Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

June 22, 2006

Pitt Arts wins affirmative action award

The Pitt Arts program, which was established in 1997 to connect Pitt students to the cultural life of Pittsburgh, is this year’s winner of the Chancellor’s Affirmative Action Award. The annual award goes to an “outstanding University program area or individual that has made a significant contribution to affirmative action.”

The winning program was announced by Chancellor Mark Nordenberg at the June 12 Senate Council meeting.

For purposes of the award, Nordenberg said, “affirmative action is defined as increase of access to and full participation in all aspects of University functions by minorities and women and those who have been declared members of protected classes by executive orders, legislation or court decisions.”

The award was created by a donation from Maryann F. Coffey, formerly an assistant to the chancellor and director of Affirmative Action, and Joseph I. Coffey, former professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Following a dormant period, the award was re-instituted in 1999 through efforts of the Senate anti-discriminatory policies committee and the Office of the Chancellor, in cooperation with the Coffeys, Nordenberg told Senate Council. Supplemental funding is provided by the Chancellor’s office.

The award includes a $2,500 prize that will augment the Pitt Arts budget.

Nordenberg cited the Pitt Arts program’s commitment to hiring women and minorities, and its promotion of “an appreciation of the arts among all Pitt students through free arts encounters, including Afro-Cuban jazz concerts, Japanese Ikebana (flower arranging), Indian music performances, African drumming, Middle Eastern dance and Argentinean flamenco dance, promoting diversity, cultural understanding and appreciation of the arts to all of Pitt’s students.”

The chancellor further cited the program’s Heinz Endowments-supported two-year-old African American Arts Project, or A3P, “which is a program designed to encourage African-American students to be involved in campus life and more particularly in the arts. A3P was established in response to a 2003 women’s studies program study that found that, among Pitt students, African-American males were the least satisfied with their student experience,” he said.

Pitt Arts has seen a significant increase in the number of African-American students attending cultural events, as well as the number who return to attend other events, Nordenberg said. “In fact, over the past two years, A3P has doubled attendance at events for African-American students from 300 participants to 600. Through A3P and other programs, Pitt Arts has given back to the larger arts community in Pittsburgh by increasing the size and diversity of audiences at performances and thus adding to the vibrancy of performances both on our campus and in our city.”

Organizations that offer programs through Pitt Arts include the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Public Theatre, he said.

“This award does come with deep gratitude and genuine respect for everything you’ve done,” Nordenberg told Pitt Arts staff members in attendance.

In accepting the Affirmative Action Award at Senate Council, Pitt Arts director Annabelle Clippinger said, “I’m so pleased and honored to even be considered as a recipient of this award.”

Clippinger said the award represents the ongoing efforts at Pitt Arts to reach out to African-American students at Pitt and make a home for them in the world of the arts in Pittsburgh, where African-American art itself is rich and diverse. Students who have participated in A3P arts programs have felt affirmed and connected through art that mirrors the heritage, challenges and beauty of the African diasporic peoples, she added. She thanked her staff and University administrators for their continued support.

Nordenberg also recognized the efforts of Jen Saffron, the first director of Pitt Arts, and Robert Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, “who played a major role in getting this program to reach its successes,” the chancellor said.

Also at Senate Council, Nordenberg shared some end-of-the-academic-year thoughts. “All in all we’re building toward the strong ending of another good year for Pitt. These are not easy times. There are plenty of days when I look back and think there isn’t anything that isn’t a struggle any more,” he said. “But, one of the keys to our successes is that we continue to struggle together against these outside challenges rather than struggling with each other.”

He conveyed thanks to faculty, staff and students who serve on Senate Council, as well as to Senate officers Irene Frieze, Michael Pinsky, Ellen Ansell and Nicholas Bircher.

“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to you for regularly reflecting what I think is our shared belief that whatever positions we may hold with respect to a particular issue, we are in the end colleagues committed to advancing the University that is our shared professional home,” Nordenberg said. “My feelings for you have strengthened my belief that whatever opportunities or challenges may be coming our way, life is much more satisfying if you’re working with people you like and respect.”

He added that he looked forward to working with Senate president-elect John Baker, who assumes office July 1.

The Senate officers acknowledged the services of Fran Czak, director of the Senate office for the past nine-plus years, who is retiring at the end of the month.

—Peter Hart

Leave a Reply