By SUSAN JONES
Pitt is taking its signature fall volunteer opportunities — Pitt Day of Caring for faculty and staff and Make a Difference Day for students — and transforming them into online educational and engagement events.
Civic Action Week will take place from Oct. 5 to 10 — around the same time teams of faculty, staff and students would have traditionally headed out into the community to do volunteer projects. The week of events is sponsored by Pitt Serves and the Office of Community and Governmental Relations.
“We realized pretty quickly that there was just no way that either office would be recommended to pull off a large-scale, in-person event that requires packed buses of people shipping off all over the city and county,” said Jamie Ducar, Community Engagement director in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations. Instead, they decided to “highlight the educational aspect of what we had all learned throughout supporting services in the Pandemic Service Initiative.”
The initiative allows employees to volunteer up to eight hours of their work week to a service opportunity of their choosing.
Ducar said they want the Civic Action Week sessions to complement smaller, in-person volunteer activities, but they’re still waiting for approval for those. For instance, Peoples Oakland relies on Pitt volunteers each year to do mulching, power washing and painting, so it doesn’t have to use money from its modest budget, Ducar said. “As soon as we get the OK, we are hoping to deploy small groups of in-person volunteers to support some of that type of work.”
In the meantime, they are building up the programming for Civic Action Week under several topics — Community Engaged Learning & Research, Community Organizing & Activism, Philanthropy, Policy & Governance, Social Entrepreneurship & Corporate Social Responsibility, and Direct Service.
“We’ve got a really robust set of what will be virtual panels and discussions, to be able to learn more about how communities have been impacted by the pandemic,” Ducar said. “How community-based organizations have responded and how they’re continuing to respond. I think we’ll have a really nice opportunity for folks to come together across disciplines to really talk about more mission-oriented work.”
Right now, there are at least three sessions a day over the six-day event. There are still spots for other conversations, which can be submitted through Sept. 27, Ducar said. Community organizations that want to propose an event to engage with the Pitt’s faculty, staff and students that week can submit ideas here.
Ducar said they’re hoping to move beyond just panel discussions and have more active audience participation in the virtual space. The sessions are open to Pitt faculty, staff and students, as well as community members.
Examples of sessions already scheduled include:
Iteration and Innovation for Nonprofits in the Age of COVID, hosted by the Forbes Fund
Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy, hosted by the All In Campus Democracy Challenge
Food and diaper drive
Student Civic Engagement Council panel with leaders from the Pittsburgh region on their civic engagement journey.
In addition to the online sessions, there are do-it-yourself projects that will benefit members of the Pittsburgh community. Instructions for each project are on the Civic Action Week website, but volunteers will need to provide the materials. Projects include activity packets for children served by Earthen Vessels Outreach; t-shirt cat or dog toys for Humane Animal Rescue; and Thinking of You cards for people in Kane Community Living Centers. The completed projects can be dropped off at the Office of Pitt Serves in William Pitt Union.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.
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