ACT Research Fellowship

Students engaging in community-based research investigate pertinent community issues through quantitative or qualitative measures. In the Academic Community-based Transdisciplinary (ACT) Research Fellowship, the undergraduate researcher works with a community leader and faculty mentor to develop a research project that explores various issues of importance to the community. The results of the research are intended to inform actions for positive social change. Research methods may vary by discipline. Fellows are awarded a stipend of $4000 for full-time summer research. The Fellowship includes a weekly interdisciplinary seminar to discuss the progress of the research, reflect upon the experience, and learn about research ethics and social justice. Fellows must prepare a final report for the University Honors College, their faculty mentor, and community partner that details their research efforts and their findings.

Up to 3 fellows will be selected for Summer 2018. Fellows are selected on the basis of their academic record, the quality of their research proposal, the capacity of the research to inform positive social change, and the applicant's commitment to social issues.

Human Research Protection

If a project is researching human subjects, it may requires approval or formal exemption from the Human Research Protection Office (HRPO, formerly IRB). While it is not required to have approval before the deadline, students should know that they will need to have HRPO approval or exemption before beginning their research.

Application Deadlines

March 2, 2018 for Summer 2018 Awards

Who May Apply

This award is open to University of Pittsburgh full-time undergraduate students from any of Pitt's undergraduate schools or majors.

Criteria for a Successful Proposal

To be successful, a proposal must show evidence that the project:

  • Identifies a pertinent social issue within a clearly identified community and describes the timeliness of this issue.
  • Displays a committed relationship between the researcher and the community partner.
  • Addresses a specific research question pertaining to the social issue identified, with a concrete description of how the data will be collected and analyzed. 
  • Displays sponsorship from a faculty member with expertise relevant to the student’s research project.

Examples of Potential Projects

Public Space and Community Perception in Garfield (Studio Arts): The Fellow could collaborate with the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation and the Sprout Fund of Pittsburgh to research Garfield residents’ perceptions of specific public spaces in the Garfield neighborhood. The Fellow would develop a series of proposals to receive further funding from the Sprout Fund to create community-enacted public arts projects. The locations, methods of creation, and art designs for each public piece would be determined by applying public art theory to interviews with community members.

Voices Project, The Face of Pittsburgh Immigration (English Writing): This Fellow could collaborate with local refugee resettlement organizations to interview Burmese residents of Pittsburgh regarding their integration into the city and American urban life. The Fellow would apply English writing theory exploring perspective and authorship to develop a collection of narratives and analysis of Burmese life in Pittsburgh. The technique used in this study would advocate on behalf of Pittsburgh Burmese individuals and families to an audience of local service providers and government agencies.

Green Alleys, A Permeable Urban Alley Design to Minimize Residential Flooding in Negley Place (Engineering): This student could collaborate with local community members and local government officials to research and develop a semi-permeable alley way in an area of Negley Place where residents experience annual water damage as a result of flooding from poorly designed alleyways. The student would research the topography of the area, interview local residents, research and develop a design for a permeable surface, collaborate with local community members to write a grant for the implementation, and work with local city officials to ensure that the project will be implemented in line with city code.

Application Materials

STUDENT: Submit the following:

  • RESEARCH PROPOSAL: A 2-3-page description of the proposed research project. It should emphasize your interests and goals, your past involvement in the project, and the methods for data collection and analysis that you intend to employ for the project. Please indicate the intended duration of your research, whether 1 or 2 semesters. Research methodology may be specific to your field of interest. For instance, you may or may not use some of the following methodology: surveys, analysis of pre-existing data, interviews, monitoring and evaluation, ethnography, product design research, etc.
  • STATEMENT OF INTEREST: A brief commentary (500 words or less) indicating what positive social change means to you, your commitment to achieving this change, and why you are interested in participating in the interdisciplinary community-based research fellowship community.

FACULTY MENTOR: Submit a 1-2-page letter of support for the student who would work with you. This letter should address the following:

  • What is the student’s role in the research project? Student research, as much as possible, should be independent in nature. Students should feel ownership of the project in contrast to performing at the technical staff level and simply doing as directed. We recognize that in some fields, students may be limited in what can be done.
  • How does your personal research align with the student’s proposed project?
  • What schedules have you and the student decided upon for periodic meetings?
  • How will you assess the student’s academic performance?

COMMUNITY PARTNER: Submit a 1-2-page letter of support for the student who would work with you. This letter should contain the following:

  • What community and issue do you represent and what is your role within this community/issue?
  • What is your relationship to the student whose research you are sponsoring?
  • What is the student’s role in the research project? What is your role in the research project?
  • What schedule have you two decided upon for periodic meetings? How will the student’s research inform decisions in order to make a positive impact in your community and/or address the specified issue?
  • What do you expect the student to produce as a result of the research?

It is the applicant’s responsibility to include all materials mentioned above as a complete application online. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Students are encouraged to discuss their proposals with Holly Hickling or other UHC advising staff prior to the formal submission.