Ambassadors for Civic Engagement

Unique opportunity to work with a prominent regional foundation in 2019-2020

The Ambassadors for Civic Engagement (ACE) Fellowship provides an opportunity for graduate students to apply their education and skills to contribute to and improve the quality of life of people living in the Pittsburgh region through a long-term experiential fellowship with a community partner that works in public policy, governance, or philanthropy. The 2019-2020 community partner is the Buhl Foundation. 

Three to four diverse and highly competitive graduate-level ACE Fellows from a wide-range of backgrounds will work as a team with a community partner to address a specific organizational, policy, or community issue while increasing their social responsibility, heightening their understanding of human diversity, and learning from their peers.

2019-2020 Community Partner: Buhl Foundation

The Institute of Politics, Elsie Hillman Civic Forum is recruiting its 2019-2020 cohort of Ambassadors for Civic Engagement (ACE) Fellows. This year, we have partnered with the Buhl Foundation to provide 3-4 graduate students with the opportunity to work with Buhl to document its "place-based philanthropy" model used in its One Northside initiative, a model that was created to engage the community to develop a framework to improve the quality of education, employment, health, place, and safety in Pittsburgh’s eighteen Northside neighborhoods. The selected ACE Fellows will get to work with Pittsburgh's oldest multi-purpose foundation and learn about philanthropy, systems and policy change, and community engagement.

Project Deliverables 

At the Buhl Foundation, there are multiple interrelated deliverables that we believe the Fellows could create that would benefit our organization moving forward.

  1. A substantial narrative report for the internal Buhl Foundation audience that allows us to understand more clearly our own processes, procedures, and models for engaging place-based philanthropy and community engagement;
  2. A public-facing narrative report for an external audience that includes a concise explanation of the Buhl Foundation and One Northside processes/model and some consumable graphic depictions and user-friendly design;
  3. A combination of graphics, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations for Northside residents and general external audiences that allow Buhl staff to clearly articulate the One Northside process/model quickly and understandably to a variety of folks from different backgrounds.

Project Mentor

Frederick W. Thieman, Esq., the Henry Buhl, Jr. Chair for Civic Leadership and former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of PA. 

When is this fellowship offered?

It's offered every academic year and lasts from October through April


  • Earn $13 per hour for 15 hours per week, Oct. 2019 through April 2020
  • Work with and learn from an interdisciplinary team of peers
  • Connect with and be mentored by community leaders and executives
  • Gain skills and experience in philanthropy, systems and policy change, and community engagement

Program Commitments

  • Seven-month program (Oct. - April)
  • 15 hours per week at partner site or doing project work
  • Team meetings with Elsie Forum staff to discuss the project and experiences
  • Create deliverable(s) to remain with community partner


  • Any full-time, graduate student pursuing any degree during the entire academic year at the Oakland campus
    • Preference for the 2019-2020 project will be given to the following schools:
      • Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences
      • Graduate School of Public & International Affairs
      • Graduate School of Public Health
      • School of Social Work
      • School of Education

Qualifications for the 2019-2020 Project

This project will would benefit most from students with well-developed “soft skills” and the ability to interact comfortably and respectfully with diverse populations. 

Experience in the following are required:

  • qualitative & quantitative research
  • communications (both interpersonal and external)
  • creative and/or non-fiction writing
  • graphic and information design

An interest in the following would be strengths for ACE Fellows:

  • historical / cultural research
  • philanthropy
  • community engagement
  • organizational design / management
  • community development


Students apply online via Talent Center and participation is awarded on a competitive basis. 

Application Due Date: Sept. 16, 2019

Application Requirements

  • Students must upload a current resume
  • In the "writing sample" slot of the talent center application, please upload a 3-page maximum, double-spaced essay that addresses the following:
    • Explain how you believe you can contribute to the Buhl Foundation and their project.
    • Identify your skills and experience as related to the defined qualifications for this project
    • Why are you passionate about this project and working with the Buhl Foundation?
    • What do you hope to gain by participating in this fellowship?
    • What are your post-graduation plans? 
  • In the "other" slot of the talent center application, please upload your unofficial transcript.

Selection Process

This program follows a two-staged review process. First, a committee will review each applicant's written materials and will recommend applicants for an interview. Second, those recommended for an interview are contacted to schedule face-to-face interviews with the committee. After the interviews, the committee deliberates and selects the finalists. The program has three to four available positions each academic year. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What will I be doing if I am selected as an Elsie ACE?

Three graduate students will work as a team with a community partner to address a specific organizational, policy, or community issue. The Elsie Forum will work closely with the selected community agency to outline the mentoring responsibilities of the host organization, define student responsibilities and time commitment for the project, and identify the training goals and evaluation process to assess attainment of the goals. The activities while on site will depend heavily on the selected community partner.

Monthly team meetings will occur on campus to compliment internship activities. The monthly sessions will focus on leadership development, guided discussion about the project, as well as guest lecturers from the nonprofit sector.

Past ACE Placements