What’s New: Summer brings a new crop of professors, promotions

For a look at new courses and programs on campus, see related story.



Large universities are often home to a never-ending stream of people in and out of different positions, and Pitt is no exception.

The three highest-profile changes over the summer were:

  • Executive Vice Provost David DeJong taking over as interim vice chancellor of Human Resources after Cheryl Johnson quietly resigned in early July.

  • Audrey Murrell, associate dean of the College of Business Administration, being named the acting dean of the University Honors College in June.

  • Mark Henderson joining the University as chief information officer. Read about him in @Pitt.

DeJong’s move came as a surprise and it’s still unclear whether a search is being conducted for a new leader for human resources or if he will fill the position on a more permanent basis.

Provost Ann Cudd said she’s keeping his seat warm in her office, but she doesn’t know yet what the future holds.

“I have a meeting with Dave and then I’ll have a meeting with the chancellor and we’ll see what the chancellor wants to do,” Cudd said. “Dave is a tremendous asset to the University of Pittsburgh in so many ways. He’s a utility infielder, but he can even pitch if necessary.”

After the chancellor and DeJong decide what’s next, the provost said, “If Dave’s not coming back here to this office, I’ll reassess and possibly reorganize in some ways.”

Cudd said her naming Murrell as acting dean of the Honors College indicates a longer tenure. The college is operating under a new “membership model” this year where students are admitted directly into the Honors College for the first time.

“I asked Audrey to take charge of getting that really up and running and getting it stable,” the provost said. “I think we need to do that, before we switch over to a new dean, if we do. And so I said, for a couple of years, you’ll be in the acting role, and then we’ll see where to go from there, whether to do a national search or what she wants to do.”

These two changes were just a small fraction of the new hires or promotions on campus. Below is a listing of just some of the people on the move at the University. In most cases, the names and positions listed were provided by the schools or units as key changes they wanted to highlight.


Emily Boissonneault was named the first head coach in Pitt lacrosse history this summer, arriving at the University from James Madison, where she coached their lacrosse team to three Colonial Athletic Association conference championships, four NCAA tournament appearances and the 2018 national championship. Pitt brought back women’s lacrosse a year ago and aims to play its first new season in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the 2021-22 academic year.


  • Anthony Rodi, clinical associate professor of business administration, has taken over as interim associate dean of the College of Business Administration.

  • Ray Jones, clinical associate professor at the Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, has been appointed as the new director of the David Berg Center for Leadership and Ethics. He replaces Audrey Murrell, who will continue her work with the Berg Center as a senior research fellow. 


David Seldin, a communications executive with extensive experience in government, higher education and the corporate sector, joined the University on Sept. 3 as the assistant vice chancellor of communications.


Dean’s office: Jim Griffin joined the Dietrich School dean’s office in August as division administrator for the Humanities.  His former roles include the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the city of Pittsburgh and the director of facilities with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, where he played a prominent role in establishing Schenley Plaza. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and a master’s degree from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

Anthropology: Louis Alvarado, who is coming from an assistant professor position at SUNY-Albany, will bring a biological lab component to the research of the Anthropology department. Alvarado employs ethnographic, demographic and non-invasive biomarkers in his investigations of men’s evolutionary ecology, reproductive physiology and health.

Economics: Louphou Coulibaly, who received his Ph.D. from University of Montreal, is an assistant professor in macro/international economics. He works on international finance, monetary economics, open-economy macroeconomics and financial intermediation.

History: Alaina Roberts, who was a diversity post-doc in the Dietrich School, was hired as an assistant professor in African-American history. Roberts has examined how African Americans enslaved by Native Americans experienced the Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory.

History and Philosophy of Science/Philosophy: David Wallace comes to Pitt from USC, where he was a professor of philosophy. He is considered the top philosopher of physics working today. He has a Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and in Philosophy, both from Oxford. He will be the Mellon Chair in History and Philosophy of Science and the Mellon Chair in Philosophy.

Physics and Astronomy: Evan Schneider joins the department in astronomy/astrophysics after being a NASA Hubble/Lyman Spitzer Jr. postdoctoral fellow at Princeton. Schneider has written a novel and a powerful astrophysical simulations code, “Cholla,” which is the first GPU-based astrophysics hydrodynamics code.

Theatre Arts: Bria Walker, who was an assistant professor at the SUNY New Platz, will be an assistant professor and head of MFA program in theater arts. She received her MFA from the National Theatre Conservatory and has a long list of performance credits. She is returning to Pitt, where from 2012-2015 she was a Teaching Artist-in-Residence in Theatre Arts.

New department chairs and program directors (as of Sept. 1)

Africana Studies: Yolanda Covington-Ward

English: Gayle Rogers

Film and Media Studies: David Pettersen

French and Italian Languages and Literatures: Todd Reeser

Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies: Nancy Glazener

Geology and Environmental Science: Josef Werne

Hispanic Languages and Literatures: Juan Duchesne (acting chair)

History and Philosophy of Science: Michael Dietrich

History of Art and Architecture: Kirk Savage

Philosophy: James Shaw

Slavic Languages and Literatures: Nancy Condee (acting chair)

Sociology: Mohammed Bamyeh


  • Melissa Bilec, associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, has been appointed director of Faculty Community Building and Engagement in the PITT STRIVE Program. The PITT STRIVE Program works to improve the transitions of under-represented minorities into doctoral engineering programs.

  • Thomas Schutzius will join the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering faculty as assistant professor. Schutzius is currently the group leader of Interfacial and Micro-Nanoscale Transport Phenomenon and Thermodynamics at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. 

  • Mohammad Masnadi will be joining the faculty this fall as assistant professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. Masnadi is an expert in energy and climate science, climate policy design, and sustainable engineering.

  • William Kramer has been selected as the next director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint research center of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Kramer was formerly project director and principal investigator of the Blue Waters Project and the senior associate director for @Scale Science and Technology at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, begins his role in the fall of 2019.


After 12 years of service, Dean John T.S. Keeler will step down, effective June 30, 2020. Sabina Deitrick was named associate dean of GSPIA in July. She is the first woman to serve in this position.


Diana Leyva will join the faculty of the Department of Psychology as an associate professor this month with an appointment as a research scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center. Leyva’s research focuses on child development and early childhood education.


  • Keith Caldwell has been named associate dean of Student Success. He also is director of the BASW Program and an assistant professor. He was previously director of Career Services and Alumni Affairs for the School of Social Work.

  • James Huguley was named interim director of the Center on Race and Social Problems.


Jennifer Barnes was named Diversity & Sustainability Coordinator, Purchasing.


  • Delo Blough is the new director of the Office of International Studies. Blough is an expert in immigration services for international populations at U.S. colleges and universities. She comes to Pitt with more than 25 years of experience, including serving as an attorney in the public and private sector with a specialty in immigration law.

  • Manuel Roman-Lacayo, who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from Pitt, is the new associate director of the Center for Latin American Studies. He brings to the role more than 25 years of service in academia, government, and the private sector.


  • Kelly Benninger, Library Specialist, Research and Educational Support

  • Veronica Compton, Library Specialist & Overnight Building Supervisor, Research and Educational Support

  • Dan Tam Do, Head of Cataloging, Technical Services

  • Carrie Donovan, Head of Public Services for Hillman Library, Research and Educational Support

  • Anais Grateau, Preservation Coordinator, Archives & Special Collections

  • Christopher Lynch, Project Coordinator, Center for American Music

  • Kari May, Digital Archives & Preservation Librarian, Archives & Special Collections

  • Gesina Phillips, Digital Scholarship Librarian, Digital Scholarship Services

  • Rachel Rubin, Associate University Librarian for Research & Learning

  • Michael Thompson, Events Coordinator, Administrative Services

  • Megan Toth, Library Specialist, Haskell Library Titusville

  • LaMonica Wiggins, Entrepreneurship Librarian, Research and Educational Support

  • Alexander Wreschnig, Software Developer, Information Technology



Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine

Aman Mahajan has been appointed chair of the newly renamed Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine. Mahajan also is director of perioperative services for the University of Pittsburgh Physicians and UPMC. He previously served as chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Department of Biomedical Informatics

Hatice Ülkü Osmanbeyoğlu is an assistant professor of biomedical informatics and an affiliated faculty member of the Cancer Biology Program with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. She completed postdoctoral training in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Department of Computational Biology and received her PhD in biomedical informatics and an MS in bioengineering from Pitt, and an MS in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Department of Developmental Biology

Guang Li joined the Department of Developmental Biology as an assistant professor. He earned his Ph.D. at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and was a postdoctoral fellow and instructor at the Stanford University Cardiovascular Institute.

Department of Immunology

  • Yi-Nan Gong, assistant professor of immunology and affiliated faculty with the Tumor Microenvironment Center and Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, received his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Beijing Normal University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

  • Harinder Singh, professor of immunology and director, Center for Systems Immunology, is a former Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who most recently served as director of the Division of Immunobiology and Center for Systems Immunology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He directs Pitt’s new Center for Systems Immunology.

Department of Medicine

Naudia N. Jonassaint, assistant professor of medicine (Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition), has been appointed as the Department of Medicine’s first vice chair for diversity and inclusion. Jonassaint, who also is medical director of clinical hepatology at UPMC Presbyterian, will work to develop new initiatives and programs to enhance diversity and inclusion across the department. She joined Pitt’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition in 2014. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and in Hispanic and Italian studies with honors at Johns Hopkins University in 1999. She received her MD from Yale School of Medicine.

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences

Miguel Brieño-Enriquez is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and an affiliated faculty member with Magee-Womens Research Institute. Brieño-Enríquez’s research focuses on the regulation of gametogenesis in humans and mice and, more specifically, the fundamental mechanisms that are required to produce viable germ cells.

Department of Ophthalmology

  • Susana da Silva is an assistant professor of ophthalmology. The research in her laboratory is centered on a small, highly specialized area of the retina called the fovea, a high acuity area responsible for our ability to perform daily tasks such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.

  • Anthony St. Leger is an assistant professor of ophthalmology and of immunology. He and his lab members have pioneered research in a historically understudied area of ophthalmology, the ocular microbiome and its effect(s) on ocular disease. St. Leger earned both his BS in biological sciences and his immunology Ph.D. at Pitt. He completed an ocular immunology fellowship at the National Eye Institute.

Department of Otolaryngology

Ross Williamson is an assistant professor of otolaryngology and of neurobiology and is a member of the Pittsburgh Hearing Research Center. He completed a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience and machine learning at University College London, a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, and a visiting postdoctoral fellowship at Boston University.

Department of Pediatrics

Melissa E. Kane, assistant professor of pediatrics (Division of Infectious Diseases), earned a Ph.D. in microbiology at the University of Chicago and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center of the Rockefeller University.

Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology

Yael Nechemia-Arbely is an assistant professor of pharmacology and chemical biology and is an affiliated faculty member with the Genome Stability Program, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. She received a Ph.D./M.Sc. in human genetics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of California, San Diego.

Department of Psychiatry

Rui Peixoto is an assistant professor of psychiatry. He received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal and earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience from Duke University Medical Center and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

Department of Surgery

Norman Wolmark is professor of surgery and director, National Cancer Institute (NCI) cooperative group for clinical trials, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Wolmark has spent decades conducting groundbreaking research and early clinical trials in the treatment of breast and bowel cancers.


  • Elizabeth Skidmore, professor and chair of occupational therapy, was appointed associate dean for research for SHRS. Skidmore will work to further strengthen the school’s dynamic and extensive research portfolio currently totaling $21 million.

  • David Brienza, former associate dean for research and professor of rehabilitation science and technology, is now associate dean for technology and innovation. Brienza will work with key SHRS faculty and staff to establish and coordinate initiatives to promote the development and translation of technology into rehabilitation services, products, and health systems.

  • Jennifer Brach, professor of physical therapy, was named associate dean for faculty affairs and development. Brach will work closely with school leadership and faculty to improve outcomes related to recruitment, retention, development, and promotion of an excellent and diverse faculty in all departments.

  • David Beck, assistant professor of rehabilitation science and technology, is the newly appointed director of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies program. He has been a PAS faculty member since the program’s inception in 2009.

  • Bambang Parmanto has been named chair of the Department of Health Information Management effective Sept. 1. Parmanto most recently served as interim chair and holds the rank of professor in the department. During his time as interim chair, he guided the department through the process of creating SHRS’s first distance learning offering with an online master’s degree program in Health Informatics.


  • Larry Cunningham Jr. was recently named the next chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery and associate dean for hospital affairs at the School of Dental Medicine and UPMC. He also will serve as interim program director for the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency program. Cunningham, a native of Texas, comes to Pitt after an 18-year career at the University of Kentucky, where he served as professor and chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

  • Giuseppe Intini, associate professor of Periodontics/Preventive Dentistry. Intini’s current research focuses on the biology of skeletal and periodontal stem cells. Since 2010, Intini has been teaching about bone stem cell biology and bone regeneration in graduate and post-graduate courses.

  • Elizabeth Pawlowicz, assistant professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Restorative Dentistry/Comprehensive Care. Pawlowicz’s academic and clinical interests include comprehensive oral rehabilitation, advances in bonding techniques for direct and indirect restorations, obstructive sleep apnea considerations for the dental professional, nutrition effects on oral health, pediatric oral growth and development, and treatment considerations for special populations.

  • Paul Schwartz, assistant professor of Dental Anesthesiology. Schwartz joined Pitt Dental Medicine to return to his roots at Pitt. Recently, Schwartz was elected to serve as a director of the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology. Schwartz volunteers as an instructor in advanced cardiac life support and the “SimMan" simulated medical emergency/airway course in his free time.

  • Suvendra Vijayan, assistant professor of Diagnostic Sciences. Vijayan is currently the course director for the predoctoral Introduction to Radiology Physics and Basic Interpretation course. Vijayan’s research interests include cone beam CT, 3D printing, AI/machine learning, digital dentistry, informatics, segmentation, 3D modeling, bone quality assessment, pattern and texture analysis, dental education, and image processing and analysis.

  • Kelly Wagner has been appointed interim director of the Dental Hygiene Program. Wagner has more than 10 years of experience in private practice and served as an adjunct faculty member at Northern Virginia Community College Dental Hygiene Program from 2014–18. She is the course director for Introduction to Public Health Dentistry and Local Anesthesia for Dental Hygiene and is co-director of dental health education and the senior clinic coordinator.


  • Everette James assumed the role of interim dean for the new academic year and Eleanor Feingold became the school’s executive associate dean. James is director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute and associate vice chancellor for health policy and planning, Health Sciences. In the Department of Human Genetics, Feingold has served as professor and interim chair. 

  • Matthew Hiser was promoted to the role of senior director of development for Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences. His first task involves finding a new director of development for Pitt Public Health, his previous position.


  • Leslie L. Gingo, assistant professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, has held clinical pharmacist positions at University of Colorado Hospital, UPMC St. Margaret, Allegheny General Hospital, and St. Clair Hospital and has been a consultant editor of Therapeutics Research Center. Gingo is also a clinical oncology pharmacist at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

  • Catherine Rebitch, associate professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, comes to Pitt from the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, where she was a clinical associate professor and board-certified ambulatory care pharmacist. She managed a pharmacy practice site for the underserved at Mercy Health Center in Georgia from 2011 until her relocation to Pitt. Rebitch will work to advance the patient care mission through community partnerships and will be a part of the team that personalizes pharmacy students’ education.

  • Kangho Suh, assistant professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, recently received his Ph.D. in pharmaceutical outcomes research and policy at the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy, and Economics Institute within the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. He will be establishing a data-science research program and advancing the teaching mission at the School of Pharmacy.


  • Betty Braxter, assistant professor of health promotion and development, has been named associate dean for undergraduate education. She succeeds Kathryn Puskar, who retired at the end of the spring 2019 term. Braxter received her BSN from Louisiana State University and her nurse midwifery certificate from the University of Mississippi. Ahe received her MS degree in nursing at Texas Woman’s University and her Ph.D. in nursing from Pitt (2003).

  • Jenna Bench (NURS ‘14 and ‘17), assistant professor of Acute and Tertiary Care.  Bench holds certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner and maintains clinical practice at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

  • Eileen Chasens, professor, has been named chair of the Department of Health and Community Systems. She had been interim chair since August 2018.

  • Cynthia Chew (A&S ‘05, NURS ‘10 and ‘16), assistant professor of Health Promotion and Development. Chew is a pediatric nurse practitioner with bedside and teaching experience. She maintains clinical practice at Pediatric Associates of Westmoreland and holds certifications as an international board-certified lactation consultant and pediatric nurse practitioner.

  • Brayden Kameg (NURS ‘16 and ‘19), assistant professor of Health and Community Systems. Kameg teaches across the undergraduate and graduate programs, where her teaching responsibilities include mental health nursing, advanced practice psychiatric nursing, psychotherapy for advanced practice psychiatric nurses, and psychiatric management for primary care providers. She maintains clinical practice at Psychotherapy Associates, where she treats patients across the lifespan, and the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS), where she works on an inpatient basis.

  • Carolyn King, assistant professor of Health Promotion and Development. King will be teaching pediatric clinical work at the school, focusing on the care of children and families; she has been a clinical instructor at the School of Nursing since 2012. King maintains clinical practice at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as a senior professional staff nurse and serves on Children’s Pain Council Committee.

  • Jonna Morris (NURS ‘18, A&S ‘18), assistant professor of Health and Community Systems. Morris’ research agenda has been to gain insight into sex and gender differences in the perceptions and symptom presentations of impaired sleep, including obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia. She recently completed postdoctoral work in the Department of Psychiatry.

  • Barbara Rauscher, assistant professor of Acute and Tertiary Care. Rauscher comes to the Pitt from Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, where she also maintained clinical practice at Catawba Valley Medical Center.

  • Fei Zhang, assistant professor of Nurse Anesthesia. Zhang’s initial academic focus was in ocean engineering before returning to school for an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing. He maintains clinical practice as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at UPMC.



  • Catherine Koverola became president of Pitt-Bradford and Pitt-Titusville on June 1 (see related story). In July, she announced the appointment of Christy Clark as her chief of staff. Clark will provide executive leadership and strategic administrative support toward the implementation of the campus’s strategic plan.

  • Rhett Kennedy, director of auxiliary services, was named the interim director of the Office of Continuing Education and Regional Development after the retirement of Ray Geary.


New full-time professors:

  • Sami Alshurafa, assistant professor of Civil Engineering

  • Shivkumar Bale, assistant professor of Chemical Engineering

  • Angela Balog, assistant professor of Business Management 

  • Sean Beck, assistant professor of Information Systems 

  • Melissa Casses, assistant professor of Special Education

  • Maryl McGinley, assistant professor of Communication

  • Stephan Ohl, assistant professor of Computer Science

  • Timothy Whisler, assistant professor of Business Economics/Finance 

  • Laura Wieserman, assistant professor of Electrical Engineering

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


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