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Serving Families


The Point
Winter 2013

Marcia Sturdivant, Ph.D. (A&S 1978) is deputy director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, and an assistant professor at Point Park. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and behavioral sciences at Point Park, a master's degree in criminal justice at the University of Detroit, and a Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Sturdivant's many honors and awards include the Three Rivers Youth Nully Award for Community Leadership; the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award; the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh Racial Justice Award; and the Valerie Bullard Black Administrator in Child Welfare of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Administrators in Child Welfare.

An expert in program administration, policy development, program evaluation and cultural competency, Sturdivant lectures extensively on both the local and national level on child maltreatment, racism and its effect on child development, family group decision making, spirituality and culturally-based intervention strategies. A leader in the field of child welfare, education and developmental psychology, Sturdivant was an invited participant and research panelist of the Oxford University Educational Roundtable in Oxford, England. Her dedication to helping families extends to the community by service on numerous boards, including The Urban League of Pittsburgh, Inc., the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption Council, the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission on Services to Children and Youth and the American Association of Family Group Decision Making. Her commitment to persons of color extends globally and she was highlighted in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette for her work with Somalian refugees, cited by the Pittsburgh Courier as among Fifty Women of Influence, Forty Local, Gifted and Black African American Leaders by Pittsburgh Magazine and is a contributing author of the National Association of African American Studies Monograph Series. Sturdivant talked with The Point:

What is it like to be director of the second largest child welfare agency in Pennsylvania?

MS: There is never a dull moment. It's been a challenging but very rewarding experience. Our agency works with many different departments but we all come together for the purpose of helping kids. I enjoy managing people and see it as a privilege to engage with families. I have a lot of responsibility in this job and I take it very seriously.

Why did you decide to return to Point Park to teach, and what classes have you taught?

MS: I've always been grateful for my experiences at Point Park so it was important for me to give back. When I was invited to teach, I was very humbled by the opportunity. I love the world of academia and have enjoyed teaching in it. Also, the student body at Point Park is unique and gifted. That is not something you often find elsewhere. I have taught classes in Sociological Foundations, Social Inequality, Theories of Personality, Sociology of the African American Experience, and Community and Family Partnerships.

How have you incorporated your work experiences into the classes you teach?

MS: I provide my students with real-life examples and case studies based on my professional experiences and work with families. Also, several of my psychology students have interned and now work for Allegheny County, either for the Office of Children, Youth, and Families or one of our providers.

Why did you choose Point Park for your own undergraduate education and what role did that play in helping you earn a doctorate?

MS: I liked that Point Park offered small class sizes where you can get one-on-one attention. Also, there was just something about the atmosphere at Point Park that intrigued me. It was such an inviting, friendly environment and had a real "family feel" to it. I got a good foundation at Point Park that encouraged me to continue my studies. The professors were very forward thinking. I believe positive undergraduate experiences encourage students to want to continue learning.

Any advice for students and others pursuing a career in the social services field?

MS: Learning is applying theory to practice. Before graduating, get practical experience through internships, jobs, and volunteering. The theoretical paradigms you learn in class will all make sense once you see them in action and can apply them to individual situations.

Interview by Amanda Dabbs
Photo by Jim Judkis

The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University