UHC Service Learning Course Development Grant Program

Service-learning courses engage students in experiential research and learning that applies theoretical knowledge to investigating and addressing issues that are pertinent to our local communities. As students apply their education directly to community issues, they learn how to collaborate with community partners and use academia as a tool to address the needs of others.

The UHC Service Learning Faculty Grant Program provides Pitt faculty members across all schools and disciplines financial support up to $5,000 to design rewarding and academically challenging undergraduate service-learning courses. Grants can fund the cost of course-related materials, space, transportation, etc. as well as a reasonable sum to reimburse the additional time spent developing a service-learning or community-based research course. These funds cannot be used to pay instructor salaries.

What is Service Learning?

Service learning is an educational methodology that integrates academic study into investigating issues pertinent to a partner community. Students learn about community issues both inside and outside of the conventional classroom setting and apply their specific academic skills to addressing these issues. In addition, students reflect on their personal ability to promote sustainable, positive social change.

Service learning is applicable to any field. Each discipline engages with community issues through a specific lens based on the discipline’s investigative tools, theories, and knowledge. Service learning fosters a relationship between students, faculty, and community partners.

Faculty members work in conjunction with community partners to develop service learning and community-based research courses. Service learning focuses on the needs of the community and makes exceptional effort to ensure that the community is involved in the development, teaching, and evaluation of the course.

Examples of Possible Service Learning/Community-Based Research Courses

Devising Theatre with Youth (Theatre Arts Department)

The course will promote experiential learning for both Pitt students and a local after-school program by providing an opportunity for Pitt students to elicit the voices of children and interweave them into a play. Students will learn and apply contemporary theatrical theories and foundational practices of community-based devising technique, then work with the children of the local afterschool program to develop an original performance based on the children’s personal or imagined stories. At the end of the course the children and students will create a collaborative community event around the culminating performance.

Medical Anthropology (Anthropology)

Medical Anthropology looks at the interaction of biology, social environment, and medical rationality. The course examines affliction, care, and health in a cross-cultural perspective. It compares non-medical models of disease causality and healing with biomedical ones and explores how social and technological inequalities shape disease health outcomes (with a focus on Latin America). By partnering with the Birmingham Clinic, students will learn to collect and interpret individual illness narratives as well as assess the cultural and political dynamics of public health problems.

Engineering in Community (Engineering/multidisciplinary)

In this course, students earn academic credit by participating in multidisciplinary design teams that solve technology-based problems for local non-profit organizations. The teams are: multidisciplinary – drawing students from across engineering and around the university; vertically-integrated – maintaining a mix of sophomores through seniors each semester; and long term – each student may participate in a project for up to six semesters. The continuity, technical depth, and disciplinary breadth of these teams enable the delivery of a project of significant benefit to the community.

Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Solutions (Environmental Studies)

This course focuses on environmental challenges and sustainable solutions related to interrelationships between constructed and natural processes Topic areas include climate, air pollution, toxic agents, and water. The format of the course is experiential learning with problem-solving research projects, lectures, and discussions. A central theme of the projects is to track the impact of land use and sustainable practices on the ecological balance of environments in and around the Pitt campus. 

Current and Previously Funded Courses

Who May Apply

Pitt faculty who teach undergraduate courses in any school and academic discipline are eligible to submit a grant proposal to receive funds to develop an undergraduate service-learning course.

Proposal Deadlines

  • For developing courses that have an existing Course Number in the PeopleSoft system: One term in advance of the semester that the course will be taught.
  • For developing new courses that do not have an existing Course Number in the PeopleSoft System: One academic year in advance of the semester in which the course will be taught.

How to Apply

In order to apply for a UHC Service Learning Grant, faculty must fill out the following three forms:


Grants will be awarded to course proposals that demonstrate a sustained community partner, a clear community need for the course, and the integration of the service learning methodology into the course. All courses awarded grants will be designated as Honors Courses.

Please Remember

Application Materials are due to the University Honors College (3600 Cathedral of Learning) on or before the date specified above. For more information, please contact Holly Hickling (hlh39@pitt.edu).