Pitt Honored for Its Diverse, Wide Range of Community Partnerships

  • Humphrey in a leopard print jacket speaking with a microphone
    Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement, said this designation speaks to our University-wide commitment to strengthening communities, transforming lives and to truly making a difference. “Community engagement is part of the University’s DNA. The collective hard work of our students, faculty and staff to invest their service, research and teaching in the community were crucial to Pitt receiving this prestigious classification,” said Humphrey. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Ellerbee in a blue shirt hugging a person in a red hooded jacket
    Daren Ellerbee (A&S ’04), director of Pitt’s Community Engagement Center (CEC) in Homewood, hugs a community member at the CEC’s first anniversary celebration in October 2019. As director, Ellerbee serves as a bridge between the community and the University. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Holbrook in a blue suit and yellow tie speaking to a community member
    Kirk Holbrook, director of the Hill District Community Engagement Center (CEC), gets feedback from a community member at a June 2019 community forum. In Jan. 2020, the Hill District CEC began a new chapter by leasing a space in the Hill District’s Blakey Center. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Ducar in a dark blazer and black and white top next to Dostilio in a gray jacket
    Jamie Ducar (left), director of community engagement, and Lina Dostilio (center), associate vice chancellor for community engagement, speak with Hill District residents at a community forum. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Partnerships like those created by Jenna Baron (right), a 2013 Pitt alumna, are the backbone of the University’s new designation from the Carnegie Foundation. Originally from Nigeria, Tomi Taiwo (left) is just one of the many immigrant youth living in Pittsburgh who have been positively impacted by Baron’s organization, ARYSE (Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education). (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Supowitz, Dostilio and Ellerbee smiling during an event
    Paul Supowitz (left) vice chancellor for community and governmental relations, Lina Dostilio (center), associate vice chancellor for community engagement and Daren Ellerbee (A&S ’04), director of Pitt’s Community Engagement Center (CEC) in Homewood celebrating the CEC in Homewood’s Oct. 2018 opening. The event was one of the many efforts showing Pitt’s commitment to strengthening communities. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)

The University of Pittsburgh is being formally recognized for its commitment to community-facing work and partnerships.

On Jan. 31, the University was awarded the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement, which is known as the country’s most visible and selective recognition of community engagement efforts in higher education.

Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement

The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is an elective designation that indicates institutional commitment to community engagement. Universities are chosen every five years, and Pitt is now one of only 359 U.S. colleges and universities to hold his prestigious designation.

The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community in U.S. higher education for the past 14 years. This important classification is awarded following a process of self-study by each institution, which is then assessed by a national review committee led by the Swearer Center for Public Engagement at Brown University, the administrative and research home for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification​.

Read Provost Ann E. Cudd and Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey’s message on the honor that was sent to the Pitt community.

“Community engagement is part of the University’s DNA,” said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement. “The collective hard work of our students, faculty and staff to invest their service, research and teaching in the community were crucial to Pitt receiving this prestigious classification.” 

Through partnerships with local organizations, robust volunteer activities and multidisciplinary research programs, the students, faculty and staff at Pitt make a significant contribution to the well-being of the community.

“As a faculty member who has been involved in community engaged work at the University for over 20 years, I have long been interested in Pitt pursuing the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement,” said Sabina Deitrick, associate dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. “It’s terrific for the University to receive this recognition—and to have others looking at what Pitt does in respect to engagement across all communities in our region and worldwide.”

One partnership of many

It’s the hard work of people like Jenna Baron (A&S ’13) who helped make the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement possible.

While working toward her degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Baron spent a lot of her time in the living rooms of refugee families, tutoring children from countries such as Kenya.

“I learned from this experience that coming to the U.S. from another country can just be so intimidating,” said Baron, who graduated with a degree in cultural anthropology from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “Between navigating language barriers, cultural barriers—it’s a lot for a young person to take in.”

During this work as a tutor for a student-run mentoring organization at Pitt, she noticed a trend: Refugee youth were missing out on proper enrichment and academic support through summer camps, making their transition to life in the U.S. even more difficult.

Now, Baron is dedicating her career to supporting immigrant children and helping them become “celebrated, engaged members” of the community. As founder and executive director of ARYSE (Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education), Baron serves over 150 immigrant youth per year, while providing leadership opportunities to five or more Pitt undergraduate students a year.

ARYSE offers four main programs to meet the needs of immigrant youth living in Pittsburgh year-round: a summer camp program named PRYSE Academy, an After School Club for kids in Kindergarten through 12th grade, a support group for teen women named Girls Art and Maker Group, and a Youth Steering Committee that helps make decisions about the future of ARYSE programs.

“What we strive to do is create spaces to support our youth in the transition of becoming engaged members of the Pittsburgh community,” said Baron. “We also help foster an environment for them to form friendships with other immigrant youth with shared experiences and intentionally include arts workshops so that they have creative mediums to share stories and express their interests and emotions.”

Pitt’s breadth of community engagement

On March 3, the University will celebrate the diversity of its community-engaged work at the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum. Participants must register for the event.

For even more information, view the new Community Engagement Report, which provides examples of the initiatives that harness the University’s teaching and research to be of service to our broader community.

While ARYSE helps the immigrant youth with their academics and their social-emotional development, Baron said it’s all about creating a space where the youth can feel confident and free to be themselves.

One student in Girls Group called it her second family. “We want them to feel a genuine sense of belonging—and that they’re not alone,” she said.

“At Girls Group I like that we can share our different opinions with one another. I really like that I can talk with girls from different cultures and learn from them,” she said. “Everyone at Girls Group is like a family to me and our meetings mean a lot to me.”

Baron is just one extension of Pitt’s long history of partnering with the community to strengthen both the University and the greater Pittsburgh region.  

A sampling of these partnerships include: 

  • AIDS Free Pittsburgh Partnership: Since its launch in 2015, the number of new HIV diagnoses in Allegheny County has declined by 30%.
  • Gwen’s Girls/Black Girls Equity Alliance: A partnership that collaborates on research and advocacy to address the systemic inequalities affecting Black girls in our region.
  • Pitt School of Law Legal Clinics: 500 Individuals, primarily low-income residents of Allegheny County, gained access to legal representation in 2018.
  • And many other efforts: community.pitt.edu.

As a Pitt alum, Baron said she was proud to be one of the community partners named in Pitt’s Carnegie classification application.

“This recognition is really meaningful to me because ARYSE would not exist if it weren’t for the opportunities I found while I was a student at Pitt to learn from local immigrant communities and advocate on issues I cared about,” said Baron. “There is a lot of really important work that undergraduates lead during their time at Pitt that makes a lifelong impact on the world. I’m really honored to be part of that legacy.”