University of Pittsburgh
November 10, 2020

Pitt Named 2020 Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Award Winner

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities lauded Pitt’s outstanding work in community, social and cultural development work in the Homewood neighborhood.

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh was named an Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) “Place” Award winner by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

The award recognizes Pitt’s outstanding efforts in community, social and cultural development work, particularly within the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Homewood. Pitt has made its partnerships in the community, which is located three miles from the University’s campus, a centerpiece of its place-based community and economic engagement strategy. 

“Our University strives to be an institution that strengthens our communities—from our Pitt community, to our region and the world around us,” said Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Kathy Humphrey. “I am immensely proud of the work that we are doing as an institution to make a difference. And I am thrilled that the APLU has deemed it fitting to honor the University of Pittsburgh for the meaningful and impactful engagements and collaborations we’re forging with our partners in the Pittsburgh community.”

“Between communities, there are visible disparities in social, educational and economic outcomes,” said Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement. “To attain parity, we must forge bridges that enable community progress. The University of Pittsburgh is deeply committed to bridging our research, innovation and economic development efforts with the expertise of our community partners to help our communities thrive.”

The University has taken a multifaceted approach to cultivating talent in Homewood, promoting innovation and creating an environment fostering economic prosperity through its 20,000 square foot neighborhood-based Community Engagement Center and associated programs at the Manufacturing Assistance Center, BioShelter and K-12 outreach. Building on long-standing involvement in Homewood by various faculty and schools, Pitt made a long-term institutional commitment to partner the breadth of its engagement assets, across all 16 schools and various business units, with community-based partners to pursue impact and opportunities for the residents of Homewood for the next 25 years. 

Some example outcomes include:

  • Pitt’s School of Social Work partnering with community organizations and the three neighborhood schools to provide holistic support to students and their families;
  • Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence offering a six-month counseling and training program which has graduated 50 entrepreneurs in Homewood and provided consulting services to 21 area businesses since 2017; and
  • The School of Education’s Justice Scholars Program, which has enrolled more than 40 high school students into college bearing classes, qualitative research experiences and service-learning opportunities all focused on social justice.
  • The effort has also brought a bioshelter to Homewood, offering a DC microgrid and hydroponic food growing initiative and a manufacturing career training center that trains 80 individuals to become machinists each year with a 95 percent job placement rate. 

Guided by a Neighborhood Advisory Council and a visible, long-term commitment of partnerships, the University of Pittsburgh’s work in Homewood is an exemplar of equitable community and economic engagement.

“The University of Pittsburgh strongly supports collaborative efforts to promote connectivity and vibrant communities. This important commitment really shines through our Community Engagement Center in Homewood and the Manufacturing Assistance Center,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research. 

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University (IEP) designation from APLU, which recognizes institutional commitment to regional economic development.

IEP designees conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. As part of the self-study, each institution identifies areas for growth and improvement within its economic engagement enterprise and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners.