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February 16, 1995


Our Board of Trustees meets today and among the items of business before it is the approval of three new academic degree-granting programs. Each program has been approved internally. And each, I believe, promises to significantly advance our University's missions in teaching, research and public service.

The new programs will lead to a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science, a Master of Law in International and Comparative Law, and a Master of Health Promotion and Education.

In an environment of finite resources, the adding of academic initiatives necessarily raises legitimate questions of cost and need. But great universities must always be prepared to move into new domains of knowledge — carefully, strategically. The world is changing — higher education is changing. The University of Pittsburgh must respond to these changes. More so, we must take the lead. Not across the board, of course. But we can add to our academic enterprise in selected areas where we see competitive advantages, where we can offer graduate or professional opportunities that meet the test of market demand or societal need. Such initiatives must be consistent with the goals articulated in our "Toward the 21st Century" planning document. They must also ensure that costs are absorbed within the appropriate responsibility center, and show the potential for generating discretionary income for the University. Each of our three programs meets these criteria.

Rehabilitation science is entering an extraordinary era of new technologies and therapies. Much of this field is currently dominated by clinicians. But our proposed doctoral program will produce a new generation of scholars, steeped in science and technology, who can pioneer new interdisciplinary research: the causes of disabilities; the needs of the disabled, and the development of an enlightened understanding of how best to restore human health and human hope. And we can create new tools of support and comfort. Drawing on our existing strengths in bio-engineering and bio-medicine, our University can become a national leader in this burgeoning and life-enhancing field of rehabilitation science. Our proposed master's program in international and comparative law also deals creatively with the changing world around us, while building on our eminence in international studies. This innovative program will attract graduates of foreign law schools who desire a deeper understanding of the U.S. legal system. All of our law school students, particularly those who desire a sophisticated grasp of legal systems in other countries, will benefit by the presence of foreign lawyers in many of their classes. Legal practitioners who specialize in international transactions will benefit as well.

Finally, there is the Master of Health Promotion and Education. Can anyone question the need for thoughtful new approaches in this field, given the national debate over the past two years, spiraling costs and fundamental changes in the delivery of health care? Our approach at Pitt, a joint program of our School of Education and the Graduate School of Public Health, goes well beyond other academic programs that promote preventive care. It is designed to communicate new scientific and medical knowledge into basic learning, training health care professionals to plan, implement and evaluate a range of educational efforts. The purpose: to achieve healthier lifestyles and health outcomes, and reduce the risk of illness, disability or premature death.

Each of these three programs builds on existing University strengths. Each will attract talented new students with diverse backgrounds to our academic community. Each will help us provide valuable leadership and meaningful service in our ever-changing world.

J. Dennis O'Connor

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