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January 21, 2016

People of the Times

Two Student Affairs staff members were honored recently.

chergiChristine A. Chergi, building manager for the William Pitt Union, received the Edgar A. Whiting Award from the Association of College Unions International (ACUI). The award recognized Chergi as an outstanding member of ACUI’s region VII.

Chergi has gained prominence through her efforts to develop the college union and student activities movement on a regional basis.

landyMatthew Landy, assistant conduct officer, has received the Dr. Felice Dublon Award of Excellence from the Association for Student Conduct Administration. The award recognizes his work on the unification of the conduct process managed by the conduct office and residence life staff.

As part of this unification, Landy developed training for all new employees to help manage the conduct process, revamped the sanctioning guidelines creating a uniform response protocol, and streamlined the paperwork related to counseling assessments and educational programming.

He created the student conduct peer review board, a panel of student hearing officers that adjudicate low-level cases. Landy also coordinated an upgrade to the judicial software and has heard and assisted the conduct officer with the adjudication of high-level incidents, programming and outreach efforts.


wiebeJanyce Wiebe, a faculty member in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Computer Science and director of the intelligent systems program, has been named a 2015 fellow of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL).

Established in 2011, the fellows program recognizes ACL members whose contributions to the field have been extraordinary. To date, 32 members of the ACL have been honored as fellows.


mitchellSandra Mitchell, chair of the Dietrich school’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS fellow is an honor bestowed by the association’s members, who are internationally distinguished scientists, engineers and innovators.


Aidan Wright, faculty member in the Department of Psychology, has received the Rising Star of Clinical Science Award from the Association for Psychological Science.


liuXinyu Liu, faculty member in chemistry, has been selected as a Thieme Chemistry Journal Awardee for 2016. The award recognizes promising young professors at the beginning of their careers and is made by the editorial boards of the journals Synlett, Synthesis and Synfacts.


weberChemistry’s Stephen Weber has been selected to a three-year term on Analytical Chemistry’s editorial advisory board. The board was established in the 1940s as a link between the editors and the analytical chemistry public.


Caitlin Bruce, faculty member in the Department of Communication, received the Outstanding Essay of the Year Award for the visual communication division of the National Communication Association for her article “The Balaclava as Affect Generator: Free Pussy Riot Protests and Transnational Iconicity.”


murrellAudrey Murrell, associate dean of the undergraduate College of Business Administration, has reassumed the role of director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership. Murrell will retain her role as associate dean.

Murrell was director of the Berg center 2007-13. She joined the business school in 1989, and has taught in the organizational behavior and entrepreneurship area in undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA and executive education programs. She holds secondary teaching appointments in the Department of Psychology and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Future initiatives for the Berg center include the expansion of the upperclassmen living learning community (LLC) in Brackenridge Hall next year. This LLC will focus on global leadership, with project opportunities and global leadership experiences for Pitt business students.

The social entrepreneurship offerings within the Berg center also will expand in the area of food security, a collaborative effort between the Berg center and the business school. Additionally, plans are underway to create a case competition organization that will give business students the opportunity to compete against the top schools in the nation while developing leadership skills.

Murrell succeeds Heidi Bartholomew, clinical professor of business administration, who has served as interim director of the Berg center since 2013.

The Berg center is part of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration. Its mission is to add value to organizations through ethical leadership.


mcClureThe School of Education’s Maureen McClure has been named a National Education Finance Conference (NEFC) distinguished fellow, one of the highest recognitions in the field of education finance.

McClure is a senior researcher in the Institute for International Studies in Education as well as former chair in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies. She teaches courses in fiscal and strategic management, education and development debates, and international and global education. Her research focuses on education in the generational interest.

Each year, the NEFC fellow designation is awarded to 10 individuals who have gained national visibility by their “exemplary research and/or practice in the field of public education finance both on the elementary and secondary level as well as in higher education.”


A paper by Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) faculty members Luke Condra and Sera Linardi, written with Mohammad Isaqzadeh of American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, has been selected as the best paper in comparative politics by the Midwest Political Science Association’s Kellogg/Notre Dame Award committee. The winning paper was “Clerics and Scriptures: Experimentally Disentangling the Influence of Religious Authority in Afghanistan.”

In weak states, the paper asks, are religious leaders better facilitators of collective action than civilian leaders due to their association with the supernatural?

In what the authors believe is the first experiment involving an actual religious authority, the researchers disentangle the power of a Muslim cleric in Afghanistan to mobilize the very poor to finance a public good (a hospital).

They show that the donning of clerical garments brings in new givers who contribute the minimum and crowds out givers who would have generously contributed to a civilian leader. This crowding out is driven by those who are formally educated. Quoting the Qur’an directly on reasons to give counteracts this backlash, possibly by cuing a more convincing connection to God.


A team of GSPIA faculty, staff and alumni received an honorable mention for best paper at the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action conference. Director Kevin Kearns, institute administrator Lydia McShane and alumni David Bell and Bobbi Deem conducted intensive interviews with CEOs and board chairs for their study, “How Nonprofit Leaders Evaluate Funding Sources: An Exploratory Study of Nonprofit Leaders.”


School of Social Work faculty members Shaun Eack, who is the David E. Epperson Associate Professor; Christina Newhill, doctoral program director, Mary Ohmer and Jeffrey Shook have been named  members of the 2016 class of fellows of the Society for Social Work and Research. SSWR fellows are members who have advanced, disseminated and translated research that addresses issues of social work practice and policy and promotes a diverse, equitable and just society.

The SSWR fellowship honors members for their individual accomplishments, leadership and contributions to the organization.


alfredsonGSPIA faculty member Lisa Alfredson was elected chair of the law and public policy section at the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference.


Terence S. Dermody has been named chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the  School of Medicine and physician-in-chief and scientific director at Children’s Hospital.

dermodyDermody officially begins June 1. He currently is the Dorothy Overall Wells Professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and director of the medical scientist training program at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He also is a professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology.

Dermody is a virologist with interests in viral pathogenesis and vaccine development. He has focused mainly on reovirus, an important experimental model for studies of viral encephalitis in infants, and on chikungunya virus, an arthropod-borne virus that causes epidemics of febrile arthritis.

The work in Dermody’s lab has encompassed several interrelated themes, including the structural basis of viral attachment and cell entry, mechanisms of genome replication and packaging, patterns of cell signaling and gene expression occurring in response to viral infection, mechanisms of virus-induced apoptosis and its significance in the viral life cycle, and the role of viral receptor distribution and utilization in disease pathology. Currently, the lab is developing viral vectors for oncolytic and vaccine applications.

Dermody earned his bachelor’s degree at Cornell and his medical degree at Columbia. He completed an internal medicine residency at Presbyterian Hospital in New York and fellowships in infectious diseases and molecular virology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard medical school.

His research has been supported by the Lamb Foundation and, since 1987, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He currently holds five NIH grants.

He has been recognized for his research accomplishments with the Ernest W. Goodpasture Faculty Research Award, the Grant W. Liddle Award for Leadership in the Promotion of Scientific Research and an NIH MERIT Award.


The 2016 “Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings” by American Enterprise Institute director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess spotlights 200 scholars who move ideas from academic journals into the national conversation. Using eight metrics, Hess calculates how much university-based academics contributed to public discussions of education.

Two Pitt School of Education faculty were included in the rankings: H. Richard Milner (No. 61) and Lindsay Page (No. 189).


In the Health Sciences Library System, Barbara Epstein, director of HSLS and the mid-Atlantic region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, has been elected president-elect of the Medical Library Association. She will assume the position at the conclusion of the association’s annual meeting in May.

Melissa Ratajeski has been appointed coordinator of data management services. She will continue to serve as reference librarian and liaison to the institutional animal care and use committee.


The Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dame has named Kathleen Blee winner of the 2016 John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior.

Blee is a distinguished professor of sociology and the associate dean for graduate studies and research in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

The award recognizes Blee’s achievements in research, as well as the role she has played in mentoring generations of scholars. She has written or edited seven books; the most recent was “Democracy in the Making: How Activist Groups Form,” the winner of the 2013 Charles Tilly Award for the Best Book from the collective behavior and social movements section of the American Sociological Association.


butlerBret Butler has been named director of collegiate athletics and recreational sports at Pitt-Bradford, where he had been serving in an interim capacity since August.

Butler, who has been head baseball coach for 17 seasons, will continue as coach until a decision is made about that position.

Throughout his tenure as head baseball coach, Butler has coached three players who have gone on to play professional baseball.

In summer 2011, Butler coached the Athletes in Action Fire in the Alaska Baseball League. The wood bat league is regarded as one of the top summer leagues for underclassmen. From that team, four players went on to be drafted and one more signed as a free agent.

Prior to Pitt-Bradford, Butler was an assistant coach at Baldwin Wallace University and before that was an assistant at Hiram College.

He graduated from Baldwin Wallace with a bachelor’s degree in pre-law, and earned a master’s degree in physical education and sport administration from Kent State University.


Geology and environmental science faculty member Bill Harbert has been elected to the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Council. The organization is the international society of applied geophysics.


The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (PATF) has announced that it will present Anthony J. Silvestre with the Kerry Stoner Award in April. Silvestre is a faculty member in public health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology.

The award honors a person who has, through dedication to PATF’s mission, shown commitment to Kerry Stoner’s legacy. Stoner, an HIV/AIDS activist who died of complications from AIDS in 1993, was a founder and the first executive director of PATF.

Silvestre has been a staple in the HIV community, with involvement in LGBT health and HIV prevention service and research since 1984. He has been an integral member of the Pitt Men’s Study, the Pittsburgh arm of the NIH-funded Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, since the late 1980s and was involved in the formation of the study’s first community advisory board that would lead to the creation of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force in 1985. To date, he has recruited 4,000 people from the gay and bisexual communities for the research.

He also is active in the HIV Prevention and Care Project, along with the Center for LGBT Wellness.


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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