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Federal Grant Gets Health Sciences Students Asking the Right Questions

Student interviewing patient

What if a broader team of healthcare professionals received training to discuss substance abuse with patients non-judgmentally, and then incorporate such issues into treatment? This is the goal of Chatham’s SBIRT training grant, a three-year, $900,000 program to prepare students across several departments for such real-world encounters.

SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, a set of evidence-based techniques to identify at-risk patients. Funding comes from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). For this grant, Chatham partnered with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy Program Evaluation Research Unit (PERU) and the Allegheny Health Network, “two organizations who had a wealth of experience [who] could be mutually beneficial,” explains Gabrielle Strong, grant manager for the School of Health Sciences.

The grant is specifically tailored to suit programs and degrees within the School of Health Sciences: counseling psychology (PsyD & MSCP), nursing (BSN), occupational therapy (MOT & OTD), physical therapy (DPT), and physician assistant studies (MPAS), with social work (BSW) from the School of Arts, Science & Business joining this year. “One of the things I think is great about the Chatham SBIRT grant is that we are targeting the whole multidisciplinary team,” says Mary Jo Loughran, associate professor and program director of counseling psychology. With multiple departments participating, and specific interdepartmental exercises implemented, “it promotes some interdisciplinary cross-talk,” she says.

“The SBIRT curriculum is incorporated within existing courses and tweaked to make sure it reflects each particular profession,” says Strong. “This addresses student knowledge, but we also want an increase in competency and confidence, so we have students practice cases in role play exercises specific to their profession.”

Motivational interviewing skills are essential to SBIRT; they aim to remove any sense of judgment about the patient from the care provider–avoiding a traditional scenario of scolding a patient for bad behavior and shutting down an avenue for dialogue. “Rather than honing in on the problematic part of the behavior, let’s get in touch with the person’s motivation for wanting to change and help them develop that,” says Loughran. “You’re inviting the person to look at what they want to change.”

Student interviewing patientThe program thrives on continuous feedback from faculty and students about effectiveness of teaching and implementation. Surveys and assessments provide data on what works best, so exercises and techniques can change as needed. “Some things obviously change and morph as we see what the needs are,” says Strong. “We do implement changes based on student feedback.”

That feedback is consistently positive. After the training, students from the OTD program gave detailed accounts of their interactions.

“I didn’t have to ask a lot of questions. [The patient] opened up and kept talking. I was surprised how willing he was to talk with me and problem solve…to limit his drinking.”

Another commented, “I found the information given and techniques practice to be helpful overall to encourage client- directed conversations and resolutions.”

SBIRT has produced measurable results with patients. In one survey, 31 students described how they had used their new skills within
a period of 30 days. Among 305 patient encounters, 164 said they would change their behavior and cut down, and 44 people were referred to treatment.

This story, written by Charles Rosenblum, originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Recorder.

Physical therapy students and local women amputees assist each other

Shannon Jenkins, of Somerset, lets out a laugh while holding her balance with the aid of Chatham University physical therapy graduate student Brandon Maharaj. Maharaj was one of several physical therapists on hand to help evaluate women amputees.
Shannon Jenkins, of Somerset, lets out a laugh while holding her balance with the aid of Chatham University physical therapy graduate student Brandon Maharaj. Maharaj was one of several physical therapists on hand to help evaluate women amputees.

For the past eight years, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Melissa L. Bednarek, PT, DPT, PhD has been taking students in Chatham’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program to De La Torre Orthotics and Prosthetics to learn about upper extremity amputations.

This year, De La Torre approached Melissa about co-hosting a free event that provides Pittsburgh-area women amputees with an opportunity for connection and education.

And so it was that on October 21, over 25 women came to the event at Chatham’s Eastside location where they met some Chatham physical therapy students and alumni, De La Torre staff, and—crucially—each other. The event allowed participants to assess their mobility challenges and to share their joys and struggles with fellow amputees.

Medicare, Medicaid, and many other health insurance companies determine an amputee’s eligibility for coverage of prosthetics based on that individual’s K-level. The K-level reflects the degree of (and potential for) the individual’s mobility, and is determined by a series of tasks often conducted by physical therapists.


The event was not to definitively determine the participants’ K-levels, but rather to provide some motivation, says Bednarek. “We took them through the tasks they’d need to do, and said ‘Okay, here’s what you’re scoring right now; if you’re looking to have a more expensive device covered, maybe think about these types of activities to help you improve your current level.’”

I had such a great time working with each participant and was honored to hear each of their stories! I was particularly inspired and humbled by their attitudes and outlook on their life’s path.” – Jill Claassen, DPT ’17

There was another goal, too: “sneaking in” some physical therapy, laughs Bednarek. “We wanted to give these women not just a chance to learn and connect, but also get them up and moving on a Saturday afternoon.”

The Chatham University Physical Therapy Program educates Doctors of Physical Therapy who will advance the quality of human life through excellence in clinical practice. The Program prepares professionals to meet the challenges of a dynamic health care environment and supports faculty scholarship that bridges science and practice.

Encoding Confidence: All Star Code Teaches Tech Skills on Chatham’s Campus

At the All Star Code Summer Intensive, when a student fails, he proclaims it out loud. “I have failed!” he announces. And everyone cheers.

Needless to say, this isn’t your typical summer camp.

Founded in New York City, All Star Code is a nonprofit computer science education organization focused on bringing tech skills to Black and Latino young men. Chatham University was the proud host of the first-ever Pittsburgh Summer Intensive in 2017 as part of Chatham’s Music and Arts Day Camp program’s focus on lifelong learning. Chatham is the first university to host the program, aligning with our historic mission of extending education and opportunity to underserved populations.

In addition to the very real skills of coding and web development, the six-week program teaches students from all over Pittsburgh the ability to recognize setbacks as successes. Why celebrate failure? All Star Code’s Pittsburgh Area Director Sean Gray explains it this way:

Fear of failure is what keeps us from trying, from doing so many things. 72% of students in All Star Code don’t know coding or computer science. They dared greatly just to apply, to walk in the door. They understand the concept of failing and are taught to fear it outside. But in the classroom, we celebrate it, in the hopes that they dare greatly again.”

All Star Code places a strong emphasis on prepping students not only with technical skills, but also with interpersonal ones. These so-called “soft skills” like collaboration, networking, and professionalism help students gain a confident, entrepreneurial mindset that gives them tools for success beyond technical know-how.

When they’re not sharpening their networking skills or coding on Chatham’s campus, students have the chance to go on site visits to major Pittsburgh companies like Google, Shell Games, and BNY Melon.

All Star students on campus at Chatham University.

“The site visits were my favorite part,” says Isaiah Massey, of Allderdice High School. “I think they’re interesting in that they give us a live aspect of what coding can do.”

We’re sitting outside Café Rachel on Chatham’s Shadyside campus, the July sun beaming. All Star students also receive small-group mentor sessions with area professionals who counsel them on college choice, productivity strategies, and professional networking. As Chatham’s Social Media Manager, I happily volunteered as a mentor.

“Google was amazing!” Concurs Marcus Jones, of Barack Obama Academy. “They showed us so much stuff, the different sections of the whole site and really explained it. All the site visits were great because they showed me who’s involved in the tech industry and helped me visualize what’s going on.”

That’s precisely the goal of All Star Code— to open access into the technology industry for under-represented population. Currently, there are no other national organizations fostering, exposing or educating young men of color for careers in tech. Though 75% of the students attending the Pittsburgh Summer Intensive are eligible for free lunch, students come from all different backgrounds, skill-levels, and familiarity with coding.

The students I mentored couldn’t be more different in personality. Isaiah is astute, witty, a lover of animals. Marcus has work ethic and business savvy in spades. Hasaan Ismaeli of Penn Hills High School is quiet, focused, an athlete. Darius Watts from Central Catholic High School approaches every topic with earnestness and wonder, always smiling. And Jayden Walker of Woodland Hills High School practically crackles with excitement when he talks about coding.

“I liked the overall learning experience here,” he said. “I’ve always liked coding and working with computers, learning how to manipulate what’s on the screen is kind of fun for me. Seeing the stuff I create come alive with this little text… it’s just satisfying.”

All Star students present their final project concepts at Demo Day.

The satisfaction of a job well done culminates at Demo Day, where the students present collaborative group projects they’ve worked on for days. Demo Day certainly has the energy and excitement of a graduation ceremony. Parents, teachers, friends, and community members packed the first Demo Day in Pittsburgh, held in trendy co-working space Ascender in East Liberty. To plenty of applause and proud smiles, students shared their app ideas, small business pitches, and more.

Not all of these projects will make it into implementation, and not every All Star Code participant will go into tech. But the track record so far has been impressive:

100% of All Star alums are attending college, and 95% of them intend to major in computer science-related disciplines. What’s more, All Star Code’s emphasis on fostering an entrepreneurial mindset means that students leave the Summer Intensive with a new, more confident worldview.

Back at the sunny table with my mentor group, I ask them if the program has changed their way of thinking. Jayden immediately pipes up:

“It built work ethic. If it wasn’t for the camp… I wouldn’t…”

“I’d just hang around all day!” Darius finishes for him. Everyone laughs. They joke about video games, procrastination, and how they’ve spent summers past, before All Star Code. But then Darius get serious for a second, and says:

“It gives you something important to do.”

A summer making connections, daring greatly, with a purpose in sight… that’s a summer well spent indeed.

The Chatham Music and Arts Day Camp provides intensive music and art experiences to students Pre K – 9th grade. Campers also enjoy traditional summer camp activities such as swimming and sports to supplement the core art, theater and music curriculum.

Alumna profile: Rita Armstrong, DNP ’14

Rita Armstrong, DNP ’14
Rita Armstrong, DNP ’14

When Rita Armstrong started researching online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, she did not see herself in Sweden presenting work on diabetic education and self-management to a global audience. “Never in my years did I think I’d be doing that,” she laughs.

Nor did she expect to be speaking at the same conference in Amsterdam in 2018, but she will. Those are just a couple of twists her life has taken since earning her DNP from Chatham in 2014.

Dr. Armstrong started her nursing career in 1994. She received her BSN in 2009, her MSN in 2013—and decided to continue her education. “I knew I didn’t want to do a PhD. I wanted something more in line with evidence-based training,” she says. “That’s the direction healthcare was moving in. I found Chatham online, and decided to apply.”

Dr. Armstrong enrolled in Chatham’s DNP program in January 2014 and graduated in December of that same year, studying full time and working full time.

“I really enjoyed it,” she says. “The first semester was a little strenuous, because I was getting used to studying and working full time, but I liked the way it was structured. It took you through the material in steps, so you weren’t trying to do everything at the last minute.” She has referred five people to the program.

The level of support from the faculty at Chatham really stuck out,” says Dr. Armstrong. “My instructors even initiated contact with me, just to make sure I was on the right track.”

Post-DNP, Dr. Armstrong was teaching nursing at a community college in San Antonia when she was approached to write a proposal for a nursing program at the University of Texas. While writing it, she accepted a position with the Dallas Nursing Institute, where she taught and served as the director of the RN to BSN program. Today, she is the Dean of Nursing at the Fortis College Nursing Program.


She has received the National Institute of Staff & Organizational Development (NISOD) for Excellence Award in Teaching. She is also the recipient of the Friends of Texas Award 2013 from Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for her endless community service dedication and contributions.

In August, Dr. Armstrong spoke about communicating and interacting with people with dementia at the Geriatric Symposium in Austin, TX. “Nurses tend to be in a hurry a lot of the time—we’re very busy—but patients with dementia really need to take time to think about what we’re telling them or asking them. The way we present information really makes a difference,” she says.

In the future, she plans to start a free mobile clinic that will provide wellness checks to college students across Texas. “A lot of conditions like diabetes can be managed, but college students don’t always take care of themselves the way they should,” she says. “With some education and training, we can get them to pay more attention to their blood sugar and blood pressure.”

One of the things I love about having my DNP is that I get to see what’s out there in a way that I couldn’t with just my MSN, because I can teach in a graduate program. A DNP is also required for management positions. I consider myself a leader, very much so. Being able to do that, oh yes, that’s a plus.”

Chatham’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is a 27-credit program offering meaningful, sequential courses that provide practical knowledge for the advanced practice RN. It’s one of the shortest-to-degree clinical doctorates in the market. 

Five Questions With John J. Dubé


Name: John J. Dubé
Title: Assistant Professor of Biology
Joined Chatham: August 2015
Born & Raised: Virginia
Interests: Cooking, home improvement

1.  How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?

I’m an exercise physiologist by training, but I wanted to better understand how exercise affects the body. I started working in a laboratory doing some basic science experiments with rodents and loved the idea of being able to translate our findings to the human condition.

2.  What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first real job was a sales person/technician in my grandmother’s paint store. I learned that in order to succeed, there must be a plan.

3.  What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?

I’ve always been teaching in some fashion. Many of my jobs have been in the fitness industry essentially teaching people how to exercise.

4.  What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?

The ah-ha moments. Those moments when the link is made between theory and practice.

5.  What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Cook. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I can cook so many different things.

John Dube, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in Chatham University’s Department of Biology.  John enjoys cooking and home improvement.


Campus Community Profile: Randi Congleton, PhD


Here’s a fun fact about Director of Multicultural Affairs Randi Congleton: She attended the oldest agricultural high school in the country (it’s called W.B. Saul High School, in Philadelphia). With dreams of becoming a veterinarian, she went on to Penn State University, where a series of opportunities began to refocus her goals toward working with college students.

One might say her epiphany arrived as she was working in Student Affairs for the first time while pursuing her Master’s degree in Community Services at Michigan State University. Working with college students, she “Fell. In. Love!” she laughs.

Dr. Congleton—whose background includes youth development as well as collegiate departments including Greek Life, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs—came to Chatham in spring 2017, after earning her PhD in Education and Organizational Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As part of her work at Illinois, Dr. Congleton coordinated the summer pre-doctoral institute for new students of color. “We supported them in building community, conducting research, and professional development,” she says. “The strength lay in connecting students across disciplines, so that they had not only their cohort, but also this whole other community.”

“I’m very much about institutional responsibility. What can we do a bit differently? How can we think about our own biases, that may not be fully informed, but that get in the way of understanding challenges faced by students who do not come from generations of having gone to college, of having wealth?”

 “The concern—and this is across higher education,” Dr. Congleton says, “is that we’ve been focusing too much on diversity (how many different students can we get in the room), and not enough on inclusion (are our institutions prepared to really support them when they arrive on our campuses).”

In addition to her position as director of Multicultural Affairs, Dr. Congleton is a member of Chatham’s Diversity and Inclusion Council. Asked to share some of their initiatives, she mentions that they’ve been considering a policy for institutional large-scale donations and naming of buildings, as a result of some student concerns around the naming of Sanger Hall. “If we’re considering putting a name on a building,” she says, “we need to do our due diligence into considering that person’s background and the extent to which it reflects Chatham’s ideals.”

The Council is also working with Assistant Professor of Criminology, Social Work, and Psychology Nicole Bayliss’s undergraduate capstone seminar course, which in 2016 did a comprehensive review of gender inclusive language across campus, including policies, forms and websites. “They put together a report and made a set of recommendations,” says Dr. Congleton.

“The college campus space is not normative for all communities. My concern—and my passion—is about how do we create equity on campus, and how do we listen to the voices and meet the needs of those students—men and women of color, who identify with the LGBTQIA community, or with disabilities—who may not have been traditionally heard? How does the system need to be different to help change the lives of the students who come here?”

Shortly after her arrival in March, Dr. Congleton was approached to co-sponsor a multicultural graduation ceremony, which she considered a smashing success. “We invited family and alumni. (Chatham) President Finegold said a welcome, and we held a brunch with a keynote speaker. The alumni put kente stoles (traditional Ghanaian garments often used in celebratory ceremonies for African-American students) on graduating students, and we worked with Academic Affairs to put together stoles for students who weren’t African American. We had serapes for students from Latin American cultures, and made a stole for a student from Laos with her country’s flag on it. It was a really nice way for alumni to welcome the graduates into the community of being a Chatham alum.”

This fall, Dr. Congleton is co-teaching a course along with Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology Jennifer Morse on facilitating intergroup dialogue around social justice issues. The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and next term, they will have the opportunity to facilitate a course for their peers who are discussing social justice issues—thus putting theory immediately into practice. The students will also have opportunities to lead workshops across campus for their peers.

It’s a good example of how Dr. Congleton sees the way forward. “I’m really looking at how we can engage folks across campus and build coalitions to do this kind of work,” she says. “It has to be done thoughtfully. We can do more harm than good if we are not intentional about how we talk to others about social justice issues.”

And she is optimistic. “There’ve been so many volunteers!” she says. “Not only students but also faculty and staff have stepped up to help, even if just to say ‘I’m nervous and don’t know what to do, but I think this is important and I want to be a part of it.’ Getting as many people invested as possible is how we’re going to make this work.”



Applied Data Science Analytics and Stephanie Rosenthal, PhD

Stephanie Rosenthal, PhD

Look, I love being a writer. I went to school for this stuff, three times. But that was before I knew that data science was a thing, how cool it is, and the kinds of job (and salary!) prospects that are out there for people who study it.

Chatham Assistant Professor of Applied Data Analytics Stephanie Rosenthal filled me in. “Companies are using data science analytics today all over the place,” she tells me, and gives a bunch of examples, which I’m not even going to pare down for you, because that’s how excited I am:

  • and other websites use data analytics to determine what products to recommend to you and even what to charge for them.

  • “Walmart is famous for knowing exactly what to ship to every store at every time, because they track everything—what comes in, what goes out, what the weather was like—whether people tend to buy hot dog buns when there’s a hurricane approaching in addition to toilet paper and bottled water. They know all of these things about collective behavior based on our purchases and demographics.”
  • Credit card fraud is identified using data science analytics “That’s why you’ll get a call as soon as one purchase is made that is out of character for you,” says Rosenthal. “They’ve developed models to see what your normal behavior is, so they can see what’s out of the ordinary—either because a lot of different people are suddenly buying something, or because you’re buying something that seems out of character. You get a phone call because someone did that math.”
  • “Your Google search results look different from mine because they’re based on what we’ve searched for in the past,” Rosenthal says.
  • If you see a rectangle drawn around your face in a photograph that you’re viewing on your phone or computer screen, that’s data analytics, too. “Someone has gone through and labeled faces and worked out how to detect them—in general, what they’re looking for is tone gradients, where the forehead, cheeks and chin are lighter than the eyes, nose, and mouth regions—and that’s just built into cameras today.”
  • “The traffic information you get from your GPS or your phone is possible because it collects data from other phones in cars—whether they’re moving or not. Some of the cool new research I’ve seen coming out of CMU figures out how to change the timing of traffic lights based on the number of cars that are waiting there, so when there is a lot of traffic coming, it can be pushed through faster.”
  • Voice recognition programs like Siri and Alexa are built using data analytics around natural language.

In general, says Rosenthal, data science and data analytics try to get information from data—analyzing patterns to come up with insights. What’s the difference between the two? “Very roughly,” she says, “I would say that data analytics is about running statistics on data, and data science is about collecting it, getting it in the right format, and visualizing it in ways that are productive. We’ll be doing both, which is why the major is called Applied Data Science Analytics.”

Data science and data analytics are some of the highest paying jobs in the job market today. People all want to make better use of their data. It’s not just Microsoft and Facebook and Google who are hiring those people; it’s also UPMC and Highmark, and marketing, travel companies, school systems, consulting firms. Our goal is to prepare students to be successful in any of those places.”

This fall, Rosenthal is teaching a research methods course and an introduction to programming course. “I learned to program a long time ago, from my gym teacher,” she says. “I wasn’t really taught why things work, just how to code. So my goal for the Intro to Programming course is to try to really give students insight into why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

Rosenthal will also be co-teaching the Capstone Seminar for some business courses with Professor and Director of Business Programs Rachel Chung. For example, students in the management information systems major will be helping the Master of Arts in Food Studies students open their new coffee lab.

It’s a business that’s starting up; there’s no reason our students shouldn’t be able to help analyze what their business plan should look like,” she says. 

Rosenthal plans to provide students with more hands-on experience by involving them in her own research, too. “I’m interested in how we can collect data more intelligently and also to teach data collection and research methods for effectively,” she says. She is developing a data collection platform to deploy on campus. Students in Rosenthal’s current classes are researching where it should be located, what it should do, and how it could be marketed. Once deployed, students in the Applied Data Science Analytics major will be able to use the data collected by the platform in their classes and also display their work for the campus to see.

Rosenthal is also interested in “producing English explanations of what data analytics say.” In computer security, for example, experts often monitor networks by hand, because of lack of trust that artificial intelligence would make the right decision. “We can help people trust systems better if we do a good job of explaining why they should,” she says.

Chatham’s Applied Data Science Analytics program teaches students to critically identify, communicate, and analyze challenging analytical problems, effectively organize and manage datasets, and develop robust solutions. They are also equipped to evaluate ethical, privacy, and security challenges in their fields of practice.


student profile: maria taylor ’18


This spring, Chatham third-year student Maria Taylor was named a Newman Civic Fellow. The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports community-committed students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country.

Maria grew up in the foster care system right outside of Pittsburgh, and moved 11 times before college. She’s planning to graduate a year early and has a cumulative GPA of 3.51, but is quick to point out that she’s the exception. “Only three percent of foster youth graduate from college, compared to 38 percent of their peers,” she says. This discrepancy helped spark her interest in helping marginalized communities, both in and outside of school.

Maria’s civic engagement
Maria believes that universities can help make it easier for foster youth to enter and stay in college. That’s why she developed (and chairs) Chatham’s Expanding Student Services Committee, which advocates for marginalized student populations, including groups like undocumented, former foster youth, food insecure, home insecure, and low-income students.

The Expanding Student Services Committee is part of Chatham Student Government. Maria ran for the executive board of CSG during her first year, and won. She next served as CSG’s Executive Vice President of Communications.

“We want to be as inclusive of these students as possible, and we want them to thrive here regardless of their background and what’s going on in their lives,” says Maria, who herself identifies as first-generation, home insecure and low-income.

Here’s one way that Maria thinks Chatham can help: the professional dress closet. “There’s the expectation that everyone here will do an internship, and that can be a burden for low-income students who don’t have appropriate clothes,” says Maria. “And in student government, there’s an expectation that you’ll wear business casual for the majority of the meetings—does that discourage people from attending, or from running? I met with Career Development, and we started taking donations of clothes and of money or gift cards. Now, when students come to Career Development, they’re told about the professional dress closet. They can take whatever they want and keep it, no questions asked.”

Maria also led a group of students who worked with the Office of Student Affairs to ensure Chatham’s sexual assault prevention policies were accessible, and is in the process of creating a food pantry on campus. 

 “There are so many reasons why we need this,” she says. “You might be an international student on campus during break when the dining halls are closed. Or you might be a low-income student who needs food and that’s cool. No one should be ashamed to use these services.”

Maria is also interested in starting a cohort for first-generation college students at Chatham. “First-generation students often have a series of difficulties that other students don’t face,” she says, adding that the program could be peer-led and mentor-based. “It would be great to partner with first-generation faculty and staff. How great would that be, for a first-gen student to see a first-gen faculty member with a PhD?”

Maria’s academic life
Maria is pursuing a double major in political science and international studies, focusing on the Middle East. She’s studying Arabic. “The entire department of History, Political Science and International Studies is terrific,” says Maria. “The teachers are so caring toward their students. In high school, I had a 1.99 GPA at one point. I know what it is to be a struggling student, and I see that these teachers are willing to go the extra mile, and that means so much.” She mentions Women in Politics, History of Islam with Dr. Jean-Jacques Sene, and Turkey and the European Union as classes that she found especially inspiring.

This summer, Maria spent a couple of months in Morocco as part of the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership. She took courses in geopolitical alliances and intermediate Arabic and working on a Women’s Development project. “It provides training for women refugees from Libya and low-income women in Morocco,” she says. “They learn skills that they can use to provide for themselves.”

After Chatham, Maria plans to attend law school, and is also considering applying to the Fulbright Scholar Program. “I like Chatham’s focus on women’s empowerment and strong history with women’s leadership,” she says.  “That history is so irreplaceable.  It made Chatham a really great home.”

To donate clothing, money, or gift cards to the professional dress closet, contact Career Development at or 412-365-1209.






Counseling Psychology team helps girls “see the best” in themselves

Dr Britney Brinkman Chatham University
Project members included Whitney Ringwald (University of Pittsburgh); Ashley Dandridge, PsyD; Britney Brinkman, Ph.D.; Sara Goodkind, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh); Kelsey Johnson, MSCP; Samantha Marino, MAP

In September 2016, a troubling report was released. It begins:

“Until very recently, little public attention has been focused on understanding the ways Black girls and women experience institutional racism and sexism. Over the last year, the national conversation about the experiences of Black girls has gained momentum. This report is an attempt to share some troubling local data in order to support additional conversation and draw public attention to these issues. Among its findings:

  • Black girls are suspended from the Pittsburgh Public Schools at more than three times the rate of white girls.
  • Black girls are referred to juvenile court three times more often than white girls nationally. In Allegheny County, it’s 11 times more often.”[1]

While black females are not incarcerated at the rate of black males, that’s not to say they fare better in schools. The phrase “pushout” is used to describe institutionalized racism and sexism that results in inequitable treatment of black girls in school, and the subsequent effects on their lives.

From this, it seems clear that furthering understanding of the girls’ lives—and of the girls themselves—is key to combatting institutionalized prejudice. And who better to tell you about that than, well—them?

“There’s a surge of research on African American girls right now, but we want to make sure that the body of research is informed by girls’ direct perspectives,” says Britney Brinkman, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling psychology and co-founder of Chatham’s Psychology of Gender Research Team.

In January 2017, Dr. Brinkman, along with the University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Sara Goodkind, launched a project as part of local non-profit Gwen’s Girls “See the Best in Me” campaign. “See the Best in Me” is an initiative focused on self-esteem, critical thinking, and advocacy skills that enable girls to better understand and express themselves about the issues that affect them daily.

The project involved about 80 girls, who participated in Gwen’s Girls after-school programs. They used a research method called photovoice to capture their experiences. “Rather than responding to questionnaires or focus group prompts, photovoice offers a broader way of expression, through photos but also drawing, poetry, and collage,” says team member Jeremy Holdorf, MSCP ’18.

For about six months, Dr. Brinkman, Holdorf, and the other members of the team met periodically with the girls to talk about how the photographing is going, bat around ideas, troubleshoot technology mishaps, and otherwise touch base.

The program culminated in a gallery exhibit at Chatham that ran from June 6-9. The exhibit displayed these photos by 26 girls, along with drawings and notecards from a workshop that included over 80 girls.  The goal was to share the work with as many people as possible, to counteract negative stereotypes and get more positive messages out into the community.

exhibit-33“We wanted to help kids connect their individual experiences to group experience,” explains Dr. Brinkman. “To help them see that it’s not just them; that other black girls might be having similar experiences. It lets us not only learn from individual experiences, but also paint a bigger picture of what’s going on.”

Dr. Brinkman takes an individualized approach to mentoring research assistants. “Part of our mentoring is getting to know each student, their strengths and growth edges. Jeremy has an MFA in film and video, and we’ve worked on how to connect these skills to psychology. Another team member has worked at Gwen’s Girls, and with her, it’s like ‘You’ve worked with these girls the most, so tell us when we’re missing something, and we’ll help develop your competencies in research methods.’ I love it when our team members have different strengths and our team is collaborative.”

Chatham University’s Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology and Doctor of Psychology in Counseling Psychology programs focus on the professional, intellectual, and personal growth of students, emphasizing human-centered values as well as evidence-informed treatment approaches. 

[1] Goodkind, Sara. (2016). Inequities Affecting Black Girls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Pittsburgh, PA: FISA Foundation & The Heinz Endowments.