Provost’s Office to Hold First Annual Assessment Conference At Pitt

Issue Date: 
January 14, 2013

The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of the Provost is sponsoring an assessment conference on Jan. 18 as part of the University’s continuing effort to better integrate assessment processes into all of Pitt’s programs. The conference, which will be an annual event, will be held from 8 a.m. until 2:15 p.m. in Pitt’s University Club. The keynote speaker will be Heather Kelly, director of the Office of Institutional Research at the University of Delaware and an expert on institutional effectiveness. Breakout sessions will focus on issues related to assessing general education requirements, the University’s professional schools, and a liberal-arts program, in this case, history.

While designed for faculty, staff, and others involved and interested in the University’s assessment processes, the conference is open to members of the University community.  

To register, visit Registration online is open until Thursday, Jan. 17, at

2 p.m. Registration at the door on the day of the event is open until 8:30 a.m.

“We have furthered our institutional and academic goals by developing systems to measure outcomes and to assess our levels of success—in education and in research. This conference shall provide an opportunity for us to share our best practices on the assessment of student learning outcomes with each other as we continue to move forward,” Pitt Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson said.

Kelly’s 9 a.m. keynote talk will be followed from 10 to 11:45 a.m. by three simultaneous presentations:

  • Steve Robar, a Pitt-Bradford political science professor, will discuss the assessment of general education requirements; William Shields, a Pitt associate vice provost, will moderate the session;
  • Denise Howrie, a professor of pharmacy and pediatrics in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, will address assessment within Pitt’s professional schools; Alberta Sbragia, Pitt vice provost for graduate studies and professor of political science, will moderate; and
  • Lara Putnam and John Stoner, a Pitt professor and undergraduate advisor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of History, respectively, will talk about assessment in liberal-arts majors; John Twyning, Pitt associate dean for undergraduate studies, will moderate.

The conference will wrap up with an hourlong presentation about Pitt’s assessment resources and the annual timeline for University assessment activities. Presenters will be Sbragia; Juan J. Manfredi, Pitt vice provost for undergraduate studies and a professor of mathematics; and Cynthia Golden, director of Pitt’s Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education.

Pitt’s assessment efforts have received much praise from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which in September awarded the University its reaccreditation for 10 years, without qualification, the maximum permissible time for an accreditation extension, based upon the quality of Pitt’s assessment program. The report commented favorably on the University’s decision to implement a decentralized system of assessment, “thereby allowing units to develop methods suitable to their context, while insisting nonetheless that the measures developed be rigorous, meaningful and tied to goals.” The commission also said it observed “a genuine and evolving ‘culture of assessment’ at the University.”

Manfredi said that while some universities have centralized assessment structures, Pitt’s assessment process is very hands-on, beginning with the University’s faculty. “Our system is decentralized, and we believe that the  faculty know best what is going on academically, what can be improved—and they have the most at stake in improving it.” 

Manfredi added that the Office of the Provost hopes conference attendees— professors, deans, department chairs, staff, and administrators—will gain fresh insights into the implementation of meaningful assessment processes. 

“Assessment gives us a structure to look at our core—educating students—and to see how well we do that,” Manfredi added.