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New programs and ways to learn launch this fall

  • Students
  • Pitt-Greensburg
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Computing and Information
  • School of Education
  • School of Health and Rehabilitation Science

Pitt has introduced a range of new academic offerings from undergraduate majors to doctorates this fall. In the classroom to online, students can forge their own path.

One new program is the Computational Social Sciences (CSS) major offered by the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems in partnership with the Department of Political Science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Students majoring in CSS study society and human behavior through a lens of computational analyses. To name just a few of the issues a computational social science student can dive into, they could: examine if there is racial bias in an algorithm used to manage health outcomes, use smartphone data to address the problem of food scarcity in U.S. cities, or investigate the dynamics of social media platforms and how they create incentives for the propagation of misinformation.

Political science professor Michael Colaresi and information and networks systems professor Prashant Krishnamurthy recognized the need for the major and initiated a cross-departmental collaboration.

“Part of the impetus to design the CSS degree came from students themselves; they were starting to craft double majors. Students were interested in how they could take their heir qualitative understanding of their communities and put it into research tools,” Colaresi said. He also received institutional encouragement. “I think it's absolutely fantastic that the University is putting effort behind so many initiatives in the Year of Data and Society, including the CSS degree.” 

“Leaders in government and industry are looking to hire students who can tackle problems from both sides,” said Krishnamurthy. “For example, there are global companies that are looking to manage risks who don’t have the expertise to understand international politics and how it might affect risk management, and for that, they need computational social scientists.

Other new programs on offer at the School of Computing and Information are a Bachelor of Science in Data Science, offered jointly with the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics in the Dietrich School, and a Bachelor + Master of Science in Information Science. All bachelor’s students in the School of Computing and Information can now also apply for the accelerated BS+MSIS (Master of Science in Information Science) degree program, which will allow them to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years, or a Graduate Certificate in Applied Data Driven Methods.

Introducing the Center for Ethnic Studies Research

Another opportunity for students to expand their research field is to visit the Center for Ethnic Studies Research. The center, located within the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) in Posvar Hall, is directed by director associate professor of Africana studies Michele Reid-Vazquez and is UCIS’s seventh regional/thematic studies center. The mission of the center is to advance rigorous, innovative, multidisciplinary and collaborative research to offer local, regional, national, comparative and transnational perspectives on the histories, experiences and current issues in U.S.-based ethnic communities of color, including Latinxs, Asian Americans, Native Americans and African Americans.

A new way to learn

The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences takes a hybrid view with several new offerings. Though these hybrid degrees were newly available during the COVID-19 crisis, when many academic programs are turning to virtual formats, the work to create a hybrid option began many years before the pandemic.

Students enrolled in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Hybrid option take classes online, complete their clinical experiences in or near their home communities and attend hands-on training in Pittsburgh twice a year. The Master of Rehabilitation Technology (MRT) program is also now available online in a hybrid format. Enrolees travel to Pittsburgh for an in-person weekend lab once per term.

Lastly, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has launched a non-hybrid option accelerated Athletic Training Master of Science.

Expanded offerings in Greensburg

This fall, students at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg can major in special education. Melissa Marks, associate professor of education and director of the education program said, “While the special education major can stand alone, any student who wants to earn full double certification in early childhood education and special education will be able to do so by adding just one extra semester. Psychology majors will be able to add a special education major with certification in just one extra semester giving all of them an edge in working in school settings with students who have disabilities.”

Another new offering from Pitt-Greensburg is an international studies minor. Interdisciplinary in its scope, the minor requires courses from across at least two divisions and from numerous programs and disciplines, including anthropology, environmental sciences, French, geography, German, history, history of art and architecture, literature, philosophy, religious studies, Spanish and others. The minor complements various majors in all fields of study and is the perfect pathway for students who wish to focus on global and international themes in their work.

Education for all

Students on the Pittsburgh campus can now earn a Master of Education in PreK-12 Special Education. Prospective students are required to have a bachelor’s degree in any area of study. According to Sheila Conway, program coordinator and associate professor of practice at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, “Our new MEd in PreK-12 Special Education is a game-changer for anyone who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of children and work in a field with great career prospects.”

A faster way to earn a master’s degree

The School of Social Work is introducing a new 12-month Advanced Standing MSW program. Accepted students can complete their undergrad and graduate degrees in five years.

Law, museum studies and a bevy of new certificates

In addition to the join BS in Data Science, the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences is debuting two new majors. Students in the Law, Criminal Justice and Society major will examine the workings of the criminal justice system in the broader context of society and the legal system. Students learn to critically analyze criminal justice institutions, dig into criminological theory and examine social inequality.

The collection, preservation, archiving and exhibition of art, historic objects and documents are the focus of the new Museum Studies program. Students ask questions such as, “How do museums and historic sites generate knowledge (in the past and present)?” and “How might they partner with diverse communities to enrich our understanding of what it means to be human and how we occupy the world now and in the future?”

A wide variety of certificates were also introduced by the Dietrich School this fall. One can dive into Public Communication of Science and Technology, Digital Studies and Methods, Television and Broadcast Arts or Sports Studies.


— Nichole Faina