Modeling Community Engaged Work

“If you want to know how to solve a problem, ask the people who live it every day.” 

This was Diana Bucco’s advice in her keynote address for the second annual Community Engaged Scholarship Forum (CESF), which took place Tuesday, March 3, in the William Pitt Union. 

The day featured breakout sessions, poster presentations, panel discussions and networking planned around the theme of building momentum through community partnerships, which echoes one of the pillars of the Plan for Pitt: Strengthening Communities

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

The Community Engaged Scholarship Forum planning committee was co-chaired by Jamie Ducar in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations and Julia Spears in the Office of the Provost. Sixteen schools and offices across the University helped to sponsor the event, which drew more than 250 people. 

“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,” added Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement. 

“It is quite apropos that this event follows the Carnegie Classification” for Community Engagement, said Humphrey, which is widely known as the country’s most visible and selective recognition of community engagement efforts in higher education. (Read more about the Carnegie Classification and one of the CESF partnerships of distinction, ARYSE, in Pittwire.)

“Some of that is in how we talk about the outreach and the engagement that we’re undertaking. Between our historical lens and the way that we’re moving forward in the future, we have a very bright road map for how this institution is a meaningful partner in the ways that every community in Pittsburgh and across the region develops.”

“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.

To that end, five Partnerships of Distinction were recognized at the Forum, for being reflective of Pitt’s highest community engagement aspirations. 

The Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center joins Pitt, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh since 2015, to manage 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 joins Pitt’s School of Social Work with 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. It couples Pitt’s expertise in community research, organizing and development with established Homewood community relationships and experience.

The Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE) 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. 

Three additional honorees were recognized at the event:

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. 

Recently retired, Soska and Wilds 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.

  • Tracy Soska (left) and John Wilds were two big names at the second annual Community Engaged Scholarship Forum (CESF). Soska, recently retired chair of the Community, Organization and Social Action concentration in the master’s degree of social work program, and Wilds, recently retired assistant vice chancellor for community relations, presented the inaugural Outreach and Engagement Leadership Award in their names to Sabina Deitrick, associate professor and associate dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, for her commitment to community engaged scholarship. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Jenna Baron (A&S ’13), accepted one of five Partnership of Distinction Awards, bestowed by Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey. During her time as an undergrad at Pitt, Baron started ARYSE and PRYSE Academy, enrichment programs for refugee youth in the Pittsburgh area. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • “I fundamentally believe that community engagement is so much more than being a good neighbor,” said Diana Bucco (A&S ’88), president of The Buhl Foundation, in her keynote address. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Members of the community who attended the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum on Tuesday included Pitt Police officers Jamie Cunningham (left) and Brooke Riley, and Alex Toner (foreground, in purple), assistant director of community engagement in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)