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Campus Community Profile: Randi Congleton, PhD

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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.”

 

 

campus community profile: Kristen Spirl

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(l to r) TreePittsburgh Director of Urban Forestry, Matt Erb; two visitors from Perm State University in Russia; Chatham gardeners James Rue and Mike Schneider; Kristen Spirl (second from right); Chatham gardener David Bell

This year, Chatham’s Woodland Road campus has reached its twentieth anniversary of being designated an arboretum by the American Public Garden Association. We talked to Kristen Spirl, grounds department manager, about her work in making sure our campus stays so beautiful year in and year out.

What brought you to Chatham? How long have you been here?
I came to Chatham for graduate school in 2009 and enrolled in the Landscape Architecture program. I received a Master in Landscape Design & Development in August 2012, and shortly after joined the Grounds department! My first day was September 4, 2012.

What’s most exciting about your job?
There are so many things I find exciting about my job. For one, my office is generally outdoors! And no two days are the same. Surprises occur constantly, as Mother Nature answers to no one. I get to create with living plants, making something beautiful, functional, and sustaining. I love that I get to work with students and people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. The tools of the job—tractors, chain saws, skid steer loaders—are pretty fun, too!

What season does campus look the most beautiful?
This is such a hard question! I love every season and enjoy what each period has to offer, but if I must have a favorite… campus looks the most beautiful in the fall… though, winter showcases the structure of the trees—their simple beauty, with minimal colors and textures. The spring has so much color and texture as everything awakens from its nap. Throughout, the interactions of flora and fauna are never the same.

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Landscape designer and photographer Rick Darke and Kristen Spirl

What kind of difference do you see yourself making or would you like to make on campus?
I love having volunteer events. Many of the volunteers have had little or no experience being a steward of the land and it may be their first time placing their hands in the earth or planting something that they can watch grow and flourish.

My hope is always that they return in the future with their friends and family to what they’ve planted and get to share in what they’ve added to the world.”

What’s your favorite part of campus?
The Kentucky coffee tree forest and pond adjacent to Mellon Center is really unique. These are old trees, and seeing them and wildlife interacting is very special. The woods between the AFC and Berry Hall is where my favorite White Oak tree is located.

What work have you done on campus that you are most proud of
Collaborating with organizations on campus for volunteer activities is always a big one—planting trees and flowers throughout the year, with “Oc-tulip-fest”, Arbor Day, and our University Day’s Buckets and Blossoms event. Of course I’m especially proud of our Tree Campus USA status! We authored a Campus Tree Care Plan for the University and Arboretum, ensuring the five standards set forth by the Arbor Day Foundation were met for recognition. This will be the 5th year we received the honor. And throughout all of our activities, creating relationships is always special, whether within the campus community, the Woodland Road residents, the City of Pittsburgh Forestry Department or TreePittsburgh.

If you were to pick a favorite plant or animal on campus, what would it be?
I don’t know if I would be able to narrow it down to just one! Kitty is my Integrated Pest Manager, and my favorite campus cat. Blue, the white English retriever, is my favorite off-campus dog. And then there’s… ALL THE DEER! The heron that visits and feeds from the pond. ALL THE BIRDS! Bunny squirrel. ALL THE SQUIRRELS! The White Oak in the woods across from Berry Hall. ALL THE OAKS! The apple tree behind Anderson towards the Carriage house. The saucer magnolia by Dilworth Hall. ALL THE MAGNOLIAS!

See, it’s hard to pick just one!

Follow the arboretum on Instagram. 

With elements designed for the Andrew Mellon estate by the renowned Olmsted Brothers, Chatham’s 39-acre campus encompasses a 32-acre designated arboretum featuring 115 different varieties of species, including dawn redwood, bald cypress, yellowwood, katsura tree, cucumber magnolia, and Carolina silverbell. The arboretum provides an outdoor classroom for students and an inviting place to stroll and to meditate.

Five Questions with Steve Karas, PT, DSc, CMPT

Name: Steve Karas
Title: Assistant Professor (PT, DSc, CMPT)
Joined Chatham: Jan 2009
Born & Raised: Pittsburgh, PA
Interests: Cycling, Running, Travel, Hemingway

 

 

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

My first PT job was at Shadyside hospital. I worked with athletes, patients after joint replacements, patients in the hospital, and those receiving cardiac care. I learned that although medicine tends to compartmentalize, having experience in several areas will strengthen your personal discipline and ability to think and reason.

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

My mom was a teacher, and even when she came home she worked on lesson plans and creative ways to teach. She taught at a lower-income schools with disciplinary issues, but she loved to teach and would talk about the successes of individual students, some of whom were first to attend college in their family. Watching someone who loves what they do played a role in my decision to teach.

3. What makes teaching at Chatham special for you? 

I graduated from the first PT class. I was able to come back to be a teaching assistant, then help in class, and when the faculty position was offered to me, I was very grateful. I felt like it was my opportunity to influence the next generation of physical therapists and work among a very impressive faculty. I feel bad for people who don’t like their job, because I love mine.

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

 The moment I realize they know more than me.

5What one thing would your students be surprised to know about you?

I am jealous of them. They are learning at a time when information is readily available and the world is smaller than ever. They are all in a position to change the world.

Steve Karas is an assistant professor in the Physical Therapy program.  When he’s not working, he’d rather be watching the sun set over Grace Bay with a San Pellegrino and lime.

 

Campus Community Profile: Mary Beth Mannarino

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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.

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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.

 

 

CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: RACHEL CHUNG, PH.D.

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Title: Director of Business Programs

Before joining Chatham in 2013, while at Carlow University, Dr. Chung was featured on a BBC World News story about Twins Days Festival, the world’s largest gathering for twins and multiples. At the festival, Dr. Chung and her team gathered data from more than 200 pairs of twins, seeking to determine whether there was a genetic basis for online behavior. Originally from Taiwan, Dr. Chung now lives in the North Hills. Her personal interests include cooking and hunting for dinosaurs with her son Connor.

What do you think about the integration of graduate and undergraduate business programs?

I should start by saying that our programs have always been administratively integrated. Now the academics will be integrated too. I think there will be some very positive changes. Take our Marketing faculty, for example. They used to teach only undergraduates, and our grad students were taught by professionals working in the field. But having a professor teach the graduate class means that he or she can connect the dots for the students. The professors keep track of industry trends, because it’s their research area and they’re immersed in it. Chatham’s MBA is an academics program, and we need to have Ph.D.s there. And it’s good for them, too. It means that they don’t have to teach so many classes outside their field of expertise. If you’re enrolled in a class, you really want the instructor to keep track of what’s changing in the field, and no one can keep track of everything that’s going on in six different fields. It’s just not possible. We’re also excited about increased opportunities for interaction between our graduate and undergraduate students.

Is there anything in place to promote that interaction?

Yes, and we’re working on developing more. For example, we used to hold separate mixers for undergraduate and graduate students. Now we’re combining them, and holding the mixer from 4:30pm, when most undergraduates are likely to be ending classes, to 6:30pm, close to when many graduate students begin their classes. I’d say it’s been very successful.

We’re also working with Sean McGreevey (Assistant Dean for Career Development) on opportunities to have some graduate-undergraduate mentoring. The mixers are a great mechanism for helping mentoring to happen. Students don’t have to coordinate their schedules, they can say “I’ll just meet you at the mixer!”

For updates about Business programs, check out the Chatham MBA blog »

CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: JEAN-JACQUES SENE, PH.D.

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Associate Professor of History & Cultural Studies;
Program Coordinator, Global Focus

How do you say his name? “Zhahn Zhahk Senn”

With Chatham since: 2007

Hometown: Dakar, Senegal

Pittsburgh home: Squirrel Hill

Languages spoken: “Let’s just say five [laughs]: French, English, Spanish, Wolof, and Creole Portuguese. Everybody, literally, is multilingual where I come from.” Continue reading

CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: CHRIS MUSICK, M.S.

Musick-1024x683Title: Assistant Vice President for International Affairs
Hometown: Yorktown, Indiana
Pittsburgh neighborhood: I’m currently deciding between Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. I like being able to walk places, and I don’t have a car in town. I signed up for the Bike to Work program, and I have the bicycle that I bought off my brother when I was in 8th grade for $40 and a large pizza. The bike has been refurbished throughout the years that I’ve been riding, but it’s a cherished piece of my childhood.

What are your goals for International Affairs?
For one, I’m looking forward to helping to implement the Chatham semester, which is like a reverse study abroad program. We want it to be a destination for students around the world who want to study in America for a semester or a year. To encourage this, we’re becoming more flexible with our ESL programs – they’ll now be 7-week sessions and start at different points during the years, to help accommodate other countries’ academic calendars. Another way that we’ll internationalize our community is through activities, speakers, presenters, and curriculum development. And, of course, we’ll be pursuing strategic relationships around the globe.

How do you decide which relationships to pursue?
We’re very interested in developing relationships that enhance our understanding of what we’re able to do here and take advantage of opportunities to learn even more. For example, Chatham has a robust sustainability program, and we’re also global in outlook. There’s a lot we can learn from studying sustainability in different biomes, like the arctic, the desert, and the tropics. What are the challenges of creating sustainable practices in different environmental zones? How do you grow crops in Norway? We’re looking to partner with institutions where we can learn from them, and they from us.

We’re also interested in partnering with institutions where there are layers of academic overlap that can help us create deeper relationships with the community and within our academic programs. For example, we might have a student group of healthcare workers visit a community to investigate what might be behind the learning disorders that affect a large number of local children. Say they link it to cooking stoves inside the house leaking carbon dioxide. Then we could have interior design students going down and designing a new stove that uses local resources and can be built efficiently and at low cost that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide. And of course, we want to develop relationships with universities that mirror what we’re doing to a certain extent, so that if students study abroad, they’re still able to graduate on time.

Chatham has so many points of pride, and this time of transition fosters a real outward-lookingness. There’s a lot of potential to moving into the international arena in a way that we haven’t been able to do before.