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From Cohort to Cohabitation: Mike Bacasa, MPT ’96 and Holly Putnam Bacasa, MPT ’96

Holly Putnam was working at Cappy’s Café on Walnut Street when a friend walked in one morning, accompanied by a man she didn’t know. “This is Mike Bacasa,” said the friend of the man she would one day end up marrying and having four children with. “You’re both starting the physical therapy program at Chatham.” It was 1994, and Chatham was dipping its toes into graduate education, launching master’s programs in both physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Today, programs in Chatham’s School of Health Sciences are highly competitive, with an overall acceptance rate of approximately 23 percent. But back then, students faced a risk of a different kind: the PT program had yet to become accredited. “That was nerve-wracking for many of us,” says Holly. “But we were all so excited to be there. I think the students and the teachers knew we were all in it together. It bonded us in a different way than what other classes might experience. We all worked really hard to reinforce the idea that the program was successful. It was actually a really fun part of being part of that first year.”

Holly had just finished undergrad at Pitt, and she remembers the first time she understood the difference between a large undergraduate program and a small, private school. “I had avoided organic chemistry all throughout undergrad,” she says. “But I needed to take it at Chatham, as a prerequisite. I realized right then—wow, I can get an A in organic chem! I couldn’t believe all the individual attention I was getting. I realized right away what a good environment the smaller, intimate setting was for learning.”

Holly and Mike, not yet romantically attached, did their thesis together, along with two other students. “It was a case study of a patient who had had a stroke,” says Mike. It was his great-aunt, in fact. “We worked with her three times per week for eight weeks, traveling back and forth to Brookline. Holly and I got to see what it was like to work together. She was always the principal investigator, though, so she was always in charge. That’s still the way it is today!” he laughs.

“I always felt like we were so well supported,” says Mike. “The professors really coached us along. They were always there to say ‘You can do this; we’re here to get you wherever you need to be.’”

“I remember a lot of hands-on lab work in the basement of the Chapel,” he continues. “We had lectures in Coolidge Hall, some in Buhl. Being on campus was great. The group of 40 or so of us in our cohort, we just did everything together,” he says, adding that Holly was always the social chair.

Holly characterizes the way that they were taught to look at patients “without tunnel vision” as nothing less than profound. “A lot of our clinical instructors noticed it,” she says. “I think Chatham students really stuck out more than other students, because of our problem-solving strategies.” Mike agrees: “Once we went out to the clinics, our brains already had those problem-solving pathways in place,” he says. “We were one of the first schools to provide problem-based learning, and thinking in terms of problem-solving was second nature to us. It still is, in every aspect of my life, not just rehab.”

Holly characterizes the way that they were taught to look at patients “without tunnel vision” as nothing less than profound. “A lot of our clinical instructors noticed it,” she says. “I think Chatham students really stuck out more than other students, because of our problem-solving strategies.” Mike agrees: “Once we went out to the clinics, our brains already had those problem-solving pathways in place,” he says. “We were one of the first schools to provide problem-based learning, and thinking in terms of problem-solving was second nature to us. It still is, in every aspect of my life, not just rehab.”

“Being among the first grad students—that was interesting,” says Mike. “I remember when we first came to campus, some of the undergraduates weren’t so excited about having men on campus. We’d see messages written in chalk on the sidewalk—let’s keep Chatham all women, things like that.” “I can’t say enough about the relations we still have with our professors, like Pat Downey and Sue Perry,” says Mike. “That says so much about the program, that they’ve been able to hang on to the original professors. There was a time when (Professor of Physical Therapy) Sue Perry and I were both working at the Rehab Institute. That was unreal, working side-by-side with her, after she had taught us so many things.” After graduation, Holly started working at the Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh. She encouraged Mike to apply, and he did. He got in. About a year later, they started dating, and today, they have four kids.

“I always say that Mike was the first ever male to graduate from Chatham, because students graduate alphabetically,” says Holly. “That’s why we say we have the first Chatham baby—our son Michael. We gave Esther (Barazzone, Chatham’s 18th president) a photo of him as a baby wearing a Chatham sweatshirt. Now that baby’s going to be 13.”


In 2001, Mike started his sole proprietorship, Wellness for Life, working privately with clients in their homes who had had a stroke or other type of brain injury. In 2006, they opened a space at the corner of Forbes and Shady avenues in Squirrel Hill, and began seeing a mix of clients. “I’ve been working with three of my current private clients for 15 years,” he says. “It’s an unbelievable experience to get to work with someone for that long. I learn a lot; they learn a lot. It becomes a different kind of therapy when it’s ongoing.”

Wellness for Life prides itself on providing one-on-one care throughout the spectrum of life, and since 2006, Holly has been working on the other end, doing early interventions for children aged 0-3 throughout Allegheny County. “It’s a big privilege,” she says. “I go into homes and meet families and their baby or child who has been identified as developmentally delayed. I can teach them things while I’m there, and I evaluate them to see if they qualify for services paid for by the state. I can recommend therapies outside of PT too, like speech or OT. I love it and can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Both Holly and Mike have stayed involved with Chatham over the years. Mike served as a graduate alumni representative for three years to the Board of Trustees, and was also involved with the Alumni Association Board. He has talked with graduating students about his experiences as a business owner, facilitated students doing assessments of real neurological cases, and taken continuing education courses through Chatham. Holly worked with a behavioral therapist to introduce a behavioral component to the pediatric course in Chatham’s PT program, developing scenarios with additional complications for the students to strategize their way through.

“Without that degree from Chatham, I just know that I couldn’t do what I love to do,” says Mike.

New Beginnings for the Penguin Whisperer







(This story first appeared in the Fall 2017 Recorder.)

Katy Wozniak, neé Antkowiak, grew up with three older sisters and a menagerie: six dogs, “four or five” cats, birds, guinea pigs, and rabbits. It was a bustling life, filled with trips to Sea World and to zoos, that stoked her desire to work with animals. “I always said I was going to be one of those trainers one day,” she says.

Wozniak’s family lived in Oil City, PA, which she describes as a very small town. “I liked the small, close-knit atmosphere,” she says. Later, she got to know another small, close-knit atmosphere on trips to Chatham College, where she visited her older sister Jessica.
“I loved how you were in the city, but once you drove up that driveway, and you were in another world,” she says. She loved it enough to enroll the following year, intent on pursuing her desire to work with animals through studying biology.

At Chatham, Katy fell in love with a psychology class in animal behavior. “It was the professors that made the class,” says Wozniak. “Dr. (Thomas) Hershberger and Dr. (Joseph) Wister. They helped me decide to change my major to psychology, focusing on animal behavior, with a minor in environmental science.”

Wozniak calls a study abroad trip to Belize led by Dr. Wister “the most amazing experience of my life. One morning we got up at 5:00 a.m., made our way through the jungle with flashlights and climbed a Mayan temple in the dark so we could be there for sunrise. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. You’re sitting on top of this temple as the sun rises, you hear the toucans waking up, the howler monkeys waking up, you’re at the canopies of the trees, as far as you can see, rainforest and beautiful jungle. It happened over 20 years ago and I can still picture every moment of it.”

During her sophomore year, Wozniak interned at the Pittsburgh Zoo, doing observational research on orangutans and rhinos. A couple of years later, she went back to the zoo to work on her senior thesis: comparing elephant foraging behaviors in the wild and in a zoo setting.

“A lot of people think that animals in zoos are forced away from their natural behaviors, but they’re not,” she says. “For example, penguins in the wild spend about 90% of their time in the water, really just coming onto land just to breed and molt (lose feathers). So they have to eat and eat and eat in the water, to store energy for the time when they’re stuck on land. Here in the aquarium, we can just go up to them and feed them on land, but they don’t want it. They retain those natural behaviors. So we try to make their environments as natural as possible, so that people can see these natural behaviors.”


After graduation, Wozniak returned to the zoo to intern in the aquarium for a year, and had opportunities to work with other animals, too. When a full-time job for an aquarist (“that’s like a zoo-keeper for aquarium animals”) opened up, Katy applied and got it, beating out more seasoned aquarists across the country. She started working full-time at the aquarium in 2000.

“The ‘penguin guy’ was close to retirement age, and he wanted me to work with him,” she says. After two years, he did retire, and in addition to routine care, here’s something that became part of Wozniak’s unofficial job description: Think about ways to make a penguin’s day better (the technical term is ‘enrichment’).

“My penguins love bubbles, so we’ll put a bubble machine in the exhibit, and they’ll chase the bubbles around and pop them with their beaks,” she says. “They have exceptional eyesight, and they’ll follow a laser light. When kids run across the exhibit with those light-up shoes, you’ll see this whole group of penguins chasing this kid back and forth, watching that light light up. Then when we get a really nice snowfall we’ll take them outside to play in the snow early in the morning. They’ll get on their bellies and toboggan and eat snowflakes as they fall.”

“Our penguins’ names come from all over the place,” says Wozniak. “They might be named after a Pittsburgh Penguin, or a little kid from Make-a-Wish might name one — that, for example, is why we currently have one named Cakey-Wakey and one named Letang.”


Wozniak rose in the ranks, and formalized the aquarium’s internship program in 2006. She attended career fairs and reached out to colleges including Chatham, Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh, and Slippery Rock University.

For the past 14 years, Wozniak has been taking her dogs to Twinbrook Animal Clinic for care. “During a routine visit, the owner and head vet told me that she was looking to bring someone on board who shared her passion for animals, programs, and reaching out to the community,” she says. “We met a few times after that, and then the offer to become the clinic’s practice director was on the table. It would involve not only managing the clinic, but moving their programs forward and expanding their offerings.”

“It was a tough decision,” she says, “but I love the staff, and I love the vets, it’s near my house, and I felt ready for a new challenge. I also wanted to give back to them for all the years they’ve been here for our animals.”

Wozniak is excited to bring Twinbrook out into the community. She envisions visits to schools, and bringing animal care to homes, for people who maybe can’t come to a clinic. Right now, Twinbrook focuses on dogs and cats, but Wozniak thinks that can
be expanded too. “There are so many areas around here that have farms with horses,” she says. “I think it would be awesome to expand the practice in that way.”

“In college, I loved my child psychology courses too,” says Wozniak. “And there’s real potential in using animals therapeutically, for anyone from geriatric populations to kids who may have issues. I’ve seen this with kids that come through the zoo on tours, how maybe they have a hard time focusing, but they can just focus on a bird and feel how soft it is—you can see it’s therapeutic for them. I have so many ideas, but I know I need to focus and prioritize,” she laughs. “But in the end, my goal is always to help.”

“It’s a little scary to be leaving this job that I’ve loved for the past 20 years, that has supported my life and my love of animals. But I didn’t want to get stuck in a rut, and I’m looking forward to this new adventure.”

Wozniak considers herself to be starting anew not just in her professional life, but also as a parent: her daughter Antonia is in college, and her son Joey is in second grade. “I’m going to a whole second round of sports events and elementary school plays,” she laughs. “And getting used to a new job. It’s like going through life again.”

Q and A with Katie Cruger PhD

Name: Katie Cruger
Title: Assistant Professor, Communication (hopefully Associate Professor next month!); Director of Professional Writing and Communications Graduate Programs
Date Joined Chatham: August 2011
Born & Raised: Northern Virginia, outside of DC. But also spent much of my life in Manhattan
Interests: Media, Words, Plants

Q: How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?
A: I loved movies, TV, and magazines as a kid. I thought I wanted to produce those things as a film maker, editor, show runner. That’s why I earned my B.A. in Communication Arts from Marymount Manhattan University, which is a similar environment to Chatham’s: small, liberal arts college in a bustling city. But then I started working in industry and realized I had more to say as a critic than as a filmmaker or copywriter, and decided to pursue graduate school.

Q: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
A: Babysitting taught me how to spot a lie. Hosting, bartending, and being a server taught me about interacting with people, and how to best negotiate uneven power relationships, but also how gross and unfair the world is. My first full time job was at an advertising agency, which taught me that I didn’t want to sell things to people that they didn’t need, but that I was good at thinking about messages and persuasion, and wanted to explore ways to use those tools for social good.

Q: What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?
A: Nannying and being a student are a key part of preparation for teaching. But I also was lucky to have a lot of pedagogy training during my time as a graduate student, so that I wasn’t employing trial and error in the classroom as much as educated guessing. Still plenty of errors, I’m sure, but hopefully fewer.

Q: What makes teaching at Chatham special for you?
A: I appreciate getting to interact with students more than once during their time at Chatham and watching them develop as thinkers and activists first through fourth year, and even beyond to graduate education. I like that so many of our students are committed to justice and making the world better through their work. That means we get to explore the “how” of social justice, instead of just the “why” it’s necessary.

Q: What is your passion?
A: Other than my academic work and family, I’m extremely passionate about animal rights and link between feminist and sustainability concerns and how humans interact and treat animals. I also really love plants. More than people, I’m embarrassed to admit. I’m a certified Master Gardener in Allegheny County and love growing and cultivating plants more than most other things I could spend my time doing.

Q: What one individual had the greatest impact on you and how?
A: Erm. I’m sorry, I don’t think I have a clear answer to this one. I’ve learned a lot about who I didn’t want to be from crummy bosses and leaders of the past. I’m very inspired by Feminist leaders like Angela Davis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Ursula K. Le Guin, but I never met any of those people. My son has certainly changed my life the most out of anyone.

Q: What one thing would your students be surprised to know about you?
A: I used to be quite a good musician. And dancer. And I used to care a lot about high fashion and walked miles a day in 4 inch heels as a Manhattanite.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work? 
A: Garden. Watch my backyard chickens wander about the yard. Snuggle goats (post retirement, my business card will absolutely read “Professional Goat Cuddler.”) Hang with my kid.

In 2016, Dr. Cruger was selected from a competitive, national pool of nominees to participate in the Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar in Chicago, Illinois. Read more here

Chatham’s accelerated 30-credit Masters in Communication (MCOMM)  is a hybrid program, blending on-ground courses with select online offerings for increased flexibility. Students are able to choose tracks in Environmental Communication, Healthcare Communication, or Strategic Communication.

Chatham’s  Master of Professional Writing (MPW) program is a broad-based 30-credit online program that leads to a unique, professional degree with specializations possible in Technical Writing or Web Content Development, and paths of study for nonprofits professionals and communications professionals. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IncubateHER announces inaugural cohort


(Photo by Neil Richmond)

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

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

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

Interested mentors can sign up here.

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

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

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

Patients. Ping. Protocols. PHP. Passion.


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

That’s healthcare informatics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Eden Hall Pioneer to Farm Manager

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

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

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

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

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

Have they successfully identified any?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The only student from Hyderabad, India to have been accepted to the prestigious Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, Soumayani Ghoshal spent this fall semester living and learning at Chatham. As the semester comes to a close, we asked her about her experience of being part of the Chatham community while representing India and how she qualified for the opportunity.

Q: What is the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program? 
A: Global UGRAD is  a one-semester scholarship that gives outstanding undergraduate students from around the world the opportunity for non-degree full-time study combined with community service, professional development and cultural enrichment.

This year, there were 22,661 applications from around the world, 250 finalists, five of whom were from India.

Q: What is something you did not expect about Chatham? 
A: I never expected my classes to be so interesting and interactive. I also did not expect people here to be so warm and welcoming from the very first day. It has just been four months and I have come to call this place home.

Q: Why did you choose to major in journalism? 
A: I have always been inclined towards writing, and journalism is something I am extremely passionate about. I am majoring in journalism back in my home country with world politics as a minor, so I wanted to learn more about this field in the United States too. This opportunity led me to shadow a journalist at the Pittsburgh Post-gazette, which was very exciting.

Q: What are your future plans? 
A: I am looking forward to coming back to the United States for a Master’s degree in Investigative Journalism, and I hope to be able to work here someday.

Q: What’s something that you miss about India that you wish could be implemented in the United States? 
A: Honestly, it’s the other way around. As the semester is almost coming to an end and so is my program, I will miss the fun and engaging activities that Chatham offers to students on a regular basis and wish to implement these in my University back home.

I was also very inspired by students here who make their own financial decisions and work to pay for their college. This is something that we don’t have back home and I wish to do something about that.


(Almost) Living and (Definitely) Learning at Fallingwater

Chatham Interior Architecture Student sketching in notebook near Fallingwater

One afternoon, Kyra Tucker, director of interior architecture programs, walked into Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic architectural masterpiece Fallingwater to find her students sitting on the floor with their shoes off.

I said ‘What are you guys doing?’” she recalls, laughing. “‘[Chatham has] a reputation to protect here!’”

But Tucker was joking, and the high level of comfort was entirely appropriate for the situation, a weeklong residency for students in the Bachelor of Interior Architecture (BIA) program, also offered for students in the Master of Interior Architecture program. While students don’t sleep at Fallingwater – they stay in new residential facilities nearby – they spend plenty of time in Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture – for instruction, to work on projects, or just to absorb their surroundings.

“We had hours and hours in Fallingwater
to sketch and take photographs. We could explore whatever we wanted,” says Mark Shorthouse ’17. “It’s not like we were lounging on the beds, but we were in there barefoot. We were going down to the private swimming pond,” a sheltered spot directly underneath the house.

Most of the roughly 200,000 people who visit Fallingwater each year go on one of the regularly scheduled tours that move through the building like clockwork. Tours last about an hour, and shoes are required. Visitors typically take a few photos, browse in the gift shop, and hop back in their cars to go home.

Chatham students have a much longer and more intensive interaction with the house and site. Says Hallie Dufour ’18, “It was really amazing that we got to experience it more deeply than everybody else.”

Fallingwater has had programs for visiting students and educators for about twenty years. Made of ad hoc groups of individuals from different locations, these have been available “for anyone who wants to register,” explains Fallingwater Curator of Education Ashley Andrykovich. In contrast, Chatham’s program is solely for its own students and is tailored specifically to the University mission and program curriculum.

Says Tucker: “One of our University initiatives is sustainability. Fallingwater, we decided, would be a sustainability mission course. It is really based around Frank Lloyd Wright being the original ‘organic architect.’” It is also an official part of the Maymester schedule, and BIA students are required to attend in their first year.

Chatham’s program was unique at Fallingwater this year. But even if other universities follow Chatham’s lead, it will remain a rare experience. “We only have the capacity to do programs with two or three universities each year,” says Andrykovich.

The student experience at Fallingwater begins with a silent hike that starts at High Meadow. Students are required to turn off their phones, which don’t get much reception out there anyway. “We ask the students to unplug and be silent. We actually collect their cell phones for this part,” says Andrykovich. The approach places an emphasis on contemplation and observation. “We hike through the meadow down to Bear Run, and the landscape changes in ways that are observable three or four different ways during that hike.” Students are encouraged to sketch on the hike, as they will be encouraged throughout the week.

Chatham Interior Architecture students sit together to sketch and talk at Fallingwater

Graduate student Heidi Tabor, MIA ’17 found the phone-free approach “a little intimidating at first.” But it was one of several things “that pushed you outside of your comfort zone. I think I grew that way.”

The residency week blends contemplative study with industrious instruction and studio work. Andrykovich explains that students
do “a combination of sustained looking, sketching, and experiencing the house, combined with exercises that are designed to push them to think about the design themes that are at play in Fallingwater.”

For the undergraduates, one of the first design exercises, described in written assignments as a “sculpture light intervention,” is otherwise known as a lantern or lamp. It was an opportunity to consider “different types of lighting, how it can be manipulated, colors of light, textures,” says Dufour.

Shorthouse adds, “Our projects needed to be implemented in Fallingwater itself…to look as if they were originally built there.” Students would photograph their model light fixtures in place in Fallingwater for use in their portfolios.

“They came up with some really innovative, extremely cool things,” says Tucker.

A second exercise was to design a screen or scrim to be placed somewhere in the house to frame a particular view. “The lantern had them focusing inward, and the screen helped them connect the inside with the outside,” Tucker explains. “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! I just love this.”

While enhanced design skills are important, Tucker also finds success in developing a studio culture in which students work together successfully.

“What I am finding they get from it is a very close experience with each other, so we are building a studio culture, not just relationships with friends through social media. We need that, because that’s how it is in the workforce. That is how great things are accomplished. Together.”

Dufour agrees. “It brought me and the other students together, especially students I had not known before,” she says.

The program uses the rare experience of a unique building to teach lessons about interior architecture that are applicable to all aspects of future careers in professional practice. The student response to the Fallingwater program is categorically enthusiastic.

“It’s a super intensive, immersive, creative studio experience,” says Shorthouse. “I felt that I had really grown as a designer in a way I had not felt up to that point. It gave me more confidence that I am a creative person and I could create designs.”

“It opened my eyes more to the world and what I was seeing,” says Tabor.

Learn more at youtube/chathamu.