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The Social Impact Grants and Scholars program — created by the Department of Community Engagement and Center for Inclusive Excellence — funds interdisciplinary social impact projects connecting Point Park University to organizations in the region to effect social change. 

2022-23 Grant Recipients

Reimagining Teacher Preparation: An Exploratory Learning Project at Point Park University with Students Pursuing Careers in Education and Related Fields

Rhonda Threet, Ph.D.
School of Education and Department of Community Engagement & Leadership

Pictured are participants of Dr. Rhonda Threet's social impact grant project. Submitted photo.The goal of this project was to provide students who are pursuing education as a major or minor opportunities to understand and strengthen their racial identity development and racial consciousness.

An additional goal of this project was to provide professional learning opportunities and service-learning experiences with students who are from historically marginalized communities and in the public education setting.  Student Learning centered on positive racial development, culturally relevant education: such as PA Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Competencies, Culturally Relevant Education, CASEL Socio-Emotional Learning five competencies, and components of restorative practice such as using circles effectively to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion.  Students created a podcast about their work and traveled to Harrisburg to advocate and meet with legislators on Reimagining Teacher Preparation.

Music Without Borders

Pictured are participants of Music Without Borders. Submitted photo.Yan Pang, Ph.D.
Theatre, Conservatory of Performing Arts

The main goal of this project, in collaboration with HarmoniZing Ensemble, was to break the boundaries between different cultures. Five Point Park University students collaborated with musicians from the HamoniZing Ensemble to create music about stories from the Pittsburgh refugee community and performances for the Pittsburgh general community. Through the musical creation and performance of the stories about the refugee community, we celebrate the freedom of creative expression and have the Pittsburgh refugees’ voices heard.

2021-22 Grant Recipients

CARE (Collaborate, Awareness, Research, Educate) Wellness

Christal Edmunds, Ph.D., Richard Gutkind, Ph.D., Vincenne Revilla Beltran, Ph.D., Kamryn York, Ed.D.
School of Education

Pictured is the CARE Wellness logo. Submitted.

The School of Education CARE-Wellness initiative is a project of four full-time faculty members who are all certified instructors in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA).

During the pandemic, these four faculty have focused on providing YMHFA training to School of Education student teachers. This grant will enable faculty to expand their efforts in the following ways:

Point Park pre-service and student teachers will pilot using Open the Joy Kits in local elementary schools, the Mt. Lebanon Extended Day Program and the Manchester Academic Charter School After School Program to assist K-12 students in promoting positive mental health. In addition, the project will provide feedback to the creator of the Open the Joy Kits based on pre and post assessments of the students.

Additionally, Point Park faculty will provide YMHFA training to select staff of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Mt. Lebanon Extended Day Program and the Manchester Academic Charter School After School Program.

Pictured is Andrew Halasz. Photo | John Altdorfer"By the Waters of Babylon" Buhl Planetarium Exhibition

Andrew Halasz, M.F.A.
Department of Cinema Arts

This award-winning virtual reality documentary tells the story of composers that wrote and performed music while imprisoned in a Nazi camp, and the modern day string quartet dedicated to keep this music alive. The string quartet featured are four Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians that perform as the Clarion Quartet.

The documentary will be installed at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh when it moves into their new location as part of the Tree of Life Memorial site. Because the Holocaust Center is excited to share this with the Pittsburgh community, they arranged for an exhibition at the Carnegie Science Center’s Buhl Planetarium May 18 and 25, 2022.

Pictured is Yan Pang.

Music for Change

Yan Pang, Ph.D.
Department of Theatre

Music for Change is a collaboration with Animal Friends to bring awareness to adopting animals from a local shelter instead of buying from a breeder, a pet store or other unethical approaches.

Students will create songs about animals at the shelter and share their performances on social media. Through the musical creation and performance of the stories about these animals, people will be encouraged to donate to local shelters (such as Animal Friends) and raise awareness to adopting animals from shelters instead of buying them through unethical approaches.

2020-21 Grant Recipients

Pictured is Sera Mathew, Ph.D.

‘Homeplace’ Beyond the Margins: An Exploration of ‘Safety’ and ‘Violence’ Among Black and Brown Women in the City of Pittsburgh 

Sera Mathew, Ph.D., Kendra Ross, Ph.D., and Leatra Tate, Ph.D. 
Department of Community Engagement

The purpose of this project is to explore the concepts of ‘safety’ and ‘violence’ among Black and Brown women living in the City of Pittsburgh, with the intentional inclusion of the refugee and recently resettled communities in the region. The grant will fund the first stage of the research, which will allow the researchers to host virtual focus groups and in-depth interviews. Their data collection will be virtual to account for the shifting conditions of the pandemic.

According to Identifying the Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Survivors of Color (2020), Black and Brown Americans are dying from complications of COVID-19 at higher rates than white Americans and tend to have jobs that increase their risk for potential exposure to COVID-19 while simultaneously facing the sharpest job loss rates due to the pandemic.

Pictured is Camille Downing.Gift of Life Organ Donation Awareness Campaign

Camille Downing, M.A., and AdFed/PRSSA students
School of Communication

Nationally, more than 100,000 people are waiting for organ transplants, which means the United States is currently experiencing a critical organ shortage. The Gift of Life Donor Program coordinates the recovery of organs and tissues for transplant.

Downing and the Point Park AdFed/PRSSA student organization are developing a spring 2021 campaign to increase awareness about organ donation and to register students, faculty and staff to become organ donors using the Pennsylvania online portal.

Pictured is Tara Abbott.

Whitehall Public Library Community Helpers Video Series

Tara M. Abbott, Ph.D.
School of Education

Community libraries are more than just books on shelves — they are sources of limitless opportunities for exploration and enrichment. The Whitehall Public Library currently serves the 14,000 borough residents as well as many others from neighboring South Hills communities.

COVID-19 restrictions put a halt to nearly all of the library’s typical activities, and this grant will allow for the creation of the Community Helpers video series to highlight local helpers and heroes. They have already produced a video exploring the work of the Whitehall Fire Department, and are currently planning for videos about the Whitehall Police, mayor, local teachers and librarians.


Pathways to Perform Podcast

Kiesha Lalama, M.F.A.
Conservatory of Performing Arts

Drawing on Kiesha Lalama's decades of experience, the Pathways to Perform podcast guides listeners on a path towards personal and professional success and happiness. Conversations highlight human experiences and how to overcome them. The podcast seeks to empower young hopefuls, as well as transitioning professionals, to believe they can achieve their dreams.

Additionally, it aims to expose Point Park University students to hands-on training in the areas of storytelling, editing, research, marketing, and community engagement, to create a diverse, inclusive, equitable and an accessible podcast for all, and to reconnect with alumni and share their journey from Point Park University to current day and future plans.

2019-20 Grant Recipients

The logo for Allies.

City of Pittsburgh LGBTQ Community Mental Health Needs Assessment

Todd Raymond Avellar, Ph.D., Sarah Schulz, Ph.D., Leatra Tate, Ph.D. and Cris Wildman, Psy.D. student
Department of Psychology

The purpose of this multi-phase project is to better understand the health and mental health needs and health care experiences of members of the LGBTQ community in the City of Pittsburgh.

In partnership with Allies for Health + Wellbeing, the grant funding will focus on access to mental health care by holding focus groups with individual members of the community. Data collected from preliminary meetings and community focus groups will be used to create a needs assessment survey instrument, which will be disseminated widely to members of the population across the city. Ideally, once the data is collected and analyzed, results will be used to advocate for data-driven social action and policy improvements to enhance inclusivity and equity for members of the LGBTQ community.

The logo for The Ellis School

Let's Chalk About It

Britney Brinkman, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology

Let’s Chalk About raises awareness about street harassment in Pittsburgh, particularly Downtown. The campaign includes a day of action during Sexual Violence Awareness month for high school and college students to document their experiences of catcalling on the sidewalks. Filming will take place to capture the reactions of pedestrians as they navigate Market Square and read the catcalling statements.

Brinkman and Point Park Psy.D. students will conduct six workshops with students at The Ellis School to learn about street harassment, prepare for the chalking day of action and prototype a process for interviews about street harassment.

The United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania logo.

Stories of Home Care Attendant Communities

Robert Ross, Ph.D., and April Friges, M.F.A.
Department of Literary Arts and Social Justice and School of Communication

This project aims to raise awareness of and advocate for home health care workers in Western Pennsylvania. In partnership with United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania, the grant will support the production of a storytelling and photography project that reveals the lives and communities of a multiracial, geographically diverse cohort of caregivers in Western Pennsylvania.

Students and faculty will participate in the project through a combination of conducting interviews, writing, photography, making a map, and designing a book and online materials used for advocacy and fundraising for caregiver-driven projects in the state.

2018-19 Grant Recipients

Pictured is Robert McInerney, Ph.D. Submitted photo

Robert McInerney, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology
Mobile Thriving Respite (MTR) with Operation Safety Net (OSN)

MTR is a pilot project of the M.A. clinical-community psychology program, led by McInerney and the psychology department. The project utilizes the outreach partnership with OSN to create a place at shelters, like OSN's drop-in center, to socialize, learn, grow and feel empowered. 

Pictured is Jennifer Schaupp. Submitted photo

Jennifer Schaupp, M.A.

Instructor, School of Communication and Department of Literary Arts and Social Justice
Cross-Cultural Communication with Hello Neighbor

Point Park students and refugees will work together on increasing confidence in speaking through shared storytelling exercises via an on-campus event and on the radio. 

Aleina Smith, Ed.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Community Engagement
Connecting Communities Using Experiential Learning and Asset-Based Community Development

In partnership with the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center and the Greater Hazelwood Family Center, this grant will create a six week student-led program designed to serve the Native American Community in the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh.  

2017-2018 Grant Recipients

Pictured is Helen Fallon.

Helen Fallon, M.A.

Professor of Journalism, Honors Program Director 
Honors Service Learning with A Giving Heart

Students in the Honors Service Learning course volunteered with A Giving Heart, assisting at the organization's Allentown facility with grant writing and promotional materials.

Pictured is Matthew Opdyke.

Matthew Opdyke, Ph.D.

Professor of Environmental Science
Project Bee Watch: Increasing the Awareness of Pollinators Through Citizen Science 

Students in the Ecology course constructed artificial bee shelters to attract native pollinators at the Audbon Greenway in Sewickley Heights, Pa. Citizen scientists from the Allegheny Land Trust surveyed and monitored pollinators in the field. 

Pictured is Brent Robbins, Ph.D.

Brent Dean Robbins, Ph.D. 

Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology
Pittsburgh Catholic Workers Homeless Project  

Robbins and graduate students partnered with Pittsburgh Catholic workers – which provides food, blankets and clothing to the homeless in Pittsburgh's North Side – to develop a plan for the organization to stimulate discussion and creative solutions for the homeless.

Pictured is Andrew Conte. Submitted photo

Andrew Conte, M.S.

Director, Center for Media Innovation
Media Deserts YouthCast Project 

Many communities around the country have seen their local newspaper close and now have a lack of local news coverage creating media deserts. Conte and students partnered with YouthCast (Community and Schools Together), the McKeesport Mayor's office and neighborhood groups to provide journalistic training.