The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg will hold its annual Commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 27, at 11 a.m. in Chambers Hall Gymnasium (150 Finoli Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601).
Out of the 257 students eligible for graduation, 188 students will process in the event, along with representative faculty, staff, alumni, and other dignitaries.
This will be President Sharon P. Smith’s final Commencement ceremony at Pitt-Greensburg, as she will retire from her position on June 30. A. David Tilstone, chair of the Pitt-Greensburg Advisory Board, will recognize Smith for her service to the campus and community, with a surprise citation presentation.
Award-winning photojournalist Justin Merriman ’00 is this year’s Commencement speaker. Details about his career and connection to Pitt-Greensburg may be found here: https://www.greensburg.pitt.edu/news/pitt-greensburg-welcomes-award-winning-photojournalist-justin-merriman-its-2019-commencement
Two people will be honored with the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service:
- Helen K. Burns, PhD, RN, FAAN is senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Excela Health. She is a clinician, educator, and administrator in acute care community hospitals, academic healthcare, and public health. Burns is being recognized for both her expertise in the area of nursing and the guidance that she provided to Pitt-Greensburg as it developed its program for a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, the first accredited BSN program in Westmoreland County.
- A. David Tilstone is a business development officer and past president of the National Tooling & Machining Association. He has been involved in the metalworking industry for more than 35 years. Tilstone is being honored for his 20 years of service to Pitt-Greensburg as a member of its Advisory Board, including 11 years as its chair.
During the degree presentation, 14 students will have their diplomas co-presented to them by Smith and members of their families who also hold degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Greensburg is the only campus in the Pitt system to offer this opportunity, known as the Legacy Diploma Co-Presentation, to graduates and their families. It was initiated by Smith and is a visual illustration that Pitt-Greensburg graduates join a large “family” of graduates from the many schools and campuses that comprise the University of Pittsburgh.
Among the graduates are six students who completed their requirements as Science Learning Community (SLC) Scholars. These students were awarded scholarships through a grant from the National Science Foundation and have maintained high standards of scholarship while completing leadership, research, and career developing activities. These students also attended and presented their research at four to five conferences during their four years at Pitt-Greensburg. This is the first group of SLC Scholars to graduate from Pitt-Greensburg. They include:
- Carissa Berg, of New Kensington, PA, is a biological science major who plans to be a zoo keeper and work in conservation. During her academic career, Berg missed several weeks of classes due to major surgery and credits Oliva Long, PhD, and Mark Stauffer, PhD, with helping her to bounce back and excel in the program. She is proud to be the recipient of the Campana Biololgy Award and will spend the summer working full time at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium within the conservation education department. Then, she’s off to Florida for an internship at Walt Disney World Resort. Her ultimate goal: to land a job with the National Aviary or the Pittsburgh Zoo.
- Darius Eicher, of Scottdale, is a biological sciences major with a minor in chemistry who plans to become a cancer researcher. “My biggest accomplishment from the [SLC Scholar] experience was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I had an aunt pass away from breast cancer, which is why this research is so important to me.”
- Joseph Maier, of Greensburg, PA, is a biological sciences major who plans to pursue a career in the conservation field. He presented his senior research on acid mine drainage at a conference at Westminster College. He appreciated the networking opportunities he had through the program. “I was able to talk to faculty and employers in the conservation sector about my research.”
- Sterling Sin, of Uniontown, PA, is a biological science major who plans to pursue a career in research after graduation. “My biggest accomplishments are being selected to work as a Green Scholar and completing my senior research—a study of the diversity of micro biospheres found on the back of cellphones.”
- Samantha Ursiny, of Belle Vernon, PA, is a biological sciences major who plans to become a pediatric occupational therapist. Ursiny, who also received a Vira H. Heinz Scholarship and studied in the United Republic of Tazania, Africa, credits her faculty mentor, Olivia Long, PhD, with encouraging Ursiny to apply for the program. “I’m a completely different person today than I was four years ago—I’m a better person because of my experience.”
- Syed Zaidi, of Murrysville, PA, is a biology major with a minor in chemistry who plans to become a physician. During his freshman year, his father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. “We worried about being able to pay for tuition, and then I was accepted into the SLC program. It took care of almost all of my tuition. With the support of Dr. (Olivia) Long and Dr. (Mark) Stauffer, I applied for and was awarded a summer undergraduate research position at the University of Pittsburgh.”
To be eligible for the SLC Scholarship, students need to have the academic credentials, show financial need, and be from rural areas located in Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland County. The goal of the National Science Foundation, through this funding, is to increase the retention and graduation rates of students in Biology or Chemistry. The two faculty members mentioned by the students share responsibility for directing the SLC Scholarship program at Pitt-Greensburg. Long is an associate professor of biochemistry and Stauffer is an associate professor chemistry and chair of the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. They and several other faculty mentors have worked closely with the SLC Scholars as part of the program.
Founded in 1963, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is a publicly assisted, four-year, liberal arts college in southwestern Pennsylvania. Pitt-Greensburg offers 29 baccalaureate degree programs, including new majors in Nursing, Healthcare Management, Public Policy, and Education, as well as 24 minors and four certificate programs. With nearly 1,500 students, more than 10,000 alumni, and faculty and staff numbering 260, Pitt-Greensburg provides a vibrant, diverse community that is a dynamic model of a 21st century liberal arts education. As part of the University of Pittsburgh system, Pitt-Greensburg offers the resources of a world-renowned university combined with the individualized and immersive experiences of a small liberal arts college. Creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit permeate the campus and extend into its many collaborative projects with the Westmoreland County community.