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November 12, 2009

People of the Times

The Gordie Foundation and Outside The Classroom — two organizations that promote alcohol-education programs nationally — have named Chancellor Mark Nordenberg the 2009 recipient of the Presidential Leadership Award.

The award recognizes a college or university chief executive who has given time and energy to create an environment where learning and campus life are not undermined by alcohol abuse. The award carries a $50,000 donation to the University in Nordenberg’s name.

“The highly effective campus programs that Chancellor Nordenberg has set in place provide a great foundation for other schools to create their own plans of educating students about the dangers of alcohol,” said Leslie Lanahan, founder of The Gordie Foundation.

Pitt’s most recent outreach programs include the PantherWELL peer health education program; a new student recreation area, serving as an alternative to nightclubs and bars, and the launch of two public awareness campaigns encouraging students to celebrate sports victories and other events responsibly.

These efforts led to a 61 percent increase in students who reported receiving information from the University on alcohol.

In addition, according to the Division of Student Affairs, student survey data report that in the past 18-24 months, Pitt has experienced:

• A 12 percent decline in the number of binge-drinking students;

• A 20 percent decline in negative academic consequences related to alcohol use;

• A 36 percent decrease in students’ driving after drinking, and

• A 9 percent increase in students who identify themselves as non-drinkers.

In accepting the award Nov. 2, Nordenberg said he hopes the University will use the donation to support more alcohol education programs that send a positive message to the community and potential students.

Gordon Mitchell, a faculty member in the Department of Communication and director of the William Pitt Debating Union, has been appointed to the planning committee of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation (ISSA).  Mitchell

ISSA is a professional association for argumentation scholars from more than 32 nations.

Mitchell, recently named as director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication, also has been appointed as editor-in-chief of Timely Interventions: A Translational Journal of Public Policy Debate. Scheduled to launch in early 2010, this peer-reviewed online journal will be published by the University Library System, co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

David Vorp of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine recently was re-elected for a second three-year term on the board of directors of the Biomedical Engineering Society.Vorp1 BMES is a group of nearly 400 researchers from universities, government agencies and corporations worldwide, as well as doctors and industry leaders in pharmaceuticals and prosthetic devices.

Vorp holds academic appointments in surgery and bioengineering and serves as a director of the Center for Vascular Remodeling and Regeneration as well as the director of the Vascular Surgery and Vascular Biomechanics Research Lab.

Irina Reyn of the English department has won the 2009 Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers for her 2008 book, “What Happened to Anna K.”


The prize is awarded to an American fiction writer for a first or second full-length work that was published in the previous calendar year. The award carries a prize of $2,500, as well as a one-week residency at Ledig House International Writers Colony in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Louis Gomez, holder of the Helen S. Faison Chair in Urban Education in the School of Education, has been named one of five senior partners for a new program at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The program “will seek to tackle some of the most nettlesome problems affecting the educational success of a large number of our nation’s students,” according to the foundation.

Gomez is the inaugural holder of the Faison Chair, the first director of Pitt’s Center for Urban Education and a senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center.

He has worked with the Carnegie Foundation to develop a new approach to education research and development, called Design-Educational Engineering-and Development (DEED). According to the Carnegie Foundation’s announcement of Gomez’s appointment, “The DEED approach is based on the notion that it is not sufficient to know that a program or innovation can work, but how to make it work reliably over many diverse contexts and situations.”

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar has been elected to the board of directors of NAFSA (National Association of Foreign Student Advisers): Association of International Educators, a professional association dedicated to international education.

With nearly 10,000 members at 3,500 institutions, NAFSA represents more than 150 countries.Jem Spectar

In just over two years since Spectar assumed the UPJ presidency, the campus is admitting an increasing number of international students and sending more students to study abroad. During the current academic year, 42 international students are enrolled at UPJ, an increase of more than 130 percent in two years. More than 40 Pitt-Johnstown students will study abroad this year.

Among the initiatives launched by Spectar to advance Pitt-Johnstown’s involvement in international education are:

• The development of a campus strategic plan, “A New Dimension of Excellence for Real World Readiness,” which outlines the campus’s goals for international education.

• The creation of a global education task force, which conducted an assessment of global education and developed several recommendations for campus internationalization.

• The establishment of the International Services Office.

• The development of the GLOCAL Society series, which promotes awareness and discussion of pressing global issues.

• The implementation of the RealWorld action program, which encourages students to connect learning to practical experiences from the local to the global level.

Spectar will begin serving his three-year term Jan. 1.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has selected Linda Siminerio, executive director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute, as its 2009 United States spokesperson for the Nov. 14 World Diabetes Day campaign.

As the national spokesperson, Siminerio will be responsible for highlighting the importance of national diabetes education and local efforts to improve prevention and quality care in Pennsylvania.

Siminerio was the first woman and American to serve as the chair of the IDF Congress. She currently serves on the Pennsylvania Chronic Care Commission and previously served as president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. Her honors include the ADA awards for Outstanding Contributions to Diabetes in Youth and for Distinguished International Service to the Cause of Diabetes.

Siminerio’s research focuses on translating scientific findings into diabetes prevention and treatment for underserved communities. She also has been appointed to lead the IDF in translating these findings into global communities through its BRIDGES (Bringing Research in Diabetes to Global Environments and Systems) program.


The People of the Times column features recent news on faculty and staff, including awards and other honors, accomplishments and administrative appointments.

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