University of Pittsburgh
August 5, 2008

Science Education, the Merits of Full-Day Kindergarten, and a New "Wall Street Simulator" Highlight Pitt's Back-to-School Story Ideas

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh fall academic term begins Aug. 25. Following are ideas for back-to-school articles, ranging from a new Wall Street-style financial trading simulator in Pitt's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business to the School of Information Sciences' effort to launch a telecommunications graduate program at the University of Pristina. Also included are initiatives that highlight Pitt's outreach to the Pittsburgh community.

New Financial Trading Room Simulator Prepares Students for Wall Street

The University's Katz School has added a key tool to its experience-based learning curriculum: a new state-of-the-art financial laboratory. The lab-featuring a financial trading simulator, stock tickers, tote display boards, 58 computer stations, live news feeds, and classroom space-provides students with real-time stock market data and access to faculty who are seasoned in global financial markets. Shawn Thomas, a Katz associate professor of business administration, says the lab will allow students to develop the competencies they'll need for careers in finance. Contact Amanda Leff at 412-624-4238 (office), 412-337-3350 (cell), or

New, Outside-the-Classroom Curriculum

Beginning this fall, the University of Pittsburgh will introduce the Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC), a Universitywide initiative that includes a structured series of extracurricular programs and experiences designed to complement students' academic studies. OCC will engage participating students in a curriculum that focuses on nine key areas: leadership development, career preparation, communication skills, healthy lifestyle, understanding diversity, a sense of self, community participation, appreciation for the arts, and service to others. Students who complete the OCC requirements will receive an Outside the Classroom Curriculum "transcript" that will document their participation in the events and programs of their choice; they also will receive a green cord of distinction to wear at commencement. Contact Trish White at 412-624-9101 (office), 412-215-9932 (cell), or

Building the Balkans: Pitt's School of Information Sciences to Help Create Telecommunications Program at Kosovo University

Pitt's School of Information Sciences (SIS) will contend with Kosovo's volatile politics and battered infrastructure during a three-year, $450,000 project to help construct and launch a telecommunications graduate program at the University of Pristina, the Balkan nation's major university. The curriculum would provide a source for the ideas and experts the nation needs to rebuild its infrastructure. Beginning this semester, SIS faculty members will train one Pristina professor each year in the SIS telecommunications lab and help the visiting professors shape the experience into a curriculum. Next summer, Pitt will help oversee the construction of a similar lab in Pristina, with plans for the first Kosovar students to enroll in the two-year program in fall 2009. The third year will be spent evaluating and fine-tuning the program. The fledging country's lack of infrastructure will challenge the project-power outages are common, modern technology sparse, and Internet access sporadic. But local academic and political leaders see the promise for job creation and economic independence in closing the nation's technology gap. "If they want to be competitive in today's world, there is no other choice, and they understand that," said Martin Weiss, the project's codirector and SIS' associate dean and an associate professor. Regional experts in Pitt's Center for Russian and East European Studies (REES)-chaired by Pitt anthropology professor Robert Hayden, the project's other codirector-will help SIS navigate Kosovo's complex cultural, linguistic, and political channels. Weiss may be contacted at 412-624-9430 (office) or, or through Morgan Kelly at 412-624-4356 (office), 412-897-1400 (cell), or

How Middle School Students Learn Science

Christian Schunn, research scientist at Pitt's Learning Research and Development Center and an associate professor of psychology, learning sciences and policy, and intelligent systems at Pitt, is one of a group of scientists who were awarded a $10 million grant to study how middle school students learn science. Using his expertise on cognition and learning, Schunn, with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education, will investigate and work to improve science curricula in 180 schools in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. The goal is to excite middle school students about science with the hope that more of them will seek careers in the sciences. Schunn is available at, or through Trish White at 412-624-9101 (office), 412-215-9932 (cell), or

Full-Day vs. Half-Day Kindergarten-Which Is More Beneficial?

Full-day kindergarten programs continue to be popular throughout the country, but parents may wonder: How beneficial are they? A new Pitt study published in the journal "Child Development" suggests that full-day kindergarten promotes academic achievement and those children have slightly better reading and math skills than children in part-day kindergarten. However, those initial academic benefits diminish early in elementary school. The study's lead author, assistant professor of psychology Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, is available to discuss her research at 412-624-8365 (office) or, or through Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office), 412-277-6926 (cell), or

Historic Preservation New Focus in Pitt's Architectural Studies Program

Using the city's aging buildings and historic architecture as a virtual textbook, students in Pitt's Architectural Studies Program will get hands-on training this academic year in historic preservation. A new undergraduate six-credit, 12-week course-Documentation and Conservation Studio-will instruct students on how to use records to trace a building's ownership, determine the condition of a structure, and explore the building's development over the years. The course is part of a new focus on historic preservation at Pitt and gives undergraduate students a taste of what it would be like to study the field at the master's degree level. This summer, Pitt architecture students spent weeks at the Henry J. Lynch mansion in Bloomfield as part of the course; they drafted a Historic Structure Report that is being used in an effort to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places. Drew Armstrong, the director of Pitt's Architectural Studies Program, may be reached at 412-648-2404 (office) or 412-657-4311 (cell), or through Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office), 412-277-6926 (cell), or

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 youngsters for their first day of school and how parents can learn to "let go" so that their children will have a more successful educational experience. Tittnich has presented seminars and written about parent-child separation and school-readiness for young children. She has taught preschool and kindergarten and has trained teachers who are working with this age group. Tittnich is available at 412-244-5364, or through Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office), 412-277-6926 (cell), or

OIS "International" Shuttle

Pitt's Office of International Services (OIS) is offering personalized shuttle service from the Pittsburgh International Airport for its incoming international students, from volunteers greeting new arrivals at the gate to Pitt staff and volunteers waiting in the baggage area with bottled water. "It's unusual for a school as large as Pitt to provide this service," OIS director David Bryan Clubb said. "Hopefully, this will put students at ease and help them realize that they can come to us when issues arise." Janine S. Fisher, OIS assistant director for international programming and public relations, coordinates the program. She may be reached at 412-624-7621 (office) or, or through Trish White at 412-624-9101 (office), 412-215-9932 (cell), or

Two Local Teachers Learn to Use American Music to Teach Course Subjects at Pitt Summer Institute

Two area teachers were among the 25 instructors from across the country who convened at Pitt for five weeks this summer for the Voices Across Time institute. The teachers learned how to teach a variety of class subjects through American music. The institute faculty of musicologists, historians, and performers provided the participants with the materials and techniques necessary to use American music as a teaching tool for civics, language arts, or other courses. The two local teachers-from the Pittsburgh and West Allegheny school districts-plan to use the new techniques in the classroom this fall. To contact them or the coordinators of Voices Across Time, contact Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office), 412-277-6926 (cell), or