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alumna profile: dr. kathi elliott DNP ’14


Dr. Kathi Elliott, DNP ’14, knows something about role models. Her mother, Gwendolyn Elliott, started her career with the United States Air Force in 1964. In 1976, she became one of the first African American female Pittsburgh police officers, eventually becoming the first woman promoted to Sergeant and, ultimately, Commander. But “Miss Gwen,” as she was affectionately called, found time to give back to the community. Her daughter, Dr. Elliott, says “My mother was involved as a victim advocate with the Center for Victims, and that showed me that talking to people and helping them was what I wanted to do.”

Dr. Elliott received an associate’s degree in nursing from Community College of Allegheny County, and went on to complete three degrees at the University of Pittsburgh: A bachelor’s in psychology, and a dual masters in nursing and social work. In 2014, she completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Chatham.

During her 26 years on the Pittsburgh Police force, Miss Gwen saw the struggles of young women and girls who came to the attention of law enforcement, and was determined to help them have a better quality of life. Her dream came true in 2002 when the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families funded the creation of Gwen’s Girls, an organization that works to empower women and girls.

After her mother’s death in 2007, Dr. Elliott became a board member of Gwen’s Girls, and was recently named executive director. “I plan to continue my mother’s legacy by exposing girls to opportunities and experiences that they traditionally would not have access to,” she said.

“Never let society define you. Discover and work to develop your own individuality. Be confident in who you are and your contribution to the world.” – Dr. Kathi Elliott

Dr. Elliott’s primary goal as the new executive director is to improve girls’ access to education, social services, and workforce development. “It is my hope that with greater access the girls will become self-sufficient and empowered, so that the girls will advocate for themselves and others.”

Still, Dr. Elliott believes, advocacy is not enough. “There are so many negative attributes and risk factors that are already known to exist,” she says. “But there is very little research about what makes a girl resilient. We want to look at what helps them survive by looking at similar situations with different outcomes. We look at holistic programming: mental health, nursing, education, and case management. How can we help girls become resilient?”

interprofessional education in the health sciences

operation sn
Image courtesy Operation Task Force

Here’s one goal of Chatham’s 2015-2016 Interprofessional Education (IPE) kickoff event:

Understand a significant multidisciplinary health care issue that impacts patient/clients across all health care arenas.

With the selection of Dr. Jim Withers of UPMC Mercy, Chatham’s IPE Task Force hit the nail on the head. On September 17, Withers gave a moving presentation called “Street Medicine in Pittsburgh”* about the work of Operation Safety Net, an organization he helped found that brings medical care to homeless individuals.

His rapt audience? Two hundred and fifty Chatham students from the counseling psychology, nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, and physical therapy programs who are participating in this year’s IPE educational sequence.

“Have the courage to move into things that are challenging. You’ll learn a lot and feel better about yourself as a clinician.”
– Dr. Jim Withers

You might consider Withers’s work Problem-Based Learning at its most pure. “We were learning how to learn,” Dr. Withers—named by CNN as one of their 10 Heroes of 2015—told students. “We were leaning how to create healthcare not in a clinic, but grounded in the realities of people.”

It was an especially germane point to make: Reality is nothing if not interdisciplinary. That’s one reason why IPE is rapidly gaining ground internationally, with institutions free to define what it means and how it is best inculcated.

At Chatham, IPE is a two-semester program in which interdisciplinary groups of 10-12 students are assigned to one of six Chatham IPE Task Force faculty facilitators from disciplines spanning the School of Health Sciences. Groups and facilitators meet outside of class, once in the fall and once in the spring. Through case studies, discussion, lectures, videos, group activities, and role play, they work on strengthening competencies as set forth by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative:

  • Values/Ethics for Interprofessional Practice
  • Roles/Responsibilities
  • Interprofessional Communication
  • Teams and Teamwork

“The goal of interprofessional education at Chatham is to prepare students in nursing, psychology, physician assistant studies and occupational and physical therapy to learn from and about each other’s professions in order to practice as part of a collaborative, patient centered team. It is well documented that when practitioners from various backgrounds communicate and work together, the highest quality of care is delivered,” says School of Health Sciences Dean Pat Downey, PT, PhD, DPT.

“Our programs have incorporated interprofessional activities in the classroom for years,” says Jodi Schreiber OTD, OTR/L, Chair of Chatham’s IPE Task Force and Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy. “But when we saw that it could be formalized into an educational sequence, we realized that doing so would be a big advantage to our students.”

Chatham has had an IPE Task Force since 2013, and is strongly committed to strengthening the program. In 2014, the Task Force gave three presentations at an international conference. Topics included IPE challenges, opportunities and research; student perceptions; and supporting competency and identity development.

“We want to see if IPE makes a difference when students go into clinical practice,” says Schreiber.

Upon completion of the sequence, a total of nine hours, students are issued a certificate of participation, appropriate for inclusion in a professional portfolio. “Placement coordinators that we talk to are impressed that our students have interprofessional experience,” notes Schreiber.

Serving on the Task Force along with Schneider are Susan HawkinsStacie Agnesi, and Kelly Donkers from physician assistant studies; MaryDee Fisher from nursing; Sarah Jameson from physical therapy; and Anthony Goreczny from psychology.

* You can watch “Street Medicine in Pittsburgh” here.









Innovation in Education: Chatham’s Financial Wellness Program

Sean McGreevey, PhD
Sean McGreevey, Ph.D.

As Assistant Dean for Career Development and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance, I’ve noticed that even our most savvy, empowered, and world ready students seemed to shoulder anxiety about their future. I thought we could help students formulate a battle plan for the “real world,” and that led to the creation of a new program called “Financial Wellness”. The ten-week program is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and 38 students have signed up since last fall.

It’s important to understand this concept of financial wellness. Most folks would call it financial literacy, and think about balancing their checking account, or calculating compound interest. That’s where this program is different.

Every week, we meet and focus on the myths that our society feeds us about money. Most notably, we discuss at length the myth surrounding the importance of a credit score.   Sure, you don’t want to have bad credit, but the debt industry spends $4,000,000,000 (that’s billions, folks) each year convincing you that your FICO score is an indication of your success in life. I want folks to buy things they can afford and live a life that isn’t dependent on debt.

We talk about habits and attitudes more than we do math problems. Personal finance is not difficult. Making a plan and having the personal fortitude to make sacrifices and stick to it
is the hard part.

You will never be wealthy unless you live below your means and save. This requires dedication, sacrifice and the ability to tell yourself “no” when all you want is a Chipotle burrito.

Wealth isn’t about a fancy car or a chateau in the Alps—it’s about having options. I want our students to gain financial confidence. With that confidence, they can face whatever their situation happens to be, rather than letting the situation happen to them.

There are two takeaways that I want to impress upon students in Financial Wellness.

  1. You should save 15% of your income (no matter how small) and develop a savings habits. This will result in a chunk of cash that you can use for your “next move” account – transitioning to a new city, application fees for graduate school, etc.
  2. The first thing that many new college graduates do is run out and sign up for payments on a car they can’t afford. We talk about how to drive what’s reasonable for your situation and work your way into something that’s ideal.

We’re really only scratching the surface in Financial Wellness as we talk about debt, saving, credit scores, mortgages, and retirement. My hope is that students start to think critically about personal finance and seek information outside of what is delivered by credit card marketing. When our students graduate, we want them to cross the stage with a financial wellness plan and the personal resilience to follow through.

Watch Dr. McGreevey discuss financial freedom as part of the WQED Multimedia special “Closing the Gap: 50 Years Seeking Equal Pay”: 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about the Financial Wellness program; you can read the story here.

Dr. McGreevey and the staff in Career Development are committed to working with students from day one, year one to achieve their professional goals. Learn more

“We Don’t Pick Out Pillows: the Science of Design”

image from

In New York City, land is so sought after that development is expanding to one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country—Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. That’s why chemistry students at the CUNY College of Technology are examining its water composition. Through a National Science Foundation-funded initiative, Chatham undergraduates have come on board to widen their perspective.

The Chatham students—who have been participating through their enrollment in Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture Greg Galford’s Green and Sustainable Design course—have developed and produced a short video called “We Don’t Pick Out Pillows: the Science of Design.” It aims to teach the chemistry students about building design and its impact on the environment.

Just under seven minutes long, the video introduces the chemistry students to topics ranging from how designers work to techniques for cleaning up contaminated water and land. It features Pittsburgh buildings that exemplify sustainable building techniques, including Phipps Conservancy and the Bayer Material Science Headquarters.

But the goal of the project isn’t just to make the chemistry students more well-rounded; it’s also to help the interior architecture students improve their cross-disciplinary collaboration skills. To that end, the chemistry students have provided feedback on the video, and Galford’s current Green and Sustainable Design course will be using that feedback to improve the video.

Chatham University offers a rigorous three-year Bachelor of Interior Architecture degree that requires no summer study, allowing greater opportunities for internships, study abroad and employment.

alumna profile: Danielle Burkhart, MFA Film and Digital Technology ’12

Danielle Burkhart Photo[1]
It could not be said that as a student in Chatham’s Masters of Fine Arts in Film and Digital Technology, Danielle Burkhart sat on her thumbs. She took classes and held several part-time jobs, but perhaps most transformative to her career was the time she spent working as a digital video graduate assistant. “My grandfather always told me, ‘you are only in school for a limited amount of time so give your best effort. It will pay off,’” said Burkhart. “Through the assistantship, not only did I become familiar with the applications available to editors, but I also had the opportunity to use these programs while working on productions at Chatham.”

Students who are awarded this competitive assistantship through Chatham get both a tuition discount and real-world experience through filming all events on campus. During the course of their work, they also serve as ambassadors of the Film and Digital Technology program. “I felt a lot of confidence and pride in knowing that Danielle was a representative of our program and of the University,” says Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Technology Kristen Shaeffer. Shaeffer also supervised Burkhart’s assistantship, and Burkhart considers Shaeffer a mentor, calling her guidance invaluable and her role in the community as a young, female, successful communications professional an inspiration.

While the MFA in Film and Digital Technology is offered as an accelerated one-year program, students have the option to complete the program at their own pace. Classes are held on weeknight evenings, allowing students to continue working during the day. “Students graduate with a strong portfolio,” says Shaeffer. “Films made as part of the production classes become a launching pad into the professional world of conferences and festivals.”

Or somewhere entirely different: After graduation, Burkhart worked the Pittsburgh Pirate’s digital video board. “Never did I have two days that were the same, she says. “The majority of my time was spent with Pirates production, where I worked ballpark events, home games, Pirates events in the community, and even spring training. When I was not out shooting these events, I was editing pieces for the Pirates Video-On-Demand channel, social media, or the Pirates official website.” Burkhart was with the Pirates for seven seasons. She is currently Athletics Multimedia Services Coordinator at St. Francis University, where her main areas of responsibility are live webcasting, media for the athletics website, and production for the video board. She still occasionally does work for the Pirates.

To learn more about Chatham’s MFA in Film and Digital Technology program, visit

Eden Hall Farm Summer Recap

work and pick

Each year, campuses across the country quiet down for the summer. It’s a time of stillness, reflection, and peace.

Unless your campus includes a working farm. In that case, you’re looking at about four months of experimenting, digging, collaborating, harvesting, improvising, and most of all, getting your hands dirty. This summer while other Chatham students were interning in marketing offices, hospitals, or non-profits, Food Studies students from the Falk School of Sustainability applied themselves with vigor to their own living laboratory, the Eden Hall Farm at Eden Hall Campus.

garlicThere was an abundance of garlic this year—so much that there wasn’t enough space to cure it in the normal facilities. So, students had to improvise. The pool house offered the solution, with enough room to hang what was left.

Each season also offers the chance to hone in on what works well. This timcarrotse around, extra attention was put into thinning out the carrots that were crowding one another or showing weaker growth, giving the others a better chance to succeed. Tedious work, but it paid off: The student garden saw its best carrot crop to date.

The student garden also planted a selection of Japanese and Chinese crops this summer. One of the success stories was the hinona kabu, a Japanese variety of turnip. Using a traditional recipe, it became a great pickle, called sakura-zuke—pink like a cherry blossom.  Working with these foods also became a way to grow cultural understanding.

The Eden Hall campus is a place for both experimentation and collaboration.  Students grew rye for Wigle Whiskey, a local craft distillery in the Strip District.  With a lot of help from other regional farmers, 3200 pounds of grain were harvested, enough to make two batches of rye whiskey.  Everyone is eagerly anticipating getting to taste the results.  During the 2014-2015 school year, the Falk School of Sustainability also collaborated with Wigle Whiskey on a New Product Development course that you can read about here.

The work and pick program also had another successful season. Students and faculty volunteer, regardless of experience, to help out in the fields.  In exchange for their work, they get to take home food they’ve harvested themselves. The food may only last a meal, but the knowledge they gain is theirs for life. Consider getting involved next year, and check out the Eden Hall Farm Blog for more stories and updates.

The Inspiration of Rachel Carson, ’29

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost‘s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

―  Rachel Carson,  Silent Spring

Rachel Carson was born in 1907, in a small town near Pittsburgh. In 1929, she graduated from the Pennsylvania College For Women (now Chatham University) with a degree in biology. In 1962, Rachel started a conversation that would reverberate across the globe for decades to come: She published Silent Spring.

 Silent Spring is widely credited with igniting the modern environmental movement. Time magazine named Rachel to their list of the 100 Most Influential People—and 25 Most Powerful Women–of the 20th Century, and she is considered by many to be preeminent environmental icon.

For half a century, Carson has been the patron saint of Chatham University. Just as Silent Spring singlehandedly inspired the environmental movement, Carson herself invigorated the Chatham mission.

“We claim Rachel Carson,” said Esther L. Barazzone, President of Chatham University, “but what does that mean? How are we going to live up to her legacy? One of my favorite lines is, ‘You need to have visible symbols of grace,’ which is a quote from Martin Luther. What is our visible symbol of grace?”

The answer: sustainability, a groundbreaking new field that has transformed how environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and engineers approach 21st century challenges.

Through our Falk School of Sustainability, students and faculty are re-examining the systems that underpin not just human life, but all life—including food, water, and energy. With the completion of our net zero Eden Hall Campus, we have a living and learning laboratory for sustainability, and the first of its kind in the world. Sustainability has been adopted as a core component of our university mission. We’ve implemented sustainable practices across all of our locations, and we introduce undergraduates to the field through a course and through an Eden Hall experience, regardless of their major. This approach creates a shared campus experience and helps integrate sustainability into other areas of study in the health and lab sciences, business and communications, and arts and humanities.

With inspiration from Rachel Carson, our efforts and commitments have earned us recognition as a leader in sustainability, including a Top 50 Green College ranking by the Princeton Review, a spot on Sierra magazine’s list of top 25 “cool schools” and a mention in Forbes as one of the places “contributing to Pittsburgh’s transformation into a destination for green living.”

Chatham University. It’s not just Earth Day. It’s every day.


Campus Community Profile: Mary Beth Mannarino

Mannarino blog[2]

Title: Associate Professor of Psychology
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Hobbies: Yoga, bicycling, reading, traveling, spending time with family
Joined Chatham: 2001

What is your main area of research interest?
I focus on connections between environmental health and sustainability and the health and wellbeing of people and communities.

What are some of these connections?
I’d say the connections show up in at least two main ways. The first is that climate change, pollution, and other factors are increasingly affecting mental and physical health. They can cause stress directly, if you’re living in certain areas, such as on a coast, or indirectly, as when air pollution affects health which affects stress. This is becoming such a large issue, yet most health professionals aren’t exposed to information about it unless they actively seek it out. Our program is really on the vanguard with this.

How so?
Since our psychology doctoral program began in 2009, we’ve offered a course in environmental psychology and sustainability. It’s mandatory for the PsyD students, and offered as an elective for master’s students. There’s interest in it across disciplines, too –we’ve had master’s students in Landscape Architecture and Food Studies take the class.

What does the class cover?
We talk about what climate change means globally, where we see effects in the US, and also how it impacts Pittsburgh regionally. For example, in the US, we see how drought affects the economic wellbeing of farmers and their families, and how this trickles down to affect food prices and food availability. So it’s not just “we have a drought,” but what does that mean? In most of our work, we emphasize social justice, because it’s often the people least able, due to limited economic means and education, to bounce back who are affected most seriously. Regionally, we talk about reliance on fossil fuels. Air quality is a concern. We look at how it affects children’s health in different parts of the city. It’s usually poorer kids who miss school, and get even further behind, and parents have to miss work to take them to the doctor, and so forth.

How else can connections between sustainability and psychology be made?
We stress sustainable considerations in clinical practice. For example, we think about mental health in terms of wellbeing, not just pathology. So we teach students to ask clients and patients what gives them pleasure, where they find relaxation in their lives, and how much of that they’re engaging in right now. We focus on change that persists well into the future. And we train students to consider environmental components in the treatment plans that they recommend.

What does that look like?
They might ask a client what their typical day is like, and what their work setting is like. Research has shown that access to nature and pets do a good job of supporting wellbeing, and can often be incorporated into treatment in a way that’s low cost and has no side effects. Community gardening can help with loneliness and depression in older adults. It’s not a cure-all, of course, but it can be quite powerful.


What are your hopes for the upcoming year’s Global Focus on Climate Change?
Sustainability demands that you think and work across disciplines, and the nature of academia is such that it’s easy to stay in a silo of your own field. We’re hoping that the Year of Climate Change will get people talking to each other about what they’re working on, and about how we can collaborate across disciplines. It’s very exciting.

We’ve also been authorized by the American Psychological Association to offer psychology continuing education programs for credit. For Chatham, this means we can offer continuing education related to climate change and other sustainability issues to psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals. This is something we at Chatham really are uniquely positioned to do. We’ll be offering such a program during a conference that’s part of the Year of Climate Change in the spring, and bringing in activists and other people from the community.

Dr. Mannarino served as Director for Chatham’s Graduate Psychology programs from 2009-2014. She blogs about issues related to health, wellness, and sustainability here.



Undergraduate Student Christina Austin Awarded Research Fellowship

“My mom is a Chatham alumna,” says Christina Austin ’17, “but that didn’t factor into my decision to come here. Chatham was actually one of the last schools I looked at. But when I came to visit, I saw that I could connect with people and have a close mentorship with professors in a way that I might not be able to do at a larger university.”

Austin, who is majoring in Biology, had hit the nail on the head. It was an email from one of those professors – Dr. Pierette Appasamy – that would lead to Austin pulling in research dollars, a feat that’s not always easy for faculty members to accomplish, let alone an undergraduate.

It started this spring when Dr. Appasamy learned of a research internship with the Allegheny Health Network Lupus Center for Excellence from the Office of Career Development. Dr. Appasamy forwarded the information to Austin, then a student in her Cellular and Molecular Biology class. “I immediately thought of Christina Austin when I heard about the internship opportunity,” says Dr. Appasamy. “It seemed perfect for her interests in hands-on work in biomedical research.”

Once Austin was accepted into the internship, the program director suggested that she might be a good candidate for the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship Program, which funds students to conduct medical research under the guidance of a mentor. She was.


For eight weeks, Austin worked in the lab, isolating white blood cells from blood samples that had been collected at West Penn Hospital. She stained the cells with substances that, when run through a machine, turn fluorescent where a certain protein is present. The goal of the study was to compare how this protein appeared in patients with lupus, with other autoimmune diseases, and in a control group of healthy individuals. Austin’s work may one day be used to help diagnose lupus, today an arduous process that often takes years.

Austin’s internship primarily focused on research, but she also worked on the clinical side. “I was trained to obtain consent from study participants,” she says. “I went through the IRB (Institutional Review Board) packet with them, and if they consented, we drew their blood that day. I liked that aspect of the internship a lot.”

In fact, Austin – who plans to go to medical school – liked it so much that she is considering seeking out a clinical internship for next summer. “I’d love to travel abroad and work at a clinic of some sort,” she says. “I’ve talked to classmates who worked in hospitals in Belize or Puerto Rico and had really good experiences.”

Outside of the lab, Austin is a Chatham Scholar, Vice President of Communications for the Black Student Union, a R.I.S.E Mentor, and starting this fall, she will also be a resident assistant. She offers this advice for incoming students: “Make sure you go to recitation and go to all the study groups before a test. They can be a lifesaver when it’s a topic you don’t understand. And get to know your professors and let them get to know you. They’re looking out for you, throughout your time here.”

She knows whereof she speaks.


Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606)

“Urban Planning and Political Ecology” course participants. © Michael Finewood

Last fall, graduate and undergraduate students in Chatham University’s sustainability program participated in Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606), taught by Dr. Michael Finewood. As part of the course, they worked in teams on a community-based project with the Borough of Millvale, producing proposals for two projects that contribute to Millvale’s goals to become more sustainable.

Project #1 – The Hillside Food Forest
Team: Carmen Adamson MBA ‘15, Cassie Guerin BA ‘15, Julie Morris MSUS ‘16, Kayla Scherr MSUS ‘15, Christopher Seamon MSUS ‘15, Ezra Welsh MSUS ‘16, ILona Weyers BS ’17.

Challenges facing Millvale include unstable hillsides, water contamination, and the fact that it is a food desert. The Hillside Food Forest team addressed these concerns through a proposal to convert a hillside into a food forest. The proposal includes a comprehensive site analysis with design scheme, property acquisition strategies, and listing of potential partners as well as information about soil types, plant orientation, and low cost/ low maintenance management. The project highlights how a food forest—designed by and for community members—can strengthen community resilience and help strengthen Millvale’s local food network. Download the final report.

Project #2 – The Bicycle Park-and-Ride Project
Team: Scott Carter, MSUS ’16; Jared Haidet, MSUS ’16; Joshua Lewis, MSUS ’16; Carla Limon, MSUS ’16; Kimberly Lucke, MSUS ’16; Jessica Tain, MSUS ’15; Joshua Zivkovich, MSUS ‘16

Pittsburgh Port Authority owns a parking lot in Millvale that has largely gone unused since the bus route was shut down. The Park-and-Ride Project team developed a proposal to convert it into a multi-use space. The three main objectives of the project were to establish green infrastructure for stormwater management, develop plans for a bike corridor that connects to the riverfront park (see map below), and create a public space that would help change community perceptions of a nearby creek, Girty’s Run, from a risk to an asset. The proposal includes site analysis with water runoff calculations, comparison of the efficacy of various types of green infrastructure, plans for implementing a bike-and-ride infrastructure, and a list of potential community partners and grant opportunities. The project highlights how green spaces can create multiple community benefits while contributing to the reduction of combined sewer overflows, a requirement of the Clean Water Act. Download the final report.

This map illustrates the biking distance and time from Millvale to various sections of the city. The Park-and-Ride proposal articulates ways multi-modal transportation can connect Millvale to the broader region in efficient and sustainable ways. © Kim Lucke & Joshua Lewis