Awards recognize significant community engagement with Pitt

Black Girls Advocacy and Leadership Alliance


Community engagement is more than just a buzzword at Pitt. The University is actively partnering with local groups to try to tackle some of the area’s biggest problems.

Some of these efforts were recognized on March 29 with $2,000 prizes at the first Partnerships of Distinction Awards from the office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey. The awards ceremony led off a day-long forum at the Twentieth Century Club on Community Engaged Scholarship.

“Strengthening communities is a strategic priority of the University,” Humphreys said at the awards ceremony. “This commitment comes to life through the teaching and research of our faculty and the involvement of our students.”

She said the University is currently in the process of applying to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for the Community Engagement Classification.

“The community engagement classification has created benchmarks for quality engagement, among them, an emphasis on mutuality and reciprocity within partnerships between community and campus,” Humphreys said. “It symbolizes everything we want to be about.”

This award was created, she said, “to help us lift up the truly outstanding partnership work that brings our teaching and research into communion with community goals.”

The awards, listed below, were presented by Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for Community Engagement.

Just Discipline Project at Woodland Hills

Just Discipline Project at Woodland Hills

To address the problem of high suspension rates in Allegheny County schools, particularly among black students, a partnership between the School of Social Work’s Center on Race and Social Problems, the School of Education’s Motivation Center, and the Woodland Hills School District developed a comprehensive school climate and discipline intervention that began in the fall of 2017.

Participating in the project were from the School of Social work were James P. Huguley, assistant professor; Shawn E. Thomas, restorative practice coordinator; Rachelle H. Haynik, research and evaluation coordinator; Shante Stuart McQueen, postdoctoral fellow; Dashawna Fussell-Ware, graduate research assistant; Rebecca Calaman, undergraduate research assistant; and Theresa DePace, undergraduate social work intern.

Other participants included Ming-Te Wang, associate professor, School of Education, and from the Woodland Hills School District, James P. Harris, superintendent; Allison Kline, principal, and more than 40 teachers and staff at the Woodland Hills Intermediate School.

AIDS Free Pittsburgh

AIDS Free Pittsburgh

AFP is a collaborative initiative comprised of government agencies, healthcare institutions, and community-based organizations that strive to support people affected by HIV/AIDS and end the AIDS epidemic in Allegheny County by 2020.

Several health organizations from throughout the county participated in this project. The participants from Pitt came from:

  • School of Medicine: April Churilla, Ken Ho, Deborah McMahon, and John Mellors, all Department of Medicine; Darren Whitfield, School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry, Adrienne Walnoha, Psychiatry, and Harold Wiesenfeld, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
  • Graduate School of Public Health: James Egan, Mary Hawk, and Ron Stall, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences; and Linda Frank and Mackey Friedman, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation Partnership with the Kingsley Association

This partnership has been active since 2009 across a range of sustainability innovations, including the development of multi-generational, sustainable housing approaches to energy assessments, energy retrofits, and most recently, the Environmental Justice Community Alert Matrix. EJCAM was designed to inform residents about environmental risks within their communities and provide them with practical responses to mitigate risks.

Partnership members include: Melissa Bilec, deputy director, Mascaro Center and associate Professor, civil and environmental engineering; Harold Rickenbacker, civil and environmental engineering grad student; Malik G. Bankston, executive director, Kingsley Association; and Fred Brown, former associate director of program development, Kingsley Association, and current president, Forbes Fund.

Black Girls Advocacy and Leadership Alliance

This partnership, which is part of the Black Girls Equity Alliance, fosters community-based participatory research and advocacy to address the systemic inequities affecting black girls in the region.

Partnership members include: Kathi Elliott, Executive Director, Gwen's Girls; Convener, Black Girls Equity Alliance; Amanda Cross, Office of Child Development; Willa Doswell and Betty Braxter, School of Nursing; Alannah Caisey, doctoral student, Department of Sociology; and from the School of Social Work: Professor Sara Goodkind and masters students Edoukou Aka-Ezoua, Porscha Adams, Shenika McAlister, and ShaRae Edmonds.

Parks and the Pittsburgh EcoSystem

This partnership is a collaboration between the Department of Geology and Environmental Science and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to address challenges ranging from combined sewer overflows to social equity.

Partners include: Erin Copeland, senior restoration ecologist, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and Daniel Bain, associate director, Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education and Outreach, Department of Geology and Environmental Science.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.