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Chatham: A Transformational University: a Q & A with the Author

mary-brignanoMary Brignano began her career with McCullough Communications, a small public relations and publishing company in Pittsburgh. She has since written more than 40 histories for clients such as UPMC, Giant Eagle, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Reed Smith, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. We sat down with her to chat about the new history book: Chatham: A Transformational University, 1869-2016.

Q: How did you become involved in the project?
A: Esther Barazzone knew that I had written a history of UPMC, and asked if I would like to come in and discuss the opportunity. I had a very nice meeting with her, (Board of Trustees Member) Jane Burger and (Vice President for Planning & Secretary to the Board) Sean Coleman.

Q:  What had been your experience with Chatham, or what did you know about Chatham, before you started?
A: I had thought of Chatham as a very good small liberal arts school for women. It was an absolute revelation to see what it had become, and how quickly. Esther at one point had asked if I was surprised at what happened, and I said oh my goodness, yes! I had had a very positive feeling about Chatham, but I had no idea how it had exploded.

Q: What’s something that you were surprised to learn?
A: Well, Eden Hall was a real revelation–the uniqueness of that; it’s very interesting. I was also surprised to learn how active the board has been in keeping the institution so successful for the past 25 years. It’s a very dynamic board that cares deeply about the school. The whole place has a really good culture.

Q: Tell me one thing that was rewarding and one thing that was challenging about writing the book.
A: It was rewarding to learn about how an institution can change so much, one that is so historic. Often institutions get mired down in their history, and Chatham just didn’t. Chatham had a sense of “We know where we have been, where we want to be, and we know we can do this.” Chatham knew how to keep the good things in the face of change.

It was challenging to try to get it all in under 1000 pages! I would love to have mentioned more of the people I learned about—so many good teachers, and such remarkable women graduates. It’s frustrating to have to leave out so many things that you want to put in.

Q: Did you choose the title, A Transformational University?
A: Yes—when that title came, I thought “Okay, this is it!”

Q: What figure from Chatham’s past would you most like to have dinner with, and why?
Well, I always liked to have dinner with Esther because she’s a lot of fun. But I would have to say Lilla Greene, who was an alumna who graduated in 1908 and was one of the very first social workers. Lilla was hired by the Sage Foundation to go into tenements and interview people who had received eye injuries on the job, or otherwise had eye problems because of their work. Philanthropy had become scientific in the late 19th century—it was all about observing and measuring, in this case to gather information that would support and encourage change in workplace safety. I thought it was transformational that Chatham had created this department where women could go out and get investigative jobs like that. Lilla’s story is on page 38 in the book.

Q: Great. Any final thoughts?
A: I just want to say how much I enjoyed working with everyone at Chatham, getting to know everyone and getting to know the school. It made me want to go back to school for Food Studies! I sat in on a class taught by (Program Director and Associate Professor) Alice Julier, and it blew me away. I just loved it.


They marched. Will they run? PCWP Records Increase in Women Candidates in Southeast PA

PITTSBURGH: Observers around the country have noted an uptick in the number of women running for political office, and some areas of Pennsylvania appear to be no exception to this trend with recent data collected by the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University indicating that women ran for and won more Southeast Pennsylvania municipal offices in 2017 than in 2015.

In 2015, PCWP tallies revealed that less than a quarter of candidates (24.7 percent) in Southeastern Pennsylvania were women—Philadelphia (38.5 percent), Bucks (28 percent), Delaware (22 percent), Montgomery (21.5 percent), and Chester (26 percent). In the same area in 2017, 39.5 percent of candidates were women.

Preliminary results of data collected from the November election indicate that across Southeast Pennsylvania approximately 41.5 percent of the winners in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties were women. In Philadelphia, where only a few races were on the ballot, women represented 62 percent of those who won their races (8 women). Many more offices were contested in the collar counties; in Bucks County 45 percent of winners were women (142 women), while women represented 42 percent of the winners in Delaware (139 women) and Montgomery (167 women) Counties. Chester County’s tally was somewhat lower, with 35 percent (96 women) female winners. The 2015 and 2017 results are based, in each county, on candidates and results available in those respective election cycles.

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Dr. Finegold holding #Stillin sign at the United Nations Climate Change Conference

This past November, Chatham University’s president, David Finegold, DPhil, was invited to speak at the United Nations Climate Change Conference  in Bonn, Germany.

Dr. Finegold was part of a panel on which different models of U.S. higher education were represented: a community college, a large public university, and, representing private universities, Chatham.

The invitation came from Second Nature, an organization committed to building a sustainable global future through leadership networks in higher education (Chatham has been a core member of Second Nature). We spoke with Dr. Finegold about his experience at the conference and thoughts about the future of sustainability at Chatham. (Interview edited for clarity and length.)

Q: Why are colleges and universities leading on these issues?
A: There are a couple of reasons. I think one is that colleges and universities are in the business of generating facts and new research, and so a lot of the knowledge that is leading us to understand what’s happening with the climate is coming out of universities. So it is appropriate that they are on the cutting edge.

I think a second reason is our timeframe. For a lot of corporate CEOs, they are most worried about their next quarter’s results or maybe the next year. Universities? We are about to celebrate our 150th anniversary! If you are doing a good job leading a university, you should be thinking in decades or centuries. You can’t ignore the short term, but you need to have a long-term timeframe.

We are focused on what the world is going to be like in 2025 and 2050 and trying to prepare people for that.”

I think a third reason is that it’s right at our core values.  What we stand for is sustainability, having a positive impact on the community. Healthy people, healthy planet; it’s a core part of what we at Chatham do and what a lot of other universities think is important.

A fourth reason is a lot more students, like yourself, like what we are seeing with the student campaign on divestment, are passionate about these issues. So they are pushing their universities to be leaders.

Q: Which speaker at the conference had the greatest impact on you?
A:  For me, it wasn’t so much a speaker as a particular theme. I attended several panels that said that it’s not enough to reduce emissions; we also have to figure out how we can capture more carbon that’s already out there. One of the most effective ways to do this is what is called carbon farming.

Basically, about one-fifth of all the carbon we need in order to do this is in the soil. If we do a better job of making soil capture and keep carbon, we can make a huge impact. I thought this would be a great fit for Eden Hall Campus, particularly if you look at things like composting. It’s a triple win: If you divert food waste to create compost, that means you create less waste. If you then put the compost down you improve agricultural yields, and on top of that you capture more carbon than normal soil. We have the right people at Chatham—for example, one of our Board members, Carla Castagnero, is president of AgRecycle, Inc., one of the oldest composting companies in the country, and Sherie Edenborn, one of our professors, has done a lot of research in this area.

Another thing is that one of the presenters put up a map that showed that Pennsylvania is one of the places where you could have the greatest impact within the US because we are such an agriculture-intensive state. So if we were to do this across just our state, we could make a big impact, and nationally, even better.

To me the big take away was there is a way to tie together everything we are doing at Eden Hall and have a really positive impact.”

Q: What do you believe is the hardest obstacle to overcome for schools looking towards a more sustainable future?
A: For a lot of schools like ours, as with many things, it comes down to money. If we had significantly more resources than we do now, what I would love to do and what a lot of other universities have done is to have a couple million dollars in a fund. They say “We have a list of twenty additional sustainability projects. We are going to spend it on the top three and then measure their ROI in terms of what they save us.” For example, if you really weather-condition an old building like this, you are going to save X dollars in energy and it will also have a positive impact on the climate. The money that we save would go back in the fund so that we are able to continually invest.

One of the reasons we have ranked so highly in the STARS rating even without a fund like that is that we have done a lot of the low-hanging fruit: the LEDs, the food waste, the solar. We have done a ton, but something like that would give us even more. Otherwise, as a private university, we do not really have any other constraints.

Q: Of all the sustainability initiatives taken at Chatham, which one do you feel has the strongest impact?
A: I would say the strongest impact, when you look at the broader national or global context, is the huge investment we made in creating a model campus community that has all the aspects of sustainability at Eden Hall. I think that in terms of big picture and reasons that people come and study us and want to partner with us, that is probably our biggest impact.

But actually, I also really love the small things. The decision to get rid of trays, that’s one where people take smaller portions, we have less food waste, it did not cost us anything, and it is an immediate benefit. There are big picture things, but I think the small things that we teach every student like turning off the lights before you leave a room, shut down and unplug your computer or appliances overnight; they all add up.

Q: What is the best advice you can give to fellow university presidents taking steps towards sustainability measures?
A: The best advice I could give is not to be daunted by the complexity of STARS ratings or anything else. There are a ton of things that you can do really easily, like the dining room trays thing or LED lights. You should start wherever you can start, and there are a bunch of things you can do that save money and improve your climate footprint. Get your students involved, get your faculty and staff involved, and leverage their suggestions on how to do things.

Q: What do you see as the next step for Chatham after the conference? Are we moving towards carbon farming?
A: Carbon farming is very high on my agenda; I would love to see it as a strategic initiative at Eden Hall. The other significant thing is that we had 14 faculty, staff, students, and alumni at the Climate Reality Project training that Al Gore did here in Pittsburgh—their biggest ever. We are talking about forming Pittsburgh’s first university-based chapter. This is about what can we do working with everybody looking for wins.

Q: Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you would like to say?
A: I was really excited to represent Chatham at the conference. There were a few universities there that had their own students attend as part of the delegation, and I am hoping that we can do that for future events. It is going to take a lot of steps to get there, but I love it and think it would be such a great learning experience for our students. The contacts you get to make with people from all over the world is amazing.

IncubateHER announces inaugural cohort


(Photo by Neil Richmond)

Chatham University’s Center for Women Entrepreneurship is proud to announce its inaugural IncubateHER cohort for 2018. IncubateHER is a free, competitive year-long business incubation program for early-stage women entrepreneurs with product and service-based businesses in the Pittsburgh region.

The inaugural cohort consists of five high-potential women business owners including Feyisola Alabi*, founder and CEO of Omore, an online platform for trading, selling or buying new or gently worn traditional clothes; Dina Colangelo, founder and CEO of Centerpisa, intricately designed and eco-friendly centerpieces rented for special events; Jo Ana Vaz, founder and CEO of PIT Shop, a healthy snack delivery service; Mary Jayne McCullough, founder and CEO of Global Wordsmiths, a social enterprise dedicated to improving language access for immigrants and refugees in Western PA and Brittany McLaughlin, founder and CEO of ScribbleUp, an educational technology tool for early readers to learn and practice reading concepts around sounds and letters.

IncubateHER provides participants with customized, industry-specific mentors, business counseling and technical assistance through Chatham’s Women’s Business Center, a tailored growth curriculum, peer-to-peer mentoring through cohort meetups, and a year-long membership to the Center for immersive networking opportunities such as the Women Business Leaders Breakfast Series and monthly member coffee hours. Through this membership, IncubateHER participants also get free access to the Center’s Prototyping & Design Lab to use digital fabrication tools to ideate and create new products or expand their product lines. In addition, participants will receive a $1,000 grant at the successful completion of the program to help grow their businesses.

Interested mentors can sign up here.

The Center is a member of the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA). IncubateHER is coordinated by Nazli Saka, who, in addition to her degrees in law and education, holds the InBIA Business Incubation Management Certificate, the premier industry credential for the staff of incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, small business development centers and other entrepreneurship programs.

Funding for IncubateHER is provided by the PNC Foundation with additional support from Chatham alumnae donors and members of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship.

*Feyisola Alabi is a 2016 graduate of Chatham University with degrees in Business and Sustainability.

Patients. Ping. Protocols. PHP. Passion.


As a health professional for over 40 years, I’ve seen many changes. I’ve watched as hospital patients’ rooms have changed from bare walls with up to eight beds to rooms of only one bed, the walls covered in electronics, including oxygen outlets, electronic suction ports, Wi-Fi heart monitors, and electronic IV pumps that control flow rates (and connect to electronic health records). And let’s not forget the new electronic beds that weigh you, speak to you when you try to get up or set off an alarm when you try to get out of bed.

That’s healthcare informatics.

I’ve watched healthcare waiting rooms change from basic painted walls with pictures to lounges with wall-mounted telemonitors that alert family when their loved one moves from the pre-operative room to the operating room to the post-op room to their private patient room. Which is to say that today, healthcare environments offer technologically-enhanced communication that supports not just the patient, but also the family.

In fact, we no longer have to be in a brick and mortar health facility to access health information or to receive healthcare treatments. With the use of the Internet, Wi-Fi, computers, audio/video equipment, mobile apps, etc., we are communicating health information and receiving health services in a variety of virtual ways. Today, an individual can see a medical practitioner, in real time, by clicking a mobile app on their phone from anywhere in the USA.

Health-related technology is advancing faster than the health professional or health organization can keep up with. That’s why academic institutions are beginning to prepare health professionals (in a variety of disciplines) to embrace and use technology. Computerized systems allow professionals to capture, manage and analyze data in brand-new ways. Today we can explore how data can monitor outcomes and correlations (such as using sales data regarding cold medicines to predict a flu epidemic). We can promote healthy living by using alarms on our cell phones as reminders to test our blood sugar levels and to monitor the number of steps we take each day. We have technology that predicts the weather so we can prepare how to dress to meet cold temperatures, reducing the chances of catching a cold.

If you enjoy thinking outside the box, engaging with electronics and health technology, and have a passion for improving the health of people and communities—healthcare informatics may very well be the perfect place for you.”

Through Chatham’s Master of Healthcare Informatics (MHI) professionals in health-related positions can join this revolution of envisioning how technology can be used to help make better decisions, to change practices and processes. To change the future. (And, it must be said, to earn high salaries: As of 2015, the overall average salary for health IT professionals was $111,387.52, according to an annual compensation survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.)

Read more about exciting healthcare technology innovations—including smart glasses for the visually impaired and a watch that helps with sleep apnea—here and here, and learn more about Chatham’s 30-credit, fully-online MHI here.

From Eden Hall Pioneer to Farm Manager

Eden Hall Farm Manager Tony Miga, MSUS '14, clips plants in the high tunnel at Eden Hall Campus
Fact: Eden Hall Campus has its superstars and they get the lion’s share of the press. The solar high tunnel, with its floor heated by geothermal heating. The aquaculture lab with its 500 rainbow trout. Solar panels, generating enough electricity to power 14 homes for one year. Items like these have been written about in publications ranging from Architect Magazine to USA Today—deservedly so.

But when Tony Miga first visited the campus in 2012 as a prospective graduate student in the process of vetting the brand-new Master of Sustainability program, none of that was there. What he remembers seeing were some dilapidated stables, and the big barn. And the orchard.

“It was just dripping with apples,” he says. “It was untended and unmowed and in pretty rough shape, but it was really cool to feel like I’d just discovered this little pocket of apple trees.”

The orchard still feels a little off the beaten Eden Hall track, even though it’s not. You follow a winding path a little way down from the Esther Barazzone Center, a clearing opens, and there they are: mystery trees. In a sense.

“There are at least five varieties of apples we’re trying to identify, since we don’t have the planting records” says Miga, who is now the Eden Hall farm manager. “We’ve been collecting a few from each tree, photographing them, tasting them, and cross-referencing them using online sources. We can eliminate certain possibilities— these trees are between 50 and 65 years old, so anything newer than that is out—but it’s a pretty overwhelming task because there’s at least two thousand named varieties of apples.”

Have they successfully identified any?

“I think so!” Miga says. “I think this one here’s a Newtown Pippin.” Graduate student Maura Rapkin, harvesting apples nearby, laughs.

After receiving undergraduate degrees in English and History from Kenyon College, Miga spent two years teaching in rural North Carolina with nonprofit Teach for America. Then he taught in the Bronx, and began developing video resources of educational best practices for teachers. In 2010, Miga and his wife Bethany moved to Pittsburgh.

Within a couple of years, he was working part-time at a nursery near his house. “I had been spending so much time and energy creating things that just lived on the web. I was ready for a change,” he says. The nursery was owned by alumnae of Chatham’s landscape architecture program. When Miga looked into Chatham, he found the brand- new Master of Sustainability program. He joined the first cohort, and spoke on behalf of the students at the campus groundbreaking in 2012.

Eden Hall Farm Manager Tony Miga, MSUS '14, inspects a tomato growing on the vine
Miga entered the MSUS program with an interest in rainwater and stormwater management; in fact, his Master’s thesis was the design and implementation of an ambitious, award-winning rainwater catchment system that Eden Hall still uses for irrigation. But within a couple of months of starting the program, he found his focus shifting.

“Because I live closer to Eden Hall Campus than to Shadyside Campus, I was up there all the time,” he says, “and so was (former Eden Hall farm manager) Allen (Matthews). He was doing pretty much everything there was to do with the farm, and I kept showing up and saying ‘how can I help?’ I basically learned farming through an informal apprenticeship with Allen.”

I ask whether he feels a tension between trying to run a productive, operative farm and being in an academic setting and experimental research space. “I see the ‘Farm’ as having three primary drivers,” he says. “The first is food production. We’re actively trying to farm in the traditional sense. Eighty-five percent of what we grow is served here or at the Shadyside Campus, and maybe eventually we’ll produce food to generate revenue of some kind. Then there’s the academic side—the farm as lab, not just for classes, but also for faculty research. Third is the community piece. How can we benefit the local and regional community, and how can we benefit from them? The things we do that I’m most proud of hit more than one of those drivers. If we hold a workshop, for example, it’s academic in one sense, but also provides a benefit to the community.”

If you think that being the sole full-time employee tasked with running a farm— managing student workers, volunteers, and equipment; planning, planting, and harvesting—sounds like there’s probably plenty of time left over for other tasks, you know a thing or two about Chatham. Here are a few of the other things Miga does: he develops and runs workshops (including shiitake and oyster mushroom production; rain barrel construction and installation; honey extraction; growing ginger; small- scale grain production); works with faculty on ways to use the farm in coursework and projects; teaches (last spring he taught an “Introduction to Organic Farming” Maymester course; a longer course may be in the works); and reaches out to local businesses, farms, and individuals to identify opportunities for collaboration. He also shows people around a lot. I ask what he gets most excited to show people.

It’s not a surprise when he mentions the solar tunnel and hoop houses—they fully deserve the “oohs” and “aahs” they inspire, and
once inside, Miga is effervescent as he talks about the characteristics of seeds, explains microgreens (see page 22), and points out tomatoes with the impossibly atmospheric name Indigo Rose. “This is way fancier than any high tunnel or hoop house that you’re ever going to see,” he says. “It’s nice to have the bells and whistles here that allow us to do so much here.”

“Microgreens demand a really high price–up to $30 per pound,” says Miga. “Compare that to something like lettuce, which is like $2.19 per pound wholesale. But the reality is that any plant that germinates relatively quickly can be a microgreen. You just have to seed it really heavily, to get a thick carpet of green, and harvest it when it’s really young.”

But there’s a special part in his heart for the lesser-known stars of Eden Hall. The orchard. The laying yard for the shiitakes. The apiary. The 30-plus-acre field crop area known as Elsalma (a portmanteau of the names of Eden Hall Farm founder Sebastian Mueller’s daughters Elsa and Alma).

“It’s amazing to have both things like the solar tunnel and Elsalma,” says Miga. “It means we can work on both ends of the farming spectrum: field production and carefully managed microenvironments.”

We get in his white pick-up truck and drive to Elsalma—maybe five minutes from the Esther Barazzone Center. Elsalma consists of two parts: a four-acre fenced-in area that serves as the primary field for vegetable production, and nearly 30 more acres that reach to the treeline, where grains are planted. Being able to point to first four aces and then to 30 acres gives students some sense of scale, says Miga. Elsalma, it must be said, does not look immediately cool. It’s October, and most everything has been harvested. But I don’t see what he sees until he explains it to me.

“See that patch of foxtail and a little bit of rye that’s coming up over there?” Miga asks, pointing out into the 30 acres. “That’s what all of this would look like if we left it for a year. Mid-chest-height weeds and grasses. I remember feeling so daunted and overwhelmed, thinking okay, I know whatthis space is supposed to look like. But how do we get those 30 acres to look like these four acres?”

“But now I find that it’s this empowering and exciting thing to show students and visitors— okay, here’s how we’re going to do it. Here’s the equipment we’re going to use. Here’s how we’re going to do it in a way that benefits the soil and least impacts the woodlands and the watershed that we’re in. Here’s how we can add organic matter to soil to make it easier for the plants we want to grow.”

“Even though it’s my job to know everything about this farm, I love that I’ll never be sure that I do,” says Miga. “For example,
this spring I happened to be mowing the perimeter of the open pasture, and I saw probably about 15-20 mulberry trees dotting the perimeter that I’ve never noticed before, simply because I’ve never been right there just as they’ve been fruiting. So I got to say to Chris (Galarza, head chef at Eden Hall Campus) ‘Hey, there’s this cool thing that we can harvest if we want that we didn’t even know was there.’”

“And there’s other things out here, like milkweed. It’s the sole food for monarch caterpillars. Monarchs have gone through a huge decline—some estimates say 90% population decline—due to ingredients in pesticides. So we try to leave stands of milkweed out here for them. This summer I got to see a ton of monarch butterflies out here.”

“And this,” Miga points up a pole about twelve feet high, “is a kestrel box. I’d seen these birds around the property, and they’re considered an endangered species in the state. I’d love to put up more boxes to see if we can get a mating pair of kestrels. They’re amazing and striking birds on their own, but they also eat rodents and large bugs. It’s nice to have things like that around.”

We climb back into the pickup truck. “When I was in the MSUS program,” says Miga, “we read an article called ‘The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature’ by William Cronon.2 The premise is that there exists this false dichotomy between humans and nature. People look at woodlands and say ‘that’s natural’, but if you go in there,” he gestures at the woodlands, “half the stuff is either invasive or been planted. The whole area has been used for timber production, and influenced by the watershed around it, which is influenced by what we put on the fields. I think the less of a distinction we make between a ‘natural space’ and a ‘human space’, the better. Farming, to me, is right at the juncture of those things.”

Nursing Programs Receive U.S. News Best Online Program Designation

Chatham University’s Graduate and Undergraduate Nursing programs earned a Best Online Program ranking by U.S. News & World Report in their 2018 Best Online Programs edition. Chatham’s graduate nursing programs, consisting of the MSN and DNP online programs, were ranked in the top 100 of all programs.

This year’s edition of U.S. News & World Report Best Online Programs ranks schools on five categories—student engagement, faculty credentials and training, peer reputation, admissions selectivity, and student services and technology. Click on the links to view the details of Chatham’s rankings for Best Online Nursing Programs and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

About Chatham University Nursing Programs
Chatham University offers nursing degrees delivered in convenient online formats including the RN-BSN, MSN and one of the “fastest-to-degree completion” DNP programs in the country. All programs focus on evidence-based scientific nursing practice, patient safety, and quality outcomes; and are designed to help nurses reach career goals and impact quality health care delivery in a variety of health care environments. Chatham nursing programs are known for graduating insightful, compassionate, and collaborative care providers interested in pursuing leadership, practice, education, and management roles in the nursing field. More information at