On Tuesday, March 2, the 2021 Community Engaged Scholarship Forum, titled “Progress Through Partnerships: Advancing Community Resilience,” reminded participants of the true meaning of the phrase “members of the University community.”
The daylong virtual event included not just Pitt faculty, staff, students and alumni but also community members and academics from other institutions. They gathered to elevate, celebrate and reflect on collective approaches to community-engaged scholarship and practices that advance mutually beneficial priorities as identified by communities themselves—nonprofit and grassroots organizations coalitions, neighborhoods, government agencies and business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“I think the title of this forum really sums up not only the great work we are going to hear about today, but also points to challenges we have overcome,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd.
“Despite the adversity presented by the pandemic, we persevere with determination and humility and gain new knowledge in the process. And we celebrate the deep and outstanding community engaged scholarship taking place across all university of Pittsburgh campuses. The power generated through the partnerships we form, the research and discovery that are emerging because of them, and the people at the heart of these exceptional efforts are even more vital than ever before,” Cudd said.
The day’s program featured keynotes, panel sessions and poster presentations with an agenda that focused on seven themes: basic needs, civic participation, digital access and inclusion, education, health equity, criminal justice reform and relationships and our social fabric.
One afternoon panel, “Weaving Community to Rebuild Social Trust,” featured Pitt School of Education’s Renée and Richard Goldman Dean Valerie Kinloch; Muffy Mendoza, executive director of Brown Mamas; Presley Gillespie, president of Neighborhood Allies; and Frederick Riley, executive director of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, a national project of The Aspen Institute.
Following a brief overview from Riley, the panel explored ways their organizations weave together communities and build bridges of trust to chart a path ahead. Among the questions asked was what brought panelists joy.
Kinloch referred to collaborations she’s experienced: “What brings me joy? Waking up and being able to say that I have colleagues who are committed to doing the work of equity and justice, and how to continue to push back. I can’t say that there’s one particular thing except for overall, holistically being able to do this work with other people. They motivate me.”
Community engagement in the Year Of …
This year, Pitt celebrates the Year of Engagement, led by Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Kathy Humphrey. She highlighted Pitt’s community partnerships in her own introduction.
“The University of Pittsburgh has a long and rich history of service to the city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. Our goal has always been to leverage our teaching and research, to support the priorities and needs of the communities in which we reside, as we believe this creates strong communities and in turn a stronger university,” she said.
“Over the years, our commitment to partner with the community has only grown deeper. And our investment with the community has only extended wider. And while we have had great success over the years, we recognize that we have not done this work by ourselves.”