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Carnegie Museums, Outdoor Spaces Among New Study Spots

Starting this week, students will have access to 60 indoor and outdoor spaces that have been designated as supplemental classroom and study areas by the Office of the Provost, including classes in nearby Carnegie Music Hall and Carnegie Museum of Art Theater.

The partnership came about after University leadership approached Carnegie Museums Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Hiles to see if they had available spaces for students. From there, Hiles and museum special events and facility staff worked with a team from the Office of Campus Planning, Design and Real Estate; Pitt Information Technology; and others to decide which areas would make the most sense.

“It’s our pleasure to be able to assist our Oakland neighbor by providing auditorium spaces that allow students and faculty to achieve in-person learning. Pitt has worked closely with our special events and facilities teams to put a plan in place that will ensure everyone’s safety throughout the semester, and together we will be enforcing stringent COVID-19 safety procedures,” Hiles said.

Under that plan, students will enter and exit the Music Hall from the front entrance on Forbes Avenue and will enter and exit the Art Theater from the rear entrance facing the building’s parking lot. Students using the spaces are required to wear face coverings while inside, and seating is available in every other row of the hall at every fourth seat. High-touch surfaces will be cleaned and misted two to three times per day.

The Art Theater will safely accommodate 60 students, and the Music Hall will accommodate 250.

To expand and reimagine spaces for students to work and play on the Pittsburgh campus itself, the Office of the Provost worked with the Office of Facilities Management, the Office of the University Registrar and the Office of Campus Planning, Design and Real Estate to choose spots with the capacity to allow students to gather while maintaining safe distances. They also made sure to evaluate wireless connectivity, student convenience and overall accessibility. The newly available spaces will also be cleaned and sanitized on a schedule that falls in line with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.  

This is the first wave of new spaces that will be introduced this year. Others are expected to be announced later this semester.

“We have tried to make sure that study spaces are distributed throughout campus so that students can generally find a space close to whatever portion of the campus that they find themselves,” said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Joseph McCarthy.

McCarthy said some spaces, such as the lawn outside of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum and Posvar Hall’s Global Hub, were chosen because they have served as unofficial study hubs previously. Others required examining which spaces had been identified as safe and figuring out the best ways to make them available to students.

“We started by looking at some of the smaller classroom spaces that had been identified as being safe, but had capacities that are small enough so that they were not used for significant portions of the week. By finding groups of rooms that had somewhat aligned unused time slots, we could increase the options available to students,” he said.

Scott Hanna, a senior network engineer in Pitt IT, said new Wi-Fi coverage is now available on the Heinz Memorial Chapel and Bigelow Boulevard sides of the Cathedral of Learning, the Bigelow Boulevard and Fifth Avenue sides of William Pitt Union, the Nordenberg Hall side of Soldiers & Sailors lawn, as well as the bench corridor between Posvar Hall and Hillman Library. He said they are attempting to utilize outdoor antennae to boost signals in other areas, but the expansion is a “work in progress.”

A few of the new study spaces available include:

Posvar Hall’s Global Hub

Looking for places to study on campus? We’ve got you covered. Just make sure to follow all signs, including posted occupancy limits and in-use and out-of-use stickers, avoid moving any furniture and clean your space before and after use.

The beacon of gathering at the Schenley Drive entrance to Posvar Hall is still available to students, but with new features to accommodate the semester, said Belkys Torres, executive director of global engagement for the University Center for International Studies. The seating has been reduced, and upholstered furniture has been removed for an easier cleaning regimen. The Hub’s interactive engagement wall—giant touch screens where students can enter interests and discover related courses within Pitt Global—is being adapted so the information portal can be accessed through smartphones. Pitt Global has published a list of update event policies and procedures for the space.

University Club ballrooms

Spaces normally fitted with tables with starched cloths, steaming trays and guests awaiting lunch or dinnertime discussions have been redesigned for classroom use this year. University Club rooms 122 and 211—also known as Ballroom A and Ballroom B—have been transformed to classroom and study spaces that can safely accommodate groups of 70 and 84, respectively. The rooms have been fitted with tablet armchairs, tables and spaces for instructors to teach from safe distances. 

Cathedral lawn tent

Those passing through the Cathedral of Learning’s lawn near Heinz Chapel could have a bit of theme music to accompany them this semester, thanks to a new outdoor tent space. The Cathedral Lawn Tent, which sits in the direction of Fifth Avenue, will host at least four musical ensembles: Heinz Chapel Choir, Men’s Glee Club, Women’s Choral Ensemble and Bluegrass Ensemble. The Department of Theatre Arts will also use the space.

Mathew Rosenblum, chair of the Department of Music, said the outdoor tents with roll-up sides will help to ensure the group meets current recommended safety standards.

“Research has shown that large tents with open sides and outdoor spaces are the safest for vocal and instrumental performance,” Rosenblum said.

He added that the guidelines also require rehearsing in groups of 10 or less and limiting rehearsals to 30 minutes with 20-minute breaks. All participants should wear face coverings and the minimum distance between participants should be a 10-foot radius.

Rosenblum said when safety guidelines allow, the department hopes to eventually stream concerts from Bellefield Hall.