Forum celebrates Pitt’s efforts to strengthen communities

Provost Ann Cudd at podium

The second annual Community Engaged Scholarship Forum on March 4 at the William Pitt Union drew more than 250 people from across campus. 

The day featured breakout sessions, poster presentations, panel discussions and networking, as well as the announcement of five Partnerships of Distinction that are reflective of Pitt’s highest community engagement aspirations and a few other awards. 

“This kind of event is like an antidote to cynicism,” said Provost Ann E. Cudd in her opening remarks, according to @Pitt. “The work you do helps to drive vital University-community partnerships and advance our collective knowledge into the future.” 

“This is a day of celebration of your hard work and efforts that have brought us to a University place where we have some agreed-upon ideas of how we want to do this work, what this work means and where we’re headed,” said Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement. 

“I am so excited to be part of a celebration that really began with a dream that Lina and I had a few years ago,” said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees. “Service has always been a part of Pitt, but we’ve tried our best to move beyond a theoretical format and toward a practical format” for strengthening communities.

Partnerships of Distinction

Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, Pitt, Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh, since 2015, have managed a shared community open-data portal containing more than 300 data sets of information from public and nonprofit partners to help people understand their communities, support decision-making processes, develop affordable housing strategies, influence policy and enhance educational experiences. 

HealthyCHILD, a partnership between the School of Education and multiple early education programs, aims to help teachers build skills to address classroom behaviors that often result from trauma, mental health challenges and racial discrimination. The program has reached nearly 20,000 local children since 2015, disrupting the status quo and eliminating inequities in early childhood education. 

Research for Equity and Power: A Pitt-Homewood Partnership to Foster Resident Civic Engagement around Equitable Development works with Pitt’s School of Social Work and the Homewood Children’s Village to better understand how community members’ experiences of neighborhood change can be leveraged to influence resident-driven equitable community development organizations and the goals addressed by the city of Pittsburgh and community planning efforts.

Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education is a collaboration between two student clubs, the University Honors College and refugee communities throughout the Pittsburgh region for tutoring refugee families in their homes. In 2013, a summer camp for refugee and immigrant youths was created to hone their creative expression and English development skills along their journey to becoming more confident and connected members of their Pittsburgh communities. 

Reducing Suicide in Homeless and Low-income Youth through a School-based Socio-emotional Learning Curriculum is a partnership between the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine in Pitt’s Department of Pediatrics and the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. Since beginning in January 2019, it has implemented a program of Dialectical Behavior Therapy in two high schools serving students with high rates of adversity, poverty and homelessness in the region. 

Other honorees

  • The inaugural Tracy Soska and John Wilds Outreach and Engagement Leadership Award went to Sabina Deitrick, associate dean and associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Soska and Wilds, who both retired last year, praised Deitrick’s commitment to her students, “putting them out into the community through her commitment to research service learning.” 

  • The CESF Collaboration Champion Award went to Holly Hickling, academic community engagement advisor in the Honors College. 

  • The Partnership to Watch distinction went to Live Longer: Empowering and Engaging Pittsburgh Communities Project, a collaboration between Pitt Public Health and the Community Empowerment Association to heighten communities’ understanding of health equity and its importance in achieving a dignified life.

— From @Pitt