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U.S. Steel girds tomorrow’s workforce

Susan Suver (far left), vice president for human resources at U.S. Steel, and Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg (far right), with this year’s U.S. Steel Scholars. From left: Emily Aigner, Shanell Duck, Scott Shrake, and Michaelangelo Tabone. Not pictured: John Fabry.

On a tour of the Pitt campus, Pathfinder and Pitt junior Shanell Duck leads a visitor through the front doors of the Cathedral of Learning. She’s a polo-shirted sparkplug, talking and walking fast, answering questions. “No, it was never actually used as a cathedral,” she says in her trademark rapid-fire cadence.

Coincidentally, a friend of hers—freshman Yomi Alimi—enters the Commons Room. Spotting Duck, he removes his headphones and heads her way. “Hey, did you get my text?” Alimi asks. “I got in!”
Duck congratulates her friend. “Call me,” she encourages.

“Most def,” says Alimi. He puts his headphones on and takes off. Resuming the tour, Duck explains, “He’s kind of like my little brother.”

The two first met on one of her Pitt campus tours, when Alimi was a high-school student visiting from Florida. They exchanged information and stayed in touch through the next several months as he weighed his options for college. Thanks largely to Duck’s guidance, Alimi says, he decided to come to Pitt.

The good news he shared with her in the Commons Room is that he was accepted into a study abroad program. “Yomi wants to study in London, like I did,” says Duck about her own semester abroad during her sophomore year. “I’m gonna tell him what he needs to know to keep out of trouble.”

This is classic Duck. Sometimes, she’s easing new and prospective students and their families into college life through her involvement in Pathfinders and PittStarts. Other times, she’s looking out for her friends, classmates, and neighbors as she would for her own sibling. She can’t help but help people.

Duck has her sights set on going to graduate school and then founding her own private practice as a relationship counselor, an aspiration that suits this go-getter and born ambassador. Driven by her love of bringing people together and helping to better others as she betters herself, she’s kept a strong academic record with a full course load, a dual major in psychology and business, several extracurricular commitments, and a research-assistant position for the college of business.

Now, thanks to U.S. Steel, meeting her goals will be that much easier. This year U.S. Steel’s philanthropic arm, the United States Steel Foundation, announced it will be giving the University of Pittsburgh $500,000 over the next three years to create endowed scholarships that will be awarded to five rising juniors each year. Duck and four Arts and Sciences students—Emily Aigner, John Fabry, Scott Shrake, and Michaelangelo Tabone—received the inaugural scholarships, which are renewable for their senior year.

U.S. Steel also contributed a $5,000 award to the Roberto Clemente Minority Business Association in Pitt’s College of Business Administration and a $100,000 gift that will be used to update a teaching laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

Susan Suver, U.S. Steel’s vice president for Human Resources, says that the endowed scholarship gift was created with the hope of having a lasting, rippling effect on high-achieving students and the lives they touch. “U.S. Steel has a long history of being actively involved in the communities where we operate, and supporting educational initiatives is just one example of that involvement,” she says. “This grant is a reaffirmation of our company’s commitment to helping the University of Pittsburgh develop bright, motivated, skilled people for the workforce of the future.”

Duck has always had big dreams and a deep commitment to building community and family ties wherever she goes. Multiply her self-starter gumption with the ambitions of the four other scholarship winners, and five more next year, and another five every year into the future: The numbers add up to enduring benefits and a perpetually growing
community of talent.
— Elaine Vitone

Notes from Novak

Although we have made enormous strides during the tenure of our capital campaign, there is more work to be done. At a time when students and their families are faced with a variety of financial concerns, the University of Pittsburgh wants to ensure that the most deserving students have access to higher education. Ultimately, their education and future careers will contribute to improvements in society for all of us. The University is aggressively committed to increasing scholarship and fellowship support.

As noted in the accompanying story, the U.S. Steel Corporation has made a gift in support of our scholarship initiative. This gift to the University already is benefiting five Pitt students this year and, as an endowment, will continue to do so for years to come. Our hope is that many more people and organizations will join us in supporting our students—and our collective future—with financial support for educational expenses.

On another note, for 70 years the Cathedral of Learning has been a powerful symbol of the pursuit of higher learning and of the achievements made possible through education, research, and public service. The exterior of this historic landmark was restored this fall, as part of a campuswide preservation project, which is necessary to sustain Pitt’s architectural integrity and heritage, as well as maintain a vibrant campus environment. If you have not already done so, please consider becoming a part of this essential effort—to fund the preservation of the Cathedral and other historic campus sites.

For more information on how you can help the University of Pittsburgh preserve our treasured campus landmarks, go to I look forward to working with you to advance the University of Pittsburgh community.
—Albert J. Novak Jr.

Campaign Watch

Institutional Advancement is committed to reaching the University’s ambitious $2 billion fundraising goal. Pitt’s alumni and friends have contributed generously, making our current campaign status $1.14 billion!

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