University of Pittsburgh
April 14, 2005

University of Pittsburgh Commencement Story Ideas


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh 2005 Commencement Convocation will take place at 1 p.m. May 1 in Pitt's Petersen Events Center. The following story tips reflect the diversity of Pitt's graduating senior class:

Pitt Graduate Invited to Present Paper at Conference in Senegal

As nontraditional student Benita Johnson prepares to graduate with the Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration, she finds herself in a place far from her inner-city upbringing in Washington D.C., where she unexpectedly became the head of her household at age 14. She was left to care for her younger siblings after both her parents died within six months of each other. Later, she moved to Pittsburgh to live with her grandmother and obtained her GED, associate's degree, and now, at age 46, her Pitt degree. A paper she wrote on the historic role of Blacks in foreign policy caught the attention of organizers of the Fifth Annual Conference on Public Management and Policy Development in Dakar, Senegal, where she will present her findings in June. Johnson can be reached at 412-414-3038 or

Where Are the "Hot Jobs" for Pitt Graduates?

Careers in public service became the focus of a recent all-day information session at Pitt, sponsored by the College of General Studies (CGS). Participants gathered to hear about job possibilities in government agencies and nonprofit organizations, two fields generating a "tremendous number" of openings, according to a study by the Partnership for Public Service. Pitt's Office of Career Services reports significant activity in accounting and the teaching market. For an interview on what fields Pitt graduates are drawn to in 2005, call Dean Julian in CGS at 412-624-1550 or Marvin Roth in Career Services at 412-648-7127.

Social Work Student Finds Satisfaction in Leading "Save Our Transit"

Amanda Zeiders, 23, never imagined that she would find herself in the heat of a very public battle to prevent fare hikes and service cuts by the Port Authority of Allegheny County. What began as a required internship for her Bachelor of Arts degree in social work turned out to be her top job prospect. In December, Zeiders was elected chair of the three-year-old independent advocacy group "Save Our Transit," which last month successfully campaigned for $25.3 million in state funds to halt fare hikes and service cuts proposed for 2005. The organization, under Zeiders' leadership, has now refocused its energies on obtaining permanent funding for public transportation. As the "Save Our Transit" Web site ( notes, "We're not out of the woods yet," and Zeiders is blazing a trail with the hopes of providing affordable, reliable service to public transit commuters. Zeiders can be reached at 716-450-1159 or

Pitt's Macedonia "Campus" Graduates First Class

Less than 14 years after declaring its independence from Yugoslavia, the Republic of Macedonia is still in its infancy as a sovereign nation, and, as one might expect, it is still experiencing growing pains. The University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of International and Public Affairs is educating the country's next generation of leaders through its Graduate Center for Public Policy and Management, which will graduate its first class of 16 professionals on May 28, in Skopje, Macedonia. The first graduating class includes a unit head and a technical assistant from the Ministry of Finance of Macedonia, a project manager from the World Bank (who is the class valedictorian), the head and two staff members from Macedonia's Unit of Public Administration Reform, teachers, a journalist, and an adviser to the mayor of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. For more information about the program or to interview some of its graduates, contact John Fedele at 412-624-4148 or

Research and Religion No Contradiction for Pitt Graduate,

Who Plans to Attend Medical School

Graduating senior Kahleb (Kah-LEEB) Graham doesn't see any inconsistency between faith and science. A religious studies major from Prince George's County, Maryland, who plans to study medicine, Graham has spent his time at Pitt both singing in the University's gospel choir and doing research on endocrinology and oncology. Graham, who will be one of the first men in his family to graduate from college, has served as a math tutor for sixth graders at Rodman Baptist Church, a FOCUS mentor, and a college mentor for inner-city youth at Peabody High School. He also spent a spring break in Detroit public schools, teaching students in grades

K-12 alternatives to violence as part of the Save Our Sons and Daughters Program. Immediately following graduation, the University Challenge Scholar and member of the Golden Key International Honor Society plans to serve in the Teach for America Program for two years before attending medical school, possibly at Pitt. To set up an interview with Graham, contact Karen Hoffmann at 412-624-4356 or