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November 22, 2017

Homewood Community Provides Input as Plans for First Engagement Center Move Forward

Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers project is moving forward with plans to open the inaugural facility in Homewood next spring.

Last month, faculty and staff members from across the University spent an evening with Homewood community members at an information and input forum.

“The forum gave us an opportunity to bring Pitt people and Homewood residents together to talk about what is possible through our Community Engagement Centers,” said Lina Dostilio, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement, who is overseeing the development of the centers. “Also, we received genuine feedback and input from community members about how the University can add value and contribute to the good things already happening in the Homewood community.”

Daren Ellerbee

Daren A. Ellerbee moderated a panel discussion during the Oct. 30 information and input forum. Ellerbee serves as director for the Community Engagement Center in Homewood.

Scheduled to open in spring 2018, the first phase of the center will be located on the main business corridor of Homewood. In October 2017, Pitt’s Board of Trustees approved renovations to the facility in which the center will be housed in order to accommodate classrooms, conference rooms, gathering spaces, offices, a science learning space and gallery space, among other amenities. A second facility is also in development as the latter phase of the center in Homewood.

 At the Oct. 30 forum, Kathy W. Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and chief of staff, led Pitt’s representatives in speaking of the potential benefits of the planned center for Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods. Daren A. Ellerbee, director of the center in Homewood, served as moderator for a panel discussion that featured local community leaders, including Pennsylvania State Representative Ed Gainey; Rick Adams, board president for Primary Care Health Services, Inc.; Fred Brown, president and CEO for Homewood Children’s Village; and Julie Motley-Williams, executive director of the Homewood-Brushton YMCA. Each panelist spoke of their own professional interactions with various divisions of the University of Pittsburgh. They remarked on the University’s long-standing commitment to being a good neighbor, its commitment to forming a solid union with East End residents and the positive boost the community engagement centers will provide for the community of Homewood.

In addition to participating in the panel discussion, attendees were served dinner and encouraged to meet and greet with Pitt faculty and staff members stationed at 17 University exhibits. The exhibits outlined how individual disciplines of the University would participate in center programming and provided a chance to hear from local residents.

panel discussion at CEC Homewood event

A panel of community leaders spoke of the positive benefits Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers will bring to the Homewood community. From left: Fred Brown, president and CEO, Homewood Children’s Village; Ed Gainey, state representative for the 24th legislative district; Rick Adams, board president for Primary Care Health Services, Inc.; and Julie Motley-Williams, executive director of the Homewood-Brushton YMCA.

The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), for instance, plans to create a wellness pavilion to expand community health and wellness services for people of all ages—in connection with the Alma Illery Medical Center, a community-based nonprofit health care center also located in Homewood. Representatives from the SHRS used the forum as an opportunity to meet residents, find out what programs they felt were most needed and what times of day would the wellness pavilion would best serve them.

Another group represented at the event was the University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR). The Homewood Community Engagement Center will further support two UCSUR projects — the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles — that have been used to help community organizations and residents have better access to data about their communities.

“There is a wide range of programs and initiatives that are possible through the participation of the schools here at the University. When those initiatives are offered in partnership with existing community-based groups, the benefit for the larger community is amplified tremendously,” said Dostilio. “The University of Pittsburgh is looking to create a long-term union and be a part of the community of Homewood. Our forum was the latest of many steps to making this unique partnership a reality.”

The centers are a key aspect of “The Plan for Pitt,” the University’s strategic plan. They play a key role in its goals of deepening its commitment to being a partner and resource to its surrounding urban neighborhoods, city and region. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the plan to create the series of centers in July 2016.


Anthony M. Moore,, 412-624-8252


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 7

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