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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.

Federal Grant Gets Health Sciences Students Asking the Right Questions

Student interviewing patient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physical therapy students and local women amputees assist each other

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Star students on campus at Chatham University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It gives you something important to do.”

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

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

Alumna profile: Rita Armstrong, DNP ’14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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