Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

February 4, 2010

Senate touts faculty community service initiative

The president of the University Senate wants to create a faculty-led program to promote community service projects across multiple Pitt schools.

“The concept of this initiative is to create a resource group of academic leaders from many of the schools in the University to jointly review, organize and implement programs to improve social services within our local geographic area,” Michael Pinsky told Faculty Assembly Jan. 26.

Tentatively called the “cross-departmental partnership to promote community use,” the initiative builds on recent changes in Pitt policies that allow community service projects to be considered in faculty salary, promotion and tenure decisions, he said.

“A few years ago the University Senate was instrumental in getting the faculty handbook changed so that it now reads that community service that leads to durable knowledge would be considered as academic credit,” Pinsky said. “It now allows us to develop community service programs across schools that will not only help communities but forge new methods and approaches to doing so.”

The group likely would include faculty from the schools of education, engineering, business, law and public health, among other areas. Faculty in the School of Social Work would oversee the group, which would be housed in Pitt’s Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC), Pinsky said.

“The goal will be to address specific projects that need a holistic approach to maximize their effectiveness,” he said, citing as an example a project to establish a homeless shelter, which might require engineering expertise in building design and green technology; education expertise in homeless children’s schooling and adult job retraining, and business expertise in business development planning.

Such projects potentially would provide students with field experience, he added.

The longer-term outcome of the program could be a cohesive approach to community service and rejuvenation. “If realized, we may become a model for how university-community engagement can work to promote both,” Pinsky said.

To help launch the program, last month Pinsky and Tracy Soska, COPC co-director, and John Wilds, assistant vice chancellor for Community Relations, met with community leaders and organizers to gather feedback.

“We then met with the deans of schools of education, engineering and social work [to discuss] leveraging skill sets to approach a broader problem [and] we got their tacit support.”

Interested faculty should contact Pinsky at or Soska at

In other Faculty Assembly developments:

Pinsky reported that April 8 is Pitt Blue, Gold and Green Day, which focuses on sustainability efforts across the University. The sustainability subcommittee of the Senate’s plant utilization and planning committee is helping to organize the event, which will replace the Senate’s spring plenary session.

Pinsky reported the results of the recent election for faculty members to the search committee to identify a successor to Provost James V. Maher, who is stepping down from his post to return to the faculty. (See Jan. 21 University Times for winners of the election;

The turnout for the election was 55 percent of Arts and Sciences  faculty voting and 73 percent of the Provost-area professional schools.

“However,” Pinsky said, “[voter turnout] for the Health Sciences was a dismal 11 percent. This is an ongoing problem since the School of Medicine faculty also have a email address that they are required to use for medical issues. Approximately half the [medical school] faculty do not regularly use their account.”

Pinsky read a report prepared by John Baker, immediate past president of the Senate and chair of the budget policies committee, on recent developments regarding a proposed benchmark group of peer institutions against which to compare salaries at the Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown regional campuses. (See related story this issue.)

—Peter Hart

Leave a Reply