Summer 2022: The Summer of the Student

The energy around the University of Pittsburgh’s campus has begun to change. The weather is slowly getting warmer and campus morale is steadily rising. Students across campus are climbing out of their winter hibernation and populating the campus green space with hammocks, spikeball, and picnics.

Spring semester at Pitt has always been highly anticipated, but to most students, the arrival of spring means that summer is quickly approaching. While a vast majority of Pitt students journey home for the summer, there is always a special group of students that choose to stay on campus.

Summer on Pitt’s campus is very different from the normal student life most of us are accustomed to — the campus is half empty and we are free from the normal student obligations that tie us down. This combination of freedom and empty space encourages students living in Oakland over the summer to find creative ways to fill their newly found free time. 

Unfortunately, many of the benefits we receive as Pitt students disappear during the summer. For one, the benefits of having a Pitt student ID during the fall and spring semester are put on pause during the summer. Pitt students are no longer offered discounts or free passes to places like the Pittsburgh museums or the Phipps Conservatory.

Luckily, Pitt student IDs still function as a free bus pass during the summer. The free bus pass is an essential factor to filling one’s summer with fun activities as the bus serves as the perfect transportation vessel for exploring Pittsburgh.

This guide will help you explore low-cost opportunities for summer fun in Pittsburgh for Pitt students planning or considering staying in Pittsburgh over the summer.

Student Bands

One of the best parts of my past summer in Pittsburgh was exploring the music scene. There are a handful of fun, cheap options for Pitt students looking to explore the Pittsburgh music scene. The most convenient option is to go to a house show hosted by Pitt students.

House shows normally play alternative music, but some of the best bands from the past summer were Wild Blue Yonder and Quiet Hours.

In the fall and winter, these shows are held in basements which quickly become sweaty and unbearable because they are packed with students. But, in the summer, the house shows are starkly different and the open air encourages dancing, conversation, and even lounging.

At most, these bands might charge $5 at the door or else they are free. These bands know how to get a crowd going, but most importantly, the crowd consists of Pitt students and provides concert-goers an opportunity to build a musical summer community. 

Jam on Walnut

Another great way to explore the music scene in Pittsburgh during the summer is to attend Jam on Walnut in Shadyside.

Only a short bus ride away, Jam on Walnut is a block party/ summer concert series which donates twenty percent of their sales (beer, food, merchandise) to Animal Friends – a Pittsburgh-based animal rescue focused on rehoming and rehabilitation.

This concert series always supports a lively crowd and a band that is ready to rock out. Usually, the summer concerts take place about once a month during the warm months of June, July, and August.

The options make it easier for students to attend once or even go multiple times. Additionally, while there is alcohol available, the event is not limited to a 21+ crowd which allows the rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors staying on campus to join in on the fun.

If you choose to eat before you venture over to Shadyside and not buy anything, you have access to a free concert and night full of entertainment.


Moving more toward entertainment, Pittsburgh has some sweet movie deals if you were hoping to go out for date night or are bored on a rainy day.

Theaters close to campus include Southside Works by The Cheesecake Factory and Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill. Both have extremely reasonable deals on Mondays and Tuesdays. Fortunately, these deals — which include a $5 movie ticket — are yearly deals.

This deal is amazing for anyone who likes to go to the movies and basically halves the original price of a movie ticket nowadays.

Plus, summer is a perfect time for students to catch up on all the movies that came out in the spring when they might have been too focused on studying to take a trip to the movies. The cheap prices for high-quality entertainment are hard to pass up!

Voices of Pitt Poetry: An Interview with Pitt Professor Yona Harvey

Pitt is home to many forms of creative expression. The Pittsburgh community is bustling with outlets to explore the creative arts — concerts, museums, and art exhibits can always be found somewhere on campus.

Nestled away on the Cathedral of Learning’s 5th floor is Pitt’s English Department, which hosts Pitt’s experienced and talented literature and writing faculty. Yet, not enough credit is given to the dedication and passion of the Pitt professors that foster creative outlets and inspire their students.

One distinguished professor, Yona Harvey, has a particular love for poetry as it has significantly shaped her life. Poet Yona Harvey is author of the works, You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love (Four Way Books, 2020) and Hemming the Water (2013), which won the Believer Book Award for Poetry and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award respectively.

Yona Harvey worked with professor Roxane Gay as co-author of the Marvel Comics’ World of Wakanda. Harvey currently works as an associate professor at Pitt, and was in April this year was named a Guggenheim fellow.

Yona Harvey spoke with me about her experience with writing poetry and being a part of the Pittsburgh community.

She discussed writing poetry for the first time and the value it holds in her life. She also shared her creative process that inspired her previous poems, and she gives advice for those who wish to write poetry.

Yona Harvey, Image Source from

How did you first start writing poetry?

I think I first started writing it in middle school. My mom took me to a reading. I was supposed to see… Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, and Nikki Giovanni couldn’t make it that day so I just ended up seeing Margaret Walker, who is also phenomenal.

She was the first black woman to go to the Iowa Writers’ workshop. She read this poem, and it made my aunt cry. And I just thought, “what is happening?” I had never seen anything like that. 

I just felt like, “I want to be able to do that. I want to be able to write things that move people.” That’s my earliest memory of being connected to poetry.”

Did you instantly start writing poetry in middle school, too? Or was it a process throughout the years after this experience?

I think it was a process. I did have a really good Language Arts teacher who would let me read little stories for the class. It was a process because living in Ohio, even though I knew who Nikki Giovanni was and even though I was introduced to Margaret Walker, I still didn’t feel a writer was anything that I could be. I didn’t even know how that happened. So yes, it happened over time. I had to leave home to actually do it.

How has your experience in Pittsburgh shaped your writing, if it has at all?

I think it shaped my writing in that it’s a city that you can kind of disappear into. I lived in New Orleans before living here, and New Orleans is not conducive to writing. There is so much to get into there. [In] Pittsburgh… the winters are clearly longer and colder and there are a lot of other writers here.

And I feel like even though I can be isolated,  I feel like I’m burrowed in alongside other writers who are burrowed in, so I feel like it’s conducive in that way.

Have you written any poems about Pittsburgh or the Pittsburgh community?

That’s a great question. Yes… I have a poem in my first book called “Hurricane” and it actually blends New Orleans and Pittsburgh together. So my daughter was born in New Orleans, but in the poem we’re actually at the little carnival that  Carnegie Mellon used to do every year.

I’m not sure if they do it anymore, but my daughter wants to ride a ride called the “Hurricane,” so I let her get on that ride in Pittsburgh and in the poem i have a flashback to New Orleans when she is a baby… a hurricane is coming and we’re in the house, and so I just blend those two scenes together.

How do you think poetry writing, or writing in general, transfers over to comic book writing? Or what’s the intersectionality between genres of writing?

I think for poetry and comics, I always say the line break, the panel break, and the page turn in comics are connected. You get one impression when you’re on a line in a poem and then you can manipulate that image when you break the line and add additional information to the poem, and the same thing happens in a comic book. 

[Say] you’re looking at a close up of a scarf and all you see is maybe the color, and then the neck, and then in the next panel you see “Oh, it’s the Marvel character Storm,” or whatever. You can manipulate in that way, and I love that connection between the two.

Did you like writing comic books more than poetry or does poetry still have your heart?

It’s apples and oranges, you know? Poetry satisfies a certain kind of feeling. It tends to be more internal. In comics I feel much more aware of the audience and community. So it’s just a different part of the brain, a different kind of activity.

I do love the reach of comic books. To me it’s more intergenerational, so I love getting teenagers’ perspectives, or middle schoolers’ perspectives. I feel like we’re all more united in comics, [at least] certain comics, than is the case for poetry.

How do you choose your words, or the structure of your poems? What inspires you?

I think it usually starts with sound. I grew up in a deeply Pentacoscal family; it was very noisy at church and [there was] lots of music and sound before I could even speak. I was surrounded by music.

So I think that is where all of my writing comes from — sound. Even if I hear someone on the street, or music, or when people make little clicking sounds with their mouth, or their pencils are tapping, it comes out of that. And then the poem takes shape from there.

Could you tell me how you decided the structure of your poem “Gingivitis, Notes On Fear”?

That one is more of a departure, so it just came from a long meditation on September 11th. It’s one of the few poems of mine that starts visually. I’m literally observing my daughter run her tongue over her teeth in the bathroom mirror. So I’m helping her get ready for school in the morning, and then when I saw the one tooth next to the space, that’s what brought the towers. 

It was something I had been thinking about for a long time, but I couldn’t write about it in a way that didn’t seem cliché, easy, uncomplicated. It suddenly came to me when I was watching her in the mirror. That one was definitely more visual.

What do you wish people will take away from your writing?

That’s a good question. I don’t know that I want them to take away so much as, “Be still for a minute.”

I feel like I can’t totally control what they take away, but I hope that I can capture their imagination, or their sensibility. Or maybe even disrupt… some pattern in their lives, so that they’re just still for a minute and able to think differently.”

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I probably would add — you don’t need anyone’s permission to write. You don’t need your professor’s permission, you don’t need my permission, you don’t need Marvel’s, and that is the most beautiful thing about writing. You just need a notebook and a pen and you’re good to go.

So just be persistent and trust all the stories and all the poems you feel are inside of you.”

Masks Come Off and Pitt’s Verdict Is In

The news of Pitt’s mask mandate being lifted on March 28 marked the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

But since being lifted, mixed feelings have been stirring among Pitt’s population as it undoubtedly changed the course of the college experience for many students across the country. For the first time in almost two years, students are seeing the full faces of their peers and professors, and this radical change has produced for many a feeling of uncertainty for what the final weeks of the semester may hold. 

As for one of the biggest culprits for this uncertainty? Peer acceptance. The fear of being associated with anti-maskers is real, especially for Pitt students attending a notoriously liberal institution. Are you an anti-masker if you decide to no longer wear a mask? Just because Pitt has lifted the mask mandate does not mean it is immediately socially acceptable to trash all of your masks.

Universities and businesses can still enforce their own mask policies that have forced students and employees to follow the rules. And now that the number of COVID-19 cases has significantly dropped in the United States, universities and businesses have reevaluated their policies and made the mask mandate more of a flexible option.

Most people would assume this reevaluation to be a positive sign, signaling that the end of the pandemic is nearing. The problem is that while masks may be going away, the stigma remains.

Student Sami Semiatin said she was excited for the end of the mask mandate, but explained her hesitancy to not wear one in the first week of this trial period. In her eyes, she wanted to first observe the actions of her fellow classmates before making her final decision.

She explained that many of her classrooms were brimming with students, and that even with masks, she felt way too close to her classmates. If the classrooms were bigger and the students were more spread out, she would have less of an issue not wearing a mask.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any students who were in full support of ending the mask mandate. I can only deduce that a minority of Pitt students accept lifting the mask mandate without traces of concern clouding their minds. The mask mandate has now been officially lifted for two weeks, and many students are enjoying the option to wear or not wear a mask. 

If the classrooms were bigger and the students were more spread out, she would have less of an issue not wearing a mask.

The prospect of no longer fogging up your classes while breathing or being shamefully out of breath while racing to class is difficult to pass up. Yet it is my understanding that the fear of judgment is stronger. 

I learned multiple approaches for dealing with this unprecedented situation after talking to a handful of students. One of my peers, Julia Koehl, suggested following the professors’ lead. For instance, if a professor wears a mask to class, then she will continue to wear hers as well. If a professor comes to class without wearing a mask, she will feel more comfortable leaving her mask in her backpack.

Her approach to this situation is commendable and she explained that her reasoning behind her logic is based on the age difference between students and professors. The age difference, sometimes small and other times large, between professors and students is something to note.

Older professors are more at risk if they are to catch COVID-19. Further, students who go to social outings frequently and then choose to not wear a mask in the classroom, put older professors in a potentially dangerous situation.

But a question keeps running through a majority of students’ minds is how to act under this new policy. In other words, what does it mean to not wear a mask? Many Pitt students I spoke with said they will base their decision on what their peers and professors decide to do.

From the beginning of the pandemic, wearing a mask was a highly politicized decision. COVID-19 temporarily changed the lives of many people living in the United States as strict measures were enforced to protect the lives of American citizens.

The debate over this precautionary measure eventually came to the forefront of COVID-19 politics. So, a stigma surrounding wearing a mask was formed.

Initially, wearing a mask was seen as a necessary requirement to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although, there was significant pushback against mask mandates as many citizens believed this requirement infringed upon their freedoms.

Moving forward, I plan to use a combination of the strategies discussed above. My desire to not wear a mask anymore is just as strong as my desire to respect my professors and not be viewed as an anti-masker.

The end of the mask mandate at Pitt is a positive sign that the world is slowly reverting back to its normal self, but I will continue to approach this policy change just as I have approached the pandemic — with caution and care.

Featured photo by DS stories on

Presenting Sharif Bey Excavations at the Carnegie Museum of Art

If someone did not know anything Shari Bey or the background behind their art, they would very likely think they were from a physical excavation.

“Sharif Bey: Excavations” ran at the Carnegie Museum of Art from October 2 of last year until March 6.

The exhibition opened to the public with an artist’s talk called “In Conversation: Sharif Bey,” which took place on Saturday, October 2, 2021, at 1 p.m. (A recording of the artist’s talk can be found on the Carnegie Museum of Art SoundCloud profile.)

Bey is a Pittsburgh native and an Associate Professor of Art at Syracuse University with experience in ceramics, sculpture, community art programming, and art teacher training.

Bey has set up solo exhibitions in the past and has been a part of numerous group exhibitions as well. He is also featured in multiple public collections in museums all over the nation.

This exhibition is inspired by Bey’s experience of the Carnegie museum as a child and his reflections on it as an adult. His artwork is described as investigating “the cultural and political significance of adornment and the symbolic and formal properties of archetypal motifs, while questioning how the meaning of icons and function transform across cultures and time.”

Bey’s art sculptures and figurines in this exhibition look like ancient artifacts, maybe objects dug up from an archaeological site in Africa. His art possesses many qualities of African art, such as a focus on the human face and figure, hand carvings, and visual abstraction. In a press release for this exhibition, Bey’s artistic influences are stated to range from modernism, functional pottery, Oceanic Art, and Art of the African diaspora.

In reality, Bey’s works truly are artifacts in many aspects. His pieces act as artifacts of his past that he has also shaped by his present and his conceptions of his future. He “excavated” or extracted them from his memories, found objects of his past artwork, and his interactions with people and spaces.

Bey considers the found objects to contain vestiges of his past, that which he wants to give new life. During the artist’s talk, he reveals that the process of finding objects from his previous works becomes “a generative site of looking back and investigating those vestiges and seeing what’s present.”

Sharif Bey
Nkisi nkondi (power figure) c. 1875


During the artist’s talk, Bey discussed his artistic process, how his new work engaged both his past and present selves, and his process of recovering and unearthing sources of inspiration in-depth. He was joined in conversation with Rachel Delphia, the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at Carnegie Museum of Art.

In detailing his early experiences of the museum, Bey explained how one of the first ideas he responded to as a child “is having the freedom to engage works of art at my own pace.”

When he was nine years old, he was nominated by his art teacher Mary Ann Miller at Beltzhoover elementary school to join a Saturday Art program run by the museum. When Bey had free time in-between instruction, he would use it to go back and see things the group passed through or things he wanted to spend more time looking at. Bey had been particularly interested in the Nkisi nkondi (power figure) c. 1875 that used to be on display at the museum, which he revisited for many years afterward and eventually became a significant source of artistic inspiration. 

Dippermouth (2019)
Sleeping Giant #1 (2017)

In the exhibition, there are sculptures of abstract human figures in ebony and copper brown colors. Small enough to fit on a table, these sculptures vary a lot in size and shape. One of the biggest figures has four legs with a thick middle section supporting a head that is barely recognizable as human, if not for its human-like ears, nose, and mouth. While one of the smallest sculptures has a short stub for a body and a human face that looks closer to a real one, save for the tip of its head that extends and curves behind itself. Many of these sculptures are made of earthenware, nails, and mixed media. One of his pieces, Dippermouth (2019), is dissimilar from other sculptures in this exhibition in that the outer ring of the sculpture is covered with nails that protrude at different lengths. In the past, Bey created several sculptures similar in appearance to Dippermouth, such as the sculptures in his Star Child Series.

His spiral-shaped necklace sculptures that hung on the walls of the exhibition appear to the eye to be made of individual animal bones or ancient, colored African beads. But, his necklace sculptures are in fact made from earthenware, vitreous china, mixed media, and glass. The necklace sculptures were intended to mimic pinch-pot style vessels like beads that draw on forms found in the natural world like tusks or dinosaur vertebrae. His mask sculptures each have unique face shapes and intricate backgrounds comprised of various mixed media or industrial porcelain shards, such as his Sleeping Giant #1 (2017) mask sculpture. Sleeping Giant #1 has an oval-shaped face mask that is surrounded by red and white shards that look as if they were haphazardly stabbed into the frame of the sculpture.

Bey studied sculpture at The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia, “shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union,” as stated by the artist in his short biographical profile. Afterward, he studied at Slippery Rock University in PA where he earned his BFA in Ceramics, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he earned his MFA in Studio Art. Later, Bey earned a Ph.D. in Art Education from Penn State University.

Some of the accolades Bey has received are: The United States Artist Fellowship, The Pollock-Krasner Fellowship, The New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and The J. William Fulbright Scholarship.

A publication about the exhibition is expected to be released in 2022. The publication will delve into three of Bey’s driving questions: what makes one believe they can become an artist, how does what I do connect to who I am, and how can I fulfill a social responsibility to my community? Bey’s three questions will be answered in part by an autobiographical portion written by himself that focuses on influential figures, locations, and personal experiences that he encountered in his journey as an artist.

The publication will also consist of an essay by James Stewarts (a Penn State Emeritus professor of African American studies), an introduction written by Delphia, and archival material from the museum’s record curated by Alyssa Velazquez. Additionally, the Carnegie Museum of Art Design & Publications studio will design the book in-house, in a way that will enhance and further the themes of Bey’s exhibition.

Bey has two upcoming exhibitions outside of Pittsburgh: (2022) Sharif Bey: Facets, Everson Museum, in Syracuse, NY, and (2022) Sharif Bey, Gardiner Museum, in Toronto, Canada.

Sharif Bey: Excavations had been organized by Rachel Delphia (the Alan G., Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design), Alyssa Velazquez (Curatorial Assistant for Decorative Arts and Design), and Kiki Teshome (a Margaret Powell Curatorial Fellow)

The exhibition was supported by The Bessie F. Anathan Charitable Trust of the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Arts, Equity, & Education Fund (AE&E Fund)

Pitt’s SafeRider Services Frustrates and Endangers Students — Once Again

Each year Pitt receives almost $3.5 million from its undergraduate body to pay for services like shuttles and the SafeRider service.

While each student pays a security, safety, and transportation fee of $180 every year, some students have had upsetting experiences using the shuttle service. 

The frustration appears to be nothing new.

Fifteen years ago, in 2007, students lamented the service for “stranding” them in the cold. In 2016, SGB attempted to overhaul the SafeRider service after numbers dropped, and as recently as March this year, SGB listened to students express their concerns for the SafeRider’s poor service.

“When SafeRider came about I was really really excited,” said Isha Shah, a sophomore finance major.

As a female living off campus who often travels to her apartment from the library late at night, she worries a lot about the dangers of the city. She mentioned one incident that occurred less than a block away from her home in which two gunmen robbed a local store, one with an AK-47 style rifle. 

“I think I have a very valid reason to be worried,” Shah said.

To ease her fears getting home, Shah said he uses the SafeRider service. But she added that she’s had poor experiences. 

According to information from Pitt’s website: “SafeRider provides complimentary transportation during the evening and early morning hours when special non-emergency needs arise,” but does not provide “travel on an established bus or shuttle route.” 

“I always get really anxious because I know that the SafeRider’s gonna tell me no,” Shah said because of her close proximity to the shuttle route along Forbes Ave.

Shah said she’s disappointed with the unreliable and time-consuming shuttles that don’t even drop students off directly in front of their residences. 

During the very late hours of the night, walking even small distances can be dangerous, especially for young female students. When it comes to the shuttles, while “real-time tracking” is available, “Route times are subject to change.” 

Like Shah, Carolyn Fochek, a sophomore sociology major at Pitt, has been denied SafeRider’s services in the past.

She lives on upper campus and during a period of time when the shuttles did not pass her street due to construction, the SafeRider driver refused to drive her multiple times. 

“It was just a very toxic environment,” Fochek said, “and I was very avoidant of using SafeRider because it didn’t feel comfortable for me to have to justify using the SafeRider to someone who was responsible for driving me.”

Like Fochek, Shah’s experience with the SafeRider app is often unreliable and uncertain because of cancellations and unclear communication. As a result, Shah feels like she can never really depend on either the shuttle or SafeRider service. 

Fochek has also had problems with a lack of communication.

“Once I got a notification that my SafeRider was gonna be there within like three minutes, so I grabbed my stuff, walked outside, and by the time I got out there, the SafeRider left,” Fochek said. 

Another time, Fochek had to wait outside late at night for the SafeRider to show. 

“The problem is I would get a notification that they’re approaching in a few minutes, and then it would be like fifteen minutes waiting outside in the rain or the cold in order to get this SafeRider that I could’ve just waited inside a little bit longer for,” Fochek said. “It just wasn’t a good situation to be in as a student waiting for a driver at night.”

Unfortunately, even when Shah was able to successfully book a SafeRider, the driver sometimes made her feel uncomfortable, and she isn’t the only student who feels that way. 

“For a long time, the Z-trip safe driver would tell me I had to sit in the front seat,” Fochek said. “He would ask me a lot of questions that I just did not feel like I needed to answer.” 

On one instance, Fochek witnessed a SafeRider refuse service to a girl who was visibly very drunk after a party.

“We all watched her boyfriend carry her off,” Fochek said, “because this driver refused to take her.” 

Driving safety is another one of Fochek’s concerns.

“Sometimes the drivers do not drive safely,” Fochek said. “I remember once I was sitting in the back of my SafeRider and my driver was on the phone looking at a map or looking at a message or something…Other times they’re not adequately stopping at stop signs.” 

Fochek said she believes that there are solutions that can help make the SafeRider and shuttle services better for both the students and the drivers. In her eyes, the University needs to provide better pay and working conditions for the demanding jobs they do, as well as hire more drivers. 

“These drivers are overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated,” Fochek said. “I don’t blame any of the drivers for how they’ve responded to the conditions they’ve been put in, but I do hope we can rectify it.”

Fochek also imagines that there might be a simpler and more efficient system for late night shuttle services. As it is now, late night shuttles often have the drivers running routes in circles all night, and there are usually very few students during these hours. 

“The late night shuttles that run a specific route all night long are just not valuable to the overall late night transportation system,” Fochek said. 

Instead, she believes that the shuttles should either stay at Hillman during the night, where students can hop on at any point to be driven to their destination, or the shuttles can work as SafeRiders and be requested through the app. 

While it’s clear some students are not satisfied with the transportation services they are receiving at a cost, it’s not so clear what the university is doing and should be doing about it. Ultimately, it comes down to the financial needs of students and the way drivers are being treated.

“It is just so frustrating to me to see the school pretending to care for students when in reality it’s just another thing to attract more tuition dollars and attract parents attention,” Shah said. “But when it actually comes down to it they’re not willing to provide this service.”

The “false promise” of the SafeRider service is what angers Shah the most.

“I think what makes me the most upset is the fact that Pitt advertises this service as something that’s out there to protect students and how they care about our safety. Each semester in my bill I see a transportation fee of I think $200 dollars, but then I’m seeing not only incredibly unreliable shuttle but I’m being denied the SafeRide service,” Shah said. “If you’re going to offer a service then either offer it well or don’t do it at all.”

“These drivers are working up to seven days a week until 4 or 5 a.m. These are adults with families of their own. And these drivers are not making enough money,” Fochek said. “We need to make sure we’re respecting them as people.”

Dietary Restrictions and Dining Hall Diets: What Options Do Students Have?

The college diet is well known – french fries at 10am, not a vegetable or fruit in sight, coffee as water, one meal a day – that kind of thing. Everyone likes to joke about college student’s poor eating habits. But is the college diet a consequence of a student’s choices or is it what food options are made available? And what does dining on campus look like if you’re a student with a specialized diet?

Katie N., a sophomore with no specific dietary restrictions beyond her preferences, says she feels for students eating specific diets.

“I mean the food is dining hall food, I don’t always find stuff that I like, but at least I find stuff I can eat,” Katie says. “My roommate is vegan and there’s like nothing for her.” 

Anthony M., a senior at Pitt with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that presents as a severe gluten allergy, says being a student with a meal plan and dietary restrictions isn’t easy. 

“Yeah, I’ve had Celiac’s disease my whole life, so I know how to feed myself. Like I’m used to looking for the gluten free options,” says Anthony. “But it’s not easy when you have a meal plan and have to eat at certain places and those places don’t have food you can actually eat.”  

The Eatery at Towers has nine food stations for students to explore with the assumption being a student will be able to find something. But if you’re a student with one of the eight most common allergens, especially if that allergy is severe, the only station you can put your confidence in is Flourish, Pitt’s allergen-friendly station. 

What will you find at Flourish? When I walked into The Market at 2 p.m. last Thursday, they were offering sausage links, steamed broccoli, and roasted potatoes. This is the meal they will serve from noon (when breakfast turns into lunch) until The Eatery closes at 10 p.m. that night.

I notice that cubed honeydew and cantaloupe was offered as well. The section of Flourish offering a build-you-own salad bar was closed. I see a package of gluten-free buns and a loaf of gluten-free bread. As a frequent flier at Flourish, I was surprised I didn’t see pork as the protein for the day — it usually is. 

If you are a gluten-free student like I am, or, one who chooses not to eat meat (like I am not), you will not have anything substantial to eat beyond broccoli and potatoes on this Thursday at Flourish. Your options are to leave The Eatery to find other food options (either on-campus or off-campus) or to explore the other stations. 

At each station there are cards that will tell you what the food item is, what ingredients are in it, and any potential allergens. However, Michael DiBiasi, Pitt Eats’ Dietician, will be the first to tell you that at those stations, they can’t promise that cross-contamination won’t happen. For those with severe allergies, this risk is not worth it. 

Anthony M.’s advice for students with allergies is pretty straightforward — get past the meal plan as quickly as possible. 

“I would probably just say eat a lot of salads. Find stuff you like, sort of, and get used to it,” he suggests. “There aren’t very many options for us [fellow students with allergies]. I started eating well again when I moved off-campus and didn’t have a meal plan.”

For students with dietary restrictions, the dining hall diet doesn’t look very sustainable – options are limited. According to advice from students with allergies, your off-campus options are better.

Burnout or Something More? A Study of Burnout in Pitt Students and How Pitt Treats Mental Health

Finals season is upon us. Students can be seen bustling from building to building through the blustery April weather, going from class to class. One individual steps out of their 4 p.m. physics class, their eyelids drooping over their bloodshot eyes. They shuffle through their bag for their notebook as they head toward the library to study for their upcoming final. This is their second day straight without sleep, and they have forgotten dinner again. 

As we head into the most stressful point of the semester, so many things can be overlooked, especially mental health. Hobbies, physical activity, and other aspects that contribute to mental wellness are pushed to the side as students focus intensely on academics.

As a result of this ongoing, ever-increasing amount of work that is put on students, it’s almost inevitable that stress evolves into burnout. However, since everyone experiences life differently, how can we pinpoint what burnout truly is?

To try and answer this question, several University of Pittsburgh students shared what their experience with burnout was like. Not surprisingly, their experiences were further supported by outside research and surveys.

When asked to rank their level of burnout on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the most burnt out, several students smiled and laughed nervously. Most students ranked their level over 5 with some students even going to 10. Their symptoms varied widely, but all the students I spoke with reported some form of harm or deterioration to their wellbeing.

Second-year psychology student Naomi said she can tell she is burnt out because of her motivation to do work. She completes it to “get it over with,” rather than because she actually wants to. She “doesn’t want to have to deal with it.”

First-year political science student Kelsey reported similar symptoms, with low motivation and high procrastination levels as the semester reaches its climax. Many students also reported that they do not have time to take care of themselves or their wellbeing, such as second-year Emergency Medicine student Adam claiming that his “sleep schedule is out of sync.” (To respect their privacy, all student names were kept anonymous.)

Psychology Today defines “burnout” as “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” However, burnout is not the same as being overworked; symptoms characteristic of burnout include “physical and mental exhaustion, a sense of dread about work, and frequent feelings of cynicism, depression, anger, or irritability.”

Burnout is something that affects a variety of individuals, regardless of their situation. Parents and couples are not left out of the fray, but statistically, students are those who are most affected.

In fact, a 2021 survey conducted by Ohio State University stated that the amount of college students who have experienced burnout rose from 40% in August 2020 to a concerning 71% in April 2021. Psychology Today also found that, if ignored for long enough, burnout can lead to a “mountain of mental and physical health problems…including headaches, fatigue, heartburn, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as increased potential for alcohol, drug, or food misuse.”

The potential for more serious problems rears its ugly head with prolonged bouts of burnout. According to the same 2021 survey, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse levels have also increased from 2020 to 2021, albeit in smaller intervals: 

Students who screened positive for anxiety rose from 39% to around 43%

Students who screened positive for depression rose from 24% to 28%

Eating unhealthily as a coping mechanism rose from 25% to 29%

Use of alcohol rose from 15.5% to 18%

Use of tobacco/vaping rose from 6% to 8%

Physical activity dropped from 35% to 28%

Another question still stands: how do we deal with burnout and prevent bigger issues from occurring? From interviews with students, it seems that self-care is essential.

All the students I spoke with reported physical activity and exercise as a favorite method of self-care. With the days getting warmer, spending time outside is a de-stressor that is becoming more available; one can see hundreds of students relaxing on the lawns and in the parks, as well as studying and working in the Schenley Quad and other public spaces.

Other students reported organization as an important tool to lower stress. Things such as making a schedule, making a to-do list, and working in small segments help students to manage their time and make time for taking care of themselves. Along with self-care, experts state that strengthened coping skills can help students fight against severe burnout and mental illness.

For Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State, she says that “it is crucial that we arm students with the resilience, cognitive-behavioral skills and coping skills that we know are protective against mental health disorders.”

In response to this survey, Ohio State University and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are using the data from the survey to create and integrate programs and resources into the curriculum to help students prioritize their mental health.

“Students are often overloaded with their regular coursework,” Melnyk said. “So when they’re offered these wonderful programs they sometimes just see them as one more thing to do…by making them part of their classes and campus life and ensuring students know exactly where to go for help as they need it, we can really impact a lot more lives and give these students skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”

How does the University of Pittsburgh shape up when it comes to advanced mental health resources? As a student who has been through the University Counseling Center on multiple occasions, my experiences with the Center have admittedly been mediocre.

The experiences with counselors are very hit-or-miss; for example, one counselor I had seen was very open-minded and available whenever necessary, but another counselor eventually ended sessions with me and told me to seek other resources.

The counseling experience also takes a lot of time, with little reward.

The most one can get is a single session either weekly or biweekly. There seems to be little variety when it comes to availability, especially for students who may be struggling with more serious issues. Even if one is referred to off campus resources, the resources are often overbooked or not flexible with students’ schedules. Overall, the UCC seems resourceful on the surface, but in reality is seemingly ill-prepared for students who may be suffering from more serious issues.

While I would like to recommend the UCC as a resource, I believe it shouldn’t be one’s primary resource. There are a plethora of mental health-based organizations on campus that are run by faculty and students alike, such as Active Minds and the National Alliance on Mental Illness at Pitt (NAMI).

Additionally, there exists plenty of off-campus resources in Oakland and in Pittsburgh, as well as tele-therapy services. The more resources at your disposal, the better. You can also find counseling resources online based on location, specific issues, and healthcare provider. 

Burnout seems to be a universal experience among college students — something which is both comforting and somewhat concerning. However, it is important to remember to prioritize health and wellness, and that you’re not alone. There are local and virtual resources that can help. With the right amount of self-care and resources at our fingertips, burnout and other bigger issues can be dealt with and, in some cases, even prevented. 

Featured photo by Tara Winstead on

Photo of graduates throwing their caps by Pixabay on

Thanks to COVID-19, I Do (or Don’t) Have a Job

University graduates, how is the job market looking for you in this seemingly end-emic era? That’s the question I proposed to seniors in various majors at the University of Pittsburgh, and the responses I received are just as varied as their majors.

Soon-to-be Pitt graduates are entering a job market that’s recuperating after what has hopefully been the worst of the COVID-19 outbreaks.

During the height of the pandemic, clearly some industries were thriving while others were merely surviving. Workers were either deemed essential or furloughed. Since essential workers were risking their lives on the front lines and, eventually, less people were working overall, hourly pay across industries soared well above minimum wage.

What’s more, COVID-19 created a tremendous opportunity for some of those in the workforce: remote work. The opportunity to work remotely has expanded job opportunities, but this expansion exists within limited parameters. Remote options for many positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are near impossible due to the hands-on nature of the work.

Rebekah Colacot is a 21-year-old Pitt senior looking for work as a research neuroscientist. She tried to search for remote work in her field, but was unsuccessful in her endeavors.

“Especially with neuroscience and research, the few [remote options] that were and are available are so competitive that I would need at least a Master of Science in order to beat the competition,” she said about remote opportunities in her field.

Colacot disclosed that this competition was partly because of the expensive training that employers would require for their remote employees. However, other industries—like the corporate business world—don’t bat an eye at remote work, even welcoming a work from home lifestyle as it has its own advantages for both employees and employers.

According to a study conducted by Stanford, employee productivity can increase up to 13 percent by working from home. This increase in performance is attributed to a quieter, more convenient working environment as well as fewer breaks and sick days. This study also observed that employees reported improved work satisfaction, and attrition rates were cut by 50%.

As a graduating Pitt senior and marketing major in the College of Business Administration, I can personally attest that navigating the job market right now is akin to being on a rollercoaster.

On one hand, there seems to have been an excessive amount of remote work opportunities. In the heat of the pandemic, I was blessed to have two remote internships that were not designed to be virtual opportunities had the pandemic not occurred.

It’s crazy to think that I started to work with a team in July 2020 and I never met the team members in person until September 2022. But I know more than a handful of other business students who were in similar situations at some point in the past two years.

Many business students were offered once-in-a-lifetime remote work opportunities, including accounting internships with one of the Big Four and marketing internships abroad. Such opportunities may not have otherwise been realistic due to unreasonable commutes or limited office space.

While competition still existed for these positions, the virtual nature of work at home allowed for more interns to be welcomed at some of the most desirable companies.

Although the office is making a comeback, virtual work is still available and many Pitt Business seniors are hoping to ride that wave for as long as they can. Along with being convenient, remote work gives employees the freedom to work wherever as well as whenever.

The ability to travel and have a flexible schedule are two concepts that can make employees swoon. Having these benefits seem to be a privilege for only those working in industries that do not require hands-on in-person work.

On the other hand, an interesting phenomenon is occurring in which companies—even those that allowed remote work during the pandemic—are backing away from offering virtual opportunities. Now that many restrictions like social distancing, face masking, and quarantining are being lifted, companies are encouraging in-person work over remote work.

Some of these companies are even limiting—or going as far as prohibiting—remote work as offices reopen their doors. In comparison to a year ago, the job market for my industry feels as if it is slowly contracting to its pre-pandemic state before it was inflated by remote work. While I am not scared to step into the job market at this current moment due to the overwhelming amount of marketing positions available, I am aware that remote work opportunities are seemingly being revoked.

If this trend were to continue, myself and many others currently working remotely would be placed between a rock and a hard space. If my current employer were to revoke the remote aspect of my position, then I would need to relocate closer to the office. Because relocating would be an onus, I am cautious to say yes to remote work after graduation.

All that to say, nothing is clear about the current job market, evidenced by the struggles—or lack thereof—that university graduates are experiencing as they enter the workforce.

Depending on their major and the specific subset of the job market in which they are entering, students are encountering newfound difficulty or ease of finding a postgraduate job. In each industry, there are a variety of forces at play, and only time will tell how the job markets for specific industries were impacted by this pandemic.

Until then, congrats to all graduates—here’s hoping that thanks to COVID-19, you do have a job.