Former Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto to join Heinz College faculty

This week, Carnegie Mellon announced that former Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto would join Heinz College as a Distinguished Executive in Residence. In this role, Peduto will co-teach a mini-course and give guest lectures, according to a press release from Heinz College.

In an interview with The Tartan, Peduto stressed that his position at Carnegie Mellon will be a continuation of his work as mayor. Peduto said that during his time as mayor, many companies he recruited to Pittsburgh were drawn in by "the work that was coming out of Carnegie Mellon."

Now, Peduto hopes to continue building Pittsburgh industries from the other side. "I see that type of ability in being a part of the Carnegie Mellon family … to be able to continue to build much in the same way that we were able to do through our administration," Peduto said.

In the Heinz College press release, Peduto noted working at Carnegie Mellon was a way to "formalize our relationship" after collaborating with the university throughout his time on City Council and then as mayor. In the interview, he said his position at Carnegie Mellon came about during a conversation with University President Farnam Jahanian.

Peduto said that during that conversation, "I expressed that sometime later in my career I truly wanted to teach." Peduto continued, "He made the offer of coming on board on a part-time basis and being able to work with people who I've had that opportunity to work with over the past 30 years."

Director of Media Relations Peter Kerwin, speaking on behalf of Jahanian, confirmed Peduto's account. He said, "following President Jahanian's exchange with Mr. Peduto, Heinz College welcomed the opportunity to work with the former Mayor."

Carnegie Mellon's work has become more urgent because many industries like construction are evolving, Peduto said. "All of the different types of ideas that we've thought about or maybe not thought about will be completely different within the next few decades," Peduto explained. Carnegie Mellon will be crucial to Pittsburgh's evolution, he said, because Pittsburgh "also needs the capacity of a partner that has the ability to innovate."

Some of the Carnegie Mellon community praised Peduto's hiring. In the Heinz College press release, Dean of Heinz College Ramayya Krishnan said, "While in office, Mayor Peduto modernized city government and truly transformed Pittsburgh into a leading 21st century city. We know our students will benefit from his leadership experience as well as his expertise in public policy and management."

Richard D. Caluguiri University Professor of History Joel Tarr, who studies the environmental history of cities and has featured Peduto as a speaker in his classes, complimented Peduto's service as mayor. Tarr wrote in an emailed statement, "I thought that he was a fine mayor, innovative and far-seeing. Over the years, he visited my CMU Pittsburgh class several times, both as a Councilman and later as mayor, and always related well to the students. His appointment will be of benefit to the college and its students." (Disclosure: I was in Tarr's class last semester, where Peduto spoke.)

As his mayoral loss last year showed, though, Peduto has sometimes been disconnected from Pittsburgh voters. Catherine Taipe, who was later elected Student Body Vice President, panned Peduto's efforts to get Pittsburgh nonprofits to pay payments in lieu of taxes in 2021, calling them "the bare minimum." Taipe could not be reached for comment.

In an emailed statement, Graduate Student Assembly President Divyansh Kaushik cited the Mon-Oakland Connector as one of Peduto's policies Carnegie Mellon students did not support. Still, Kaushik praised his work on national issues. "He was (and is) a strong voice for international students during the Trump administration's constant assault on the very presence of these students," Kaushik said. He added, "I hope the Mayor is able to draw upon his experiences as a champion for students as he was in situations where he was an ally but also takes this as an opportunity to also learn from the students as to why the students were unsupportive of certain policies of his administration."

Along with his new position at Carnegie Mellon, Peduto announced that he was starting a new consulting firm, Sabean Innovation Inc., for businesses and nonprofits. Its mission is to advocate for the "development ideology that the Peduto administration created," according to the press release. Peduto also announced that he will be a keynote speaker at the Global Covenant of Mayors summit on climate action next week.

Nonetheless, Peduto sees his role at Carnegie Mellon as the one with the biggest potential.

"Creating the S-Corporation has been a pleasure, and it's given me an opportunity to work on and with companies and nonprofits that I've enjoyed working with in the fields throughout my career," Peduto said. He added, "But this opportunity is something completely new. And it is the one that excites me the most."