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New 2019–20 Programs Highlight Collaborations, Online Options

Student at a computer monitor, which shows graphics of an outer-space game
The 2019–20 academic year marks the inauguration of new majors, innovative online programs and collaborations among different schools across the University of Pittsburgh. Here are the highlights:

New joint majors

The School of Computing and Information (SCI), which is now admitting incoming first-year students for the first time, launched two new majors this fall, offered with the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences: Digital Narrative and Interactive Design (DNID), in collaboration with the Department of English and Computational Biology with the Department of Biological Sciences.

DNID will combine the narrative, world-building and media studies of the Department of English with the coding, software development and human-computer interface strengths of SCI.

According to Adam Lee, associate dean for academic programs at SCI, it’s an exciting blend of storytelling and technology.

“This new major will enable students in the Dietrich School to gain skills in computational technology, while providing a path for SCI students who are looking for creative outlets for their skills,” said Lee.

The hard skills obtained in this major include building games, interactive literature, virtual reality environments and other interactive media experiences in a variety of fields. Students interested in careers in tech, nonprofits, social media or politics could be candidates for this new major, according to Lee: “Companies want people who can ask interesting questions.”

Zach Horton, assistant professor in the Department of English, helped co-create the program, which he said stands out not only at Pitt, but nationally.

"Instead of just combining two different majors together — half of one and half of another — it really attempts to create something more than the sum of its parts,” Horton said. “The basic concept we're working with is that new technologies open up new narrative possibilities and that narrative is fundamentally part of coding and design.”

In computational biology, biologists model complex systems and analyze large amounts of data. The new computational biology major was created to meet the growing demand of careers in this booming field.

“Computational biology has its roots in the bioinformatics major, with some updates that include newer, relevant courses such as data science and a senior seminar,” said John C. Ramirez, senior lecturer with SCI, who also helped develop the curriculum for the new major.

“Students who have an interest in biology or natural science in general and who also enjoy problem-solving and computer programming, should definitely consider computational biology as a major option,” he said.

The major also incorporates a new computer science course titled Introduction to Computing for Scientists, which trains students in Python, a programming language.

New programs for working professionals

The School of Education launched an online certificate in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Education. The 12-credit online program helps K-12 teaching practitioners understand how to develop STEAM programming at their own institutions. In addition, the school offers a standalone continuing education course that professionals can take without committing to the 12-credit certificate program. Professionals who enroll in the continuing education course will then have the option to continue into the STEAM Education Certificate program.

The School of Law now offers a graduate certificate program, Human Resources Law Online. A fit for working professionals in human resources, law and business administration, the program will prepare graduates to take on more advanced human resources roles. Graduates will be eligible to sit for industry-based certification exams offered by the Society for Human Resource Management and the HR Certification Institute.

The School of Computing and Information launched its Professional Institute with two leading-edge programs in cybersecurity. Through a blend of in-person and online courses from SCI, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Law, the 15-credit Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity, Policy and Law provides students with the skills to tackle the legal and public policy issues of cyber threats in today’s world. Additionally, the nondegree Professional Education credential in cybersecurity provides critical skills to meet the demands of the market.

Set to launch in January, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will offer an online Master of Science in Health Informatics to train professionals to use data to improve the quality of care. In collaboration with Noodle Partners, a company that helps universities build online and hybrid programs, the program aims to connect technology, health care and business while transforming data into decisions.

Synergy in Swanson

A change almost two years in the making, the Swanson School of Engineering Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will adopt new curricula for its two undergraduate programs, electrical engineering and computer engineering. Faculty, alumni, industry experts and students provided input in the creation of the new curricula with the goal of providing greater synergy between the two fields, spark more hands-on learning and prepare students to enter the workplace by catering to employer demands.

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Programs in Nutrition, Sports Medicine 

The Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences launched its major in nutrition science this fall. The program will train students to apply the science of food and nutrition to the well-being and health of people. Students interested in the program can apply in the spring term of their sophomore year to begin the program in the fall term of the junior year.

A new accelerated five-year BS-MS degree also began this fall, the Dietitian Nutritionist Program. The curriculum is a combination of didactic coursework and supervised practice, affording graduates a strong foundation in medical nutrition therapy and eligibility to sit for the Registration Exam for Dietitians. The program also offers opportunities for students to complete a 12-week rotation in a specialty area of nutrition.

The one-year Master of Science program in Sports Science within the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition will provide training in sports science, nutrition, sports medicine and research. The program includes coursework and a clinical practicum working with Pitt Athletics, the Pittsburgh Penguins and other sports organizations focusing on optimizing human performance. 

New major, center in GSPIA

The Graduate School of Public and International Affairs debuted a social policy major this fall.

In addition, led by Sera Linardi, associate professor in GSPIA, the new Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation aims to bridge academic research in quantitative social science and practical social innovation. The center will translate real-world problems from the community into a set of academic research questions and leverage expertise from researchers in economics, operations research, political science and computing.

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