Events planned to celebrate and elevate community engagement


The need for community engagement is something that Pitt takes pretty seriously. And the University wants to recognize those who work hard to further that mission at the second Community Engaged Scholarship Forum, set for March 3, 2020.

“We are trying to highlight and illuminate the various ways that folks on campus are partnering with external partners in the community,” said Julia Spears, associate vice provost for Academic Innovation. “I think what we’re really trying to do is to create a space for this work to be celebrated. And to help to facilitate connection and communication among those on campus” and with community partners.

Last year’s forum was sponsored by Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement, and largely organized by Jamie Ducar, who is now director of Community Engagement with the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, and Holly Hickling, PittHonors academic community engagement advisor. Since 2014, Hickling and the Academically Based Community Engagement ad-hoc committee have organized an “Idea Exchange” that grew into the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum last year. This year’s event has additional backing from the Office of the Provost and hopes to offer expanded programming.

“We’re looking for a diversity of positions and experiences. We’re looking to make sure that we’re engaging various schools across campus,” Ducar said.

Faculty, staff, researchers, post-docs and students are all invited to submit proposals for workshops and/or poster presentations at the March forum.

In addition to keynote speakers and workshops, the forum will host the second Partners of Distinction Awards. The awards recognize “exemplar partnerships across campus that truly show reciprocity and mutual benefit.”

Up to five awards will be given, with each partnership receiving a $2,000 grant to support its activities. Partnerships eligible to be nominated have to be active during the 2019-20 academic year and involve Pitt faculty, staff or students working with an external group. Find full details here. Nominations are due by Dec. 15 and must include a letter from a community-based organization.

Part of the purpose of the forum is to bring together those on campus involved with community engagement, Ducar said.

“There are a lot of people who are doing community engaged work on campus. I feel like they’re in a bit of a vacuum, because they’re either in a department where they’re not seeing their engaged colleagues, or they’re just not sure of the programs and the opportunities that are happening across our campus,” she said. “We’re going to be a lot more intentional of trying to get people to learn more from one another as participants of the conference.”

“We have a really large collective impact as an institution,” Spears said. “And it’s really important, I think, for the individuals who are part of that to feel like their work has a place here and has a platform here.”

Getting staff involved with community engagement

Ducar and Spears also are organizing the Staff Community of Practice for Community Engagement,

Jamie Ducar“It will be to connect our practitioners across campus, first and foremost, to really create that community,” Ducar said.

The first meeting will be Nov. 13 and more than 50 people have already signed up for it. Spears said there will be a meeting in the spring in conjunction with the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum and one in the summer. Staff members can sign up at any time to join the discussions.

Pre-surveys on what participants hope to get out of the Community of Practice were sent out to those planning to attend next week’s meeting, and Ducar said, “some of the early responses really are kind of right in line with what we were hoping for.”

“Folks are potentially new to the engagement field and just want to get a better idea of what it means to be an engaged practitioner with a higher-ed lens,” she said. “Some people are looking to do very specific projects, so that there is a better framework within their department to guide their engaged work. And some people are really just looking to figure out how they can find potential collaborators on campus.”

For questions about the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum or the Staff Community of Practice for Community Engagement, email Jamie Ducar at or email

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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