University of Pittsburgh
August 6, 2007

Back-To-School Story Ideas

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The following University of Pittsburgh staff and faculty are available for comment on these back-to-school story ideas:

Interaction Amongst Teachers

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business faculty members Carrie R. Leana, professor of business administration, and Frits K. Pil, associate professor of business administration and research scientist, recently completed research on student achievement in mathematics in New York City public schools. The results indicate interaction amongst teachers has a bigger impact on student achievement than does teaching skills and experience. Leana and Pil received the Sloan Industry Studies Best Paper Prize in April for a similar study in the Pittsburgh public schools. (

Contact Amanda Leff: 412-624-4238 (office); 412-337-3350 (cell);

Helping Children and Parents Avoid Back-to-School Jitters

The first day of school can be exciting but nerve-wracking for some children and more than a few parents. Emie Tittnich, child development specialist in Pitt's Office of Child Development, is available to discuss a range of topics relating to preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school students, including how to prepare little ones for their first day of school and how parents can learn to "let go" so that their youngster will have a more successful educational experience. Tittnich has presented seminars and written about parent-child separation, school readiness, and adjustment for young children. She has taught both preschool and kindergarten, and has trained teachers in working with this age group. Tittnich is available at 412-244-5364, or contact Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office); 412-657-0217 (cell);

Zebrafish Go Back to School(s)

Zebrafish are a universal model for vertebrate development because of how quickly they reproduce. Beth Roman in Pitt's Department of Biological Sciences studies the development of zebrafish vascular systems at the embryonic stage that result in circulation problems later in life, including congestive heart failure and stroke (from veins without capillaries). Roman's work is among the first to study how vascular problems form at the molecular level. The research could allow for better understanding of how these conditions form through errors in vessel formation. It also could lead to development of therapies to inhibit or enhance blood vessel growth in the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular obstructive diseases, respectively. Roman's new lab opened in late July and will be open to undergraduate students when the school year begins. Contact Morgan Kelly: 412-624-4356 (office); 412-897-1400 (cell);

Pitt's Computer Science Department Revamps the "Geek" Image; Diversifies Student Body to Satisfy Broad Demand for Techs

Pitt's Computer Science department (CS) is shedding its "geek" image for one centered on creativity. A batch of new freshmen and upper-level courses veer from the standard programming and systems-building curriculum toward interactive activities such as digital animation and Web page building. Behind the revamp is the high demand for tech workers in every sector of society, from communications to gaming, from Hollywood to Wall Street. To fill the variety of positions, CS wants to attract a variety of students-particularly women and underrepresented minorities. CS is emphasizing the creative potential of computer sciences to attract this broader spectrum of students. At the same time, the department is designing study tracks that will delve into specific occupational fields, such as retail or finance. Contact Morgan Kelly: 412-624-4356 (office);

412-897-1400 (cell);

Nontraditional Students Head Back to School

Young people aren't the only ones headed back to campus this fall. More than 700 non-traditional students, age 55 and older, take courses offered through Pitt's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). For the first time this fall, OLLI courses will be offered at the Monroeville ExpoMart as well as on Pitt's Oakland campus. These students pay $100 a term to take courses that range from wine tasting or Brazilian music to a study of antique furniture or Pittsburgh streetcars. In addition, OLLI students may audit two regular Pitt undergraduate courses a term. What are these older Pitt students getting out of their education? How does it feel to sit in class alongside 20-year-olds? OLLI director Judi Bobenage is available for interviews at 412-624-7072, and she can make some OLLI students available as well. Contact Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office); 412-657-0217 (cell);