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March 8, 2018

Time to Speak, Say First-Time Pitt Day in Harrisburg Participants

The uncertainty over state funding for Pitt has made one thing certain for some Pitt staff members: It’s time to join Pitt Day in Harrisburg and tell state legislators about the University’s impact.

The annual effort — this year on Tuesday, March 20 —  sends about 300 staff, faculty, student and alumni volunteers to Pennsylvania’s capital to urge lawmakers to continue their support of the University. The event, including Capitol tours, meals and a panel discussion, is overseen by the Office of Community and Governmental Relations (CGR) and the Pitt Alumni Association.

Hearing directly from those who benefit from the University’s success “is critical to our efforts,” said Paul A. Supowitz, vice chancellor for CGR. “Pitt Day is really the chance to hear directly from students, staff, faculty and alumni on what Pitt means to them and what Pitt has done for them — the influence it has on individual lives and what Pitt has done for the region.”

Participants are able to walk right into legislators’ offices without an appointment, Supowitz said — they and their staff members welcome Pitt’s annual visit. His office provides a fact sheet about the University’s impact to fuel the conversation, and will be glad to follow up with the legislator if too complex an issue comes up. But telling a personal story has even more impact, he said: “Legislators are going to pay attention when they hear from their own constituents.”

That’s the impetus for several longtime Pitt employees who will be first-time Pitt Day participants.

Carol Chatman

Carol Chatman

Carol Chatman, for instance, is in her ninth year with the University and could no longer watch the annual budget battle from the sidelines: “If the state cuts back on our funding, our kids are going to struggle, and I don’t want to see that happening,” she said. “I wanted to be a voice instead of sitting back and complaining. I wanted to be more engaged.”

Chatman is a subaward officer in the Office of Research, administering grant work done by other institutions as part of projects at Pitt. “I’m thrilled that we’re able to go and let our voices be heard, and help in our own little way,” she said. Legislators will listen “if we just work together on things that we’re passionate about.”

Chris Chirdon

Chris Chirdon

Chris Chirdon, systems analyst in the University Honors College since 1998, said the difficulty getting funding for state-related universities in Pennsylvania pushed him to sign up for his first Pitt Day this year. He was also pleased to have the chance to guide a student group around the Capitol as part of the day’s activities.

His own increasing community activism, as a recent co-founder of Walk Bike Shaler, also showed Chirdon that his voice can be heard when he presents community stories directly to local politicians: “When you shake somebody’s hand and look them in the eye and have the opportunity to tell them that this will be beneficial to many people they will never meet — it’s that basic interaction that’s important.”

His message for the legislators? “Your choices, action or inaction, are going to affect classes at the University of Pittsburgh, and are going to affect the future of the University itself.”

Chirdon’s experience at Pitt has also reinforced his belief in the value of Pitt Day. As a current Ph.D. student in the School of Education’s administration and policy studies program, he said, “The school urges us to be leaders for causes and help to improve things on a broader scale outside of school, and I think Pitt Day is part of that — the idea that we need to step up and be seen.”

If You Go

Register here for Pitt Day in Harrisburg.

Transportation from each Pitt campus and meals are provided. Attendees will have opportunities to meet with legislators in small groups, tour the Capitol, visit exhibits, participate in a career panel with Pitt alumni in government and attend a dessert reception.

If you’re attending from the Pittsburgh campus:

  • Plan to arrive no later than 6:45 a.m. at the William Pitt Union to board the bus by 7 a.m.
  • Parking in the garage under Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum will be validated.
  • Dress is business casual; wearing Pitt colors is encouraged.
  • Participants will arrive in Harrisburg at 10:30 a.m.
  • Breakfast and lunch are provided, as well as light fare at the reception prior to departure.
  • Buses typically return to campus between 7:30 and 8 p.m.

The full schedule is located here.

If You Cannot Attend

Making the trip to Harrisburg isn’t the only way faculty and staff can support and lend force to the impact of Pitt Day. Those who can’t attend in person are urged to contact legislators on or around March 20 via phone or email, or to visit their local legislative office, which can be arranged with the help of CGR staff. On Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other online social media platforms, hashtags for the day are #PittDay, #WithPitt and #PAwins.


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859


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