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

May 3, 2007

Networking on Pittsburgh's rivers

The Katz Graduate School of Business is floating a new idea this spring that aims to develop business connections as well as biceps.

A team of faculty, staff, students and alumni from the business school have= joined the likes of local corporations such as Westinghouse, American Eagle Outfitters, FedEx and Allegheny General Hospital as part of the Three Rivers Rowing Association’s corporate summer rowing league.

Cathy Vargo, assistant dean and director of MBA programs at Katz, organized the group this spring after reading about the league last year.

“I love to exercise and I love the water,” she said, adding that she has no prior experience with the sport. “The article said anybody could do it, so that’s me.”

Some 280 people on 25 teams participate in the evening league, said TRRA program director Chris Tator.

Rowing appealed to Vargo on a personal level, she said, adding that school officials encouraged her to use the idea as a way to develop students’ networking skills.

Adding the rowing team is another way of helping create well-rounded business people. “We’re constantly trying to develop our business students into quintessential business people,” she said, noting that there are several other clubs within Katz that help students develop socially oriented skills — Toastmasters, golf and skiing, for example.

Given the number of corporations that have rowing teams, Vargo sees plenty of networking opportunities for the Katz students who participate.

“There’s a huge social component to it,” she said.

Each weekly session concludes with an informal group barbecue at the TRRA boathouse on Washington’s Landing.

TRRA runs three summer corporate league sessions with separate practice times for beginning and experienced rowers.

The Katz crew consists of novices with the exception of its coxswains. Strategic management professor Sue Cohen will share that duty with a non-Pitt recruitee she brought to the team, Nina Barry of Fox Chapel.

Cohen, who rows with a master’s team at TRRA, began rowing four years ago after visiting Herr’s Island during a faculty orientation tour of Pittsburgh when she first came to the University.

The corporate league’s first session ends May 24, but the second begins June 4. A third session, reserved for experienced crews only, starts Aug. 27.

Each boat, called a shell, accommodates eight rowers and a coxswain who steers the boat, although TRRA recommends each team have a dozen participants to account for absences. The teams are somewhat flexible, Tator noted, adding that extra rowers or individuals seeking to participate in the league can sign on with other teams if those boats have empty slots on a given night.

Beginners get plenty of preparation before they hit the river. All participants must pass a swim test before signing up. Then come safety lessons and instructions on how to handle the boats and oars.

Newcomers learn to tell port from starboard, bow from stern and the calls and commands that will direct what they do on the water.

And because the shells are expensive, everyone gets training in how to get them in and out of the water and onto the storage racks in the boathouse without damage. Coordinated teamwork is a must.

“I was surprised how synchronized it has to be or you cause problems for the team,” Vargo said.

While several spots on the Katz crew remain open, Vargo hopes interest will continue for the additional sessions, and that perhaps more than one boat can be filled with Katz rowers.

More information on the TRRA corporate league is available online at

Those with questions about the Katz team should contact Vargo at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Leave a Reply