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Penny Semaia joined the University of Pittsburgh athletic department in September of 2005 as the Career and Life Skills Coordinator for Student-Athletes. In his current role, Semaia oversees the daily operations of the Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program. Through the program, workshops and resources are provided to assist student-athletes with preparation for success both in college and life after college.

Under Semaia’s guidance, Pitt has gained a national reputation for successful student-athlete development.  Semaia has served as a facilitator for numerous NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership and Professional conferences and workshops, NFL/NCAA Life Skills Summit and is a member of both the NCAA Mental Health Task Force and the NCAA Student-Athlete Affairs Advisory Group. Most recently, Semaia also served as a national facilitator for the National Consortium for Academic and Sports (NCAS), providing programs and services focusing on various life skills topics.

Outside of Pitt, Semaia collaborated with the Pittsburgh Public School District to initiate the We Promise program, a campaign aimed at promoting higher education and life readiness among young African-American students in the school district. Recently, Semaia has teamed with the Troy and Theodora Polamalu Foundation to help provide life skills training through the Fa’a Samoa Initiative in American Samoa.

His exemplary dedication and commitment to service merited the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in the Community in 2012, and the Division of Student Affairs’ Art Ramicone Unsung Hero Award in 2013.  Semaia received the Alumni of Distinction Award from his hometown of Utica. In 2011, Semaia was named one of Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, who recognizes outstanding professionals for their community service, career success and contributions through charitable organizations. Along with the other 50 Finest recipients, Semaia helped raise over $250,000 for the foundation in 2011. In recognition of his commitment to the community, Semaia was the recipient of the Citizen Service Award for the city of Pittsburgh and received a proclamation naming May 25, 2012 “Mr. Penny Semaia Day.”

A Utica, N.Y., native, Semaia earned a full athletic scholarship to Pitt, where he was a four-year letter winner on the Panthers’ varsity football team. A 2003 graduate, he earned his degree in anthropology with related areas in sociology and performance.

Beyond the Bio Questions
Favorite place on the University of Pittsburgh campus?
Front Steps of the Union. In my undergrad days, that was the social space.
Favorite sports moment at Pitt?
Closing out Pitt Stadium as a freshmen. It was an unbelievable feeling to be a part of that.
What is your favorite thing to do in the city of Pittsburgh?
I love driving into the different neighborhoods and pulling over in a random shop/ café.
What do you love most about the University of Pittsburgh?
The people. There is a genuine care and affection for both the University and the people here.
What is your favorite aspect of working in Pitt’s athletic department?
Working with dynamic coaches and young student-athletes.
What do you love most about working in athletics?
Watching our young student-athletes transition to and through Pitt and into successful adults.
If you could have dinner with any three people who would it be and why?
Mother Teresa, I’d want to gain wisdom and insight on being a servant leader.
Junior Seau, he was my idol growing up.
Keanu Reeves, from everything I read about him, he just seems like an interesting and genuine person.
Favorite quote?
Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. – Randy Pausch
Hobbies outside of work?
Volunteering with various populations and groups
My church
Tasting all the great foods of Pittsburgh!

Penny Semaia

Penny  Semaia

Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student Life

Petersen Events Center
3719 Terrace St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone - (412) 648-9369
Fax - (412) 648-8115

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