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ECE's Robert Kerestes among recipients of 2018 Personalized Education Grants from the Provost

Read the full story at Pittwire.

University of Pittsburgh administrators traditionally thought that student success was reflected primarily in graduation rates, said Patricia E. Beeson, Pitt’s provost and senior vice chancellor.

They later found, she said, that measuring student success required a multifaceted approach that considered experiences — for example, internships and study abroad — that catered to students’ individual preferences.

With this perspective in mind, Beeson and her colleagues in the Office of the Provost launched the Personalized Education Initiative to encourage faculty, staff and students to personalize the academic experience. The first recipients of grants from the Personalized Education Grants Program were recognized by Beeson at a March 26 reception.

“As the higher education landscape and the needs of our students continue to evolve, our efforts to transform the student experience are setting a new standard,” said Beeson. “Through innovative uses of technology and novel approaches to teaching, advising and mentoring, Pitt is ideally positioned to provide national leadership in the area of personalized education.”

According to Beeson, the initiative received 42 proposals; 17 projects were selected for funding ranging from $1,000 to $26,000 each. 

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In his research on geographic information systems (GIS), Swanson School of Engineering faculty member Robert Kerestes has seen how programs like Google Maps and Yelp can match people to what they are looking for based on location. Kerestes, director of the electrical engineering undergraduate program and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, wondered if GIS was applicable to academics, too.

He partnered with his colleagues Samuel Dickerson, director of the computer engineering undergraduate program and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Anita Persaud, director of retention. Together, they drafted a proposal for a real-time tutor sourcing application.

The app, similar to ride-sharing apps like Lyft or Uber, would allow students to locate and request tutors near them that have academic expertise in a particular subject. At first, students would have access to a hand-picked pool of tutors, but the app would eventually allow people who are interested in serving as tutors to offer their services. Kerestes hopes to use the grant to allow students to use the app at no charge.

In the initial phase of the project, the app’s use will be limited primarily to members of the Swanson School. Kerestes imagines expanding the project to other parts of the University and even outside Pitt at a later phase.

Author: Katie Fike, University Communications

Contact: Katie Fike