Year of Engagement funding opportunities still available


The Year of Engagement got off to a big start in July with the Diversity Forum 2020, Advancing Social Justice: A Call to Action, which attracted nearly 12,000 participants worldwide.

But the number of proposals for engagement-related projects — which can receive funding ranging from $500 to $8,000 — has been low, said Janet Grady, chair of the Year of Engagement funding committee and professor of Nursing.

“It was slow. The solicitation went out probably around the beginning of September,” Grady said. “Faculty, staff and everybody were so consumed with just trying to get off the ground with their classes.”

As of last week, the committee had received 18 submissions and funded nine of those, for a total of $22,732 in matching grants.

There are two more deadlines to submit proposals — Dec. 1 and Feb. 1, 2021. Matching grants will be offered in tiers: door-opening ($500+), baseline ($2,000+) and transformative ($5,000 to $8,000) levels. Learn more about the guidelines for funded proposals on the Year of Engagement website and check out a list of frequently asked questions.

Grady said partnerships with groups inside and outside of Pitt are the most important aspect of any proposal.

“The Year of Engagement is about partnerships that are co-created so that we work with our partners to determine collectively what their needs are and how we can help to meet those needs, because we want the partnerships to be mutually beneficial,” she said.

A good example of an internal partnership that the committee funded, Grady said, is a proposal by Abdesalam Soudi, a lecturer in the Linguistics department in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, on engaging humanities and health. The project calls for a conference where there can be a cross fertilization of ideas.

“The premise is that medicine and health-related professions really needs an infusion of humanities and people who have a background in humanities, because medicine and healthcare aren’t all just about the science or not just about physiology, but about taking care of the whole person,” she said.

A funded project from Jorge Jimenez, a doctoral candidate in bioengineering, is more externally focused. The project — “Design Together/Diseño Juntxs: Engineering Art with the Latinx Community in Pittsburgh” — has grad students working with children associated with Casa San Jose, an organization that supports the Pittsburgh Latinx community, to engage with them and show them the different educational opportunities in bioengineering.

“The Year of Engagement is bringing them together get these students to understand, ‘Hey, this could be neat. I could be doing these kinds of things. I could do science; I could perhaps go to Pitt and become an engineer,” Grady said.

One of most important elements to any proposal is that it be sustainable. Grady said this is something Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for Engagement, has emphasized from the beginning.

“Year of Engagement isn't supposed to create projects that are one and done right,” Grady said. “What we're trying to encourage here are projects that are sustainable because the only way we can really have an impact is if it’s sustainable.”

In addition to projects tied to events or interactions, the committee is looking for engaged scholarship, which includes community-based participatory research, engaged action research and research-practice partnerships that result in the public dissemination of new knowledge.

One of the nine funded projects fall into this category. Adam Hart of the University Library System is engaging students to help build an archival collection of “The History & Future of Women in Horror.”

Two online coffee hours have been held to allow the awardees to discuss their projects. The other six funded projects are:

  • Ervin Dyer, Office of University Communications & Marketing: Hill District Stories (Oral History Project)

  • Paula Tuttle, Department of Music: Providing Online Events for both the Pitt Community and Greater Pittsburgh

  • Judy Cameron, Department of Psychiatry: Collaboration to Bring Data Jam Learning Experience to Underserved High Schools/Develop Curricula to Interest Youth in Learning Data Analytics

  • Caitlin Bruce, Department of Communication, Dietrich School: Hemispheric Conversations Urban Art Project

  • Sheila Confer, Department of Theatre Arts, Pitt-Greensburg: Lift Every Voice: A Written/Spoken Series Focusing on Regional Diversity & Equity Writers

  • Lynn Kawaratani, University Center for International Studies: 20/20 Visions

Social media challenge

The 14-day social media challenge from Sept. 1 to 14 was designed to promote the multiple ways the Pitt community can engage with local and international communities.

Participants whose tweets received the most likes received a daily prize of Pitt swag equivalent to a cash value of over $100. These daily winners were given the option to donate their winnings to youth programs in the city of Pittsburgh. So far, more than $2,000 worth of Pitt gear has been donated.

Additionally, three overall grand prizes of $1,000 were awarded to schools, centers, departments and student organizations affiliated with the University based on likes from a single Twitter account. See more details here.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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