Emerging leaders program brings benefits to participants and Oakland campus


For Greg Scott, the emerging leaders program in Pitt’s Office of Business and Operations has helped identify people who potentially can have an impact beyond their individual roles.

But for the rest of us, the program has created real-life advances on issues important to everyone on campus, including wellness, sustainability and safety. A new, nearly 2-mile walking trail — the Roc Route — highlighting 10 locations on campus is the latest project to come out of the program.

Scott, the senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations, oversees Public Safety, Facilities Management, the Parking Office, the University Stores, the Office of Sustainability and more.

He started the emerging leaders program two years ago to give each class of 15 people access to mentoring from the current leadership of Business and Operations, a better understanding of how the University operates and a lessons on how they could grow individually. The program also helped create networks across the five division of Business and Operations.

“My hope is that we could start to … grow our Business and Operations culture to one that (the emerging leaders) impact from the bottom up or inside out approach,” Scott said.

Both years, the groups have met for an overnight retreat in September and then had monthly meetings throughout the fall and spring terms.

Scott said one of the most popular aspects of the meetings has been when senior administrators — the chief financial officer, chief information officer, provost, athletic director — come to talk about their organizations and issues they have to confront. “They really love this broader perspective,” he said.

The formal mentoring program also has proved popular, Scott said. Each of the six people who report directly to Scott is matched up with two or three of the emerging leaders to mentor.

“We wanted to make sure they had access to leadership and were able to, in a somewhat comfortable environment, have those discussions,” Scott said. It also made sure that the leadership team bought into the program.

Karissa Fonzi, production control administrator, and Steve Svodoba, senior manager in engineering, both in Facilities Management, were part of the first cohort. They said it was great to network with other people in Business and Operations and to be mentored by assistant vice chancellors other than their boss to experience different leadership styles.

The final piece of the program was a project for each team of five people to work on. The teams were given a topic to guide what type of project to pursue. The Roc Route walking trail was one of the projects to come out of the first cohort of the emerging leaders.

Roc Route

The Roc Route walking tour includes 10 stops: Stop 1: Eureka Building, 3400 Forbes Ave. | Stop 2: Barco Law Building, 3900 Forbes Ave. | Stop 3: Cathedral Loading Dock, near Stephen Foster Memorial on Forbes Avenue | Stop 4: Forbes-Craig Apartments, 4531 Forbes Ave. | Stop 5: Craig Hall, 200 S. Craig St. | Stop 6: Cathedral @ Fifth Avenue | Stop 7: William Pitt Union @ Fifth Avenue | Stop 8: Parklet near Litchfield Towers, corner of Fifth Avenue and Bouquet Street | Stop 9: Parklet near Sennott Square, corner of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street | Stop 10: Forbes Hall, 3525 Forbes Ave. (Google Maps)


Fonzi and Svodoba were two of the people on the health and wellness-focused team during the 2017-18 school year.

The team kicked around several ideas, from bike sharing to healthy races, but many were already being planned by Human Resources. They landed on the idea of the walking route, which they thought was an achievable goal.

Each of the locations on the walk have a connection to Business and Operations, from the Eureka Building on the south end of campus on Forbes Avenue, which houses Facilities Management, to Craig Hall on South Craig Street, the home of Human Resources, which was until recently part of Business and Operations.

Each location has a sign with a QR code that when scanned gives some fun facts about the site — good “Rick Sebak” stuff,” Svoboda said — along with sustainability initiatives taking place at or near the site, which were collected by students in the Sustainability Office, and tips on health and wellness.

Svoboda and Fonzi said being in Facilities Management made it easier for them to get the signs made and distributed, but they couldn’t have done it without the invaluable help and guidance of the department’s tradespeople in the paint and sheet metal shops and the laborers who installed the signs.

Ashley Boykin in Human Resources helped push them to get the project done before this year’s graduation, so parents could see it. And their own boss, Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Fisher, was very supportive. Scott said the initial meeting with the emerging leaders also includes their supervisor, so everyone buys into the concept.

The team continues to follow up on the walking trail project even though it is now housed in Human Resources. They’d like to get other departments involved, such as Admissions or the Pathfinders who could use it for student and parent tours.

There also might be some more routes in the future, such as a hill-climbing walk from the Panther Hollow parking lot to the OC lot (1.1 miles straight up).

“We want the program to be real and to have some life to it, whatever that life may be. We don’t want it to be just the summer,” Svoboda said. “Feedback, I think, will help us, whether it’s on location or accessibility or different routes. Maybe there’s something we can do inside in the winter with less permanent sign.”

They also think the content seen through the QR codes could be changed. For instance, if a route includes the Frick Fine Arts building, the code could give details on what exhibits are currently at the art museum. They may try to set up a quarterly meeting to discuss updates.

Both participants said the emerging leaders program was invaluable.

“It was a wonderful to be part of the first cohort,” Fonzi said. “We built a lot of relationships within B&O and I got to meet new people. I can’t even explain the value that we got out of it. It was just a different experience. For me, it was something that I’ve never been a part of before. It was a great program.”

Other projects

Some of the other projects to come out of the emerging leaders program include:

  • Getting more people to download the Rave Guardian app, which helps students, staff and faculty stay safe. During its first year, the app was only downloaded by 2,500 people, Scott said, although 85,000 get ENS alert messages from Pitt Police. The team worked to provide information during new employee and student orientations, along with tables when families are dropping off kids for the new year to encourage the app to be downloaded.

  • Advancing Pitt’s culture of sustainability through a new orientation video for all staff and faculty. Scott said the group worked with Pitt’s new director of sustainability, Aurora Sharrard, on the project.

  • Starting a “Shut Your Sash” campaign to put stickers on all fume hoods to show how much energy is used when they are left open. Scott said the hoods, which help contain chemicals that are being used in research, are one of the largest consumers of electricity on campus, because they are constantly heating or cooling the air before it is expelled. “It has the potential to save millions of dollars in energy use, just this simple educating people to close the sash, because there’s so much lost in energy that goes out the window,” Scott said.”

The emerging leaders program will name its new class in August. Those interested can apply or be nominated by a supervisor, then they must write an essay about why they want to be involved and what their career goals are. Scott said the program will be just for Business and Operations staff again next year, but he hopes eventually it will become a university-wide emerging leaders program.

“We’ve developed sort of the infrastructure of a program that would be very good for the whole University,” Scott said.

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