The flow structure and lift response of a separated flow over an airfoil that is subjected to an impulsive type of pitching motion are compared to the response produced by a localized pulse disturbance at the leading edge of an airfoil. Time-resolved PIV data are used to obtain the velocity field on the suction side of the airfoil. POD analysis shows that the majority of energy is contained within the first four modes. Strong similarities in the shapes of the POD basis functions are found, especially for the second mode, irrespective of the type of actuation (global or local). The time-varying coefficient of this second POD mode tracks the negative of the lift coefficient or circulation in each case. Basis functions from the localized actuation data were projected on the velocity field of the globally actuated flow to obtain a hybrid set of coefficients. The hybrid coefficients matched reasonably well with the coefficients obtained from the original POD analysis for the globally excited flow. Both types of actuation were found to generate very similar Lagrangian flow structures. The results suggest a certain degree of universality in the POD modes/flow structures for the separated flow over an airfoil, irrespective of the type of excitation.