Elsie Honors Scholars Program

photo of 2022 - 2023 Elsie Scholars

Develop Projects that Effect Positive Change for the Community

The Elsie Hillman Honors Scholars Program connects entrepreneurial and creative students with regional community partners to join an existing project or develop a student and agency-led project that addresses issues important to the organization and reflects the social commitment of Elsie Hillman. Through a structured and collaborative process, the student will work closely with their community agency and mentor to develop a project, product, or conduct research.

This immersive program will foster experiential learning in affiliated community organizations where students will develop and practice their leadership skills, project management skills, and further understand political, social, and economic factors that influence their organization's community and/or client population. 

When is this program offered?

This program is offered every academic year and lasts from September through April.

2022-2023 Elsie Scholars

Click here to meet this year's cohort.


  • Earn $15 per hour for 10 hours per week, plus $500 to support any project-related costs
  • Earn one credit from the David C. Frederick Honors College (HONORS 1010) per semester
  • Work with a community organization to help solve a critical community issue that you care about 
  • Develop project management skills 
  • Produce a quality project or product that you can include in your employment portfolio 

Program Learning Objectives

By the end of this program, Elsie Honors Scholars will be able to:

  • Explain the components of their community organization from a historical, economical, and political perspective, including its mission and role within the community
  • Explain how the community partner works with other institutions and organizations
  • Apply project management skills through the implementation of a project
  • Explain what issues their project addresses and how their project will impact the community served through discussion, written materials, and final presentation
  • Analyze and synthesize diverse sources of information

Program Commitments

  • Eight-month program (September - April)
  • Ten hours per week at partner site for entire academic year
  • Biweekly seminar, Fridays 2:00 - 3:50 p.m.
  • Final product or research to remain with community partner 


  • Any full-time undergraduate student pursuing any major, note that you do not need to be a part of the Frederick Honors College to participate  
  • Preference is given to juniors and seniors 


Check back in 2024 for application details.


Application Requirements

  • Unofficial transcript 
  • Resume
  • Students may upload a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or supervisor with their application (optional) 
  • Civic Engagement Essay - three-page maximum, double-spaced and your essay should address the following:
    • Define and introduce the issue that you're interested in addressing (view areas of focus under Frequently Asked Questions) 
    • Why are you passionate about this issue or area?
    • How would you like to contribute?
    • What do you hope to gain by participating in this program?
    • Why is this issue or topic important to our local or national community?
    • What are your plans post-graduation? 
    • Comment on any experience or work that you've done in this area, including other internships, volunteering, classwork, etc. 

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 typically has about 7-9 available positions each academic year. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The Elsie Forum supports what areas of focus? 

The Elsie Hillman Civic Forum supports projects and/or research in the areas below. This is not an exhaustive list of topics students have researched. If you don’t see your topic, please be specific about the content area you would like to focus on in your application. If you have any questions or concerns, please email Tasha Peacock at tasha.peacock@pitt.edu.

  • Income Inequity
  • Health Disparities
  • Food Insecurity
  • Transportation
  • Equity in Education
  • Immigration Reform
  • Housing
  • Job Training Programs Vs. College Education
  • Access to Quality Healthcare
  • Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights
  • LGBT Rights
  • Race and Politics
  • Policy Issues Affecting People with Disabilities
  • Environment 

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

Elsie Scholars will EITHER join an existing project that their community organization has defined and take a substantial role in development and implementation of that project OR the student and community organization, together, will identify a priority area where new or additional action/research is needed, and the student will develop and implement a project that addresses that need with regular guidance provided by the community partner mentor and Elsie Forum staff. Note that all projects and/or research are developed based on the community partner's needs, and projects often evolve many times based on those needs. The Elsie Forum is committed to providing students with the necessary skills and resources to develop meaningful projects and produce outcomes that increase the community partner’s capacity to do its work within the Pittsburgh region.

Additionally, Elsie Scholars participate in a bi-weekly, interdisciplinary seminar where they join their peers to report on their progress, receive instruction, and examine the leadership qualities and character of Elsie Hillman. In December, the Elsie Scholars will write a project proposal for approval by both the community partner and the Elsie Forum, and in April, after the spring semester is spent implementing their projects and creating the defined deliverables, the Elsie Scholars will present their work at a poster presentation.

How are Elsie Scholars matched with their partner organizations?

Students are matched with community partners based on the issue that they are interested in addressing, which is defined in the student's program application. 

Can Elsie Scholars choose the partner organization they work with?

No; however, the Elsie Forum does accept applications from students who have an existing relationship with a community partner organization and would like to develop new research or a new community action project. 

What projects or products have past Elsie Scholars produced?

  • Healthy food access guide for Homewood
  • Policy research on consolidating school transportation 
  • Literature review about regional LGBTQ youth and homelessness and best-practice solutions
  • Fundraising and advocacy plan for STEAM education
  • Mental health needs assessment for marginalized communities
  • Health education brochures for children, teens, and their parents to reduce opioid abuse
  • Evaluation best-practices of equitable development projects 

What organizations have past Elsie Scholars worked with?

See the map below.