Pitt has several ways to help students get a leg up on graduate school—or even get them a guaranteed spot from day one of college. Through the University Honors College, Pitt is one of the only schools in the country to offer a Bachelor of Philosophy, or BPhil, a unique undergraduate degree which is awarded jointly by the Honors College and a student’s home school. In addition to the requirements of the major, students propose a program of study that must be approved by the university and that culminates in an undergraduate thesis. A BPhil candidate completes an oral thesis in front of a panel of professors, just like a graduate school thesis defense. Mary Ellen Callahan, who graduated with a BPhil in political science and Russian/Eastern European studies, told us that “because of the Honors classes, tailored advising, and the ability to receive a Bachelor of Philosophy degree with an undergraduate thesis, I was much better prepared, and had a more comprehensive education, than my Ivy League peers at the University of Chicago Law School.”
Pitt also offers guaranteed admission to nineteen of its prestigious graduate and professional schools, including law, medicine, and business, through the Freshmen Guarantee. For exceptionally qualified freshmen with a clear career trajectory, Pitt will guarantee admission into the appropriate graduate or professional school when the student is accepted as an undergraduate. That is certainly one way to avoid the nerve-wracking worry of graduate admission four years down the line. Beyond senior year stress relief, the Freshman Guarantee provides students with a sense of encouragement and reassurance about their career goals throughout their undergraduate careers. Several of the students we surveyed said that the Freshman Guarantee was what brought them to the University of Pittsburgh.
Audrey Murrell, the associate dean for the undergraduate College of Business Administration, told us that Pitt students “are comfortable working in teams, sharing knowledge with their classmates, actively engaging in our various . . . student organizations and value what it means to be part of a broader university community.” It’s no accident that Pitt has a number of programs that help cultivate collaborative skills. While these abilities help make fun and engaging learning environments, they are also key to launching a successful career. This skill set “is an attractive asset for our corporate recruiters who look at students who can balance a strong academic program with healthy involvement in activities outside classrooms,” Dr. Murrell told us. Pitt’s Outside the Classroom Curriculum offers an expansive array of opportunities and experiences divided among ten different goal areas, including leadership, career development, wellness, appreciation of the arts, and others, all with the express purpose of helping students “gain a competitive edge for graduate or professional schools, internships, and the job marketplace,” according to the university. Students who complete the Outside the Classroom Curriculum by participating in all ten categories are able to graduate with distinction and are eligible for a Pitt Advantage grant, which provides funding for students to continue “extra-curricular involvement in the form of an experiential learning activity such as a study abroad experience, an unpaid internship, or a volunteering project.” The OCC works under the assumption that 80 percent of a student’s time will be spent outside of the classroom during their undergraduate education and that the school should create out-of-the classroom experiences and opportunities that complement educational and career goals. For example, to complete the global and cultural awareness goal students must participate in a diversity or social justice program, participate in an international program, and attend a seminar about ecological issues. Dr. Murrell told us that they are discovering how students “are engaging and progressing in terms of key competencies that are developed by [OCC].”
According to Dr. Murrell, one of the most exciting parts of the Pitt Business educational journey is taking students “from the classroom, to the city, to the world.” For decades Pitt has been cultivating international relationships and developing curricula with a global perspective. “Our global focus as a university,” Dr. Murrell explained, “also helps to make sure I have the opportunity to equip students for the real nature of business today, which is global in nature. Teaching at Pitt Business allows me to have a living laboratory that helps students inside and outside the classroom come face to face with real business challenges and the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have gained to solving them.”
The best place to see this global reach in action is through Pitt’s extensive study abroad programs. With more than 1,700 students in 2013–2014 able to include a study abroad experience on their résumés, Pitt is a global studies dynamo. Its programs are grounded in specific, hands-on study, and they run the gamut from social policy issues in Cuba to bioengineering a better environment in Brazil. Pitt is practically guaranteed to have a study abroad program for every academic interest and career field. Students can select programs that last anywhere from a few weeks in the summer to a full academic year, but the programs that impressed us the most were the Plus3 Program and Pitt MAP, which show how powerful a truly global education can be.
For any business or engineering student wanting to make a big splash on the international stage, the Plus3 Program is a must. It offers students exposure to a range of developed and developing countries, each with its own unique engineering and business opportunities, and access to industry insiders. “Designed for undergraduate students in the summer after their freshman year,” the University explained to us, “the Plus 3 Program allows students to travel to foreign countries to examine issues related to business and engineering from a global perspective. Jointly sponsored by Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and the College of Business Administration, the two-week, three-credit program features industry-specific company tours, Q&A sessions with executives, and academic lectures.” For the 2015 summer session, students can choose from studying the smartphone industry in China, automobiles and manufacturing in Germany, development in Vietnam, or coffee in Costa Rica. In the Plus3 Program, students stand at the intersection of culture, environment, history, engineering and international trade in some of the most dynamic and promising world markets. There is no better way to understand the forces that shape globalization than to step into the global marketplace.
In contrast to Plus3, in which students take a microscope to a single market in a single country, study in the Pitt MAP program spans three continents during a whole semester. Pitt MAP is designed to be interdisciplinary and incorporates broader topics and different study tracks, making it flexible to accommodate the research and professional goals of any student from conflict resolution to pre-med. A recent semester had MAP students focused on health, migration, and society through study in Spain, Morocco and China.