Showcase Volume 1, Issue 2

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Volume 1, Issue 2 - Spring 2024

"Highlighting Excellence in Action at the Dietrich School and CGS"

Spotlight: College of General Studies

The College of General Studies has long been committed to removing barriers that can prevent adult and other nontraditional students from accessing a Pitt education. One of the ways CGS meets this commitment is by providing flexible program options, including online learning.

Under the leadership of Boryana Dobreva, PhD, Director of Online Learning, a team of talented instructional designers create new online courses and redesign current in-person courses for effective online delivery.

Boryana called our attention to the work of one of those designers, Christopher Longo, who joined CGS in the summer of 2022. According to Boryana, Chris “has strengthened our expertise in instructional design and…been active publishing and presenting his work at conferences,” including the November 2023 Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education.

Check out one of Chris’s CGS instructional design videos and read his co-authored article on “Lightboard Lecture Pedagogy and Best Practices.”

Spotlight: First-Year Programs

The Office of First-Year Programs, located in the Dietrich School’s Undergraduate Studies Dean’s Office, works with first-year students to help them academically acclimate to college and ensures that they start their Pitt careers on a positive note. The unit—under the direction of Bianca DeJesus, EdD, and colleagues Russ Maiers, assistant director, and Rachel Clites, program coordinator—manages initiatives and activities including Academic Communities, Academic Foundations courses, and First-Year Seminars.

In 2023, the First-Year Programs, in partnership with the school’s Undergraduate Studies and CGS Dean’s Office, launched an awards program to recognize outstanding instructors of the Academic Foundations course. This year’s winner is Leslie Poljak, Outreach and Engagement Librarian in Pitt’s University Library System. Leslie has been a long-time partner and instructor for First-Year Programs.

Over the past several months, other members of the First-Year Programs’ team have celebrated important professional achievements. In December 2023, Rachel Clites graduated with her MSW from Pitt’s School of Social Work. And earlier this year, Bianca DeJesus presented at the 2024 Annual First-Year Experience Conference in Seattle, Washington. Her session was on first-year seminars and how they can be a more effective, high impact practice if cultural competency and equity are infused into the courses.

Learn more about First-Year Programs.

Spotlight: College in High School

The College in High School program launched more than 40 years ago with 16 high school students enrolled in an experimental college-level calculus class. This year, CHS had a yearly enrollment increase of over 15% and for the first time are exceeding 5,000 participating students. At the same time, teacher applications have almost doubled from last year, representing at least 10 new high schools.

Mike Giazzoni, who’s directed the program for more than 11 years, says that in the midst of this record growth, the CHS team—Jim Dutcher, associate director; Lesa Skukan, assistant director for academics and program coordinator for Accelerated High School; Matthew Solter, administrative coordinator; and, Linda Yurasits, program administrator—took on additional responsibilities, including working to improve the user experience by moving their online portal to the cloud and re-coding it.

According to Giazzoni, CHS provides more than $100,000 per year to students with financial need, making Pitt's high-quality classes available to all students who want to get a jump start on college. This makes CHS a vital part of the University’s commitment to community outreach.

Read more about CHS.

Spotlight: Department of Chemistry

As is the case with staff in many units throughout the Dietrich School and CGS, the team in the Department of Chemistry has experienced a lot of change during the past several months. Retirements, promotions, and new hiring have meant that people are routinely stepping into new and different responsibilities. In the midst of this exciting and shifting landscape, Lauren Zufall—who is herself new to her role as Administrative Officer in the department—singled out Josh Jones and Amber Travis for special recognition.

Amber was recently promoted to Chemistry Academic Operations Manager from her previous role as Administrative Assistant. In this managerial role, she has taken on new operational responsibilities, management of her administrative team, and support of the department chair. Despite the increased workload, Amber has continued to give support in areas above and beyond her assigned duties. According to Lauren, “Amber’s talent and work ethic, her good humor, and her amicable and confident personality have been critical to the success of the Chemistry Department during this time, and I consider her to be an absolute linchpin of the department.”

Josh Jones is the Chemistry Stockroom Manager and is responsible for administrating stockroom operations and managing a large team of student workers to staff the stockroom—a critical one as the labs rely on the stockroom to have the supplies ready to teach in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. In addition, Josh is responsible for training employees on and maintaining strict compliance with safety standards and procedures, and educating about and raising awareness about safety to the Chemistry department more broadly.  Offers Lauren, “He is reliable, knowledgeable, conscientious, and highly focused on the importance of his responsibilities at work.”

Spotlight: Department of Psychology

Research is an essential part of the University’s mission, but many people believe that it’s an area only faculty members contribute to. As Zak Hutchinson, manager of the Department of Psychology’s Behavioral Immunology Laboratory, knows, that’s just not the case.   Zak shared a special shout out to staff Laboratory Associates Emma Garris and Erin Reilly, who assisted Department of Psychology Professor Anna Marsland by finishing analyses for several large studies with high volumes of samples. 

This important work included organizing sample inventories, preparing samples for analysis, running Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and Ella analyses, and compiling and analyzing data. More recently, Emma and Erin have been involved in validating a hair cortisol extraction procedure that will be used across a majority of the lab’s upcoming studies, including thousands of samples in the future. Emma and Erin also routinely work closely with undergraduates, facilitating the students’ involvement in meaningful, mentored research activities.

Spotlight: Department of Theatre Arts

According to Ashley Martin, Administrative Officer for the Fine and Performing Arts, a number of the technical staff in the Department of Theatre Arts distinguish themselves with the work they do for the Dietrich School, and for the freelance professional contributions they make to productions and initiatives within and beyond the local arts community. By using their specialized training, these staff members not only keep their skills sharp, but provide wonderful examples for students in the department of the possible career options available to them once they graduate.

  • Costume Shop Assistant Manager Brittany Graham's design won Best Costumes for Unsinkable Movie at the Swedish International Film Festival.
  • Costume Shop Manager Ricky Campbell served as costume designer for the Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks' outdoor production of Cleopatra & Antony.
  • JC Bardzil, Technical Director, was the electrician for The Shona Sharif African Drum and Dance Ensemble’s 2023 Black Nativity production
  • Production Director Hadley Armstrong was the production manager and production stage manager for a small world-wide touring play called Dedication. She’s been advancing the show into different venues, load in and load out, and calls cues during live performances. In February 2024 the show was produced Brussels, Belgium and Berlin, Germany.

Milestones: Dietrich IT

  • Amy Wildman, Director of Data Analytics/Technology Solutions, reports that it’s been a year of personal and professional milestone for her team.
  • Kristy Bodnar, Application Support Analyst, took over editorship of the IT Weekly newsletter and helped launch the school’s inaugural Techstravaganza last summer.
  • Data Analytics Manager Andrew Hornyak completed his MBA at the Katz School of Business.  He also oversaw the successful migration of Planning and Analytics to the Cloud.
  • Linda Huchber started a new position as Payroll Finance Manager that combines her unique knowledge and expertise of Payroll Finances and her abilities to provide valid, reliable reporting to build the tools necessary to do payroll finance analysis.
  • Nikolai Norona, Enterprise Systems Analyst, climbed his first V8 boulder this year. He also updated the tools in DASH to make development and support more streamlined.


  • Val Chavis was recognized by the University in 2023 as an unsung hero of Black resistance. Chavis is service and outreach coordinator and early childhood community collaborative coordinator at the Center for Parents and Children, a program of the Dietrich School’s Department of Psychology. She came to Pitt after nearly two decades of working at regional social service agencies and has helped lead the University’s efforts to connect families with resources and programs around the region. Her knowledge of the Pittsburgh social services ecosystem benefits both residents and providers involved in the Center.

Staff on the Move

  • Congratulations to the following Dietrich School and CGS staff members who were promoted between July 1, 2023 and March 5, 2024:

Department of Biological Sciences

  • Deanna Wolkiewicz, Office Manager
  • Olivia Phillips, Research Project Manager
  • Swagatika Bhattacharya, Lab Prep Coordinator
  • Abigail Velasquez, Lab Research Technician III
  • Sarah Reilly, Lab Manager
  • Chapin Czarnecki, Lab Research Technician III
  • Alexandra Syunkova, Lab Research Technician III
  • Leonardo Teixeira Viotti, Lab Research Technician III

Department of Chemistry

  • Amber Travis, Academic Program Manager
  • Andromeda Hancock, Academic Assistant
  • Sharon Mansfield, Academic Administrator
  • Darlene Lanz, Fiscal Manager

Department of Neuroscience

  • Patricia Reagan, Senior Staff Advisor
  • Aparna Nigam, Data Scientist
  • Jude Baroudi, Lab Research Technician III
  • Lihua Ming, Lab Research Technician III
  • Michael Ferrone, Lab Research Technician II

Department of Physics and Astronomy

  • Michele Slogan, Operations Manager

Department of Psychology

  • Bobbie Hall, Multi-Site Project Coordinator

Office of the Dean

  • Monika Losagio, Associate Director for Academic Operations and Administration
  • Emma Wallace-Potts, Administrative Coordinator
  • Lisa Shartle, Assistant Director of Payroll and Personnel
  • Cody Fetters, Assistant Director of Payroll and Personnel
  • Cathleen Williams, Staff Affairs Assistant Director
  • Linda Howard, Senior Director for Academic Operations and Administration
  • Jeremiah McKain, Construction Project Manager
  • James Griffin, Equity and Community Engagement Director

Office of Veterans Services

  • Kameron Langston, Veterans Benefits Supervisor

Staff Support, Division of Humanities

  • Ashley Martin, Administrative Officer

Staff Support, Division of Social Sciences

  • Margaret Caruso, Senior Academic Coordinator
  • Samantha McClelland, Financial Assistant
  • Kathleen Palmieri, Academic Operations Manager

Undergraduate Studies/College in High School

  • Matthew Solter, Administrative Coordinator
  • Michael Giazzoni, Director
  • Lesa Skukan, Assistant Director for Academics
  • James Dutcher, Associate Director