Community and Racial Equity Leadership Fellowship

"The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." - WEB DuBois, 1903

Although progress has been made since these words were spoken more than a hundred years ago, America’s race-related problems remain with us in the 21st century. Race and ethnicity matter in virtually all aspects of our society and are likely to matter more as our society becomes even more diverse.

The mission of the Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) is to conduct applied social-science research on race, color, and ethnicity and their influence on the quality of life for all Americans.

The University of Pittsburgh established CRSP in 2002 to help lead America further along the path to social justice by conducting race-related research, mentoring emerging scholars, and disseminating race-related research findings and scholarship. CRSP is multidisciplinary in its approach, multiracial in its focus, and was the first race-related research center to be housed in a school of social work.

Applications for 2024-2025 closes March 1.


Community and Racial Equity Leadership Fellowship Objectives

The CREL Fellowship provides graduate students with opportunities to learn while working in community-engaged programs, which may also include applied research projects, focused on topics related to race, color, ethnicity, location, and their influence on the quality of life for all Americans. The Fellowship is designed to prepare students traditionally underrepresented in social work, such as first-generation graduates, those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, veterans, LGBTQIA+, and students with disabilities, bridge the gaps between their undergraduate studies with experiences and skills to enter careers in macro practice settings.

This transformative fellowship is built upon 5 key pillars:

  1. Practicum learning experiences embedded in local communities that provide students with opportunities to learn from and work with those affected by and working to ameliorate social problems  
  2. Effective supervision and supports to assist fellows with sense making and solution finding within the learning context
  3. Critical reflection to encourage student discussion, discovery, self-care, and relationship building leading to enriched cohort-based learning
  4. Skill building seminars to accelerate learning and facilitate networking with area practitioners and researchers
  5. And strategic integration of course work to examine the relationship between theory and practice

Learning objectives of the CREL Fellowship

  1. Deepen understanding of race and social problems: The CREL Fellowship aims to provide students with a working understanding of the complex issues related to race and social problems. Through immersion in community spaces, Fellows will gain insight into the causes and consequences of these problems, learn from and connect with area and subject-matter leaders working on solutions, and practice critically interrogating and reflecting on their assumptions, experiences, and beliefs to derive meaning from their engagement.
  2. Develop practitioner and research skills: Fellows will gain valuable experience in bidirectional relationship building, collaboration, outreach and engagement, self-reflection and care, program development and facilitation, and in some placements, research methods that share power and are inclusive in design methodology. Fellows will work closely with faculty, community mentors, and alumni to navigate the context of their placements, develop a praxis of cultural humility and curiosity, and will be provided with training and resources to encourage the development of their own research agenda or professional pathways.
  3. Foster interprofessional collaboration: The CREL Fellowship brings together nonprofit and community leaders from a range of disciplines including sociology, social work, education, engineering, policy, psychology, public health, history, and law. Fellows will have the opportunity to learn, collaborate with, and receive mentorship from these leaders along with faculty mentors who have expertise in a variety of fields.
  4. Engage in policy and practice: The CREL Fellowship encourages fellows to engage with policymakers, practitioners, and community leaders to understand root-causes of social problems and explore solutions. Fellows may have opportunities to work on policy briefs and other materials that translate their experiences and research findings for broader audiences.
  5. Promote social justice: The CREL Fellowship is grounded in a commitment to social justice. Fellows will be encouraged to consider the ethical and moral implications of their newfound understanding of root causes associated with complex social problems, how one’s positionality impacts engagement with community and organizational leaders, and to explore the ways in which their work can contribute to a more equitable and just society.

Program Requirements

  • Ability to remain in good academic standing
  • Fulfillment of internship hours according to enrollment status        
  • Participation in monthly skill-building seminars
  • Ability to foster professional relationships with mentors and alumni
  • Proactive engagement in weekly cohort supervision sessions
  • Adoption of regular journaling and self-care practices
  • Ability to attend select community and nonprofit sector events
  • Occasional participation in Fellowship Info Sessions
  • Present a retrospective review of their project-based learning experiences to interested students, faculty, staff, and community partners at the end of the academic year

Preferred Skills

The fellowship requires a high degree of creativity, flexibility, initiative, time management, professionalism, curiosity, and discretion. Ideal students will be highly self-motivated, emotionally intelligent, organized, and adaptable learners. Possessing excellent administrative skills and the ability to independently manage multiple tasks is a ‘plus.’

Required Application Materials

Application materials—including required attachments—will only be accepted when submitted using the Qualtrics application link. Uploaded documents (resume, statement of interest, etc.) must also include the applicant’s last name in the naming convention (for example, Thompson Resume).

Application Check List

  • Resume with 2 references with contact information (phone/email address)
  • Completed Statement of Interest in response to these 2 questions (using no more than 1,000 words):
  1. The ability to understand and collaborate with a diverse range of people is critical to social work practice in community settings. In what ways do you envision the Fellowship contributing to your professional goals and aspirations?
  2. According to the National Association of Social Workers’ core values and ethical principles, social workers challenge social injustice. How will you apply your academic knowledge or unique insights into the CREL Fellowship to advocate for justice?

Application Process

Interested students must complete and submit all required materials by March 1. In-person and virtual Interviews will be scheduled and conducted between April 1 and July 15. All applicants will be notified about their applicant status by July 31 (accepted, wait-listed, or denied). And selected students begin fellowship placements in late August.

If fellowship opportunities are unfilled, applications and interviews will continue on a rolling basis.

Program Benefits

All students will earn a modest training stipend. Although not exhaustive and contingent upon placement site projects, students may obtain some of these additional participation benefits:  

  • Broader understanding of historic and contemporary racial justice issues
  • Development and application of enhanced racial literacy and diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioner skill sets
  • Relationship building with social justice and community engaged practitioners
  • Leadership, program development, research, presentation, and communications skill development
  • Informal mentorship by Pitt faculty conducting race-related research
  • Opportunity to establish a diverse portfolio of work projects

Please contact the Center on Race and Social Problems with your questions (

Fellowship Program Contacts

Aliya D. Durham, PhD, MSW, MPIA

Assistant Professor

Director of Community Engagement

Center on Race and Social Problems Faculty Affiliate

School of Social Work

Phone: (412) 383 – 5144



Ron O. Idoko

Founding Director, Racial Equity Consciousness Institute

Associate Director, Center on Race and Social Problems

Associate Director, Honors Education in Social Innovation, Frederick Honors College

Research Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

Phone: 412 – 624 – 8278



Karen Womack

Program Administrator

Phone: 423 – 624 – 7379


Alicia Melnick, MSW, LCSW

Office of Field Education

Field Assistant Professor

Phone: 412 – 624 – 4071