2020 Partnerships of Distinction Honorees

The Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award, conferred annually at the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum, recognizes outstanding partnerships that are exemplars of community engagement. Honorees demonstrate reciprocity, mutual benefit and significant community impact.

Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center

Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) is a partnership of the University of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and the City of Pittsburgh. Since 2015, WPRDC has managed a shared community open-data portal containing more than 300 data sets provided by the county, the city, the University, and more than 15 other public and nonprofit partners including Port Authority of Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, and BikePGH. This partnership assists people in using the portal to understand their communities, support decisionmaking processes, influence policy, and enhance educational experiences. Data provided by the WPRDC have been used to support land-banking efforts in the county, inform the work of community development organizations like Operation Better Block in Homewood, and develop affordable housing strategies at the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Partnership contact: Robert Gradeck, project manager, Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center


HealthyCHILD is a partnership between the Pitt School of Education and multiple early childhood education programs that aims to help teachers develop skills to address child behaviors in the classroom that often result from trauma, mental health challenges, and racial discrimination. In the past, suspensions and expulsions were common in early childhood classrooms. This partnership aims to decrease those practices to help teachers keep children in the classroom and engaged in learning. Now approaching its fifth year, this partnership has continued to enhance the services and supports provided by early childhood education programs to reach 4,000 local children per year and 20,000 local children since 2015. Using a collaborative consultation and problem-solving model along with an improvement science framework to identify problems of practice and implement small tests of change, HealthyCHILD is focused on working to disrupt the status quo and eliminate inequities.

Partnership contact: Tracy Larson, director of early childhood partnerships and HealthyCHILD, University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Research for Equity and Power: A Pitt-Homewood Partnership to Foster Resident Civic Engagement around Equitable Development

Research for Equity and Power: A Pitt-Homewood Partnership to Foster Resident Civic Engagement around Equitable Development is a partnership between Pitt’s School of Social Work and the Homewood Children Village (HCV). The collaboration fosters civic engagement among residents to influence equitable development, including understanding their experiences with neighborhood change and perceptions of policymakers regarding residents’ influence. The University-community collaboration is essential to this project due to the nature of the work. While Pitt brings expertise in community research, organizing, and development, HCV brings community relationships and experience, which ensures that the work is relevant to residents and community organizations. The project uses community-based participatory research methods to create power among partners and participants that can be used to direct resources and influence policies that benefit the community. The collaborative approach is woven throughout the structure of the project, with a resident-driven community advisory board, a community researcher from Homewood, and youth and adult resident researchers and advocates. This research effort also aims to positively influence community development organizations and the implementation of the equitable development goals addressed by the City of Pittsburgh and community planning efforts.

Partnership contact: Mary Ohmer, associate professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work

Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education

Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education is a collaboration between the University Honors College and the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE). Through two clubs, Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment and Keep It Real, University Honors College students have partnered with refugee communities and to tutor refugee families in their homes. In 2013, a partnership with ARYSE was established to create the Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment (PRYSE) Academy Each summer, PRYSE Academy offers a day camp for refugee and immigrant youths to work on creative expression, the development of community and identity; and, of course, to improve their English skills. The purpose of this collaboration is to support ARYSE’s work to fill a resource gap in working with refugee youths in their journey toward becoming more confident and connected members of their Pittsburgh communities.

Partnership contact: Holly Hickling, academic community engagement advisor, University Honors College

Reducing Suicide in Homeless and Low-income Youth through a School-based Socio-emotional Learning Curriculum

Reducing Suicide in Homeless and Low-income Youth through a School-based Socio-emotional Learning Curriculum is a partnership between the Pitt Department of Pediatrics’ Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. The primary purpose is to deliver a socio-emotional curriculum entitled, Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents (DBT STEPS-A), in low-resource schools. DBT STEPS-A teaches high school students evidence-based skills for mental health. Beginning in January 2019, DBT STEPS-A has been implemented in two high schools serving students with high rates of adversity, poverty, and homelessness. Guided by a focus on collaborative design and decision making, this program supports the mental health of the most vulnerable youths.

Partnership contact: Carla Chugani, assistant professor, University of Pittsburgh Department of Pediatrics

Live Longer: Empowering and Engaging Pittsburgh Communities Project 

The Live Longer: Empowering and Engaging Pittsburgh Communities Project is a collaboration between Pitt Public Health and Community Empowerment Association (CEA), a grassroots organization. The purpose of the project is to develop a series of educational, community-sharing, and strategic engagements involving residents and stakeholders in select Pittsburgh neighborhoods that are characterized by high levels of health, social, and economic disparities in order to heighten the communities’ understanding of health equity and its importance in achieving a dignified life. CEA invites community participants to prioritize likely factors to be addressed based on their shared experience. The importance and value of their voices are maintained and used as part of the data collection. Pitt Public Health representatives prepare documentation, collect data, and directly present material within their areas of expertise. The project seeks to resolve high-priority social and environmental disparities. The principal operational goal is to develop an implementation plan or plans based on the findings.

Partnership contact: Noble Maseru, professor of the behavioral and community health sciences, director of the Center for Health Equity, and associate dean for diversity and inclusion, Pitt Public Health