Pitt expanding sustainability research, education

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The University of Pittsburgh and two donors are putting $37.5 million behind a new initiative that will expand sustainability research and education beyond the Swanson School of Engineering,

Pitt today announced the initiative, established in the provost's office. The university did not provide individual amounts but said support includes gifts from John C. “Jack” Mascaro, founder and chair of Mascaro Construction Co. L.P., and John A. Swanson, founder of ANSYS Inc., and namesake of the engineering school. Support also includes university money.

A Sustainability Task Force, made up of faculty representatives across the campus, will work to encourage interdisciplinary sustainability research, improve undergraduate and graduate program offerings in sustainability, and strengthen Pitt's reputation in sustainability.

The task force is led by Eric J. Beckman, co-director of Pitt's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and the George M. Bevier Professor of Engineering.

Founded in 2003, the Mascaro Center of Sustainable Innovation is based in the engineering school. The new initiative recognizes its 10th anniversary.

In a news release, Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, said the Mascaro Center "has helped to initiate, organize and support a wide range of important educational and research initiatives and has helped to establish our university as a highly respected center for work-of-impact in the broad area of sustainability."

The news release said the $37.5 million investment shows "the potential it has as a university priority to impact academic programs, research and student engagement across the university and to build on key partnerships with business units and the community."

The new investment combined with past efforts bring the support for sustainability since 2003 to about $60 million.

In the news release, Mr. Mascaro said the sustainability center has had an impact in the Larimer neighborhood as well as villages in Panama and Brazil.

“My family and I believe that now is the proper time for the university itself to engage in a multidisciplinary approach that can embed sustainable practices and inquiry across academic programs and into the day-to-day life of everyone associated with Pitt. It is our goal to see the university be nationally recognized as a great leader in sustainable education while positively impacting the community and economy with its efforts in sustainability through the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation," he stated.

In the news release, Mr. Swanson said he thinks the new initiative "will greatly benefit our students and faculty as sustainable practices become even more integral to our professional and personal lives.”


Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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