Advising and Mentoring

Academic Advising

As a student at Pitt Public Health, you have many resources beyond your academic advisor that can contribute to your academic development. Advising systems vary among departments, but you should be able to take advantage of all options listed here.

Departmental Advising

Program directors, department student services staff and assigned faculty advisors are students' main resources for course advising, registration, and initial mentoring. As you progress through your program, you may acquire other formal mentors for your research, your practicum, etc. 
Course Registration Process

The course registration process varies among departments, but in most cases you are required to meet with your academic advisor, who will sign your enrollment form. The department student services staff will take that form and either register you in your classes or activate your self-registration. There are two general options: 

  1. Self-registration
  2. Registration by departmental staff

For detailed information on course and credit requirements, make sure you talk to an authoritative source. It never hurts to double check with the Office of Student Affairs, especially if you are doing something complicated like pursuing multiple degrees or transferring credits. 

Both options require that you: 

  1. Meet with your academic advisor
  2. Have your enrollment form signed
  3. Send the form to your department student services staff, who will either have your self-registration activated or complete the registration process for you. 

Prior to enrollment, check course descriptions, course schedules, course evaluations, and detailed registration instructions at

When you are considering elective courses, don't forget to check past course evaluations.

Grievance Procedures

Students are encouraged to share concerns with any faculty or staff member at any time. The first step to resolving any dispute should be a professional discussion with the faculty member involved. The next step is a discussion with the chair of your department. In situations in which it is uncomfortable to talk to those individuals, you can raise issues with the associate dean responsible for academic oversight. Your academic advisor, program director, and departmental student services staff can also be good sources of advice.

Mike Dolinger ( is the acting School of Public Health ombudsperson. Students are encouraged to contact Mike to express concerns or complaints that arise that you believe have not or cannot be addressed with a faculty person or department. The ombudsperson’s role is to help mediate conflicts, facilitate conversations between individuals, and provide information about institutional policies related to the student’s issues, including University policies and procedures.

Formal procedures for disputing academic censure are contained in the school’s probation and dismissal policy.

University-level grievance-reporting procedures are also available to all SPH students, staff, and faculty, including the following:

Get the Mentoring you Need

Find Potential Mentors

Locate potential mentors within and outside of your program, department, and school. Research the work of these faculty and see if their interests match or complement yours. You can also talk to senior students about their advisors and mentors. Then, reach out to potential mentors and ask to meet with them. Be patient and professional when requesting these initials appointments; most faculty are eager to help but may not be available immediately. Good topics for this initial conversation depend on whether you are looking for a primary mentor or supplementary contacts. In either case, it's a good idea to start with mutual research or practice interests and professional goals. 

Develop the Relationship

Working with your mentor is as much your job as it is theirs. It is important to have regular meetings to discuss your work and get feedback from your mentor, but it is also important to regularly re-examine your own strengths, skills, and expectations for written work.

Communicate Expectations for Written Work

Be clear with your mentor about expectations for authorship, timelines and deadlines. Some mentors will work with students on very rough drafts or informal documents, while others expect students to produce more polished work before they look at it. In either case, do your own proofreading—don't expect your mentor to be your copy editor!

Secondary Mentors and Advisors

To get the maximum benefit from your time at Pitt Public Health, reach out to other faculty and students, practicum advisors, Career Services, etc. Ideally you will graduate with a rich network of contacts who will provide you with mentoring and support for many years to come.

How to Build Professional Skills

Your in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences at Pitt Public Health should give you a strong set of professional skills by the time you graduate. 

Improve your Communication Skills

Your written and oral communication skills will be your primary career asset. In order to hone these skills, you can... 

Get feedback from instructors on your course writing and presentations Volunteer to give as many presentations as you can Participate in Pitt Public Health's Dean's Day Present posters and talks at professional meetings and local symposia Take a course on scientific communication and/or grant writing 

Internal and External Speakers

You'll see many listings for seminars, speakers, and other events that excite you, and many times your reaction will be "that sounds fantastic, but I'm so busy." Make the time at least several times a term to go to these events anyway. They are an invaluable opportunity to expose yourself to new possibilities, new ideas, and new people. Sit in the front row. Ask questions. Introduce yourself to the speaker. Use the opportunity to network within and outside the school. During your first and second terms, take advantage of the access to external guest speakers during Grand Rounds events. 

Career Services
To schedule a one-on-one appointment with career services, log into Handshake using your Pitt username and password. To learn more about their helpful services, visit the Careers page.

Preparing to Graduate

Familiarize yourself with graduation material before your last term. Deadlines for graduation application can also be found on the Graduation Information page. 

Registration and Approvals

Make sure you have done the following well before the term in which you plan to graduate: 

  • Be sure you are registered for the term in which you want to graduate.
  • If your work involves data, policies, or experiences from an outside agency, organization, or practicum site, ensure that you follow the guidelines and check if you are required to have a member of the agency, organization, or site on your committee.
  • If you're using data or experiences from a project at the Allegheny County Health Department, you must include your health department preceptor as a member of your committee. 
  • Make sure your essay/thesis/dissertation committee is in place and has been approved. 
  • Familiarize yourself with essay/thesis/dissertation format requirements and deadlines for defenses. 
  • Meet with your academic advisor and your department student services staff to make sure you have met all academic requirements. 
  • Pitt Public Health Student Defense/ Presentation Policy: Doctoral defenses, master’s thesis defenses, and essay presentations must occur at least three (3) days before the end date of the term in which the student intends to graduate.