1986-1996: Toward Excellence

That commitment was honored. Over the next decade, the faculty grew to 20 T/TS positions. However, most remarkable was the increase in quality that resulted. Following are some indicators of achievement as observed in the fall of 1996:

  • Research Productivity: The average number of publications per faculty member per year had increased to nearly 7.
  • External Research Support: Between 1995 and 1996, the faculty collectively were awarded new or renewed external research grants in the amount exceeding $3,200,000. This was funding channeled through the Department only. Including the grants in which CS faculty (with joint appointments) participated in other Pitt units, that amount totaled over $10 million.
  • Teaching Quality: The average stanine level in Pitt’s OMET student evaluations of our faculty’s overall teaching effectiveness had increased to nearly 6, which was well above average for Pitt faculty.
  • Special Honors & Roles of Distinction:
    • Five winners of NSF PYI or NYI or CAREER awards;
    • One appointment as University Professor;
    • One appointment (for 5-year term) as Graduate Dean;
    • One winner of Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award;
    • One winner of NSF Visiting Professorship for Women Award;
    • Two elected Fellows of American Association for AI;
  • Professional Leadership Roles:
    • Appointments as editors, associate editors, or to editorial boards of about 20 professional journals;
    • Service as organizers or program chairs for numerous professional conferences, workshops, and symposia.

Besides the major increases in the quantity and quality of our faculty resources, we had also improved our computing resources significantly. In the mid-1980’s, we had installed a network of SUN-3 workstations for the faculty. Subsequently, a substantial variety of powerful servers, workstations, and PCs was acquired to support faculty, students, and staff in their various endeavors. In 1996 we had nearly 300 systems attached to a high-speed Departmental LAN.

One problem associated with CSD growth was its separation into two buildings, Alumni Hall and MIB. That split occurred of necessity in the mid-1980’s and had detrimental effects on the day-to-day interactions among faculty and students. Some didn’t see each other for weeks. However, one of the University’s highest priority building projects was the multi-purpose MPAC building planned for the corner of Forbes Ave. and Bouquet St. The CSD was expected to occupy two large floors of that building. Many hours and Department and University meetings were spent in planning the details of the layout and features of those floors. Two other academic units to reside in that building were the Psychology Department and the undergraduate Business School.We were very hopeful that the MPAC construction would be initiated in the late 1990s and that the Department would be able to move into new quarters by around the year 2000.

The MPAC construction was indeed completed and the Department moved to occupy it in 2001. The building was renamed “Sennott Square.” It has provided significant benefits to the functioning, performance, and morale of the entire Department of Computer Science.