As Sue, the kids, and I were finishing up our summer vacation with her family in England this weekend, we were stunned by the news out of Charlottesville. Like millions of others around the world, we are shocked, angered and saddened at the racist and anti-Semitic demonstrations, hatred and violence that occurred. I immediately reached out to my friend, Professor Len Schoppa, who is a Dean at the University of Virginia to check if he and his family were okay, and to extend our sympathy on behalf of Chatham to the families of those who were killed and to those individuals who were injured and impacted by these horrific events.
As we prepare for the start of another academic year, I want to reaffirm Chatham’s commitment to our values of diversity, inclusion and respect. This is a commitment not just of shared values, but one that is also a central tenant of the University’s Mission: to prepare graduates who “recognize and respect diversity of culture, identity, and opinion.” We all take great pride in being a part of a community where hatred and violence in any form have no place.
The leaders of Chatham’s Diversity & Inclusion Council will send a follow-up message with additional information, events and resources that are available to students, faculty and staff over the next two weeks and throughout the academic year. In the meantime, please join me in sympathy and solidarity with the University of Virginia and Charlottesville communities.
Name: Monica Riordan
Title: Assistant Professor of Experimental Psychology
Joined Chatham: August 2012
Born & Raised: St. Louis, Missouri
Interests: family time, hiking, and travel
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
My first job was at the YMCA when I was 15. I worked in the baby nursery and taught gymnastics classes and summer camps for children. I learned quite a lot about negotiating and compromise (especially from the toddlers), how to make boring tasks seem fun (like making up songs for stretching routines), and showing leadership skills when in charge of a group of many different personalities and interests.
What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?
Working with children is a fantastic training ground for just about any career you ever take in life. It teaches you to think on the fly, be flexible from one moment to another, always have a plan B (and often C and D), work with many different people of many different backgrounds and needs, develop coping skills for high-stress environments, and show grace under pressure.
What makes teaching at Chatham special for you?
At many universities, teacher-student interaction is limited to the classroom, but I have found at Chatham (for better or worse), students weave themselves into the teachers’ lives. They email me articles that they think will be interesting to me, they ask about my son, they invite me to their plays and sporting events, and greet me by name and a hearty “good morning!”
What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?
Most students are eager to learn and they spend time trying to relate material to their own lives and come up with examples of how they see psychological theories acted out in the real world. This transfer of learning from paper to practice is heartening to me as a teacher.
What is your passion?
I like to design experiments and collect data, but am happiest when analyzing the data in the hope of finally finding answers to questions. Despite my passion for research, though, writing, unfortunately, I find to be necessary drudgery.
Monica Riordan is an assistant professor in the Psychology department at Chatham. She challenges her students to identify her one tattoo.
IM4Q is an information-gathering method used in Pennsylvania to improve the lives of individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability. The state has contracted with Chatham to conduct this research in Allegheny, Washington, and Greene counties. Dr. Goreczny is principal investigator for that work.
“Here’s how it works,” he says. “Each year, we receive a list—a random sample of individuals who are receiving services through Pennsylvania’s Office of Developmental Programs. Then we go out and interview them in teams of two. Typically, one of the two will be an individual with an intellectual disability (ID), or a family member of an individual with ID. We interview folks in their home, or wherever else they’d like to be interviewed, and ask them how satisfied they are with their lives, and with the services they’re receiving.”
“And we ask them an important question: what would improve your quality of life?”
“They might say that they want to go to a Pirates game, or to go to church services more often, or to take a college course of some sort,” he says. “We submit their request to the county, and the support coordinator has 45 days to take action toward making it happen.”
“When we first started, a lot of participants were interested in moving,” says Dr. Goreczny. “Now, there seems to be a movement toward empowerment and self-improvement for people with ID. Instead of just accepting their lot, they’re saying ‘I want better’ and it’s really neat. They want to take a college class, learn how to vote, become more integrated and included in the general community.”
Dr. Goreczny considers individuals with disabilities to be underserved yet rewarding populations to work with. “When it comes to people who want to go into the helping people professions, there tend to be three groups of people that they don’t want to work with: older adults, the chronically mentally ill, and people with developmental disabilities. However, research has shown that when we bring people into the fold of working with these populations during their training, it opens up a whole arena that they’d never considered working with.”
“I’ve had several people say to me that they never thought of this as a population they’d want to work with, but now it’s all they want to do.”
Dr. Goreczny estimates that over 100 Chatham students have been involved in IM4Q, both graduate and undergraduate, and their degrees of participation vary with their interest and availability. Chatham students conduct interviews, enter and analyze data, and even publish in scientific journals based on work they’ve done through the program.
“IM4Q gives them in-depth interviewing skills, and also the opportunity to do more research analysis,” he says. “Students who work on the project really feel good about it.”
One of these students is Terrie Haggey, PsyD ‘21, who came to Chatham from Maine for the Master of Psychology program and for the opportunity to work with Dr. Goreczny on the IM4Q program. She co-conducts interviews, and serves as the coordinator for IM4Q Washington county.
“Chatham was one of very few programs I found that has an emphasis on research with people with intellectual disability,” she says. “I’m already working on a couple of studies with Dr. Goreczny, and I haven’t even finished my Master’s degree yet.”
This summer, Haggey will be presenting results from a study at the annual American Psychological Association conference in Washington, DC, focusing on how the overlap of intellectual disabilities with physical or behavioral disabilities affects quality of life. “We in the United States have done very little research on this,” she says.
For Haggey’s doctoral work, she’s interested in looking at co-morbidities of mental health and intellectual disability, particularly with regard to what types of treatments individuals are getting. “It’s about healthcare equity,” she says. “Even when people with ID have access to healthcare, providers aren’t necessarily trained to work with them, so they’re maybe not getting the care that they could.”
It was while working in home remodeling with her partner Jodi that Hallie Dumont’s eyes were opened to the unhealthy relationship that some people have with their homes.
“Big houses tend to be a burden, I think, for people,” she says. “They lend themselves to people holding on too too much stuff. My partner came in one day and found a homeowner lying on the floor one day curled up in the fetal position.”
Dumont and Jodi were working on a particularly big remodeling job. “It was a house for two people that was about 22,000 square feet—that’s about the size of a Walmart. It really flipped some sort of switch for me. The project just seemed so unsustainable. They probably had four air conditioning units for this one home for two people, and the material choices were just not intelligent as far as health or environment. I became very interested in the opposite end of the spectrum, which is the tiny house movement, micro-apartments—everything we call alternative housing.”
‘From the beginning at Chatham I was interested in creating intelligent, smart, efficient residential spaces,” says Dumont. “So my thesis here was on pre-fab interiors, which isn’t really a thing but I made it a thing. I got an internship in Shadyside with an architect named Eric Fisher. I loved working under him; I learned so much. It was like having another studio course. I asked him if I could stay on and if we could design a tiny house (which I called the Nanohouse) over the summer. So I got to do that with him, which was awesome.”
“My goal was to build the Nanohouse, but when I tried to find funding, I realized that it was going to be really expensive. And building tiny houses for rich people wasn’t my goal.”
Eric Fisher had opened his studio space to all sorts of creative people working in Pittsburgh, and fortuitously, that’s where Dumont met her future business partner, Brian Gaudio, an architect recently returned to Pittsburgh from Central and South America. Brian was working to get his start-up, Module, off the ground. In Dumont, he found a kindred spirit and, what’s better, his future Chief Design Officer.
Tiny houses aren’t that new, but Module has some new takes on the idea. For one, they’re designed to be urban. “Normally when you see a tiny house, there’s all this open land around them,” says Dumont. “These are designed to be taken off a trailer and sat on a concrete foundation.” They’re also stackable. Second or third floors can be added, and additions can be added to the side or rear.
“What we’ve found is that the idea of a starter home—a home that you buy when you’re first starting out and then sell once it no longer meets your needs—isn’t really resonating with a lot of millennials. So Module’s solution is to offer alternative housing that can grow with you.”
“Module designs adaptable housing that changes as your needs do. Through a patent-pending wall system and design platform, Module provides first-time homebuyers with just the right amount of space at the right time.” – from Module’s website
What might that look like? There are a couple of prototypes.
One incorporates a built-in Air BnB unit, with a separate entrance and bedroom/bathroom that is totally cut off from the house. “It can help help supplement your mortgage payment at the beginning,” says Dumont, “but over time, the house can absorb that unit, so it can become a half-bedroom, maybe a workspace or a nursery, and the exterior entrance can be removed.”
Another design starts as a co-living space, but over time, as the owner makes more money or the family grows, the house can split. “You insert a party wall, and you get what’s basically a duplex. Each can have their own separate single family unit,” Dumont explains.
“I think the coolest thing is how excited people get about the idea. Everyone from baby boomers to millennials. That’s been really cool to see.”
“We designed and built a demo unit that would be attached to a larger house for a ‘faux client’,” says Dumont. “He likes to entertain and have family members over to stay, and he’s also a workaholic. It’s a space where he can play board games and have movie nights. A local furniture maker called Bones and All made a coffee table that can flip out into a card table, and there’s a Murphy bed that transitions into a desk unit.”
“That unit was the first time I started with a blank piece of paper and a blank space and then made something real,” says Dumont. “In smaller units, every bit of space—down to a sixteenth of an inch—has to be accounted for. In this case, the furniture and the building were being constructed at the same time, so we had to hope all the measurements worked out. It ended up being really close. I had space under a window where we wanted to put in a bench seat, and we had to rip off an edge banding and trim down an outlet. I learned a lot on this project,” she laughs.
Chatham University’s Master of Interior Architecture is a first professional interior design program that prepares students for practice in an interior design or architecture firm. The program, accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), is geared toward students with undergraduate degrees in fields other than interior architecture or interior design.
Name: Julie Slade
Title: RN-BSN Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Nursing
Joined Chatham: July 2010
Born & Raised: Born in Honolulu, Hawaii (my dad was in the military), I moved back to Pittsburgh, PA on my first birthday and have been here ever since
Interests: Nursing education, hospice/end-of-life nursing, spending time with my family and puppy, traveling
1. How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?
When I was four, I told my mother that I wanted to be a nurse. To this day I don’t know where the idea came from, because neither I nor anyone in my family had been sick or in need of medical care. When I graduated from high school, I went straight into a 4-year program and earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. I worked in a few different intensive care units in local hospitals and eventually returned to school to earn my Master of Science in Nursing with a focus on nursing education and my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Even after earning my DNP degree I wasn’t sure where I was going to take my career. I applied for a job at Chatham as a Clinical (Practice Experience) Coordinator and fell in love with nursing education. Nowhere in my life plans or on my career path did it ever occur to me that I wanted to teach nursing. Somehow I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse.
2. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
One summer break in high school I worked a temporary job doing filing, mailing, and a small amount of data entry. Every day, I reported to a woman who gave me my assignments. On several occasions, I would do them, and when I returned for more she would say “Why are you working so fast? Take your time. You’ll make the rest of us look bad.” I remember feeling very uneasy at this. Why do a job when I’m not going to do it to the best of my ability? Why waste time doing purposefully slow work? I learned that any job worth doing was worth doing well, and that anything less than my best effort was not good enough for me.
3. What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?
I mostly work with RN-BSN students—working adults who have completed an Associate or Diploma program and are now working towards a Bachelor degree in nursing. My students, by far, are my favorite part of my job. They are bright, motivated individuals who are making a difference in the lives of their patients but they don’t always realize how far they can go as individuals or how far they can take the profession. During the program, I see students grow and develop in ways that they didn’t even know they could and, by the end of the program, many realize they are the leaders I knew they could be. Often students reach out to me after graduation and ask for letters of recommendation because they are going on to even higher levels of education. Or students will reach out and tell me about new positions they are taking or endeavors they are conquering. I couldn’t be more proud!
4. What is your passion?
That’s a really hard question, especially because I don’t have just one passion. In nursing, I’m passionate about nursing education and hospice/end-of-life nursing. As a nurse educator I don’t currently work clinically at bedside. I feel that my job right now is to nurse nurses. Through my students, I touch a myriad of patients and by helping nurses be the best nurses they can be, I am improving the care patients receive.
Many people are afraid of death, understandably so, but I see death as a special time in life that none of us can avoid. I don’t believe anything will ever eliminate a person’s fear of death but, with proper care, the dying process can be greatly improved. Our country has a far way to go in making this a universal idea. I spend time learning about improvements in end-of-life care and sharing the knowledge I have in an effort to benefit patients and families facing end-of-life situations.
Outside of nursing I also have many passions; my most intense is probably for my family. I believe everyone should be the best version of himself or herself and I try to always give my all to those I love and care about.
5. What one individual had the greatest impact on you and how?
I don’t know that I could identify one individual that had the greatest impact on me. My father taught me the value of hard work and providing for your family. My mother taught me to be a strong woman and that anything is possible. My colleagues teach me how to continuously improve my teaching skills. My students are a constant source of inspiration. I truly can’t identify one individual as the most influential in my life.
Julie Slade is program coordinator and an assistant professor in Chatham’s Master of Science in Nursing Program. You may find her changing a tire on the weekends when she serves as her husband’s dirt track racing pit crew.
Name: Kristin Harty
Title: Chairperson/Program Director for Education
Joined Chatham: 2012
Born & Raised: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Interests: My children and their interests
How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?
When I was a teenager, I volunteered in The John Merck Unit at Western Psychiatric Hospital. That unit was specifically for children with dual diagnoses of an intellectual disability and mental health issue. I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I entered college, but had no idea that I could teach children with disabilities. As I was reviewing the advising sheet, one of the majors was special education! I knew then and there that I was going to be a special education teacher.
What makes teaching at Chatham special for you?
My colleagues from all departments make Chatham special. They always have the students’ best interests in mind. I enjoy working with everyone and am very grateful they are willing to help me, even if I ask the same question ten times!
What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?
They are the best part of my day! I love teaching! I enjoy getting to know students in and outside of the classroom. I love when they drop by and ask a question or just stop and chat.
What is your passion?
My passion is working to improve the lives of students with disabilities. I hope that I teach my students to treat people with disabilities with respect and to never place limitations on them. Allow them to reach for the stars, you just might have to take a different path to get there.
What one individual had the greatest impact on you and how?
My mom and dad! They are my biggest cheerleaders and they lead by example. They instilled the importance of education when I was young. My mom went to night school part time to get her BSN and we graduated together with our master’s degrees from the same university. It was very special having my mom right next to me during the commencement ceremony. My dad always said, “when you go to college“ (never if) and “once you get that degree, no one can take that away from you!” My parents’ love and support for me is what has led to my success.
Kristin Harty is an associate professor of Special Education in the Chatham University Education Department. She loves musicals where her children perform and work on stage crew and the whole family goes to see as many musicals as possible in Pittsburgh and New York.
Chatham Doctor of Physical Therapy alumna Nicole Stout (’98), DPT, CLT-LANA, FAPTA was the recipient of a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the highest award membership category in the APTA, with only 250 Fellows among the roughly 95,000 members. The Catherine Worthingham Fellow designation honors individuals whose contributions to the profession through leadership, influence, and achievements demonstrate frequent and sustained efforts to advance the physical therapy profession. The award was made based on the contributions that Nicole has made in changing the landscape of the physical therapist practice in cancer rehabilitation. A renowned health care researcher, consultant, educator, and advocate, she is the chief executive officer of 3e Services, an information technology consulting firm.
In a recent interview, Nicole gave Chatham University some insight about her Chatham and life experiences.
Q: What brought you to Chatham?
A: I had applied to a number of graduate programs for a master’s in physical therapy and the admissions were quite selective. I was wait-listed at Chatham and was accepted into other programs in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Chicago. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh so my desire was to stay in my hometown. So when I was accepted to Chatham, it was a definite for me.
Q: What is a typical day in the life of Nicole Stout?
Nothing is typical about my days. It is rare that I string together more than three or four days that are even similar. I might start my day on a call with the Chief Data Officer’s office at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA…yes, airplanes) to touch base on how our Enterprise Information Management project is running, review status of deliverables that my team is responsible for and discuss strategy for expanding the data management and data analytics services. I might then be running to the airport to catch a flight to…pretty much anywhere. Recently it’s been to Buenos Aires to speak at an International Rehabilitation Medicine Conference on a Global Initiative in Cancer Rehabilitation, Kansas City to teach a continuing education course on cancer rehabilitation, or Rockville, Maryland to participate on a health IT expert panel to talk about wearable sensors and personal health analytics on behalf of Zansors LLC, a start up company to which I provide Medical Affairs consulting services.
I’m usually working on several projects all around cancer rehabilitation, health IT and wearable technology, and various enterprise data strategies. As I move between client calls and meetings, delivering webinars, and writing, I am also pretty keen about keeping up with communication and engagement on Twitter (find me at @nicolestoutpt).
I might also be working, on a given day, on the family foundation that we established after the death of my father. Our memorial fund raises money to support community projects in Pleasant Hills and Jefferson Hills communities in southern Allegheny County. We are currently working to fund and kick off groundbreaking for a walking and fitness trail in my hometown of Pleasant Hills.
If it’s a really good day, I get to play 18 holes of golf with my ladies league or with my husband at our golf club in Sarasota, and the best days are when I am cooking dinner and sit down to have dinner at home with my husband and get to sleep in my own bed.
Q: How did your Chatham education inform your work today with your company 3eServices?
A: Interestingly, the Chatham influence was very indirect on the business that I am currently running. 3e Services is a technology consulting firm, helping clients solve their problems through better use of technology. The most important thing I learned at Chatham was how to hone my skills in problem solving. In fact, I might argue that there is no greater skill set.
I deal with the process problems and the problems are very similar regardless of whether we’re talking about airplane data, or patient co-morbidity data; people have a lot of data, they need to understand how to bring it all together, analyze it, and learn how to change operations or improve based on the findings.
This is what we do in Physical Therapy every day! We try to bring together all of the relevant data, analyze it and make improvements based on the findings. If we miss the relevant data, if we work from flawed assumptions, or if we fail to execute (or execute incorrectly) based on our findings, we don’t succeed. Being able to step back and really identify the problem and recommend ways to fix the root of the problem are how my learning at Chatham has informed my work today.
Q: What advice would you give to our current students or students considering starting their higher education at Chatham?
A: When I graduated from Chatham our commencement speaker gave us this message “Go For It”. I say that often when I speak to graduating classes. Go For It, do something different, create something, take a risk and go all in. Have the wherewithal and grit to do the unglamorous work because that is the only way people succeed and sustain success. You can get lucky once, maybe even twice, but a strong work ethic and an open, exploratory attitude will keep you on positive growth trajectory.
Q: What is the best advice or experience that you have gained that prepared you to do what you are doing now?
There has been a lot of good advice along the way, but my own personal advice to myself is always “There is never a reason to be mean. Ever”
But, I have to say that the best advice that I received came in the way of actions that I saw in my mentors. Senior researchers sitting on the floor with me at 9 p.m. on a Friday night going through medical charts in a data validation exercise because our back up computer crashed and we had to guarantee the data integrity (this was before everyone had a cloud and 15 forms of back up). How easy would it have been for them to walk out the door at 5:00 and leave me (the junior) with all of that work? I saw my research mentor asking thoughtful questions to a young researcher with very flawed results at a national conference presentation. How easy would it have been for her to slam this youngster for the inadequacies in his methodology? But they always took the time to do the right thing. The actions that I saw from my mentors are the behaviors that I have come to replicate and I am so grateful that I was exposed to such stellar experiences.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
A: Spend time with my husband is first and foremost on that list. We love every minute of every day together. I enjoy golf, yoga, travel, museums and breathtaking art, music…I can’t live without music. I love to cook as it’s almost therapeutic for me to cook at the end of a crazy long busy day. My paternal grandmother was Italian and taught me to make pasta, sauce, literally everything from scratch. Veggies came from our garden and wine was what she made in the basement.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: I think one of the most important things that I have learned about professional growth and success is to find way to find gratitude in all situations. Be grateful for opportunities that arise, appreciate that there was a really good reason that you chose not to take that job, even if you can’t fully put your finger on exactly why. Appreciate that not everything works out the way you want it to and that you don’t always win and you certainly don’t always get recognized. You have to be happy with your work and your choices and that has to come from within. Appreciating yourself and the hard work that you do is a huge first step in finding self-fulfillment. Until you love yourself and your work, it’s hard to truly appreciate much of anything else.
“I knew I wanted to start a business,” says recent Chatham graduate Allie Frownfelter, “but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Inspiration came little by little. In one of her sustainability classes, Frownfelter (who majored in Sustainability) was shocked by an image the class was shown. “It looked like a bunch of pixels on the screen,” she says, “but the professor said that it represented the number of plastic bottles that gets thrown out every second.”
Later, she overheard a woman expressing interest in starting a clothing line. Sustainable fashion was something that had interested Frownfelter, because it struck her as an untapped market, and because it tapped something inside of her.
“I wanted to study abroad after my bachelor’s degree, and have the least amount of clothing that could be turned into the widest array of outfits while I traveled,” she says.
“Say goodbye to wrinkles and ill-fitting shirts forever. Our sustainable blouses are constructed with a proprietary blend of fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. The high-quality fabric is UV protected, Anti-pilling, breathable, and moisture-wicking. You could comfortably wear this shirt backpacking, though it looks even better at the office, or writing at a coffee shop in Barcelona.” – from the Bottle Thread website
The idea of making a button-down shirt for women particularly resonated. “They’re often baggy, uncomfortable, and need to be ironed,” says Frownfelter. “I wanted to make a shirt that you could wear to work, while traveling—something that has that versatility.”
Frownfelter found a manufacturer in Southern California called Indie Source that offers a sustainable fabric partially made from recycled plastic bottles. Her sustainable clothing line—called Bottle Thread—will launch with a women’s shirt, a men’s shirt, and a dress. The clothing will be designed by Indie Source to Frownfelter’s specifications, and she will approve the fabric, cut, buttons, colors, and other elements of the clothing line. “It’s all online,” she says, “so other than the samples, I don’t have to touch anything.”
Frownfelter came to Chatham as a transfer student from Millersville, on the eastern side of Pennsylvania. “I just fell in love with the Sustainability program,” she says. “It starts by showing all these problems we have, but also introduces ways that we can start to fix them.”
She credits two courses in particular: Sustainable Transition Management and Sustainable Systems. “Those courses combined opened my mind to possibilities,” she says. “What they taught me was that things take time, and that you can change things incrementally.”
“You can start a business, change a system slightly, direct it into a new kind of way to go somewhere else. That’s what I’m doing with Bottle Thread.”
“During my last semester, I took a quantitative ecology class that focused on environmental statistics,” says Frownfelter. “I was never a math person, so I procrastinated taking that class. But the timing was perfect, because I was able to overcome my math inaptitude and actually create reliable projections for investors in Bottle Thread.”
Frownfelter was able to have her company dovetail nicely with her coursework: In her Design Praxis course, she developed a logo and brand identity for Bottle Thread. And her senior capstone project was the Bottle Thread business plan, written under the advisement of Assistant Professor of Sustainability and Business Thomas Macagno.
“The wrinkle free material saves customers on average $300 a year in dry cleaning and can be packed in your suitcase without worrying about finding an iron…. A single blouse reduces ocean and landfill pollution and is made from approximately 42 recycled bottles. Proudly made in the USA”. – from the Bottle Thread website
“I knew I was going to write a business plan anyway,” she says. “But having the opportunity to consolidate my work into an educational experience meant that I was able to focus more on how to make the company as sustainable as possible. I don’t think I would have been able to be this environmentally focused if I didn’t have such an incentive. Instead, I probably would have focused on creating the best quality product at the cheapest cost, virtually throwing out a lot of the values I learned through my degree for the sake of efficiency because it was easier. Consolidation of the two projects helped me merge my degree into my company, which is basically the new American Dream.”
Frownfelter is also working with the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham. The CWE has been helping her with marketing and connecting her to resources including networking events. As the business expands, Frownfelter expects that she’ll be able to take advantage of more services offered by the CWE, but their input has already proven valuable. “The idea to use bra sizes for the shirts was just an off-the-cuff comment made by someone at the CWE, but I think it is a fabulous idea so I am taking it and running with it,” she says.
Bottle Thread and Company is filed as a benefit LLC, which means that Frownfelter must file an annual report with the state explaining how Bottle Thread benefits people and/or the environment. “Being a benefit LLC allows my company to focus on things other than purely making money,” she says.
Frownfelter hopes to begin shipping on July 1. As of now, Bottle Thread items are likely to be available in white, black, and steel. And a Chatham purple.
Update: On November 7, 2017, Marita Garrett won the Wilkinsburg mayoral race. A longer version of this story appeared in the Spring 2017 ChathamRecorder.
In 2010, Marita Garrett bought a house in Wilkinsburg, PA, a borough of about 16,000 people, right outside Pittsburgh. “The taxes were super high, but I kept coming back because I really liked Wilkinsburg,” she says.
Three years later, the Department of Education put the Wilkinsburg school district on the financial watch list. Residents, including Garrett, took note.
Her first thought was to help another candidate. “There were four seats open on Borough Council,” she says. “I thought maybe I’d pass out flyers or host an event. But the second time I went to an interest meeting, I asked who was running for our ward, and saw eyes looking at me.”
“I started doing door to door, and realizing no information was getting to our residents. They didn’t even know Wilkinsburg was its own municipality; they thought it was part of the City of Pittsburgh. I thought now wait a minute, I need to stay in this full force, because this has to change.”
She was elected to Council in the fall of 2013, and began her term in January 2014.
Fall 2013 was also when she enrolled in Chatham’s Psychology program. “It made me a good listener, and good at figuring out where people are coming from. That’s come in more than handy in Council, when nine people all want the best thing for the community but have different ideas of what that looks like.”
On my first day of orientation, I saw the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics table and said I was just elected to Wilkinsburg council! They were like, ‘You have to come to our office! and I was like, Yes!’ It’s been a great relationship.”
In September 2014, Garrett launched a series of quarterly community conversations. In 2015, she co-founded Free Store Wilkinsburg, a nonprofit that redistributes new and lightly used goods at no cost to community members to bridge times of financial stress and emergency.
Why did Garrett decide to run for mayor? Wilkinsburg has a “weak mayor, strong council” form of government. That means that the vast majority of decisions are made by the Borough Council.
If it sounds like Council is where the power lies, that’s what Garrett thought, too. That’s why when her friend Austin David, executive assistant to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, asked her whether she’d ever considered running for mayor, she was skeptical.
But then Austin made a very good point: Braddock’s John Fetterman is also “just the mayor.”
“I was like, Wow, you know what? That’s right,” Garrett says. “Fetterman has really taken that role of a figurehead and spokesperson and used it to do so much for Braddock. He’s brought in concerts, events, all these exciting things. I thought ‘You know what, okay. I’m going to do this.’”
“It was always my plan to announce the day after the general election. Then Hillary lost, and I did take a day of reflection. I thought, should I even try to run? Then I thought no—we’re moving ahead. I officially announced my candidacy in January.”
Wilkinsburg’s mayoral general election will be held in November.