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June 8, 2000

Three initiatives designed to help General Studies expand its reach

General Studies expand its reach

Three recent initiatives have expanded the reach of Pitt's College of General Studies (CGS).

The college has added a certificate program, extended its presence in the community and developed an in-house advising service geared to nontraditional students.

CGS Dean Susan R. Kinsey last week announced the establishment of a new certificate program offered in conjunction with Pitt's School of Information Sciences (SIS).

Kevin Altomari, CGS associate dean, said of the certificate program, "This in no way replaces the bachelor of science in information science degree offered at SIS. This is for CGS students who want to pursue careers in the growing information systems field under flexible conditions," with courses offered in the evenings, on Saturdays, at satellite locations or through the external studies format. "The uniqueness of this program is that we checked the job market, found a growing need for this type of program and worked with SIS faculty to develop the appropriate curriculum."

Statistics from the Pittsburgh Region Occupation and Workforce Link indicate that the regional and national demand for information specialists, particularly database administrators, on-line marketing specialists and computer support staff, will continue to rise.

The certificate program is designed to prepare students for technical jobs or to augment degree programs with an emphasis on information science. Several of the courses in the certificate program are prerequisites for information science master's degree programs.

Altomari, who oversees enrollment management, extended education programs (those offered at the CGS satellite sites in Mt. Lebanon and Monroeville) and degree and certificate programs, said that CGS expects the first students to enroll in the information systems program next spring term.

The college also is branching out to reach potential students by collaborating with the Bidwell Training Center, Inc., a vocational training and job placement organization.

According to Altomari, the University is negotiating a multi-year lease for office space at Bidwell, which is on the city's North Side. Altomari said the Bidwell site should be up and running by mid-summer.

"Bidwell offers workforce kinds of training, which we can't offer credit for here," Altomari said. "But our presence there may influence people to make their next step in higher education, either for career advancement or to change careers."

He said the collaboration will help the college to learn what new programs are needed. "The goal is to build a new audience for CGS, while simultaneously responding directly to the needs of people in the workforce. What are their issues? What skills are needed? Do they need to take algebra? Do they need to learn to write better? What opportunities and avenues can we create to address the needs of that population?"

If the Bidwell collaboration is a success, Altomari said, the college may look for other off-campus sites to develop similar new target audiences. "We hope and expect that this population will help us develop what we need to be offering."

Altomari said the plan is to have a full-time staff member who can disseminate information about programs at CGS and throughout the University. Additionally, CGS academic counselors are expected to staff the office part time on a rotating basis.

The third initiative, established last fall, is the Center for Nontraditional Student Success and Development. The specialized advising center offers orientation, time management and study skills seminars.

Four academic success seminars are part of what is nicknamed the "CGS Voyage," an adaptation of the Pitt Pathway advising program in the College of Arts and Sciences. The pathway is a four-stage process to assist undergraduates in exploring career options, gaining career-related experience, securing internships and implementing individual goals.

Altomari acknowledged that Pitt has stronger advising services for traditional college-age students. "But I found, in talking to my colleagues across the country, that's true everywhere."

Often CGS students have life experience or multi-career experience that needs to be addressed in advising them. "They also have to learn to make college fit into their busy lives." The goal of the success center is to develop strategies tailored to the individual student who is typically older and often employed, he said.

The center also administers math and English placement tests and offers an on-line service ( that disseminates information on student programs, cultural events and academic deadlines.

Dean Kinsey said she expects to announce other initiatives, which she declined to specify, after the Provost's office evaluates the CGS FY 2001 strategic plan.

–Peter Hart


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