Pitt's Value to the Community

Community engagement is also a hallmark of the University’s professional schools, research centers, and other academic units whose faculty, students, and staff regularly engage with an array of community partners in Oakland and throughout the city and region to advance economic development, community revitalization, medical research, and social change around timely and important issues.

A number of centers and initiatives reflect substantially on the University as a partner in shaping regional policy and programs. Many of these centers are connected with professional schools, and some represent multidisciplinary engagement. Even initiatives with international scope, such as the University’s new Global Health Center, have strong local community and economic impacts on Pittsburgh and bring further distinction and recognition to the city that serve to attract other investments. Among some of the most timely and notable centers and initiatives are the following:

  • The Institute of Politics (IOP), which delivers to elected officials, community leaders, and the public timely information about critical issues affecting our region. IOP provides a neutral forum where that knowledge and associated diverse viewpoints are discussed, digested, enriched, and applied toward improving the quality of life and economic vitality of the city of Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region. The Institute maintains eight policy committees in the areas of economic development, education, public safety, emergency preparedness, the environment, fiscal policy and governance, health and human services, and infrastructure and workforce development. Through balanced educational forums, legislative briefings, publications, and applied research strategies, the Institute has fostered a spirit of collaboration and consensus-building among its constituents and positively impacted the public policy domain. Additional information on the Institute and its social and economic impact can be found on its Web site, www.iop.pitt.edu;
  • The University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR), established in 1972, through which social and behavioral scientists collaborate with community partners on a range of social and economic research activities and build community capacity to understand and address critical urban issues and needs. As a hub for interdisciplinary research and collaboration, UCSUR promotes a research agenda focused on the social and economic issues most relevant to our society, regional economic analysis and forecasting, the psychosocial impacts of adult development and aging, and environmental resource management. In addition, UCSUR maintains a permanent research infrastructure available to faculty and the community with the capacity to conduct survey research and data analysis; carry out regional econometric modeling; obtain, format, and analyze spatial data; acquire and manage large secondary and administrative data sets, such as U.S. Census data; and design and carry out descriptive, evaluation, and intervention studies. UCSUR publishes the Regional Economic Quarterly and houses the Regional Economic Indicator Project, as well as the Pittsburgh Neighborhood/Community Information System (PNCIS, www.pghnis.pitt.edu) that grew out of COPC as a geographic information system tool to assist community-based organizations in assessing and analyzing property level data to support more effective community planning and development activities in the city. PNCIS is a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh, the City of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development. Additional information on UCSUR is available in the enclosed annual report and through its Web site, www.ucsur.pitt.edu;
  • The Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP), which the University established in 2002 to help lead America further along the path to social justice by conducting race-related research, mentoring emerging scholars, and disseminating race-related research findings and scholarship. CRSP is multidisciplinary in its approach and multiracial in its focus. CRSP focuses on race-related social problems in areas of economic and educational disparities, interracial group relations, mental health, youth, families and the elderly, and criminal justice. The Center sponsors a very popular lecture series and summer institutes funded by local legal corporations that attract national presenters to educate and challenge the local community to dialog on important issues and problems related to race. Further details on CRSP and its work are discussed in the enclosed annual report and can be found on its Web site, www.crsp.pitt.edu;
  • University Prep School, a new urban initiative of the University operated through the School of Education’s Center for Urban Education to attract and prepare academically focused middle and high school Pittsburgh public school students.  The program is housed in a reactivated middle school building in the Hill District near campus to advance higher education at Pitt or elsewhere with these promising students. Students who successfully complete University Prep will be able to take advantage of “The Pittsburgh Promise,” a financial aid fund to enable successful Pittsburgh Public Schools graduates to attend any college or university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;
  • Pitt’s Center for Minority Health (CMH), established in 1994 with a generous grant from the R.K. Mellon Foundation and committed to translating evidence-based research into community-based interventions and innovative outreach practices. CMH provides the infrastructure through Pitt’s schools of the health sciences to address health issues among ethnic and racial minorities and other vulnerable and underserved populations. The mission of the Center is to improve the health and well-being of racial and ethnic minority populations by eliminating health disparities as defined in Healthy People 2010. Through teaching, research, and service, CMH engages the University’s schools of the health sciences in a collaborative learning process designed to enhance the cultural competence of scholars and students. CMH further engages the community as trusted partners and participants in public health research and translates scientific research findings into health promotion and disease prevention interventions at the local, regional, and national levels. The University’s leadership in a citywide initiative to address growing issues with childhood diseases—most dramatically through a highly successful children’s vaccination campaign against measles—exemplifies Pitt’s public health impact. More details are available at www.cmh.pitt.edu; and
  • Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), which for over four decades has aided scholars from a number of disciplines to conduct research on learning and instruction with the aim of contributing to the advancement of education and training. LRDC’s mission is both to perform world-class research on teaching and learning, and—in collaboration with education practitioners, business and government enterprises, and nonprofit organizations— to apply this learning to the reform and improvement of instruction and learning in schools, museums, universities, and workplaces. More information is available at www.lrdc.pitt.edu.

Other examples of Pitt’s professional schools having an impact on the community and the area’s economy through research and community outreach include:

  • The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, which provides technical assistance and consulting services to help grow the small business environment in the region. Through its Small Business Development Center and its Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence it helps small, agricultural, and family business entrepreneurs to develop their business plans and access financing to undertake local business ventures. Additional information on the Pitt business school’s community engagement centers is available at www.pittentrepreneur.com;
  • The Pitt School of Education’s Office of Child Development (OCD), which has sustained Allegheny County’s Early Childhood Initiative and aids a network of Family Support Centers that help parents in the county with early childhood education and school preparedness. More details on OCD are at www.education.pitt.edu/ocd. In addition, the school’s Department of Health and Physical Activity operates the long-standing Community Leisure Learn Program (CLLP) to support local children and adults through structured programs for fitness and wellness at campus recreational and athletic facilities. CLLP has afforded many opportunities for Department of Health and Physical Education faculty and students to utilize service-learning and experiential-learning approaches. More details on CLLP are available at www.cll.pitt.edu;
  • Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), which operates the Johnston Center for Responsible Leadership that helps educate and cultivate the regional nonprofit sector. GSPIA also manages a nonprofit clinic using graduate students as consultants to provide technical assistance to local nonprofit organizations. These and other GSPIA community engagement efforts are detailed at www.gspia.pitt.edu;
  • The Pitt School of Law, which supports clinics in elder law, environmental law, family law, health law, immigration law, securities arbitration law, and tax law;
  • Pitt’s School of Medicine, which maintains the Mathilda Theiss Health Center as part of its Medical Services to Underserved Populations and conducts Bridging the Gaps, which promotes multidisciplinary health teams working with community partners in research service-learning summer internships to address community health issues and needs;
  • The Pitt Graduate School of Public Health, which also operates a U.S. Centers for Disease Control Academic Center of Excellence and Environmental Public Health Tracking that provides a geospatial analysis of environmental health indicators for Western Pennsylvania;
  • The Pitt School of Dental Medicine, which has long operated its Dental Clinic, where students work with faculty to provide free or low-cost dental care to residents of the surrounding community who may otherwise be unable to afford good dental care;
  • The Pitt School of Pharmacy, which has made community engagement a priority and where faculty and students conduct educational outreach at senior centers and high-rises through a medication-awareness program and the popular “Brown Bag” project that collects and analyzes senior medications for potentially dangerous drug interactions; and
  • The Child Welfare for Education and Leadership Program in the Pitt School of Social Work that represents a nearly $32 million statewide training initiative linking schools of social work across Pennsylvania to support the professional development of child welfare workers in the state. More information on this program is available at www.pacwcbt.pitt.edu. In addition, the School of Social Work is now planning for the implementation of a major initiative in one of Pittsburgh largest and most distressed African American communities to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone in the form of the Homewood Children’s Village in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

These are just a few of the many community engagement initiatives through the University’s professional schools and research centers that are making a positive impact on social policies and programs in our region. Through these initiatives, the University is providing tangible organizational, community, and economic development with a meaningful economic impact on the city and the region.