University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Dr. Spectar's Call for Digital Infrastructure as a Key to Closing the Rural-Urban Divide Continues to Gain Traction

Pitt-Johnstown President Dr. Jem Spectar, in an opinion piece in The Washington Post on February 20, 2019, titled “Want to close America’s rural-urban divide? Digital infrastructure is the key,” emphasizes the need for public and private investment in K-16 education to build a new digital economy future for rural America.

Dr. Spectar writes: “Key to this strategy would be significantly increasing participation in expanded coding and STEM programs from K-16 as well as vocational and workforce development programs.”

He further expounds on how Pitt-Johnstown is at the forefront of such efforts, writing, “My institution, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, is spearheading the CODE for Commonwealth and Country initiative, working with state government, industry and schools to enhance workforce readiness.”

The conclusion is a win-win-win regarding adapted education, community revitalization, and new job skills.

“By increasing digital literacy, distressed communities can emerge as tech talent hot spots that generate higher-paying jobs, attract millennials and rejuvenate downtown areas. These rural hot spots will be attractive to businesses seeking lower-cost rural production compared to the relatively higher wages of metropolitan or foreign locations. Millennials who prefer the independence, affordability and comfort of stress-free telecommuting will gravitate to these hot spots, injecting new life into moribund main streets. Thriving ventures and rising incomes will provide an organic economic stimulus and mitigate rural-urban migration. With enhanced infrastructure and digital economy talent, perhaps companies such as Amazon may someday establish their new headquarters in rural towns that will be all too happy to embrace them,” he states in the article.

As a result of the article's publication, Dr. Spectar was the featured guest on NPR radio's The Confluence, KDKA-TV's Sunday Business Page, and WPXI-TV/PCNC's Night Talk.

Dr. Spectar has been president of Pitt-Johnstown since 2007 and has provided innovative, creative and energetic leadership that has enabled Pitt-Johnstown to achieve major strategic goals, including significant academic program innovation, transformed facilities, resource development and revitalized community relations.

Dr. Spectar's vision has led to Pitt-Johnstown's CODE (Computational-Learning Opportunities in a Digital Environment) for Commonwealth & Country project. The ambitious effort promotes computer learning opportunities by working to develop and support CODE-smart schools in the area.

Recent efforts have further validated the digital literacy effort.

  • The university's cooperative coding program with Greater Johnstown Elementary School was the focus of a report by The Tribune-Democrat.
  • A Pitt-Johnstown Global Impact Speakers & Talks (GIST) series event was highlighted by robotics expert and Google engineer James McLurkin.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.