The Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus of the in Oakland.
Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher told the board of trustees Friday it had ushered in “a very important chapter for our university.”
The endeavor, said university Provost Patricia Beeson, will be funded initially by $30 million in start-up money for uses that include attracting top talent and building programs.
Both were discussing the first new school created at Pitt in two decades, one voted into existence by trustees, who met on campus Friday. What will be known as the School of Computing and Information results from combining Pitt's School of Information Sciences and the computer science department within the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
Officials said the new school has potential for leading-edge contributions in a range of fields, among them healthcare, high performance computing, big data and the science of learning. It is expected to begin enrolling students next fall.
A permanent headquarters has not yet been chosen for the school, but a number of sites will be considered for their suitability, including the former Syria Mosque site recently purchased by Pitt, Ms. Beeson said.
Trustees roundly praised the new school in discussions before the vote. One board member expressed hope that a center for cybersecurity might be among its eventual programs.
"Your vote today begins a very important chapter for our university," Mr. Gallagher said. "This is a compelling vision, and I for one can't wait to see it come to fruition."
Ms. Beeson has said Pitt wants to create a more centralized base for its knowledge in computing and information, both of which have become essential elements across varied academic disciplines.
She mentioned health as just one example of a field that could benefit from a school created to systematically deploy computing and information knowledge where it's needed.
"Instead of just having a computer scientist working side-by-side, or even offsite, developing some technology for healthcare, they're going to be fully embedded in healthcare," she said. "They are going to really understand what the needs of the practitioners are so they can be part of defining the problem and designing the solution."
She said the new school offers potential for further collaborations with Pitt’s neighbor Carnegie Mellon University and its mammoth capabilities in computing and related fields. It is the first new school at Pitt since the College of Business Administration was founded in 1995, university spokesman Joseph Miksch said.
During his regular report to the board, Mr. Gallagher discussed fall admission numbers, calling the class of 2020 not only the most academically qualified in its history but the most ethnically diverse. He said the 1,167 minority students represented nearly 30 percent of the 4,000-plus students in the Class of 2020.
He also noted that Pitt’s freshman-to-sophomore retention rate stands at 92 percent, which he said is 20 percentage points above the national average for public research universities.
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