Here’s the Plan (for Pitt): A Running Start

By MELISSA SCHILD                                             

As we discussed last time, the new Plan for Pitt builds on the University’s successes while prioritizing change and recognizes the unique internal and external factors that are shaping both our institution and our world.

Achieving the objectives in our strategic plan will require us to be agile, innovative, resourceful and intentional. However, this doesn’t mean we stop doing what works. Many efforts already underway at Pitt will serve to advance our strategic objectives.  

Below we highlight two such efforts — the Pitt Success Pell Match program and Shaping the Workplace — and the objectives each supports.

Pitt Success: Changing lives for the better

You may remember (we hope you do!) that the Plan for Pitt consists of three pillars: Our People, Our Programs and Our Purpose.

If you take a look under the Our Purpose pillar, you will see that the strategic plan prioritizes expanding academic access and equipping all students to graduate on time and ready to excel. We aim to improve our key student success outcomes and achieve equity in those outcomes for all student groups. We also intend to help our graduates eliminate student debt earlier in their careers by limiting the maximum amount of unmet financial need for each student.

The Pitt Success Pell Match initiative is one key step in furthering these objectives and making a Pitt education affordable and accessible.

Launched in 2019, the Pitt Success Pell Match Program invests in both current and prospective students with the greatest financial need across all five Pitt campuses. Pitt matches, dollar for dollar, the federal funds that students receive through the U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant program. Pitt’s grant doesn’t add to the burden of student loans and makes a Pitt education more accessible to students from the start. 

The Provost Academy, another part of the initiative on the Pittsburgh campus, is a summer bridge program that primes students for success in their first year by helping them become familiar with the University’s academic climate, the campus and the city of Pittsburgh.

Pitt Success has already yielded, well, success. Pell-eligible students who entered Pitt in fall 2019 took on 24 percent less debt in their first year than those who entered the year prior. In the program’s first year, the student retention rate for Pell-eligible students on the Pittsburgh campus rose from 86.9 percent to 93.4 percent, mirroring the rate for students who are not Pell-eligible.

Retention rates for Pell-eligible students on the regional campuses also improved significantly. With this year’s incoming class, Pitt has seen a roughly 70 percent increase in Pell-eligible students since the program’s launch.

Shaping the Workplace: Enabling our employees to succeed

Let’s now jump to the Our People pillar. Even as we continue to focus on student outcomes, we won’t lose sight of creating the environment our employees — and prospective employees — need to thrive in their careers. We are committed to enhancing the employee experience through robust talent development and opportunities to collaborate, engage and advance. The Shaping the Workplace initiative tees up several important efforts to advance these objectives. 

This initiative aims to position Pitt as a world-class employer by focusing on five core components: salary; benefits; work-life balance; performance review and talent development; and climate, culture and work environment. With most projects slated for completion in 2022, Shaping the Workplace seeks to modernize the current compensation system; assess benefits options to ensure competitiveness in recruiting and retention; strengthen employee engagement and productivity; and sustain a diverse, equitable and inclusive community. 

Shaping the Workplace has made significant progress, including: establishing an interim flexible work arrangements policy, procedure and resources; introducing child care resources to support employees and their families; putting procedures in place to certify that every staff member receives an annual performance appraisal; launching required training for supervisors; and hiring a dedicated workforce development career counselor.

Do you have questions about the Plan for Pitt or suggestions for implementation? Reach out to

Melissa Schild is assistant vice chancellor for strategic planning and performance and leads the University’s strategic planning efforts.