Building the ultimate tour of Pitt for new students, employees

Heinz Chapel


We asked where you would take potential students and their parents beyond the Cathedral of Learning and Posvar Hall if you were giving a tour of Pitt’s Oakland campus, and you had some interesting ideas.

Here at the University Times, we’re partial to the Honors College on the 35th and 36th floors of the Cathedral and the newly remodeled fourth floor of Hillman Library, but there are plenty of other places that new students, faculty and staff should see.

It would make for a lengthy walk around campus, but the Office of Admissions might want to consider a few of these suggestions.

Pitt Pantry

Jason Ong, a rising senior and president of the Pitt Pantry, says that new students should visit the pantry in the basement of the Bellefield Presbyterian Church, on Fifth Avenue, across from Litchfield Towers.

“Visitors walking around Oakland will most likely walk past the pantry without realizing it,” Ong writes. “I would definitely recommend that Pathfinders introduce the pantry to prospective students as a basic needs resource to help lessen the stress of incoming students who might face food insecurity.”

See Ong’s letter here for more details about the Pitt Pantry.

Heinz Memorial Chapel

Karen Sebolt, docent and event coordinator at Heinz Chapel, thinks everyone should make a stop at the nondenominational church, which is open every day.

“I would definitely include a stop inside Heinz Memorial Chapel,” she writes. “The chapel was a gift from the Heinz family to the University for use of the students. Too many people do not know that as well as other facts about the chapel.”

Sebolt points out some fun facts about the chapel.

  • It has WiFi and students are encouraged to study, meditate and meet friends there

  • The 73-foot-tall transept stained glass windows depict not only religious figures but cultural figures such as writers, scientists and explorers and half represented are women!  

  • There is no wait list for weddings and you do not have to be affiliated with the university to get married there

William Pitt Union

Surprisingly, the WPU is not on the official tour, and Olivia Lynch, assistant manager of night operations, thinks that should change.

“Whether you’re looking to grab lunch, a quick workout, or some quiet study time, you’ll find what you need at the William Pitt Union,” she says. “Our goal is to help you feel at home and do what you love.”

While the main floor has some attractive meeting areas, particularly the glass-enclosed lower lounge, it’s on the upper floors that students will find many student affairs departments including Pitt Career Center, Pitt Arts, Pitt Serves and Pitt Program Council, along with student organizations, a reflection room, study space and a fitness area.

And don’t forget Nordy’s Place on the bottom floor, Lynch says, where “undergraduates can play pool, ping pong, foosball, and board games for free with their Pitt ID.”

Surrounding neighborhoods

Tracy Soska, outgoing chair of the Community, Organization and Social Action concentration in master’s of social work program, says students need to “get a sense of Pitt in its locale.”

“Our campus connects with Central Oakland, North Oakland, West Oakland, Schenley Farms, Schenley Heights, Oak Hill and Panther Hollow.  In many ways, each is a distinct neighborhood — and there are others like South Oakland (Frazier Street and Oakcliff), as well as Parkview, that are parts of Oakland sub neighborhoods,” Soska says. “One of the unique elements of Pitt is that we are located in a neighborhood that is actually a second city within Pittsburgh, which itself is made up of diverse and intriguing sub-neighborhoods that abut and surround our campus community and make up the fabric of our university community life and living/learning experience for faculty, staff and students, as well as visitors and potential faculty, staff, and students.”

He suggests that Pitt “work with our community partners to develop a good way of orient folks to our Oakland community/neighborhood, especially as it has always been our original Community Engagement Center.”

A few more suggestions

“365 Views of the Cathedral of Learning”: On the seventh floor of Alumni Hall, you’ll find a fitting tribute to Pitt’s beloved Cathedral of Learning. Spanish artist Felix de la Concha’s collection of oil paintings of the Cathedral from different vantage points was created over two years, from 1997-99.  The artist didn’t work 365 days in a row; instead, he painted throughout the seasons until he had completed one painting for every day of the year.

Nationality Rooms: It would take too much time to tour all 31 rooms dedicated to different cultures during orientation tours, but it’s a great place to send parents when they come to visit.

Frick Fine Arts Building: Even if there’s no exhibit on display at the University Art Gallery, this building is interesting all by itself. The courtyard garden is a great place to sit quietly and the Frick Fine Arts Library is an oft-forgotten gem on campus.

Petersen Events Center at night

Petersen Events Center: Let’s face it, Pitt’s campus has hills. And students who are considering going to school here need to know that. A quick jaunt up to the Pete serves two purposes: A lesson in the local topography and a look at Pitt’s premiere on-campus sports and event space.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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