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June 9, 2005

Day of Caring moving to October

This fall, Pitt’s United Way Day of Caring is set for Oct. 7, according to officials of Community and Governmental Relations, the office that coordinates Pitt’s community volunteer efforts.

“Day of Caring usually has been a Wednesday in September, but we thought it would be more convenient for participants, particularly faculty, to have it a little later in the term when things have settled in and on a Friday,” said Steven Zupcic, who was reporting last week to the Senate community relations committee (CRC).

“It will also tie in closer to the start of the general United Way campaign. You can say this will be the kick-off to [Pitt’s] United Way campaign, which will begin in that next week,” Zupcic said.

At Zupcic’s suggestion, CRC committee members agreed to focus their own Day of Caring volunteer efforts on a local program for female offenders, because that program requires the widest variety of tasks, including aid in composing resumes, sharpening interviewing skills and preparing for GED examinations.

If CRC has its way, this won’t be Pitt’s only volunteer day next year.

A CRC subcommittee is working on recommendations to schedule a day devoted to community service learning projects next spring, CRC chair Linda Hartman reported. The hope is that such a day would lead to ongoing connections between Pitt faculty and students and targeted community organizations, Hartman said.

“This would build on the fall [2004] plenary session on service learning projects by getting faculty and grad students from particular departments and pairing them with an appropriate community organization with the intention of building a longer-term relationship,” Hartman explained.

Tentatively called “A Day of the University in the Community,” the pilot project would link a community organization’s needs to a department’s strengths and skill sets required in a discipline’s public practice.

“We would need deans and department chairs to buy into this,” Hartman said. “But we can go to our respective departments and build ongoing volunteer activities that benefit the faculty and students, as well as serve the community. This could be a very valuable experience for our students.”

G. Reynolds Clark, associate vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations and a chancellor’s liaison to CRC, endorsed the community service learning proposal. “This would not be another Day of Caring, which is a one-time volunteer opportunity,” Clark said. “We would need to develop guidelines for faculty and graduate students to get familiar with a community organization: how their projects are structured, what their vision is and how faculty can utilize this information as an extension of their own work by applying skill sets to community problems. If an organization was in a mission-change mode, for example, we could help by offering faculty resources that we have available. The idea would be to maintain a relationship with an agency that would continue for years.”

Committee liaison John Wilds, also of Community and Governmental Relations, suggested scheduling meetings in the fall with Oakland community organizations “to drill down to what their needs are. We’re not just throwing money at the problems, but we’d be matching resources,” Wilds said. “I could see this becoming a model for community service at other universities and communities.”

In other CRC developments:

• Zupcic reported that a web site for the community service database project, a repository for information on ongoing Pitt faculty and staff community service projects, is expected to be launched by mid-summer.

The web site — — is still soliciting data via a web-based survey format on projects defined as:

“Any organized activity in which you participate as a University employee or faculty member that provides a benefit or service targeted to individuals, groups, organizations or communities defined in geographic, clinical, economic or sociological terms,” Zupcic said. (He added that users should note that the web address does not include “www” and that information posted on the site will be available to the public.)

The site is being developed by Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research.

• Hartman reported on a May 6 joint meeting (which was closed to the University Times) of CRC and the Senate’s commonwealth relations committee. She said the committees agreed to meet together periodically to discuss common goals and share invited speakers, including state legislators. “Commonwealth relations also suggested that we travel to some of the regional campuses to see what they’re doing in their communities,” Hartman said.

• Clark reported that the Schenley Plaza project is “on schedule and on budget.” The conversion from a surface parking lot to a public park area is expected to be completed by next spring, he said. Traffic patterns surrounding the plaza area for the duration of the project’s construction are expected to be in place by the end of June. The city parking authority also is labeling longer-term parking areas, such as those bordering the southern side of Carnegie Library, as “Schenley Plaza parking” to aid the transition for regular parkers at the former surface lot, Clark said.

“There also are naming opportunities related to the plaza, including purchasing a [sidewalk] brick for $250,” he said. “Also, Jim Rohr on behalf of PNC Financial Services has donated $750,000 for a carousel which will have 18 animals on it. These are available for naming at $20,000 each.”

• Clark also reported that the new portal bridge expected to replace the run-down Boulevard of the Allies bridge spanning Forbes Avenue is in re-design, which will delay the project’s start until 2006, but is expected to save $4 million of an estimated $10 million cost. Traffic connector ramps between the Boulevard and Forbes Avenue need to be re-engineered, he said.

—Peter Hart

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