Mary Goldberg Improves Life on Campus for Veterans and Students with Disabilities

by John Conroy

At the age of 32, Mary Goldberg has already made a significant impact on the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), rehabilitation, and higher education.

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Education in 2007 with an MEd in higher education management, she began working as the education and outreach coordinator in Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology (RST).

During her time in RST, she has developed new initiatives, including the Experiential Learning for Veterans in Assistive Technology and Engineering (ELeVATE) program with Distinguished Professor and FISA-Paralyzed Veterans of America Chair Rory Cooper. Goldberg also caught the attention of national student veterans’ groups, which led her to scale and replicate the transition program across the country and to receive a promotion to education and outreach project director in RST. Since she created this 10- week summer program (which includes remedial mathematics and writing courses as well as applied lab projects) in 2011, more than 25 veterans have completed it.

Other projects she has worked on include the Quality of Life Technology Enrichment program with Cooper, RST associate professor Dan Ding, and former Pitt Disability Resources and Services Director Lynnett Van Slyke to support students with disabilities at Pitt and the Technology and Innovation for People with Disabilities Program with RST assistant professor Jon Pearlman. This program provides experiences in product development for rehabilitation science, engineering, business, and law students. She also has taught three courses, has written grant proposals for education and outreach programs, and has been recognized as staff member of the year twice and nominated for the Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community and in Service to the University.

As for her professional focus on those with disabilities, Goldberg says that she’s always been drawn to programs that help people and was inspired by the undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities with whom she’s worked in RST.

“I wanted to bring more students and vets with disabilities into the areas of STEM and rehabilitation because their personal experiences advance the field and help break down barriers,” says Goldberg.

In January 2008, Goldberg returned to the classroom—informally— as a student at the University of Pittsburgh. She then formally enrolled in August 2010, graduating three years later with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in administrative and policy studies.

“I loved working closely with faculty members and stay in touch with several of them. They were great mentors,” says Goldberg. “I also really enjoyed learning about the practical experience and the research of both my instructors and classmates, several of whom I’ve collaborated with since graduation. My career has been fostered by the teams I’ve worked with as a student and a professional.”

In September 2014, she transitioned from her director position to become an assistant professor in RST.

“The thing I enjoy most about my work is that it’s constantly evolving, which allows me to apply what I’m learning in one area to other projects,” she says.

Her latest project is working as an instructor for a new massive open online course on disability awareness that is aimed at faculty and staff members worldwide to help them better support students with disabilities and is due to launch in September 2015.

John Conroy is in charge of marketing and communications for the School of Education.