

The Pittsburgh Award was established in 1932 to recognize outstanding leadership in chemical affairs in the local and larger professional community, and distinguished service to the field of chemistry. The presentation of the 2021 award was delayed until this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Howe joined Pitt’s chemistry department in 1970 and eventually was named assistant chair before joining the dean’s office. He coordinated a capital projects program in excess of $300 million that modernized instructional and research laboratories within the arts and sciences. He served as principal author and project coordinator for a $15 million construction award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, allowing Pitt to expand in nanoscience and experimental physics.

Xulong Tang receives $600k grant from NSF

Xulong Tang, assistant professor with Pitt’s School of Computing’s Department of Computer Science, received a three-year grant of nearly $600,000 from the National Science Foundation.

His research focuses on deep neural networks, a machine-learning technique and how to train these networks using fewer computing resources and less time.

“This is really a timely award that allows my group to continue pursuing cutting edge problems in the field,” he said. 

Spears, academic innovation vice provost, takes role at Marshall University

Julia Spears, associate vice provost of academic innovation, is leaving Pitt at the end of July to become assistant provost of online education and certification at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.

Her husband, former PItt deputy athletic director Christian Spears, was named Marshall’s athletics director in March.

Julia Spears came to Pitt in 2017 to focus on developing personalized education, which developed into the Forge Your Own Path strategy. She also was involved in the annual Mentoring and Advising Summit, the Seed Grant initiative, Pitt Commons and the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum

Yealy named Annals of Emergency Medicine editor-in-chief

Donald Yealy has been named editor-in-chief of Annals of Emergency Medicine, the official journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

As Department of Emergency Medicine chair and professor, and Pitt School of Medicine professor of clinical and translational sciences, Yealy’s research focuses on early care of life-threatening conditions. He has contributed to more than 390 publications.

Yealy, who also serves as chair of UPMC emergency medicine, has served as a member of the journal’s editorial board since 1997 and as deputy editor since 2006.

Business school's Swaminathan named co-editor at Journal of Marketing

Pitt Business professor Vanitha Swaminathan was named a co-editor for the Journal of Marketing, effective July 1. Swaminathan, the Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing in Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business, previously served as an associate editor.

She will serve alongside Editor-in-Chief Shrihari Sridhar from Texas A&M, and co-editors Cait Lamberton from the University of Pennsylvania (formerly of Pitt Business) and Detelina Marinova from University of Missouri.

Swaminathan was elected in 2020 to serve on the American Marketing Association Board of Directors for a three-year term.

 

Skinner named chair of medical school's radiation oncology department

Heath D. Skinner has been appointed professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the School of Medicine, effective July 1.

Skinner completed a combined MD/Ph.D. program at West Virginia University and a combined internship and residency in radiation oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He most recently served as associate professor of radiation oncology at Pitt School of Medicine and as an investigator at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

He specializes in the study and treatment of head and neck and lung cancers. As a physician-scientist, he maintains an active translational research laboratory focused on identifying novel biomarkers of resistance to radiation that can be clinically targeted. 

 

Pitt faculty, students lauded at annual sports medicine conference

Two Pitt School of Education faculty members and three Ph.D. students were recognized for their accomplishments during the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2022 Annual Meeting and World Congresses.

ACSM is the premier association for sports medicine, exercise science, and health and fitness professionals dedicated to helping people worldwide live longer, healthier lives.

Pitt Education faculty members Christopher Kline and Sharon Ross, both associate professors in the Department of Health and Human Development, were recognized as new ACSM Fellows during the annual meeting. The fellowship program is the most prestigious distinction within ACSM and recognizes distinguished professional achievement in research and service in the fields of exercise science and sports medicine.

In addition, three Ph.D. students in Pitt Education’s Exercise Physiology program recently received scholarships and recognition from ACSM.

Caitlin Cheruka was awarded the 2022 Michael L. Pollock Student Scholarship to support her attendance at the annual meeting. JP Marrero-Rivera received first place in the ACSM Minority Health and Research Interest Group Student Awards. Rachel Sanders was accepted into the 2021-2022 cohort of the ACSM Leadership and Diversity Training Program.

Read more about these awards and recognitions on the Pitt Education website.

GSPIA receives community building inclusion award

For the second year in a row, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs has received the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs’ Inclusion Award for Community Building — this time recognizing the efforts of the Out of Afghanistan Project.

Out of Afghanistan, an initiative of the Center for Governance and Markets, mobilized around 100 volunteers to assist more than 6,000 people fleeing Afghanistan in August through September 2021. It also brought together students, faculty, staff, alumni and others to welcome threatened Afghan scholars to the University of Pittsburgh and support other newly resettled refugees in the state. Read more about the program in Pitt Magazine

The Inclusion Award recognizes the efforts of international affairs schools that “bridge different groups and deepen a sense of connection within the community.” GSPIA also won the Inclusion Award in 2021, the awards program's inaugural year, for the Students of Color Alliance’s Reflective Conversations.  

Asher named assistant dean for student engagement and professional development

School of Education alumna and longtime Pitt staffer Karin Asher (EDUC ’08G) has started a new role as the inaugural assistant dean for student engagement and professional development in the Division of Student Affairs, effective July 15. In the position, Asher will focus on bringing together the four areas of Pitt’s student engagement and professional development team — the Career Center, leadership development, involvement and student unions, and Outside-the-Classroom Curriculum — to cohesively support student success.

“Student Affairs is excited to welcome Asher to this new role,” said Carla Panzella, dean of students at Pitt. “Under her leadership in consolidating this team, we expect to be better able to meet the evolving needs of students, especially as we reevaluate our programs, resources and services following the pandemic.”
 
Prior to her new role, Asher served as the interim director of Pitt’s Career Center for the 2021-2022 academic year, after spending nearly 10 years as associate director of the Career Center. During that time, she helped to grow the center’s programs and services to assist Pitt students by forming collaborative partnerships across campus. Asher oversaw major changes to Pitt’s first destination data collection process by aligning it with the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) guidelines, and she has worked to bolster access to more comprehensive data about where Pitt graduates go on to work and continue their educations. She has also worked to create and grow the Career Champions program, which offers training to faculty and advisors on career advising issues for students, and improved partnerships with academic schools and advising staff. 
 
Asher received her bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, her master’s from Penn State University and her Ed.D. from Pitt. Her research and professional interests include enhancing the use of data to understand patterns in student engagement and combining that information with access to resources to ensure these services reach all populations of students.  
 
Asher began her Student Affairs career in Residence Life and New Student Programs. She said she is committed to strengthening partnerships throughout and beyond the Division of Student Affairs and is looking forward to using those relationships to enhance student opportunities for success at Pitt.

Becich named interim co-director of Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Michael J. Becich, associate vice chancellor for informatics in the health sciences at Pitt and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics, will serve as interim co-director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University joint initiative. He will be joined by Curtis Meyer, professor of physics and associate dean of research for the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon.

The changes are a result of Shawn Brown announcing his resignation from the University. Brown served as Pitt’s vice chancellor for research computing and head of the supercomputing center since 2019.

N. John Cooper, former dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has agreed to return to Pitt to serve as interim vice chancellor for research computing to fill the other half of Brown’s role. Cooper also has served as deputy vice chancellor for research at Pitt.