City of cre­ativ­ity

Part­ner­ships among higher-ed in­sti­tu­tions set Pitts­burgh apart

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Local News -

With Pitts­burgh vy­ing to at­tract Ama­zon’s sec­ond head­quar­ters, we’re re­minded of the vi­tal role that col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties have played in our re­gional trans­for­ma­tion and in help­ing to at­tract com­pa­nies, like Ama­zon, to the re­gion.

I didn’t quite re­al­ize the ex­tent to which Pitts­burgh is one of the truly great col­lege towns in Amer­ica un­til I moved here to be­come pres­i­dent of Chatham Univer­sity. I knew about Carnegie Mel­lon and the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh, but I wasn’t aware that Pitts­burgh’s col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties em­ploy nearly 25,000 peo­ple and en­roll more than 70,000 stu­dents. That’s more than 20 per­cent of the city’s pop­u­la­tion, and one of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion tal­ent any­where in the United States.

What makes Pitts­burgh a truly spe­cial col­lege town, how­ever, is not just sheer num­bers, but a range of unique at­tributes that sets it apart from bet­ter-known higher-ed cities like Bos­ton, and “com­pany” towns, such as Ann Ar­bor and State Col­lege, dom­i­nated by a sin­gle ma­jor­re­search univer­sity.

Th­ese at­tributes in­clude a di­ver­sity of ex­cel­lent high­ered in­sti­tu­tions. CMU, with its world-class ro­bot­ics, AI and STEM pro­grams. Pitt, with ex­cel­lence in en­gi­neer­ing, med­i­cal and biomed­i­cal sci­ences. Point Park’s drama and me­dia pro­grams, which­have helped re­vi­tal­ize Down­town. Robert Mor­ris, with its many de­gree-pro­gram of­fer­ings. Faith-based schools, such as Duquesne, Car­low, La Roche and the Pitts­burgh The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. A broad spec­trum of tech­ni­cal- and as­so­ci­ate-de­gree of­fer­ings from the Com­mu­nity Col­lege of Al­legheny County’s four cam­puses. And Chatham Univer­sity, of­fer­ing two of the most beau­ti­ful cam­puses in the coun­try and lead­ing pro­grams in sus­tain­abil­ity, health sci­ences and women’slead­er­ship.

The prox­im­ity of our in­sti­tu­tions within the city is an­other unique ad­van­tage. I can get on my bike at Chatham, head down Fifth Av­enue and in 20 min­utes cy­cle past seven of th­ese in­sti­tu­tions. Our will­ing­ness to col­lab­o­rate means that stu­dents at any one of the Pitts­burgh Con­sor­tium for Higher Ed­u­ca­tion schools can take a course for free each term at any of the other PCHEin­sti­tu­tions.

Stu­dents find Pitts­burgh a par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive choice in that it com­bines all of this with af­ford­able, easy­ac­cess ameni­ties and great job prospects, mak­ing it a top-rated city for new grad­u­ates. In ad­di­tion to re­ceiv­ing a world-class ed­u­ca­tion, they can en­joy great restau­rants in di­verse neigh­bor­hoods, won­der­ful mu­se­ums and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions, a sports fan’s dream in black and gold, and great out­door ac­tiv­i­ties in the rivers, parks and­sur­round­ing hills.

Per­haps the most dis­tinc­tive fea­ture of Pitts­burgh’s higher-ed in­sti­tu­tions is their close part­ner­ship with govern­ment, cor­po­ra­tions, non­prof­its and Pitts­burgh’s strong set of foun­da­tions, which have played such a vi­tal part in trans­form­ing the Steel City into a hub for tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion and “ed and meds.”

Twenty years ago, my re­search on the world’s most suc­cess­ful high-tech clus­ters pointed to the re­search and tal­ent that uni­ver­si­ties pro­duce and the in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness between key stake­hold­ers as crit­i­cal fea­tures of suc­cess­ful high­skill ecosys­tems. Th­ese find­ings were con­firmed last month in the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion re­port, “Cap­tur­ing the Next Econ­omy,” which found that, while Pitts­burgh’s in­no­va­tion econ­omy is strong and grow­ing, we can do even more with our as­sets to com­pete glob­ally and cap­i­tal­ize on the re­gion’s grow­ing in­no­va­tion clus­ters.

There are, how­ever, a cou­ple of dis­turb­ing longterm trends. First is the de­cline in the num­ber of high school grad­u­ates in the Western Penn­syl­va­nia re­gion, one of the sharpest in the United States, which is putting down­ward pres­sure on en­roll­ment for the re­gion’s col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. This trend may be in­ten­si­fied by poli­cies, such as those in our neigh­bor­ing state, New York, to make pub­lic higher ed­u­ca­tion “free” for many res­i­dents.

For th­ese rea­sons, it is im­per­a­tive that we in­ten­sify our joint ef­forts to foster and pro­mote Pitts­burgh as one of the world’s great higher-ed­u­ca­tion cities. If we are to fill the pro­jected re­gional short­age of 80,000 work­ers over the next decade high­lighted in the Al­legheny Con­fer­ence’s “In­flec­tion Point” re­port, we need to at­tract more top stu­dents from across the na­tion and around the world to our in­sti­tu­tions and re­gion.

Chatham Univer­sity is proud to have been part of Pitts­burgh’s ed­u­ca­tional com­mu­nity for nearly 150 years. I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to work with other univer­sity, city and re­gional lead­ers to po­si­tion Pitts­burgh as a world­wide leader in the trans­for­ma­tive power of ed­u­ca­tion in our cities, com­mu­ni­ties and the lives of our stu­dents.

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