University of Pittsburgh

Archive for the ‘Commons Room’ Category

Rescue World

A bright red helicopter emblazoned with “London’s Air Ambulance” descends into Trafalgar Square, the epicenter of London. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and hundreds of tourists are viewing sculptures in Britain’s cultural center. On the ground, police struggle to clear space for the aircraft. As soon as the helicopter lands, paramedics—including Pitt student Patrick […]

Rock On

At a popular nightclub on Pittsburgh’s South Side, a rock band wearing medieval jousting gear thrashes about onstage, unleashing a wail of music. Punks in the crowd—many of whom smell like they’ve gone for days without soap—scream and point toward the stage. The band, called Dethlehem, isn’t just playing heavy metal music to create a […]

Gallery Life

Classes are done for the day, and the wide hallways encircling the rotunda of the Frick Fine Arts Building are quiet. Only the soft echo of a few voices can be heard, slipping through a door that’s slightly ajar. Inside the University Art Gallery, a student balances atop a high ladder, using a staple gun […]


A nervous-looking squirrel follows a pair of German hikers. The critter is desperate for any junk food they might leave behind. “I’ve lost my fear of humans!” the squirrel shouts to a nearby raven. The raven also is trailing the hikers—but for their stories, not their junk food. The bird hops off a log and […]

By the Numbers

The biological experiment should have been a success. The teenage researcher did everything her mentor told her to do; but now, for some reason, the numbers aren’t adding up. She hunches over a lab bench and stares at the calculations in her notebook, trying to find the glitch. According to the numbers, there’s too much […]

Red, White, and New

On a Saturday morning, a dozen Pitt students gather around as a guide recites her cell phone number—“in case you get lost or need help,” she explains. The students, all hailing from thousands of miles away, are getting ready for fall classes. They dutifully punch her number into their cell phones before grabbing red shopping […]

Panther Century

The panther slips into his Pitt jersey one paw at a time, suiting up like the other players in the locker room. Then he slinks through the hidden hallways of Heinz Field. At the end of a tunnel that leads to the football turf, he peers at the thousands of fans who have gathered for […]

Love Songs

Last winter, a retired couple tuned their radio at home in Jackson Springs, N.C., to a program of holiday music. They were stunned to hear a Christmas concert by Pitt’s Heinz Chapel Choir. “We just sat there almost without breathing in our leather recliners, absolutely transfixed, wiping away tears,” recalls Beth Schettler, who was listening […]

Holi Color!

Halfway up Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park, members of Pitt’s Hindu Students Council pose for a “before” photo. They’re dressed in sweatpants and T-shirts—clothes that are old but clean. Then the students open bags of colored powder. Shyly at first, they dab the colors on each other, streaking their friends’ hair, faces, and clothes. Soon, […]

Music Makers

Even before the concert in Bellefield Hall begins, many in the audience are ready—with cell phones in hand—to text their votes.  Pitt ensemble-in-residence IonSound Project will soon appear onstage, and all of the music the group will play has been composed by Pitt graduate students. Adding to the evening’s creative flair, the ensemble’s clarinetist has […]

Move Groove

A dance instructor enters a large room in Trees Hall, shooing away two wrestlers who are grappling on a nearby floor mat. Then, the real action begins. A line of high school girls wearing metal-tipped shoes files into the room. Soon, the space reverberates with the hard clacks and soft spiffs of rhythmic tap dancers. […]

Power Primer

In a campus lecture hall, a professor begins telling a dramatic story about a near-catastrophe in the nation’s history. The students listen while quietly munching on pizza and cookies. “It was 4 a.m., dark outside,” he says, setting the scene. “It seemed to be no big deal at first, but then …” He pauses, trying […]

Winning Future

Four business students sit nervously in a conference room at the Pittsburgh headquarters of telecom giant Ericsson, where they are being addressed by a group of senior managers. The Pitt MBA students are handed a challenge that would test even the most seasoned corporate executives. In just three months, they must analyze the market for […]

Moving Science

Wearing blue rubber gloves, the high school freshman gingerly handles a petri dish full of agar, a gelatinous substance that’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet for bacteria. He’s standing in a bright lab. He places the dish in a nearby incubator; overnight, the bacteria should munch and multiply into millions of feasting colonies. Ben Nolan is […]

A Gathering Moment

Students hustle in from the cold, searching for seats close to the televisions. They squeeze around tables, pile on couches, lean on pool tables, and sit on the floor at Nordy’s Place, a newly renovated lounge in the William Pitt Union, affectionately named by students in tribute to Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. Voices rise […]

Game 7, Again

They come lugging folding chairs and coolers, pennants and baseball cards, some with grandchildren in tow. Like a dispersed family returning to an ancient homeland, they all head toward the same spot—a grassy patch of campus lawn that once served as an outfield. Some would say it’s holy ground. It’s a Monday afternoon, and men […]

Playing the Field

A Slice of Campus Life

Panthers, Pride, and Politics

Daylight streams onto the shapes of several unfinished statues in a room of the William Pitt Union. The tarpaulin-covered floor is scattered with paint cans, brushes, and torn pages from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. In one corner, a group of loud-talking, politically minded students has gathered around one […]

Community Engineering

During their lab period, four Pitt engineering students hop off the 84A bus near an overlook with a panoramic view of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny River, nearby hills, and span of bridges. Chatting, the freshmen walk along a stretch of sidewalk to their starting point. Then they pull out notepads, pencils, and a distance wheel and get […]

Unfolding History

Library science student Alesha Shumar carefully removes a rubber band from a stack of yellowed, folded papers. Even though the band adheres to the 80-year-old pages, she manages to remove it without tearing anything. She unfolds the leaves of paper and gently flattens them on her lab table. Her eyes skim a coal-dust covered page […]

The Buzz

The buzz of an electric clipper, the melodies of jazz radio, and the murmur of men’s voices pepper the air of a South Oakland basement. Stephen Sengstacke, a barber who uses his own close-cropped hair as an advertisement, brushes the clipper in delicate, downward strokes along his customer’s forehead to shear a perfect hairline. The […]


On the desk are a flat-screen computer, four microphones, and a console board. “Okay, we’ve got a show to do!” exclaims DJ Andy Persky, as he and two other high schoolers gather around a desk in the control room of Pitt’s WPTS radio station. “How do I turn the volume up in here?” Persky asks, […]

First Vote

By the time freshman Tony Jovenitti put a period at the end of his literature examination, several thousand people had lined up along University Drive, the road that zigzags between the upper and lower sections of Pitt’s campus. In fact, the line to get into the Petersen Events Center was a half-mile long and nearing […]