Pitt | Swanson Engineering

PLEASE NOTE: Unfortunately, INVESTING NOW will not be accepting new applicants for the Summer 2021 recruitment period at this time. The program is currently in a period of reconstruction and will conduct recruitment at a later date. Any and all online application submissions are still received into our database, but they will not be reviewed in time for the summer program as they have been in the past. 

Welcome to the INVESTING NOW Program

INVESTING NOW, created in 1988, is a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from groups that are historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and careers. The purpose of the program is to ensure that participants are well prepared for matriculation at the University of Pittsburgh.

The primary goals are to:

  • Create a pipeline for well-prepared students to enter college and pursue science, technology, engineering and math majors
  • Encourage and support students’ enrollment and achievement in advanced mathematics and science courses
  • Ensure that the participants make informed college choices
  • Support and encourage parents in their role as advocates for their children
  • Coordinate partnerships between the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and local schools. 

Every year, approximately 150 students participate in INVESTING NOW activities. Membership in INVESTING NOW involves a student commitment to attend year-round programming from ninth through twelfth grade. Programming focuses on six areas:

                                                                        IN Programming Principles


We encourage you to watch the video below to get a glimpse into the program from the eyes of our students, their families, and our staff.


Pitt Engineering Alumnus Dedicates Major Gift Toward Undergraduate Tuition Support

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Nuclear, Diversity, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (October 21, 2020) …  An eight-figure donation to the Swanson School of Engineering from an anonymous graduate of the School and their spouse will provide financial aid to undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Pitt EXCEL Program. Announced today by Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and US Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II, the donors' bequest will provide tuition support for underprivileged or underrepresented engineering students who are residents of the United States of America and in need of financial aid.  “I am extremely grateful for this gift, which supports the University of Pittsburgh’s efforts to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges—the inequity of opportunity,” Gallagher said. “Put into action, this commitment will help students from underrepresented groups access a world-class Pitt education and—in doing so—help elevate the entire field of engineering.”     “Our dedication as engineers is to create new knowledge that benefits the human condition, and that includes educating the next generation of engineers. Our students’ success informs our mission, and I am honored and humbled that our donors are vested in helping to expand the diversity of engineering students at Pitt,” Martin noted. “Often the most successful engineers are those who have the greatest need or who lack access, and support such as this is critical to expanding our outreach and strengthening the role of engineers in society.” A Gift to Prepare the Workforce of the Future Martin noted that the gift is timely because it was made shortly after Chancellor Gallagher’s call this past summer to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all, especially for the University’s future students. The gift – and the donors’ passion for the Swanson School – show that there is untapped potential as well as significant interest in addressing unmet need for students who represent a demographic shift in the American workforce.  “By 2050, when the U.S. will have a minority-majority population, two-thirds of the American workforce will require a post-secondary education,” Martin explained. “We are already reimagining how we deliver engineering education and research, and generosity such as this will lessen the financial burden that students will face to prepare for that future workforce.” A Half-Century of IMPACT on Engineering Equity In 1969 the late Dr. Karl Lewis (1/15/1936-3/5/2019) founded the IMPACT Program at the University of Pittsburgh to encourage minority and financially and culturally disadvantaged students to enter and graduate from the field of engineering. The six-week program prepared incoming first year students through exposure to university academic life, development of study skills, academic and career counseling, and coursework to reinforce strengths or remedy weaknesses. Many Pitt alumni today still note the role that Lewis and IMPACT had on their personal and professional lives.  Under Lewis’ leadership, IMPACT sparked the creation of two award-winning initiatives within the Swanson School’s Office of Diversity:  INVESTING NOW, a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM majors. Pitt EXCEL, a comprehensive undergraduate diversity program committed to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates, particularly individuals from groups historically underrepresented in the field.  “Dr. Lewis, like so many of his generation, started a movement that grew beyond one person’s idea,” said Yvette Wisher, Director of Pitt EXCEL. “Anyone who talks to today’s EXCEL students can hear the passion of Dr. Lewis and see how exceptional these young people will be as engineers and individuals. They and the hundreds of students who preceded them are the reason why Pitt EXCEL is game-changer for so many.”  Since its inception, Pitt EXCEL has helped more than 1,500 students earn their engineering degrees and become leaders and change agents in their communities. Ms. Wisher says the most important concept she teaches students who are enrolled in the program is to give back however they can once they graduate—through mentorship, volunteerism, philanthropy, or advocacy.  Supporting the Change Agents of Tomorrow “Pitt EXCEL is a home - but more importantly, a family. The strong familial bonds within Pitt EXCEL are what attracted me to Swanson as a graduating high school senior, what kept me going throughout my time in undergrad and what keeps me energized to this very day as a PhD student,” explained Isaiah M. Spencer Williams, BSCE ’19 and currently a pre-doctoral student in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Pitt EXCEL is a family where iron sharpens iron and where we push each other to be the best that we can be every day. Beyond that, it is a space where you are not only holistically nurtured and supported but are also groomed to pave the way for and invest into those who are coming behind you.  “Pitt EXCEL, and by extension, Dr. Lewis' legacy and movement are the reasons why I am the leader and change agent that I am today. This generous gift will ensure a bright future for underrepresented engineering students in the Pitt EXCEL Program, and will help to continue the outstanding development of the change agents of tomorrow.”  Setting a Foundation for Community Support “Next year marks the 51st anniversary of IMPACT/EXCEL as well as the 175th year of engineering at Pitt and the 50th anniversary of Benedum Hall,” Dean Martin said. “The Swanson School of Engineering represents 28,000 alumni around the world, who in many ways are life-long students of engineering beyond the walls of Benedum, but who share pride in being Pitt Engineers. “The key to our future success is working together as a global community to find within ourselves how we can best support tomorrow’s students,” Martin concluded. “We should all celebrate this as a foundational cornerstone gift for greater engagement.” ### Contact: Paul Kovach

How to Handle a Zombie Outbreak

Covid-19, Bioengineering, Investing Now

In the middle of the Atlantic lies Grimmsport, a fictional island that has identified an outbreak of Zom-B13 which turns the island residents into mindless zombies.This thinly veiled theme for the 2020 Summer with Swanson camp helped teach high school students about the scientific aspects of a pandemic. The University of Pittsburgh’s CampBioE and Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation joined efforts to create a virtual camp that served underrepresented pre-college students in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Investing Now program.  The students’ mission was to contain and treat the zombie outbreak, and the first step was to mitigate the spread.“We discussed the importance of a mask and its ability to help filter cleaner air for individuals to breathe,” said Ankith Rao (BioE ‘21). “They learned about human factors in product development and how to create a mask for a universal user. The students then sketched designs and physically prototyped masks with objects from around the house.”With a protective measure in hand, the students then learned how to research reliable information on the outbreak. The camp counselors demonstrated the CRAP test to help students consider four critical areas in identifying a trustworthy source: currency, reliability, authority and purpose. They used these new skills to complete an online scavenger hunt to learn more about vaccines.As part of the overall theme, the students also had to use engineering concepts to solve a series of puzzles that would aid in eliminating the virus.“In one of our modules, the students intercepted an email from zombie island, but they first had to learn how to use ASCII code to translate a clue that was coded in binary notation,” said Lucy Kress (BioE ‘21). One of the other clues included a circuit with a hidden DNA sequence to decode.“Students used software to figure out the protein sequence of the DNA, which was subsequently used to create a 3D model of the protein that served as the antigen for the vaccine,” said Pooja Chawla (BioE ‘22). “They then participated in a detailed virtual lab that demonstrated how vaccines are made.” After gaining a better understanding of how vaccines are developed, the students put their efforts toward creating a way to figure out who is infected. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology can rapidly detect viral DNA using primers – short, single-stranded DNA sequences that are specific to the disease.“Any time there is a new virus, you have to be able to identify if a person has been infected,” said Patricia Donehue, a Pitt biological sciences alumna. “We designed primers and introduced the students to PCR and gel electrophoresis as one means of identifying infection. They applied this technique to the clues to discover who may have been exposed to the disease.” The group also used artificial intelligence to set up a classifier that could identify if a face was human or zombie. In this exercise, they demonstrated bias in AI and discussed its implications in modern technology.Finally, the students learned about the pathology of the virus through a series of escape rooms that represented different stages of infection.“Each room had a patient chart with symptoms, and they used a website with a human anatomy model to solve the clues and figure out who was infected,” said Garima Patel (BioE ‘22). In the end, the students successfully created a vaccine, treated the population, and eradicated the zombie outbreak at Grimmsport.While the overall feedback for Summer with Swanson was positive, the counselors encountered a variety of obstacles along the way. Many of the issues involved access to technology and an internet connection.“Some students only had access to phones and tablets while others were limited by website restrictions on their school’s technology,” said Donehue. “Adaptability was an important aspect of this year’s camp. We had to make sure that the students were able to participate in each of the activities, regardless of what technology was available.” The Department of Bioengineering’s CampBioE, like many other programs, had to reframe their curriculum to adapt to coronavirus restrictions. The changes were challenging in many ways, but the solutions also opened new doors.“While the need to do everything virtually created some significant barriers, it also broke down some barriers,” said Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt and director of CampBioE. “Physical distance was no longer a factor, which allowed us to extend our programming out-of-state and reach audiences that would not have been able to participate otherwise.”The group plans to eventually package their activities on their website so that middle and high school educators across the nation can continue to “inspire tomorrow’s engineers.” # # #This effort was supported by funding from the Wilke Foundation, Phillips, Len and Ann Berenfield, and the Swanson School of Engineering Office of Diversity. Contact: Leah Russell

A Message from U.S. Steel Dean James Martin II on the 155th Celebration of Juneteenth

All SSoE News, Diversity, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Investing Now

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Giving Virtual Recruitment the Personal Touch

Covid-19, Diversity, Student Profiles, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (April 22, 2020) -- During this time of year, the staff at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering would be busy welcoming prospective and admitted students and their families to campus. Calendars would be filled with tutoring and mentoring sessions, events like Admitted Student Day, tours of Benedum Hall and Q&A sessions about life as an engineering student. Except this year, since the coronavirus pandemic has prevented those in-person events from taking place, the staff has shifted to using the technology at hand to welcome students virtually. While there has been an adjustment period, student support services are reporting positive results, and some are even considering keeping remote activities as an option for families and students who aren’t able to attend the in-person events. From In-Person to Virtual-PersonLauren Byland, associate director for the First-Year Engineering Program Office, has been organizing virtual information sessions for admitted students for about a month now, with between 40 and 80 students and their families joining each one. Despite the pandemic, recruitment numbers are approximately 50 percent ahead of where they were at this time last year. “The virtual sessions have been going very well. They feature a professional recruitment team staff member such as myself or Beth Scott, the campus visit and recruitment coordinator for the Swanson School,” says Byland. “One of our senior-level Engineering Ambassadors presents, too, so they can get a student perspective.” The team hosted its first virtual Admitted Student Day on April 13 on YouTube Live, and they’ve ramped up social media efforts to connect with students. The Pink Panthers Mentorship program, which started last year, is continuing to pair admitted female students with a mentor at the Swanson School. The group had conducted eight of the 12 scheduled events, and when asked if the admitted students would be interested in virtual events, 25 of 37 signed up.“These events will be smaller and more personalized, and we are happy that technology allows us to make these connections. Nothing can replace a personalized on-campus visit, but these programs certainly help them see themselves as Pitt Panthers and feel connected to our School,” says Byland. “We were forced into this virtual recruitment world, but now that we are doing it, we plan to still do virtual sessions or meetings after we come back to campus for families that may not be able to visit us in person.“Christopher Kirchhof, coordinator of transfer student services at the Swanson School, has also begun using virtual alternatives to the small, in-person meetings usually held at this time of year. A majority of transfer students come from within the University of Pittsburgh’s Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, but Kirchhof also spends time visiting other schools to meet with transfer students there in groups. Those group meetings have become one-on-one Skype calls.“To me, I think students and families have been understanding that this is a pivot from the norm and have been appreciative of the one-on-one outreach. I keep going back to the quote, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention;’ we have had the technological capabilities to do virtual outreach, but this situation has forced us to rethink our practices,” says Kirchhof. “While nothing can replicate an on-campus or in-person meeting, I’m thinking that once we are back on campus, virtual advising for students at other campuses may become the norm, at least for the first interaction.”Excelling in the Digital SpaceServing more than 250 undergraduate students, Pitt EXCEL is a diversity program that provides academic support, mentoring and career development for underrepresented minorities. More than that, they help students develop a community and professionally grow together. As campus closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, program staff had to quickly adapt these services to remote learning.“The transition to remote learning has been quite difficult academically,” said Halima Morafa, a sophomore mechanical engineering student. “Many of my teachers have been quite accommodating; however, it is still a big change now that I’m back at home, and a lot of the resources that I would utilize at Pitt are not available.”Yvette Moore, director of Pitt EXCEL, and the engineering student support staff have been developing new ways to implement their programs and services. “I think the students realize what they had on campus was something special, and we’re collectively doing everything we can to recreate it,” said Moore. “Pitt EXCEL is having virtual one-on-one meetings, and the student organizations have jumped right in with tutoring and ‘lounges’ where they can meet as a group and discuss tips for working from home.”Student groups like the National Society for Black Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers have held virtual elections, while DIVA and Brotherhood have continued to provide virtual workshops. “It has been business not-as-usual, but it has been great,” said Moore. “At first I thought it was going to be hard for us to change everything to virtual so quickly, but it wasn’t. The students, to their credit, are resilient.”The program has bolstered its presence on social media, where Moore holds weekly Instagram Live (@PittEXCEL) events called, “Fabulous Friday.” The virtual gatherings are a widely attended 15-minutes of motivation on subjects varying from “The What-ifs of Life” to “Flying Without Wings.” They have also planned an Instagram Live cooking show with alumni so that they can discuss healthy eating habits during the quarantine.“One thing that has remained consistent is our alumni engagement,” said Moore. “They have great wisdom and advice to give our students about how they can navigate these uncertain times.”Another recent development established by the undergraduate coordinators is an engineering hotline. Students can fill out an online form to discuss any topic, such as co-op, tutoring, or professional development, and they are paired up with someone who can help. Alumni are available to give advice and prepare students to enter the workforce, and upperclassmen are available to assist them with challenging coursework or discuss their personal experiences as an engineering student. The hotline is available from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. on weekends. “The Instagram Lives, the hotline, and Ms. Moore’s online advising sessions have been so helpful because it gives this scary time a nice sense of normality and stability,” said Anaya Joynes, a sophomore industrial engineering student. “She reminds me that I will still reach my goals and we are still a family, though we are far away.”Moore said, “For some students, life looks different when they go home, but they know that they also have a home at Pitt, and we can provide that extra support and help them process all of this.”Investing in Future StudentsINVESTING NOW, a college preparatory program that welcomes and supports high school students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields, has shifted their operations online, as well. They have continued to offer advising, tutoring and workshops but have also added virtual meet-up groups with Pitt undergraduates who are also INVESTING NOW alumni.When it was clear the University would be moving to online interactions, INVESTING NOW sent instructions for families on how to use Zoom, and advisors and students reached out to contact students individually to schedule sessions. “Smaller group interactions are best, and relationships matter. Because our college student employees (both student coordinators and tutors) already had relationships with our pre-college students, it was easier to make the connection,” says Alaine Allen, PhD, director of Educational Outreach and Community Engagement at the Swanson School and a co-director of the Broadening Equity in STEM Center at Pitt. “These relationships that were built on trust make the connections stronger and allow our pre-college students to see interacting with the college students as a treat.”In addition to the usual tutoring and mentoring activities, INVESTING NOW has also begun holding regular meet-up groups with Pitt students where they discuss topics like “quaren-things to do,” college planning, games, time management and more. Yet, Allen has noticed a disparity in the students’ technological skills and preparation, which has presented additional challenges.“We have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly our high school students and our undergraduate tutors and mentors adjusted to the virtual space,” says Allen. “However, we have been alarmed by the difference of experience our students are having based on the school they attend. Our biggest challenge has been the academic expectations of students, depending on their school and/or district.”Luckily, Allen says most students have access to a computer or smartphone, and they’re in touch with community organizations who can support student technology needs if necessary. However, while some districts were prepared with online curricula, not all of them were able to immediately make a smooth transition. “Because of the difference, not all of our students are as engaged as possible,” says Allen. “This experience has made us realize the importance of assessing students access to technology in advance. We are very concerned that various levels of access have only increased the educational inequity and challenges present.”# # # Contact: Leah Russell Author: Maggie Pavlick and Leah Russell

Future Kings

Industrial, MEMS, Diversity, Student Profiles, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 17, 2019) — “To cultivate and develop male-identifying black youth into realizing they are Future Kings — young, successful leaders in their careers, in their communities, and in their worlds.” That is the mantra and mission statement for Future Kings Mentoring, the brainchild of Swanson School of Engineering students Terrell Galloway and Isreal Williams and Sean Spencer, a Duquesne University student studying journalism and web design. The group’s idea is one of 30 winning projects in the Changemaker Competition, sponsored by T-Mobile in partnership with Ashoka. Participants range in age from 13 to 23 and seek to drive social change in technology, the environment or education.The team’s goal is to address the crippling psychological effects on black men that stem from a history of slavery, Jim Crow-era laws and mass incarceration. They believe that by mentoring young, black, male-identifying students, they can stop the cycle by encouraging them and showing that they are capable of great success. “At some point in our early lives, we found ourselves in situations that exposed the harsh realities of our society. Some hardships are watching the kids we play with go to jail at young ages and being afraid during daily activities in our own neighborhoods,” says Galloway, who is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School. “Thankfully, we found spaces that gave us hope for the future by showing us better than the struggles we knew.” “We are anomalies and our stories are not the norm for others with our background. Future Kings Mentoring exists to be that greater place in the Pittsburgh community to make our experience the standard,” adds Williams, who is studying industrial engineering. “We want to reject the narrative handed to us, and leave a legacy of hope, opportunity, and holistic wellness.”The team hopes that by will be able to begin recruitment efforts in the Pittsburgh area by Summer 2020, looking to establish partnerships with local organizations. The 30 winning Changemaker teams receive a trip to the Changemaker Lab at the T-Mobile Headquarters in Seattle for a two-day workshop in February 2020, where they will receive mentorship, seed funding, training and support to make their ideas a reality. “I’ve worked with Terrell and Isreal through the INVESTING NOW program and can’t communicate how proud I am of them,” says Steven Abramowitch, PhD, associate professor of bioengineering. “All three of these young men are doing amazing things, and I’m excited to watch their successes grow.”  Author: Maggie Pavlick Contact: Maggie Pavlick

BE STEM Center Gets Federal Grant to Boost Diversity in STEM Higher Education

All SSoE News, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (September 17, 2019) ... A multidisciplinary Pitt research team will work with a national ecosystem of science, technology, engineering and math stakeholders to accredit precollege STEM programs and boost college enrollment for underrepresented students. The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it has awarded a $10 million INCLUDES Alliance grant to the team that makes up Pitt’s Broadening Equity in STEM (BE STEM) Center and the STEM Learning Ecosystem Community of Practice (SLECoP), a network of STEM programs and partners in 84 regions. The five-year award makes Pitt the home base for the STEM Pathways for Underrepresented Students to HigherEd Network, a national collaborative of precollege programs, STEM educators, college admissions professionals and others committed to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in STEM. It will also support the creation of an accreditation model to communicate the validity of these precollege programs to college admissions officers. “With the new NSF INCLUDES Alliance awards, we continue to expand our national network of partners who are helping us build a more diverse, inclusive, innovative and well-prepared STEM workforce,” said Karen Marrongelle, head of NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources. The award continues work done through a 2017 NSF INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilot Grant awarded to Alison Slinskey Legg, principal investigator, co-director of the BE STEM Center and director of outreach programs in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Alaine Allen, co-principal investigator, co-director of the BE STEM center and director of K-12 outreach and community engagement at the Swanson School of Engineering. Under the 2017 grant for $300,000, Slinskey Legg, Allen and a team from across the University created an accreditation system for Pitt precollege STEM programs that would be recognized by the University’s admissions office. Slinskey Legg said the latest grant will go towards creating a model that can be applied nationally. “Ultimately, this work will decrease the distance between STEM precollege programs and college admissions offices and forge a new, more equitable pathway for racially and ethnically underrepresented students to access higher education in STEM,” she said. The team will work to create a set of best practices that aims to grant STEM precollege programs accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. That accreditation will give college admissions officers a means to measure the program’s value when evaluating students for acceptance. Precollege programs such Pitt’s INVESTING NOW have played an important role in exposing students of color to college and STEM opportunities, said Allen. “Developing a system to connect these initiatives to admissions is our opportunity to honor the legacy of the pioneers who created these programs,” Allen said. Efforts will begin with STEM education programs that are part of SLECoP network in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. Those programs will come together to create a vibrant, collaborative learning network designed to strengthen and leverage standards that are known to support strong student outcomes. Once standards are finalized and the first round of programs receive accreditation, efforts will be expanded to six additional urban areas by the end of the grant cycle. Allen and Slinskey Legg will work with co-principal investigators David Boone, assistant professor of biomedical informatics at the School of Medicine and director of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy; Jennifer Iriti, a research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center; and Jan Morrison, co-founder of SLECoP. The multidisciplinary team also features representatives from the Center for Urban Education in the School of Education and the School of Computing and Information.### Author: Deborah Todd, University Communications Contact: Deborah Todd

In Pursuit of Inclusive Excellence

Diversity, Investing Now

WHEELING, W.V. (Aug. 28, 2019) — Graduate school isn’t just about earning a degree. It’s about a shared experience, a community of scholars sharing little moments of connection across cultures. And that means learning to grow and thrive as a diverse team. That was the message at the 2019 PITT STRIVE retreat, which took place at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center on Aug. 8 and 9. The fourth annual retreat brought together Swanson School of Engineering faculty mentors and PhD mentees from the PITT STRIVE program, which strives for excellence in academic and faculty engagement cultures that promote the success, transition, representation, innovation, vision, and education of URM PhD students. The program supports underrepresented students as they transition into doctoral engineering programs at the Swanson School, and fosters an inclusive environment that supports their retention and graduation by strong graduate students and faculty community building activities.“PITT STRIVE’s annual retreat gives our fellows and scholars the opportunity to cultivate relationships that will carry them forward into their professional and academic pursuits,” says Sylvanus Wosu, PhD, associate dean for diversity affairs. “A culture of inclusivity is invaluable in academia, and we all have a vital role to play in building it.” The retreat’s goal was clear from the first session. Michael Eatman, a diversity professional who helps organizations develop cultural competence and inclusive learning and working environments, led sessions designed to break down barriers and foster discussion about what inclusivity and diversity truly mean. What We Do Not SeeEatman asked the group to find one individual that they do not work with on a regular basis for an exercise called “What We Do Not See.” In this team-building activity, partners looked at one another for two minutes without speaking and took note of the observations and assumptions they made about their partner. “Part of the work building community is being able to honestly share with those we are in community with,” Eatman noted. “Getting to the heart of community is moving through the use of our observations and assumptions as the only reality. Some of our work may be to create communities that allow room to discover who is beneath the facade we learn to put on for survival in institutions.” Some of the participants found this activity to be the most meaningful at the retreat. “I found this activity so significant because not only did I get to learn about another person, but I also gained a new tool to use in order to confront my own biases that I may have about people from now on,” said Isaiah Spencer-Williams, a civil engineering alumnus and rising graduate student. “As a community builder, I think building relationships and getting comfortable enough with people to have real conversations is a quintessential skill that a lot of people aren’t willing to invest into.” Eatman likened the dichotomy between diversity and inclusion to an hourglass, with “diversity” at the top and “inclusion” underneath. The bottleneck prohibiting the free flow of sand from one to the other was marked “share, respect, appreciate.” In order to navigate intercultural perspectives, he explained, we must pursue a shared goal, respect one another’s identity and appreciate cultural differences. “We have to be able to talk openly about diversity,” said Eatman. “We need to be soft on people, but hard on barriers to inclusion.” Building Communities and Ecosystems, Not Silos James R. Martin II, PhD, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering, also discussed building community, specifically how participants can work together as a team to pioneer a new educational paradigm. He discussed how higher education is being disrupted and how as a greater community, we need to determine what we value in education. “We are all a part of the same community to help solve these challenges,” he said. “Universities are supposed to be platforms of upward social mobility. By not investing in higher education, we are undervaluing the creation of new knowledge.” In order to thrive, he said, higher education must value diversity: “Diversity is critical because you need the gathered perspective that not one person has,” he said. “We must build communities and ecosystems in higher education, not silos.” “The dean’s presence made a positive impact on the participants,” says Wosu “Some participants felt the dean’s presence and his remarks on diversity and inclusion were some of the highlights of the event.” Breaking BarriersMedeva Ghee, PhD, executive director of the Leadership Alliance and an assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, delivered the keynote address this year. Her talk, entitled “The Leadership Alliance: Removing Barriers to Accelerate the Diversification of the Research Workforce,” discussed the lack of diversity in academia and research communities, and the importance of addressing this concern. The Leadership Alliance, a national consortium of 35 institutions of higher education, provides programming to develop underrepresented students into thought leaders in academia and industry. Programs like this one, she explained, remove barriers that prevent underrepresented students from pursuing careers in academia and in research, such as workshops on how to market oneself for research careers, training activities for faculty to learn to recruit and retain diverse talent, and grant writing coaching groups to provide opportunity for junior faculty from minority-serving institutions to develop proposals to fund research. “These barriers are not new and have existed for decades,” said Sossena Wood, BSEE ‘11 PhD BioE ‘18, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “It becomes very discouraging at times but supportive networks like the Leadership Alliance allow us to have a community that is equally invested in our success. As much as programs like the Leadership Alliance support the development of URM graduate students for post-graduate careers in academia and research, continual work and partnership must evolve to reform the environments in which we choose to work.” Ghee also led a workshop titled “Faculty as Change Agents: You Got This!” The workshop provided a toolkit that can promote institutional change in diversity and inclusion. Building a culture of change starts with collaboration, an ecosystem informed by a university-wide strategic plan and evidence-based programs. “My biggest takeaway from the retreat was that in order to continue to build an inclusive and integrated community in the Swanson School of Engineering, efforts like this need to be supported and mobilized,” says Spencer-Williams. “The dean often talks about being the pioneers of a new educational system, and I think having conversations surrounding not only inclusivity, but also realistic integration can help make that transition.” After Ghee’s keynote address, Eatman reconvened with the group to help them gather their thoughts and discuss their response to the topics that were addressed throughout the day. The group then recognized four former PITT STRIVE fellows with the Pacesetter Award: Brandon Jennings, MSCoE ‘16, PhD ECE ‘19; Harold Rickenbacker, PhD CEE ‘19; Florencio Serrano Castillo, PhD ChemE ‘19; and Dr. Wood. The award honors them for serving as a role model in the PITT STRIVE community and for their commitment to the success of underrepresented minority graduate students in the Swanson School. This year’s PITT STRIVE retreat enacted the “Five I’s of Inclusive Excellence” during its two-day run. The community got a chance to come together and solidify its identity. Attendees interacted with one another, asking tough questions and learning about one another’s experiences. The speakers revealed ways to get involved in creating a more inclusive culture and have a real impact on the environment at Pitt. ###Brandon Jennings, PhDJennings, a senior system engineer for Raytheon in Tucson, Ariz., was the first PITT STRIVE Fellow to graduate from the program. He participated in numerous programs encouraging diversity in STEM, teaching robotics for three years for the INVESTING NOW program at Pitt. Jennings published six papers and won several awards during his time at Swanson, including K. Leroy Irvis Fellowship, the AGEP/PITT-STRIVE Fellowship and Chuck Cooper Foundation Scholarship. Harold Rickenbacker, PhDRickenbacker enrolled in the Pre-PhD Program offered by the Office of Diversity at Swanson in 2014. During his time at Swanson, he was awarded the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award in 2019, the National Science Foundation Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Scholar Grant Supplement Award in 2018, the Climate & Urban Systems Partnership: Research Grant in 2017, the Mascaro Center for Innovation Grant Award in 2016, and the Heinz Endowments Next Oxygen-eration Grant Award in 2015. He published six papers, two of which list him as first author. Florencio Serrano Castillo, PhDSerrano Castillo joined the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt as a PITT STRIVE Fellow in 2014. While earning his doctorate, Serrano Castillo was first author on two peer-reviewed publications and presented his work at several national and international conferences. He joined Fourth Rivers Consulting, where he participated in several engagements for healthcare startups in the Pittsburgh area. He was also part of the winning team of the Pitt Challenge Healthcare Hackathon. Serrano Castillo served two years as vice president of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association, two years as the Chemical Engineering Department Representative to the Engineering Graduate Student Organization, and one year as the Graduate Student Representative for Pitt SHPE. Serrano Castillo will be starting a new role in industry as a clinical research scientist with Amgen at the Clinical Pharmacology, Modeling and Simulations division, developing system pharmacology models for the development of large molecule therapeutics for various indications. Sossena Wood, PhDWood is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow within the Biomedical Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University. As she earned her doctorate in bioengineering at Pitt, she was a PITT STRIVE Fellow and a K. Leroy Irvis and National GEM Consortium Fellow. Additionally, Wood won a number of awards, including being one of the University of Pittsburgh’s Rising African American Leaders, the National Institutes of Health F31 award, the New Pittsburgh Courier’s FAB 40, NSBE’s 2017 Mike Shinn Distinguished Member of the Year award, and Professional Women’s Network award. She served two terms as the National Chairperson of the National Society of Black Engineers. She is committed to engaging and empowering underrepresented youth to pursue STEM degrees locally and globally. Author: Maggie Pavlick and Leah Russell Contact: Paul Kovach

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the IMPACT program at Pitt

All SSoE News, Investing Now

The Swanson School will co-host a special three-day gathering of alumni and supporters of the Pitt IMPACT Program, June 21-23, 2019. The event includes a memorial to the late Dr. Karl Lewis, as well as a panel to discuss the program's legacy and its continuing impact at Pitt in engineering and nursing. Registration is $149 and includes events and meals.Founded in 1969, the IMPACT Program was developed by Pitt and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to encourage minority and financially and culturally disadvantaged students to enter and graduate from engineering programs. The six-week program prepared incoming freshmen through exposure to university academic life, development of study skills, academic and career counseling, and coursework to reinforce strengths or remedy weaknesses. The program's legacy includes two award-winning initiatives: INVESTING NOW, a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM majors; and Pitt EXCEL, a comprehensive undergraduate diversity program committed to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates, particularly individuals from groups historically underrepresented in the field. Contact: Paul Kovach

Pitt Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Sam Dickerson Wins 2019 Board of Visitors Award

Electrical & Computer, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (May 3, 2019) — Recognizing his role in developing undergraduate programs, innovative teaching and leadership in his field, Sam Dickerson, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has won the 2019 Board of Visitors Award. “Dr. Dickerson is the epitome of a faculty member devoted to diversity for the benefits of all students, staff, and faculty, demonstrating leadership in student recruitment, student retention, community engagement, and student mentoring,” says Roberta A. Luxbacher, chair of the Board of Visitors. “He has had a tremendous impact on the mission of the department and the school. The Board of Visitors is proud of accomplishments such as his, which are extremely important if the School is to continue to be recognized as a national force in engineering education and research."Dr. Dickerson serves as director of the undergraduate Computer Engineering program in addition to his teaching. He joined the Swanson School as assistant professor in 2015 after completing his PhD, MS and BS degrees in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Pitt. Examples of Dr. Dickerson’s dedication to the success of all students are abundant in the department. Dr. Dickerson pushed for examination space in ECE for students with disabilities and special needs and is the faculty founder of “Chat and Chew,” a diversity program in ECE meant to engage and support URM students. He also served as faculty lead in funding female ECE students to attend the annual Grace Hopper Conference; led an NSF project to create and study new teaching methods for broad demographic groups; and led the Hands-on-Science activity for Swanson’s Investing NOW Pre-College Program. Dr. Dickerson also advises the nearly 300 undergraduate students in Computer Engineering, one of the School’s largest programs.In addition to his leadership and mentoring roles, Dr. Dickerson is nationally recognized as an innovative and passionate educator. He has received NSF funding to implement new techniques in teaching electronics and has modernized the Senior Design Project course in a way that challenges students and pushes them out of their comfort zones. Dr. Dickerson received the School’s Outstanding Educator Award this year in recognition of this work. “Dr. Dickerson is consistently ranked by students as one of the best teachers in the School, and his commitment to the teaching profession is a model for every faculty member demonstrating great passion and commitment to teaching,” says Alan George, PhD, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. “When he was asked to assume the leadership role as director of our undergraduate program in computer engineering in 2017, his response was amazing and refreshing, replying that he would be happy to serve in this role but regretful that it would mean a reduction by one in his teaching load each year.”The Board of Visitors Award includes a $5,000 grant to support the recipient’s scholarly activities. It was presented at the Board of Visitors Dinner on May 2, 2019. Author: Maggie Pavlick Contact: Maggie Pavlick

Ipsita Banerjee Wins 2019 Faculty Diversity Award

Chemical & Petroleum, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2019) — Ipsita Banerjee, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is the recipient of the School’s 2019 Faculty Diversity Award.“It would be an understatement to say that Ipsita earnestly strives each year to improve the academic environment fostering the success of under-represented minority students at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels,” says Steven Little, department chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. The Faculty Diversity Award Committee cited Dr. Banerjee’s accomplishments as: Commitment to community engagement through active participation in INVESTING NOW program, as well as collaboration the Carnegie Science Center and REU programs;Leadership and mentorship for women in STEM, through participation in the Women in STEM Conferences and AlChE Women’s Initiative Committee (WIC);Recognized excellence in mentorship, including the 2016 Summer Research Internship (SRI) Faculty Mentor Award by PITT EXCEL program;Service to the Swanson School in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students through various internal and external programs.Beyond her work with organizations on campus, Dr. Banerjee devotes time and effort into programs like the Carnegie Science Center’s CanTEEN Career Exploration Program, sharing her experience with middle school girls and encouraging them to pursue an education in STEM. She has also been involved with the Women Student Networking conference, AlChE Women’s Initiatives Committee, and in panels for Women in Science and Medicine organized by UPMC.In addition to the award, Dr. Banerjee will receive a $2,000 grant and induction into the Office of Diversity’s Champions for Diversity Honor Roll.Dr. Banerjee’s mentees endorsed her nomination for this award because of her thoughtful support, encouragement and motivation. Her own professional success, they noted, makes her a valuable role model for other women and under-represented minorities in STEM.“Being a Hispanic woman in the field of science and technology, it is sometimes hard to find examples of other women and/or minorities who have gone through the process of pursuing a career in academia with as much success as Dr. Banerjee has,” says Dr. Maria Jaramillo, a senior scientist at IVIVA Medical and the first graduate student to work with Dr. Banerjee at Pitt. She adds that Dr. Banerjee’s help and encouragement to network, collaborate with other scientists at Pitt and beyond, and present her research are among the things that have been most influential to her career. “These opportunities were instrumental for the continuance of my career in academia, and even today, several years after finishing my PhD under her supervision, Dr. Banerjee still provides great support.”“Dr. Banerjee embodies the phrase ‘women empowering women,’” says Brittany Givens Rassoolkhani, a former PITT EXCEL Summer Research Intern who is now a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa. “Throughout my time working with her, it was apparent that she was both brilliant and dedicated. Most importantly, I was encouraged to also be dedicated and brilliant in my own work via the way she mentored myself and other students in the laboratory.”Not only did Dr. Banerjee’s mentorship inspire her students to conduct their own research and find their professional paths, but it also inspired them to be better mentors themselves. Brittany Givens Rassolkhani notes that now she is also a mentor and never forgot the lessons Dr. Banerjee taught.“Throughout this process, Dr. Banerjee has been instrumental in reminding me how important it is as a woman, particularly a woman of color, in the sciences and engineering to be cultivated in an environment that encourages women to be equal, if not better than, their male counterparts,” she says. “Dr. Banerjee never let my goals be big and scary, as I so often saw them; instead, in her eyes our goals as researchers were always achievable. I hope that when I become a professor and start my own laboratory, I am able to provide even half as much support to and faith in my students as I witnessed from Dr. Banerjee.” ### Contact: Maggie Pavlick

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