Chatham University

Chatham Views



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.

Campus Message from President Finegold

Dear Chatham Community,

Yesterday an article was published on by a recent Chatham graduate and Public Source intern that focused on self-injury policies and procedures at Chatham and other universities.

Due to the nature of the article, which involved three former Chatham students (whose names were changed for the article), Chatham chose not to comment in specifics in order to respect and comply with privacy requirements for these and other students at Chatham. After reviewing the article, the University believes that it contains information that has been taken out-of-context and mischaracterizes the environment at Chatham.

Mental health is an issue of great importance to me and to all of Chatham, including the staff and faculty across the University dedicated to our students’ safety and well-being.  Our priority is, and continues to be, ensuring students get the help they need in a supportive and caring environment when dealing with self-injury and mental illness.  Most importantly, I want to stress for those students who are dealing with mental health issues, please know that our Counseling Services department and response team are here to support and help you, not to discipline you. I hope that you will reach out to them at any time you feel the need.

In support of this priority, I have asked today for the creation of a task force to undertake a review of our current policy language and procedures to identify if there are areas where we can improve. The task force will include:

  • Deanna Hamilton, Assistant Professor in our Counseling Psychology Department;
  • Sharon Novalis, Assistant Professor in our Occupational Therapy Department, who led the campus-wide initiative to partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention earlier this year;
  • Elsa Arce, Director for Counseling Services;
  • Zauyah Waite, VP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students;
  • Other key staff and department liaisons

This task force will build on Chatham’s ongoing efforts to support students including the hiring earlier this year of another licensed psychologist for Counseling Services and additional wellness and mental health resources available to students across campus. Following the review of the task force, we will communicate their findings and recommendations accordingly.


David Finegold

Campus Message on Charlottesville

Dear Chatham Community,

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.


David Finegold


President Finegold’s Statement on Immigration Executive Order

Dear Chatham Community,

On Friday, the Trump administration signed an executive order on immigration that (among other things) suspended the entry of citizens from seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—to the United States for at least the next 90 days.  Over the weekend, the effects of this order were immediately felt with individuals and families being prevented from boarding flights, denied entry at airports, and stranded abroad.

While the order has already been challenged in court, we remain acutely aware of its potential impact on members of our community, and I have directed our Office of International Affairs (OIA) to reach out to affected students and faculty in order to provide assistance. I also encourage anyone planning to travel outside of the US from one of the affected countries to contact OIA before making any travel plans.

Our country was founded as a nation of immigrants, and embracing global education and “respect for diversity of culture” is a core part of Chatham’s mission.  I join with the many other leaders of higher education, business and technology companies, and religious denominations who have questioned this decision and signal our support for the value that international students, faculty, and visitors have brought to our communities. We share the desire for our country to develop an immigration policy that balances protecting national security while avoiding discrimination against individuals and harming our nation’s industries, including higher education. In fact, Canada, this year’s Global Focus country, has embraced such a policy, and I hope that our students and faculty are able to delve into this as part of the North American Higher Education Forum we will be hosting in April of this year.

As we look for positive ways forward, I encourage our students, faculty and staff to embrace another core part of Chatham’s mission: to be “informed and engaged citizen in one’s communities.”  There are so many issues where we can and already are having a positive impact.  Whether by learning more on the issues, volunteering, building community partnerships, or working together to advocate for policy changes, we can make a difference working together.  Whatever your opinion or however you choose to get involved, let us all do so in the spirit of the shared values that drive our University.

We will continue to monitor closely this rapidly evolving situation and do all we can to keep people informed and to support all members of the Chatham community.

Most sincerely,


David Finegold



interview with Chatham President David Finegold, DPhil


On July 1, 2016, David L. Finegold, DPhil, became the 19th president in Chatham’s 147-year history. Dr. Finegold has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education as a researcher, author, professor, academic dean, senior vice president and chief academic officer. Read more about Dr. Finegold and the presidential search process here

A renowned scholar and educational innovator, Dr. Finegold has dedicated his career to education reform, the design of high-performance organizations, and extensive research on education and skill-creation systems around the world. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1985, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he received his DPhil in Politics in 1992.

CG: Dr. Finegold, thank you for your time today. Can you tell me what your first impressions of Chatham were?

DF: They’ve been wonderful, really. First, I’m so impressed by the different campuses, the beauty of the historical Shadyside Campus, the arboretum, the tremendous architecture, and then the exciting new Eastside location, right next to Google in this growing high-tech part of the city. Then to get out to Eden Hall and see the huge promise there and the excitement of being the first campus of its kind in the country, maybe the world, as a home for the Falk School of Sustainability is just great.

The second thing is the people. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly, from the trustees to the faculty to the students I’ve met. It feels like it will be an extremely welcoming community for myself and for Sue to come to.

The third thing is the level and rate of innovation. I’ve already learned about “Chatham Time” and been impressed by the number of things that the University’s been able to accomplish and how quickly they’ve been done. Having been at big universities like Rutgers and USC, the idea of transforming the whole structure of the university, going coed, changing gen-ed requirements, all at the same time, are things we still would have been planning at those universities, much less having done them all at once. I’m very impressed by that level of taking things on.

I see my role in these first few years as less about charting major new changes in direction than about seeing through some of those key things that have been initiated so that we can really capitalize on those. ”

CG: What was it about Chatham that attracted you to this position?

DF: Certainly all the things I just mentioned were big attractors. That willingness to take on new challenges and to continually innovate is a real fit with the things I’ve done in my career. The other thing I liked about Chatham is that I’ve always thought that if I had the opportunity to lead a college or university, I’d like to do it at a place the size of Chatham, where it’s possible to get to know all of the faculty and staff and to get to really interact with the students. At a large university these days that’s very hard for a president to do.

CG: Looking back at your career, what experiences would you say have best prepared you to be president at Chatham?

DF: I’ve had a chance throughout my career to focus on promoting inclusion, access, and true equality for students of all types. For example, when I led the School for Management and Labor Relations, we were one of the national leaders on issues around diversity. We had a Center for Women and Work, and we were the host of the Gender Parity Council, which was an innovative organization that New Jersey set up to try to ensure things like equal pay for equal work.

At Rutgers, Douglass College went coed, and we had a lot of the same concerns that I know many students and alumnae have had here at Chatham. I’ve been able to hear those very legitimate concerns but also to see the huge benefits for young women that came about thanks to that transition and the fact that we could still be known as a place that’s a champion for gender equality and for looking at issues around women in all aspects of work. I think we can do the very same things here.

“One of the things I hope we’ll be doing at Chatham is focusing on lifelong learning, opportunities for people to engage with us and find that they can continually refresh themselves.”

CG: What do you see as the top priorities for your first year?

DF: I see my role in these first few years as less about charting major changes in direction than about seeing through some of those key things that have been initiated so that we can capitalize on those. I would say there are three or four that are top on my list. One would be realizing the sustainability vision, and particularly finding the best ways to get the Eden Hall Campus to critical mass. So finding the best ways to do that, working with everyone to figure out the academic vision and how we get the resources for it — that will be one of the key things.

The second one is seeing through the reorganization of the Schools and undergrad education, completing the implementation of the new gen ed curriculum and the Chatham Plan; helping each of the Schools to realize its potential; and working with the faculty to put all that in place.

A third area where I think I can immediately add value is expanding the numbers of international students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Chatham has had a long history of being an international institution with the Global Focus program and creating opportunities for students and faculty to go abroad, but I think in terms of diversity of the student body there’s still a great deal of opportunity to add to that.

And the final thing is around engagement with our undergraduate alumnae and graduate alumni. I’d like to get out to meet, visit, and talk with them. How can we serve our alumni better? How we can help someone be a mentor, offer an internship, hire a graduate, or connect people to an issue they’re passionate about – say sustainability, or health and wellness, where Chatham has so many exciting things going on?

CG: What do you consider to be the role of higher education today?

DF: That’s a big question. I believe that anybody, regardless of financial circumstance, ought to have the ability to go to their best-fit college or university, and as they benefit throughout their career, they can pay that back. Having a degree in today’s knowledge economy is increasingly the minimum you need for a successful career, and we’re seeing that it’s not enough to get that first degree; you’re probably going to have to go back over the course of your life to get another degree or perhaps shorter continuing education. One of the things I hope we’ll be doing at Chatham is focusing on lifelong learning, opportunities for people to engage with us and find that they can continually refresh themselves.