Leadership and Governance

Board of Fellows

Comprised of public and private regional leaders, the Board of Fellows meets each year to discuss and establish the overall objectives of the Institute. Fellows are invited and encouraged to serve on the Institute’s policy committees and may volunteer (or be called to duty) as part of the Institute’s quick-response team, which reacts to rapidly arising issues of interest.

Click here to view a list of the Institute's current Board of Fellows.

The Executive Committee of the Board of Fellows will provide continuous oversight for the Institute's operations and ensure consistency with the mission. The membership of the Executive Committee is drawn from the Co-Chairs of the Policy Committees.


Mark Nordenberg

Mark A. Nordenberg joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1977. He quickly built a reputation as an outstanding teacher, and was the initial recipient of the School’s Excellence in Teaching Award and one of the first faculty members to receive the University-wide Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award. His area of academic specialty is civil litigation, and he has served as a member of both the U.S. Advisory Committee on Civil Rules and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Civil Procedural Rules Committee. He holds the special faculty rank of Distinguished Service Professor of Law.

Early in his career, Nordenberg served the University as Dean of the School of Law and as Interim Provost of the University. In 1995, he was elected Interim Chancellor by the University's Board of Trustees, and in 1996, following a national search, he was elected Chancellor. He served in that role until 2014, and under his leadership, the University achieved new levels of quality and impact on virtually every front. Undergraduate applications and the academic credentials of enrolled students soared; faculty and students regularly received the highest forms of national and international recognition; Pitt consistently ranked among the top U.S. universities in federal research awards; and the University successfully completed a $2 million capital campaign.

Chancellor Emeritus Nordenberg has received many important honors. Among them, he has been named Pittsburgh’s Person of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine and a History Maker by the Senator John Heinz History Center. To celebrate the remarkable progress achieved during his first decade as Chancellor, trustees, alumni leaders and other friends contributed $2.5 million to endow a chair in his name. In 2012, he was again honored when the Pitt Board of Trustees announced the naming of the Mark A. Nordenberg residence hall and the creation of an endowed scholarship fund, already supported by more than $5 million in private donations, also bearing his name.

Nordenberg is a past Chair of both the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities and served on the executive committee of the Association of American Universities.  He is a member of the boards of directors of BNY Mellon, UPMC and the Manchester-Bidwell Corporation.

Nordenberg is an honors graduate of North Allegheny High School, Thiel College and the University of Wisconsin Law School.  Reflecting his role as a leader in higher education, he has been awarded honorary degrees by Carnegie Mellon University, the Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, LaRoche College and Thiel College, as well as the University of Pittsburgh.

Chancellor Emeritus Nordenberg now serves as Chair of the University’s Institute of Politics. For nearly thirty years, the Institute has provided a non-partisan forum for the consideration of policy issues of importance to the region by elected officials and other civic leaders. Among other topics, recent initiatives have addressed the changing face of poverty, the opioid addiction epidemic, incarceration policies and practices, and the plight of financially distressed municipalities.


Samantha Balbier

Samantha became the Director of the Institute of Politics (IOP) and the Elsie Hillman Civic Forum in early 2019. Prior to joining the IOP, she worked on a range of public policy issues facing the nonprofit sector as the Executive Director of the Forbes Funds’ Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP), a coalition of over 450 organizations from Southwestern Pennsylvania. There, she worked with regional leaders to advocate on behalf of the sector to address federal and state issues such as charitable tax status, healthcare reform, overtime rules, tax reform, behavioral health, state performance-based budgeting, and the upcoming 2020 US Census. She has a breadth of knowledge in issue-based policy, especially in the fields of pediatric environmental health, green building design, early childhood education, and human services. Over the past twenty years, she has filled a range of roles including working in philanthropy as program staff at the Heinz Endowments, as an Executive Director of an environmental health nonprofit, and as a special consultant to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning, where she launched a statewide initiative that engaged five state departments. 

Her policy analysis and program development activities reflect the importance of strategically engaging content experts with elected and government officials and have resulted in Pennsylvania being awarded the Excellence in Environmental Protection of Children from the Children’s Environmental Health Network in 2014, as well as the Innovation in Education Award for the 2016 GPNP Behavioral Health Public Policy Cohort awarded by Mental Health America.

Samantha holds Bachelor’s degrees in Business and Social Work from Mercyhurst University. She received her Master’s in Social Work with an emphasis in public policy and community organizing from Pitt in 1998. Samantha received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work in 2018. She is incredibly grateful to the University and her former graduate school advisor, the late Dr. Morton Coleman, Founder of the Institute of Politics, who guided her towards this career in public policy.

Policy Committees

Each of the Institute’s eight policy committees assesses public policy needs within its domain and recommends targeted programming that will encourage policy decisions beneficial to the region. Committee cochairs and members assume leadership roles in the development, implementation, and evaluation of Institute programming in their respective policy areas. The Institute’s Executive Committee is comprised of the cochairs of these eight policy committees and offers continuous oversight and evaluation of the Institute’s operations.


The Institute of Politics has historically operated with a small and efficient staff to develop and implement its programs, special projects, publications, and internship offerings. The Institute is a component of the Chancellor's Office. We invite you to learn more about the Institute’s staff.