- Our City/Our Campus
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The University of Pittsburgh’s homecoming is a time to celebrate reunions, make new connections and honor traditions new and old. In 2021, the Pitt Alumni Association (PAA) put a new spin on a cherished custom by rebranding the phrase “Homecoming court” to the “Spirit of Pitt.”
The effort is a gender-neutral academic award for two students chosen from a group of juniors and seniors who meet specific criteria, including exhibiting academic excellence, engaging in community service and embodying the values of the PAA.
Bea Amsalu and George Barakat received the 2022 Spirit of Pitt Award during halftime at the homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 8. After receiving the most votes from their peers, they each earned the Spirit of Pitt Award and $1,500 in student resource funds.
We asked the nominees why they chose Pitt, the legacy they hope to leave, their favorite places and professor and tips for stress management, since this is Pitt’s Year of Emotional Well-Being.
Bea Amsalu (2022 award recipient)
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Major: Neuroscience major with a chemistry minor in the Dietrich School
Amsalu is in the Rho Psi Eta Pre-Health sorority, Blue and Gold Society, Pitt Alumni Student Network and Pitt Medical Brigades. Regarding her Pitt legacy, she hopes those she’s encountered remember her fondly “as ‘that girl who lived on my floor freshman year [who] was cool,’ or ‘Bea my spin instructor [who] was so welcoming and upbeat!’ or ‘the girl that lent me a pen in class one day [who] was nice to me.’ I have so many little fond memories of people I’ve met throughout my Pitt experience, so I hope that I’ve made an impact like that on at least one person along the way.”
Her favorite professor is neuroscience teaching associate professor Erika Fanselow who guided her through a challenging time.
“Last spring, I was kind of feeling apathetic towards my major and was considering switching from neuroscience, but Dr. Fanselow’s Functional Neuroanatomy class made me fall in love with the sciences again. She is super kind and appreciative when her students put in the effort and engage in class, and I was always excited to come to her class. I’m currently an undergraduate teaching assistant for her.”
Hometown: Murrysville, Pennsylvania
Major: Finance and business information systems with certificates in business analytics and leadership and ethics in the College of Business Administration
Anderson said growing up just 25 minutes from the Pittsburgh campus ensured the University held a special place in her heart.
“I grew up making memories playing on the playground in Schenley Park, exploring the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, rooting for Pitt basketball and football, and even had my dentist appointments right here in Oakland for my entire life,” she said. When the time came to apply for colleges, she said she “fell in love with Pitt for an entirely new reason: the people and opportunities on campus. Although I considered other schools, my Pitt campus tour gave me an unmatched feeling of excitement and passion. I also loved the idea of going to a school near the city for career purposes and endless things to do. Coming here was the best decision I’ve made.”
Anderson is the co-founding president of Empower, an organization open to all female-identifying Pitt students, a spin instructor and a Pitt Business professional development consultant. She calls Mervis Hall her “happy place” on campus. “Not only do I love running into my classmates, former professors and best friends there, but I also enjoy studying in the basement cafe, Bottom Line Bistro, because of the cozy atmosphere,” she said. “Mervis Hall is also the building my parents met in the 1980s!”
Hometown: Leonia, New Jersey
Major: Film and business honors dual major in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
This Pitt Tonight executive producer, Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity brother and Student Government Board communications team member fell in love with Pitt at 11 years old after his older sister chose to attend.
Regarding his Pitt legacy, Asciutto said: “As a film student, I hope I am able to serve as an example to future students that a career from Pitt in arts and entertainment is absolutely attainable,” adding that much of his success is due to the support of film and media studies professor Dana Och — and his use of checklists to manage stress.
"What helps me is keeping a written list of everything I am stressed about rather than having it be just a feeling clouding over me. By identifying what it is, I know how to tackle it."
George Barakat (2022 award recipient)
Hometown: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Major: Bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering
After a year at a local community college, Barakat knew he wanted to go to a four-year institution and chose Pitt, which he described as his “perfect match” for its size, diverse community and bioengineering program.
The transfer student wasted no time getting involved in the Pitt community and is the vice president of the Middle Eastern and North African Student Association and the Lebanese Student Association. He is also part of the Biomedical Engineering Society, Students for Sustainability, Lebanese Student Organization and French Club. He was president of Panther and K. Leroy Irvis Halls.
“I want to leave my mark as an ambitious and involved student that gained a lot from being at Pitt and saw the multitude of opportunities available," he said. "I hope to positively impact every individual I’ve met or will meet here. I want to be remembered as the guy everywhere on campus, who sees every place on campus as his home,” which includes his favorite study spot – the fourth floor of Hillman Library for the peace and productivity it permits.
Hometown: Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Pitt checked every box of the “dream college checklist” for this Pitt Pathfinder, Patient Care Technician at UPMC Children’s Hospital, member of the Nursing Student Association, Pitt Dance Marathoner and the Board of Dean’s advisor for the School of Nursing.
Regarding his favorite professor, he couldn’t pick one. “My favorite instructor at Pitt is all my clinical instructors in the School of Nursing,” said Giangrasso. “The clinical faculty at Pitt are among some of the most qualified health care professionals and have made me feel prepared for the career path ahead of me. My clinical instructors continue to impact me the most as they continue to exemplify determination, ambition, skill, intelligence and continue to navigate the unknown. With many of my instructors being graduate students who also work as registered nurses, I am continually impressed with their dedication to our University, my education and the continuous improvement of the health care industry.”
Regarding stress management, he shared this: “As someone who takes anxiety and mental health awareness seriously, Pitt’s Year of Emotional Well-Being could not have come at a better time, especially in view of the past two years. Stress management is something I incorporate into my daily schedule and helps keep me grounded and reminds me to treat myself with kindness. Keeping in touch with my friends and family, both near and far, allows me to realize that I am truly never alone and there is a support system behind me. With the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in 2020, health care dramatically changed as I entered the industry and my first clinical rotation. Now, I remind myself of the impact my actions have on the patients and families I care for to motivate me to become a better care provider. As I continue to stress about the future, I set aside time to allow myself to enjoy life outside of work and academics. Whether I’m competing (or rather losing) in intramural volleyball, playing video games or with my friends, I try to take life one day at a time!”
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Major: Industrial engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering
Goodwin is a member of Pitt’s Incline Consulting Group, Society of Women Engineers, Empower and a campus ambassador for Bumble and Samsung.
She transferred to Pitt in January 2020 after careful consideration. “I was very intentional with my decision, as I wanted to go to a school where I could dive into the community and feel/create a sense of belonging. From the first day I stepped on Pitt’s campus, I felt nothing but inclusion from peers and faculty. Within two months of touring Pitt, I packed up my life in Canada and moved to Pittsburgh!”
On what she hopes for Pitt in the next 20 years, she said she wants to “see the continued growth and empowerment of students. One specific hope is that the presence of women be increased to 50% across all engineering departments.” Her own legacy she wants to leave behind? Make people feel seen and heard and ensure equity and access to opportunities at Pitt.
Brian Hand, Jr.
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Major: Pre-med in the Dietrich School
Hand chose to join the Pitt community to be around great academic scholars, well-rounded individuals and for the change of pace Pittsburgh offered.
He’s a member of Phi Gamma Delta, Order of Omega, Hippocrates Med Review, National Alliance on Mental Illness at Pitt, Hooligans, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Pitt’s undergraduate chapter of the American Medical Student Association, Sports Talk, Pitt Alumni Student Network, American Chemical Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Street Medicine.
As for spots on campus, Hand said he enjoys spending time on the Cathedral Lawn. “Being able to sit outside doing work or playing spike ball has allowed me to create some good memories there,” he said.
On tips for stress management, Hand offered two: “My two top stress management tips are having time for myself and creating a schedule. Keeping yourself organized and on a schedule makes it easier to manage whatever you have going on. Also, having some time during the day to work out, listen to music or relax and collect your thoughts is always nice to make sure you’re doing well.”
Hometown: New Castle, Pennsylvania
Major: Honors student in the School of Pharmacy expected to complete his bachelor’s in 2023 and doctorate of pharmacy in 2025
“The University of Pittsburgh was the first college I ever planned on attending,” said Harp, who was around 8 years old when her family began taking her to Steelers games. “On the gates leading into Heinz field was the word ‘Panthers.’ I asked my family why that word was there, and they responded that it was the local university’s mascot, Pitt, which shares the field with the Steelers. Because of my love, even at that young age, for Pittsburgh and the Steelers, I knew that was where I wanted to attend college when I was older.
The 2025 Pharmacy Class President holds leadership roles in multiple pharmacy-related organizations including Pennsylvania’s Pharmacists Association, and is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, a pharmacy intern at UPMC Horizon and a regular volunteer at the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh.
Harp offered this advice on stress management: “I always incorporate study breaks into my routine. I hang out with friends, watch a TV show and sometimes even take a night off studying if needed. School is important, but you can’t do your best if you’re not at your best.”
Hometown: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Major: Psychology and sociology dual major with a studio art minor in the Dietrich School
Lloyd is a member of Sigma Delta Tau, a leader in the Gamma Sigma Alpha National Greek Academic Honors society and Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, part of Pitt’s TRIO Student Support Services, and a Millie’s and Saxbys Campus Brand Ambassador. She’s also an undergraduate teaching assistant, student researcher, and part of the Provost Career Prep Academy program.
Her favorite spot: the Cathedral of Learning. “My favorite building on Pitt’s campus is Cathy; she’s our sign star and a landmark for Pitt,” she said. “But if I had to choose a favorite study spot Posvar has her beat by far.”
In 20 years, she said she “hopes Pitt is still a pillar for education and innovation. I would also love to see no more construction on Fifth and that, we as a class and all future classes will help to make Pitt a more accepting and diverse place for all potential students and a school that past, present and future alumni can be proud to say they attended.”
— Kara Henderson, photography by Aimee Obidzinski.