Listen, Learn, Connect: Hill District Residents Engage with CEC at Community Forum

“The word ‘community’ means to be in union with and connected to,” said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees, at a June 4 community forum hosted by the Hill District Community Engagement Center (CEC).

“It’s very hard for us to be in union with or connected to if we don’t reach out and get to know those who we don’t know and connect in ways that make our lives more fulfilled.”

The event, which took place at the Hill District’s YMCA, provided an opportunity for the more than 150 residents in attendance to connect with Pitt’s newest neighborhood commitment and provide feedback to University leaders, faculty and staff.

About the Community Engagement Centers

CECs help Pitt to be a better partner in the community and realize our place-based strategy. CECs create space for neighborhood partners, community-based organizations, and University students and faculty to collaborate and make big things happen together. Read more about how faculty and staff can get involved.

With planning and progress on the center underway, Hill District CEC Director Kirk Holbrook is excited about the past year’s accomplishments. “We are continuing to strengthen existing relationships while establishing new collaborations and fostering deeper, more meaningful partnerships on the ground,” he said.

The Hill District CEC is Pitt’s second long-term community partnership — the Homewood CEC opened in October 2018. These neighborhood commitments enable the University to put its teaching, research and capacity-building programs to service for communities. At the centers, faculty and staff teach students through experiential learning. And, as Holbrook explained, they can see the direct, positive impact of their work — outcomes that meet the needs of the community — in real-time.

“Aligning faculty and staff engagement with the community’s agenda helps Pitt do what it does best, while supporting the work the community is doing,” said Holbrook.

Listening, learning and connecting with the community

The forum included a panel discussion led by neighborhood residents and civic and business leaders, as well as exhibits staffed by a variety of units from Pitt. Attendees were invited to share what they’d like to see at the CEC, and more broadly, how they want Pitt to interact with their community.

Holbrook’s work over the past year has focused on engagement and program development. Pitt units, including the Swanson School of Engineering, School of Computing and Information, School of Education’s Center for Urban Education, Office of Economic Partnerships and Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, have developed and hosted a variety of events for Hill District K-12 students.

“These collaborations show that the CECs are more than a building — they’re part of Pitt’s commitment to building a stronger community and a stronger University,” said Holbrook. 

  • “Tell us your dreams and visions for your community, your family, yourself. Tell us how we can be a part of that,” Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor of engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees, told Hill District residents at a community forum. “We are committed to being a better neighbor, to being in union with you and to working together to transform lives.” (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Kirk Holbrook, director of the Hill District CEC, talks to a neighborhood resident about the mission of the CEC to partner with the community. “The CECs help faculty and staff align their engagement with the community’s agenda — helping Pitt do what it does best while benefitting the work the community is leading,” said Holbrook. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Shannon Beth Wanless (center), director, and Amanda Cross (right), manager, both from the School of Education's Office of Child Development, offered community members information. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Among the responses to the University Honors College’s prompt asking Hill District residents about what they want people to know about their community were that the neighborhood has underutilized resources, it’s a fun place to live, it’s a central location in Pittsburgh and there are efforts to make the area eco-friendly. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)