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June 13, 2013

People of the Times

murrellAudrey J. Murrell, faculty member in business administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration and director of the school’s David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership, has been named associate dean of the College of Business Administration.

She will be responsible for the undergraduate program, which has the third-largest enrollment in the University.

Edward J. Palascak, who has served as associate dean since 1975, will retire in August. Under Palascak’s leadership, the College of Business Administration was re-established in 1993, and its enrollment grew from 156 students in 1995 to 2,032 students in 2012.

Murrell, who joined the business school in 1989, has taught in the organizational behavior and entrepreneurship area in the school’s undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA and executive education programs. Additionally, she holds secondary teaching appointments in the Department of Psychology and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Business school Dean John T. Delaney said: “I have known Audrey for many years. One of her most distinguishing features is the ease at which she connects with students and the infectious passion she has for seeing them succeed. From a strategic perspective, Audrey will be an excellent champion for the College of Business Administration because of her expertise in the creation and implementation of rigorous experience-based learning opportunities. For our students to compete globally, it is imperative that their education is rooted in applied scenarios that are relevant to the pressing business issues of our time.”

Murrell has conducted research and published in the areas of mentoring and career development, gender and diversity in organizations, and social issues in management. She is the co-author of several books on mentoring, including “Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge and Relationships” and “Mentoring Dilemmas: Developmental Relationships Within the Multicultural Organization.”

Murrell has secured research funding in other areas as well: discrimination in public contracting; the earnings gap between male and female workers, and the application of game theory to understand ethical decision-making among college undergraduates.

She also is involved in the analysis of Pittsburgh area “food deserts,” which are geographically defined zones where access to healthful, affordable food is limited.

Murrell holds a PhD and an MS from the University of Delaware, and a BS from Howard University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

Prior to joining the Katz faculty, Murrell was Pitt faculty member in psychology, 1987-89.

Murrell’s commitment to service has been recognized with the Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Public Service, the Chancellor’s Affirmative Action and Diversity Award, the Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement, the Student Choice Teaching Award and the H.J. Zoffer Medal for Meritorious Service through the Business Alumni Association.

She also has received the Mayor’s Citizen Service Award from the City of Pittsburgh, the SBA Minority Business Champion of the Year Award and the Susan B. Anthony Women of Vision Award from the Women’s Leadership Assembly in Pittsburgh.


Melissa Ratajeski, reference librarian in the Health Sciences Library System, has been elected vice chair of the Medical Library Association’s Chapter Council for a two-year term.


Several faculty members in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have been honored recently:

Laura Gotkowitz of history received the American Council of Learned Societies Burkhardt Fellowship.

• Distinguished Professor George Reid Andrews was awarded the Tibesar Prize by the Conference on Latin American History.

Katheryn Linduff of the history of art and architecture department was the inaugural winner of the Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement.

• Maurice Falk Professor of American Government B. Guy Peters of political science received the Fred Riggs Award from the American Society of Public Administration for lifetime achievements in comparative public administration.

John Levine and Richard Moreland of the psychology department received the Lifetime Career Achievement Award from Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research (INGROUP) for their work on small groups.

Kathleen Blee, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and associate dean of graduate studies and research, has received the 2013 Charles Tilly Award for Best Book from the American Sociological Association for her book, “Democracy in the Making: How Activist Groups Form.”

In the book, Blee follows the dynamics of 60 emerging activist groups in Pittsburgh over a three-year period, assessing the possibilities and limits of grassroots activism.


The YWCA of Greater Johnstown honored seven women for their contributions to the community May 23.

The Education Award went to Pitt-Johnstown’s Laura Perry-Thompson, who is director of the campus’s social work program.

Perry-Thompson began her career with the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, then worked for more than 20 years at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center as a behavioral health and employee assistance program coordinator, psychotherapist and psychiatric social worker.

In 2003 she joined the staff of Pitt-Johnstown’s Personal Counseling Center and Academic Success Center. In 2007, she was named director of UPJ’s  master of social work program. She serves as full-time faculty and is responsible for teaching foundation and direct practice courses. She also is involved in the recruitment of students and serves as field liaison and adviser, which gives her the opportunity to work closely with many of the area social-service agencies and organizations.

Perry-Thompson has a long record of involvement in community groups. She served on the Women’s Help Center board of directors for more than 25 years and is president-elect. She serves on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People executive committee, the National Association of Social Workers and the Cambria County Health and Welfare Council.

She also is a member of the Johnstown Symphony Chorus and Christ Centered Community Church.


The University’s Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy has announced the winners of the Dick Thornburgh faculty academic support grants. They are Brian Beaton, faculty member in the School of Information Sciences, and College of General Studies adjunct faculty member Richard J. Joyce.

The grants were created to expand the use of the Dick Thornburgh Archives, a collection of personal papers that Pitt alumnus and emeritus trustee Dick Thornburgh donated to Pitt in 1998. The papers chronicle Thornburgh’s career as U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, two-term governor of Pennsylvania, Attorney General of the United States, and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management.

Beaton is developing a three-credit graduate-level course in Pitt’s School of Information Sciences that will examine the central role of information technology and knowledge production within relatively recent economic history. He will use the Dick Thornburgh Archives to develop case studies and a primary source document reader that his students will use to gain a fuller sense of Pennsylvania’s history of economic reinvention from 1980 through the present.

Joyce, who earned his master’s degree in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, teaches the undergraduate Pitt course “Legal Issues in Public Service.” He will use the archives to create the Governor Thornburgh case study project, which will examine the application of conflict resolution and negotiation skills in the areas of governance and public service.


The Provost’s Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence has announced winners of the 2013 Innovation in Education Award.

The awards encourage instructional innovation and teaching excellence. The council seeks to identify high-quality proposals that show promise for introducing innovative approaches to teaching that can be adapted for a variety of courses.

Winners of the 2013 awards are:

Brian Beaton, School of Information Sciences, “Innovating Informal Instruction: Creating a School of Information Sciences ‘Research Experience Portal.’”

This project is aimed at providing graduate students with the opportunity to learn outside the classroom by actively participating in “real” faculty-led research projects. Beaton plans to create an online “Research Experience Portal,” a web-based zone of informal teaching and instruction that will allow faculty to upload research problems and to delineate the research skills needed by students to participate. Students can choose projects based upon their interests as well as upon the research skills they need to develop.

Cheryl Bodnar, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering, “Virtual Internships: Development of Professional Identity Within Large-Enrollment Programs.”

Large-enrollment lecture courses, while increasingly common at universities across the United States, do not actively engage students, nor do they enable students to develop a good sense of the professions they are pursuing, according to Bodnar. She plans to expand the activities of Nephrotex, a virtual-internship game for engineers, by adding activities that make students more focused on the consumer’s role in the product-design process.

It is hoped that the changes will help students to become more innovative and entrepreneurial. Bodnar said that while the game currently is aimed at engineers, it will be possible to use the technology across departments and schools.

Lance A. Davidson, Department of Bioengineering and Developmental Biology, Swanson School of Engineering, and member of the Pitt-UPMC McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, “Assessing the Flip: Reengineering a Large Lecture Course in Bioengineering.”

This project seeks to enhance the problem-solving and analytical skills of students taking the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences’ Introduction to Cell Biology, a large lecture, two-semester core class for bioengineering students. Students will be asked to learn online the material that traditionally was taught by lectures, and class time will be spent primarily helping students to develop critical-analysis and problem-solving skills.

The project’s co-director is Carsten Stuckenholz, Department of Bioengineering and the School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology.

Becky Faett, Department of Acute/Tertiary Care, School of Nursing, “A Strategy to Improve Professional Competence and Use of Individualized Evidence-Based Patient Teaching in a Large-Enrollment Course Offered at Two Campuses.”

Faett’s project seeks to help Pittsburgh and Johnstown campus nursing students learn to accurately assess a patient’s need for teaching and then to effectively provide that teaching. Four interactive video modules will use actors from the UPJ theatre arts program to illustrate effective and ineffective examples of patient teaching. Faculty will start and stop the videos intermittently, permitting students to verbalize their assessments.

The project’s co-director is Alice Blazeck, Department of Acute/Tertiary Care.

Sean Garrett-Roe, Department of Chemistry, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, “Computer-Assisted Guided Inquiry Activities for Physical Chemistry.”

Garrett-Roe will develop computer-based models to demonstrate such dynamic elements of his curriculum as how molecules move around in a solid, a liquid or a gas. He will integrate these simulations into the guided-inquiry format used in his classes, where students are presented with a data display and required to explain the physical principles underlying the illustration. Garrett-Roe said he has begun reworking his classes in physical chemistry to comprise computer simulations and the guided-inquiry method; “the approach has been a great success so far,” he added.

Robert J. Weyant, Department of Dental Public Health, School of Dental Medicine, and Amy L. Seybert, Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, School of Pharmacy, “Evidence-Based Healthcare: Interprofessional, Learner-Focused Small Groups in Large- Lecture Courses in Dentistry and Pharmacy.”

This project calls for the redesign of two large-lecture courses, Evidence-Based Dentistry and Cardiology, within dental medicine and pharmacy, respectively. Currently, both courses present the fundamentals of evidence-based health care. The classes are taught separately through traditional lecture methods.

Under this project, the two courses will be redesigned to incorporate three, two-hour joint sessions using the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning, or POGIL, teaching approach, which places students in small groups within the larger classroom to engage in active learning, critical thinking and problem solving. Dental and pharmacy students will be combined in small groups.

Andrew R. Zentner, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, “A General Education Course on Energy Sources, Use and the Environment.”

Zentner will develop infrastructure for a new, large-scale lecture course. Several factors will define this course, including its design for students without university-level physics or mathematics experience. It will address both energy use and energy sources and will focus on active problem-solving and data interpretation to help students interpret quantitative statements often found in the popular media.


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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