Yunge in front of the Frick Fine Arts building
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Pitt’s latest Newman Civic Fellow is using data to fight food insecurity

  • Health and Wellness
  • Community Impact
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

Yunge Xiao, a 2023 graduate in statistics from Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was recently named to Campus Compact’s 2023-24 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. The fellowship recognizes standout students who are committed to creating positive change in communities locally and around the world, providing them with a year of learning and networking opportunities that emphasize personal, professional and civic growth.

“I’m proud to see Yunge recognized for her civic engagement efforts with the Newman Fellowship,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Yunge is a leader who has truly embraced community — one of the University of Pittsburgh’s core values — and I look forward to watching her leverage this opportunity to make an even greater difference.”

Yunge, who was born in Singapore but predominantly grew up in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, started her community work as soon as she got to Pitt. During her first year she interned for the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance (HRCA) and Pittsburghers for Public Transit.

“My interest in community service took off after learning about the health disparities in Pittsburgh through one of my sociology classes. As an HRCA intern, I became familiar with various community concerns through candid conversations with underserved community members and, above all, cultivated an even deeper love and purpose oriented towards civic engagement,” Yunge said.

These experiences, along with her interest in data science and promoting social causes, led her to volunteer at the Pitt Pantry — a student-run and University-supported effort to combat food insecurity — where she served as its vice president of impact and assessment. Learning about “the people behind the data,” she said, reinforced for her how statistics can provide a foundation for meaningful community change.

After analyzing survey responses collected from pantry shoppers, the organization initiated new policies, such as providing language translations and culturally approachable foods for the large population of international students at the University. The pantry was also able to share data and summaries with partner organizations interested in helping fight food insecurity.

Excellence is a habit that requires learning and practice — building excellent communities is no different.

Yunge Xiao

“Learning about my [Newman] cohort has been deeply inspiring,” Yunge said. “I am eager to learn from these folks and create meaningful connections. I’m confident that this fellowship will allow me to learn and practice more in terms of working with a diversity of communities.”

This fall, Yunge will begin a master’s degree in epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health, where she will explore her interest in researching and creating data-informed interventions that address the social determinants of health, specifically food and nutrition, and their effects on community well-being.

“I expect to find myself staying involved in my communities outside of academia, too,” Yunge said. “I truly believe that any work that I do will always, and should, find its foundations in improving the lives of those around me.”

About the fellowship

Newman Civic Fellows participate in virtual training and networking opportunities to help provide them with the skills and connections they need to create large-scale positive change. The cornerstone of the fellowship is the annual convening of fellows, which offers intensive in-person skill-building and networking over the course of two days. The fellowship also provides fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and postgraduate opportunities.


— Juliana Zipay, photography by Mike Drazdzinski