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Chatham Receives Grant to Foster Interfaith Cooperation

Chatham University has been awarded a $4,000 grant from the Interfaith Youth  Core to foster interfaith dialogue, cooperation and inclusivity on campus.  This grant will provide funding for various interfaith events (including Chatham’s Multi-Faith Series and a tour of religious organizations around Pittsburgh), staff and student training on religious and nonreligious identities and to help to incorporate religious diversity themes into Chatham’s Global Focus Program.


Chatham Receives Grant to Provide Adult Student Scholarships

Chatham University has been awarded a $20,000 grant from The Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation’s Scholarships for Mature Students program. With this grant, Chatham will award a select number of scholarships to students age 25 or older who are pursuing their first bachelor’s degree and that have completed at least half the requirements (60 credits) toward their intended degree with either full-time or part-time enrollment. The scholarships are available to those students entering Chatham in the Fall of ’18 or Spring of ’19 who meet eligibility requirements.

Please contact Chatham’s Office of Admissions at for additional information, full scholarship requirements or to apply. 


Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics Hosts NEW Leadership 2018

PITTSBURGH– The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University held the annual National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership™ Pennsylvania program, a weeklong (June 3-June 8) intensive institute for women college students focused on the role of women in politics and policy making in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. NEW Leadership 2018 brought over 40 students from 26 different colleges and universities across Pennsylvania to the Chatham University campus.

The program cultivates the next generation of young women leaders, and is modeled after a program established by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The program features such topics as leadership in a diverse society, current and historical approaches to women’s participation in politics, networking with Pennsylvania women leaders, and the development of action skills in advocacy and leadership.

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Chatham Receives CIC/AARP Grant to Assist Older Adults

PITTSBURGH:  Chatham University is pleased to announce that it is one of a select group of 22 institutions across the nation chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to receive a grant in the amount of $13,000 to implement a CIC/AARP Foundation Intergenerational Connections: Students Serving Older Adults project, Food Story/Food Secure: Building Community Through Food-Centered Partnerships.

Assistant Professor of English, Carrie Tippen, Ph.D., will serve as the Principal Investigator for this grant, which will be used to enhance connections between undergraduate students and older adults in the community. CIC launched this initiative with support from the AARP Foundation in 2017 to encourage colleges to create or extend programs in which students help low-income older adults (ages 50 and older) address their key needs.

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Getting a little more comfortable with death and dying

Last winter, Victoria Kissell, MPAS ’18, was able to added a facet to her education that not many physician assistants are able to claim.

“We don’t learn how to deal with death in school,” she says. “Because we’re focused on making people better, we tend to push it aside, even though it’s inevitable. Through the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s Fellowship in Death and Dying, I was able to talk to people who handle it every day, so that if I do have a patient who is terminally ill, I’m more comfortable talking about it.”

Participants meet as a group weekly to discuss readings and perform role plays, and then visit hospitals and other sites where death and dying are not infrequent occurrences, including a hospice and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. They meet with members of teams who work with patients and families in terminal situations, including hospice and palliative care; social work; and religious support.

“It was interesting to see aspects of death that come into play when it’s a child as opposed to an adult,” says Victoria, “such as who has the right to make decisions about prolonging care. A lot of times, patients—including kids—better understand what’s going on, or have an easier time accepting it than the families, who are the ones pushing for more treatment, and feeling resistance to palliative care and hospice teams stepping in.”

“When people hear hospice and palliative care, they think death,” she continues. “But we learned to push hospice and palliative care as more about improving quality of life than sentencing to death.

We’re not telling families their loved ones are going to die; we’re telling them that we’re going to do everything we can to make them comfortable and live the rest of their days happy, and the way that they want to.”

Victoria feels that the Fellowship has helped her communicate in non-terminal scenarios, too. “Some diseases such as diabetes, depression, or hypertension are difficult for patients to handle,” she says. “They may feel like a death sentence. Patients don’t want to be labeled, or burden their families. I think this training has helped me communicate with patients about these conditions. There’s no reason these patients can’t live long and prosperous lives, as long as their condition is well managed.”

The Fellowship paid off sooner than Victoria might have expected. “On my very first rotation, I had my first patient pass away,” she says. “It was like I was watching the program come to life. Once his cancer was discovered, his family couldn’t understand why we weren’t treating him with chemotherapy and radiation, but he understood that his body wouldn’t be able to handle the treatment. The palliative care team was on board, after a lot of work convincing the family, but not the hospice team because the time went too quickly. The family didn’t want to ‘give up’, but to see the transition care go from aggressive to supportive was amazing.”

“One of the most moving things I learned from the program was something a hospice nurse coordinator said at Children’s,” says Victoria. “She said ‘If you’re going to work with death every day, you better remember to live’. I think that’s important in medicine in general.”

Jewish Healthcare Fellowships are open to all graduate students in Chatham’s School of Health Sciences. Learn more.

The Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program at Chatham University provides academic and clinical training that will prepare its graduates to be certified and licensed to practice as extenders to the practicing physician, especially the primary care physician, in a competent and reliable manner.

Alumna profile: Sowmya Narayanan '10

Dr. Sowmya Narayanan has been busy. She’s just finished an MD/PhD program at the University of Virginia, and about to start her general surgical residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Still, she made time in her schedule to come back to her alma mater to be the keynote speaker at Chatham’s first annual Department of Science Student Research Day.

Narayanan majored in biochemistry, but during her second year, she picked up a second major, too.

“During my first semester, I took a mandatory first-year English seminar with Dr. Lynne Bruckner that introduced me to a completely new set of literature,” she says. Narayanan took another English class, then another—then added an English major. “I liked that we had a mix of traditional ‘English literature’ texts like a Tale of Two Cities and Huckleberry Finn, and then also novels like Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood,” she says, also mentioning a class with with Dr. Anissa Wardi that changed her understanding of what “World Literature” means.

Narayanan took biology and immunology classes with Dr. Pierette Appasamy.  “Dr. Appasamy introduced me to some of her colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and helped me get involved in large-scale academic research. I developed an interest in that, and decided to continue.” At Pitt, Narayanan worked in the Finn Lab, studying tumor immunology. “We looked at how you can use the immune response to fight off cancer or stop it from developing. It’s really blown up in recent years as one of the mainstream modes of treatment for quite a few cancers, and they’re trying it out in a number of other ones as well.” Double-major aside, she still had time to play tennis for a couple of seasons, sing with Chatham’s choir, and serve as a Resident Assistant during her senior year.

“I think the professors here are the biggest asset of the institution. They go above and beyond for you if you are willing to put in the work. So if you’re motivated and interested, let them know and they will get you the rest of the way there.”

Narayanan says that she wasn’t aware of the existence of dual MD/PhD programs until she met someone who was doing one at Pitt. “There aren’t many people in those programs, so they don’t get talked about a lot,” she says, but she found that it aligned closely with her interests. She worked with Chatham’s Health Professions Advising Committee who advised her at various stages of the process of applying, put together her letters of recommendation, and conducted a mock interview.

Narayanan tries to travel to a different country each year. This year, she visited Thailand and Cambodia, and in years past, Belize, France, and Canada. She plans to go to Romania and Namibia next.

What did she think of Student Research Day? “It’s far more than what we had when I was a student,” she says. “There were maybe three or four of us, but today, six students presented and 20 more did posters. It was really good to see that expansion. And the variety of subjects that they’re presenting on are really pretty diverse.”

Being back on campus back seems to be its own reward, too. “I love coming back to visit,” she says. “Almost every time I’m in town, I make an effort to stop by and take a picture and send it to my old roommate like ‘Guess where I am!’ She gets quite jealous when I send her those photos!”



Alumna profile: Celeste Smith '13

Photo by Joshua Franzos, 2018, for The Pittsburgh Foundation

You might say that Celeste Smith’s take on the arts is supported by two pillars. One is discoverable the minute you ask her about “the arts”—dollars to donuts, her answer begins by requesting that the conversation be about “arts and culture” (she counts watching her mom bake and choose home décor among her earliest experiences of “the arts”). Art blossomed in Smith’s family: Not only is she herself a writer, artist, photographer, filmmaker, fashion blogger, and stylist, her grandmother was a writer, and her sister is a novelist, as yet unpublished. “If we don’t receive support or encouragement, we’re still artists,” she says, “just not ones that have been strongly supported.” That’s the other pillar. And as program officer for Arts and Culture at the Pittsburgh Foundation, she’s well-positioned to use both pillars to elevate the experience of art for creators and audiences across the region.

Smith grew up in Chicago. She started working as a shampoo girl at the age of 12, worked in an ice cream store in high school, and ended up taking the civil service exam. “I was raised Jehovah’s Witness and we thought the world was going to end, so I figured I would just learn to type,” she says. Smith spent several years rising through the ranks in several government agencies. Then her partner, artist and activist Jasiri X, proposed and they moved to Pittsburgh, where X grew up.

In Pittsburgh, Smith continued working in government while X worked in Pittsburgh Public Schools and got more into both activism and performing hip hop. “One day Justin Laing, who was a program officer at the Heinz Endowments, called Jasiri and said ‘You know you can get funding for the type of music you do, right?’,” she says. “So Jasiri came home one day with a grant application and said ‘Hey, you think you can write one of these?’ I was like ‘I don’t know; I’ll try!’ And we started getting them.”

In 2008, Smith decided to leave her day job to focus on managing her partner’s ascendant career and on being CEO of 1Hood Media, which grew out of an organization that X had co-founded in 2006. That was the year that a group of men, including X, came together to address violence within and against their community. The scope expanded quickly. “It’s an intergenerational arts/activism/social justice/entrepreneurial hub with all these different facets and I’m so proud of it and all the people we work with,” says Smith.

After a few years of managing X and leading 1Hood Media, “I was like ‘Yo!” Smith laughs. “I took German for eight years in grammar school; how does he get to go to Germany! I grew up reading about all these Biblical lands, and he finds himself in Israel and Palestine! Then I heard this voice—you could say it was God or whatever, but I say it was my baby I was pregnant with—whispering to me, ‘You can live your life and support others, too.’”

Photo by Joshua Franzos, 2018, for The Pittsburgh Foundation

Smith realized that she was one class short of completing her Associate of Arts degree at Community College of Allegheny County. She did that, then turned to Chatham’s Gateway program for adult students for her bachelor’s. “Chatham had the dopest teachers ever,” she says. “(Adjunct Professor) Deborah Prise was super helpful and looked at me with eyes that I did not look at myself with. She had me write prior learning assessments for life experience that I myself did not celebrate. (Adjunct Professor) Deborah Hosking used to let me bring my baby to her media literacy class, and that was how I got through Chatham.”

Smith had been pursuing a degree in Film and Digital Technology, but, she says, “one day I went to a job fair at CMU and saw an arts management booth, and I was like ‘There’s a title for this thing I’ve been doing all along?’ So I shifted my major, because I had been doing the videos to help my husband with his videos, but if God forbid something should happen to my marriage, I’m not making videos.” With prior learning assessments and testing out of courses, Smith was able to earn her B.A. in about a year and a half, with, she says, “three kids, a business, a husband who travels, and a 3.6 GPA.”

Smith graduated in 2013 and started “running 1Hood not in the shadows, but really up front.” She handled marketing, fundraising, staff management, budget management, public relations, and program development while continuing to involve herself in Pittsburgh’s artistic and philanthropic communities. “Just by being in spaces and taking opportunities, I ended up on the radar,” she says, noting a consulting job at the August Wilson Center she did in 2017. “Then the Heinz Endowments invited Jasiri to speak at an event around moral leadership, but he was going to be out of town. So they asked if I would speak, and I did. I got so much love from that speaking engagement. I’m still getting emails about it.” Maxwell King, the president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation was in the audience that day. When he interviewed Smith for her current position, he told her how impressed he was.

So what is it like to be a program officer for Arts and Culture? “People think that program officers can just write checks but it doesn’t work like that,” Smith explains. “My job is to make sure artists have what they need to apply for grants, then review their proposals, and advocate for them. When I was a grantee, I had support from program officers, and a big part of my job is to pay that forward. And mentoring young women–that’s part of not only my work with the Pittsburgh Foundation but also my life’s mission, to share what I know.”

As for her goals for her new role, “I want to see more equity in Pittsburgh’s arts and culture landscape,” Smith says. “So many reports show that funds are distributed in an unequitable way, and I see part of my role as bringing attention to that. We support smaller arts organizations, but also ask people in large arts organizations to look at their programs and see if they align with racial equity and equality of voice, and holding them accountable if they are not. I can’t make anyone do anything, but I can ask what they’re doing to help advance our initiatives.”

“We need to listen to the field, because the field talks all the time. Whether it’s a Facebook post or a sigh. The field is always telling us what we need to do.”

While Smith has devoted her professional life to helping others get the recognition they deserve, the pendulum is swinging the other way. She was a Walker’s Legacy Power 50 honoree in 2016, an Artist in Residency at The Art Institute of Chicago in 2016, a Coro Individual Leadership Nominee in 2017 and 2018, a Coro Organization Leadership Nominee in 2018, and a SXSW Community Service Awards honoree in 2018.

Smith maintains ties with Chatham, both as an alumna and as a program officer. She spoke at Hosking’s Media Arts class (“Deborah said to me, remember that presentation you gave? Can you update it and come back?”), has a meeting scheduled with the MFA in Creative Writing’s Word Without Walls program, and plans to meet with some others, too. “If I’m going to be there, I try to reach out to the professors who have helped me, because there might be other ‘me’s’ there. There might be a sister who needs encouragement.”

We asked Smith to tell us about five underrated Pittsburgh arts and culture organizations. Here’s what she said: 

Kente Arts Alliance 
“They are a husband and wife team on the North Side, doing jazz, on the ground work, mentoring, that we need to pay attention to.”

Staycee Pearl Dance Project
“They really do great work, traveling all over the place. So innovative, so on point, so in touch with the younger generation.”

The Flower House
“They are doing so much in terms of opening space for artists. What with the entire city being gentrified, affordable places for artists to present are so scarce. Very socially conscious, very open.”

Yoga Roots on Location
“I think the work that Felicia is doing is incredible in terms of putting people in touch with their own bodies and their own minds…I think a lot of the stress management that she offers is absolutely essential in our field.”

The Legacy Arts Project
“If you’re an artist but you don’t have a 501c3, you can’t accept grant money directly, you need a conduit. That’s what Legacy Arts did for 1Hood before we got our own non-profit. They host Dance Africa each year, which is so dope and incorporates an intergenerational approach to the arts.”