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Leaders in Community Engagement, Health Equity and Criminal Justice Reform to Speak at Pitt Forum

A person in a beige coat clapping
This year’s Community Engaged Scholarship Forum, titled “Progress through Partnerships: Advancing Community Resilience,” will bring Pitt students, faculty, staff and community members together with leaders in higher education and community development to discuss topics including basic needs, civic participation, digital access and inclusion, education, health equity, criminal justice reform, and relationships and the social fabric.

Registration for the March 2 virtual event is open through Friday, Feb. 26. While programming runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, participants have the flexibility to choose to attend as many or as few sessions as they’d like and can come and go throughout the day and evening. Sessions are grouped around themes including relationships and our social fabric, critical and liberatory practices in community engagement, health equity and criminal justice reform.

Find the full schedule, including session descriptions and speaker lists, on Accelevents, the platform for this year’s virtual forum.

Leading up to the third annual forum, which is presented by the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement and the Office of the Provost, Pittwire is spotlighting four keynote and speaker sessions that feature experts and leaders from local and national universities and nonprofits.

Theme: Relationships and Our Social Fabric

Keynote at 2 p.m.: Weaving Community to Rebuild Social Trust

Social trust starts in our neighborhoods. It is the faith that people will see each other, act with a sense of shared humanity and do what they ought to do. This past year showed how much our trust in each other has eroded, with a bitter election, an unchecked pandemic, rising and unequal economic pain and overdue demands for racial justice. As we look to rebuild social trust so our nation can move forward, where do we start? How do we help our neighborhoods and local institutions more deeply understand one another and strengthen their connections?

Join Pitt School of Education’s Renée and Richard Goldman Dean Valerie Kinloch; Muffy Mendoza, executive director of Brown Mamas; Presley Gillespie, president of Neighborhood Allies; and Frederick Riley, executive director of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, a national project of The Aspen Institute, to explore ways for weaving communities and building bridges of trust as we chart a path ahead.

Theme: Critical and Liberatory Practices in Community Engagement

Keynote at 3:30 p.m.: National Perspectives on Critical and Liberatory Practices in Community Engagement

Join Pitt’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement Lina Dostilio as she serves as moderator for a 3:30 p.m. keynote panel that includes Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology, Women’s Studies, Social Welfare, American Studies and Urban Education at the City University of New York and founding member of the Public Science Project; Tania Mitchell, associate professor, Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development and the College of Education and Human Development and the University of Minnesota; and Chris Nayve, associate vice president for community engagement and anchor initiatives, The Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action, University of San Diego.

This keynote presentation will feature a dialogue among national leaders in the field of critical and liberatory community engagement. Their work employs community engaged teaching, research and economic practices that advance social justice. Their work is described as critical and liberatory because it moves away from traditional community engagement practices toward those that are concerned with social transformation.

Theme: Health Equity

Keynote at 4:30 p.m.

This keynote features Paula K. Davis, associate vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion in Pitt’s health sciences, and Al Richmond, executive director of Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) in North Carolina. Davis coordinates the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, students and staff, and provides education on cultural competence, creating an inclusive environment and eliminating structural and implicit bias. Her office aims to increase engagement among all health sciences stakeholders through a number of initiatives that examine the intersection of health sciences, racism and marginalized populations. Richmond is a global thought leader advocating for the increased role of communities in research and public health. In his role at CCPH, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes health equity and social justice through partnerships between communities and academic institutions, Richmond seeks to deepen CCPH’s focus in emerging issues impacting our nation including education, immigration, diversity and culture.

Theme: Criminal Justice Reform

Keynote at 6:30 p.m.: Criminal Justice Reform Ecosystems

Following three breakout sessions addressing topics central to criminal justice reform, join Mark A. Nordenberg, chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics (IOP); Shalini Puri, cofounder of the Pitt Prison Education Project and professor in Pitt’s Department of English; and Douglas Wood, director of The Aspen Institute’s Criminal Justice Reform Initiative (CJRI) for a keynote titled “Criminal Justice Reform Ecosystems.”

Nordenberg leads IOP, which for 30 years has provided a non-partisan forum for the consideration of policy issues of importance to the region by elected officials and other civic leaders. Recent initiatives have addressed the changing face of poverty, the opioid addiction epidemic, incarceration policies and practices, and the plight of financially distressed municipalities.

Puri has taught literature and writing courses in which Pitt students and incarcerated students study together at a state prison, based off the model of the national Inside Out Prison Exchange Program, an innovative pedagogical approach tailored to effectively facilitate dialogue across difference. The Pitt Prison Education Project is a recipient of a Pitt Seed Grant award.

Under Wood’s leadership, CJRI’s works to amplify and promote policies and practices to transform the justice ecosystem and reduce mass incarceration and its harms to individuals and society. From 2011-18, Wood was a program officer at the Ford Foundation on the Youth Opportunity and Learning team and served as acting lead of the foundation’s global Higher Education for Social Justice initiative for almost two years.