Marc Cherna Fellowship

The Cherna Fellows program is an exclusive opportunity for University of Pittsburgh students pursuing graduate degrees in the School of Social Work to gain experience within an organization that designs, plans, organizes and implements human services for over 200,000 people and with a network of providers. This Fellows program is jointly administered by the University's School of Social Work and the Institute of Politics (IOP). The IOP was created in 1989 as a nonpartisan policy organization serving Southwestern Pennsylvania and delivers timely information about issues affecting our region to elected officials, community leaders, and the public. The Cherna Fellow will embark on experiential learning opportunities within Allegheny County and address all of the core competencies in social work while developing knowledge and practice in public policy analysis, development, and advocacy.


About Marc Cherna

For twenty-five years, Marc Cherna provided extraordinary leadership as Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, developing increasingly effective ways of delivering essential services to our most vulnerable neighbors. The most important products of his efforts are the countless lives saved or improved through the work of his DHS team as it dealt with such seemingly intractable challenges as homelessness, child abuse, substance use disorders, and mental illness. Marc's impact was even more substantial because his innovative approaches, which provided inspiring models locally and for other communities in the state and nation.



Training Stipend:

  • $10,800 (Advanced Standing/Specialized Practice students)



Students will be placed within the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) for two full academic terms, with up to 720 hours (meeting the minimum number of hours per year required by the School of Social Work



At Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), the mission is to improve the welfare of the County's most vulnerable residents. DHS offers a comprehensive array of services informed by the latest research and best practices across its program offices. Some current initiatives include:

  • Ensuring access to all services by anyone who needs support
  • Building a network of community-based Crisis services for people with mental health or substance use issues
  • Investments that reduce the cost of public transit for low-income individuals  
  • Expanding drug and alcohol services 
  • Innovative housing solutions to deal with severe shortages in supply
  • Broad-based workforce initiatives, including the Behavioral Health Fellows program
  • Meeting the mental health needs of children in foster care through more responsive, effective services and support

In keeping with the spirit of Marc Cherna, who valued fresh perspectives, your ideas about how the Cherna Fellowship can impact our community are welcomed in your individual applications.

Students and placement locations within DHS are encouraged to co-design the projects with review by the IOP and the School of Social Work. Major project milestones will be crafted to ensure that Cherna Fellows can demonstrate each of the social work core competencies. (Social Work Competencies EPAS 2015; 1-9 with a special emphasis on Competency 5: Engaging in Policy Practice)


  • Earn a stipend totally $10,800 for the two semesters
  • Connect with and be mentored by DHS administrators
  • Gain skills and experience in policy issues that affect the Pittsburgh region


  • Placement commitment is from Sept 2024 – April 2025
  • Complete 720 hours at the placement site
  • Weekly meetings with project mentor from partnering organization
  • Complete DHS introductory training requirements for onboarding
  • Co-create deliverables with DHS and develop a project that fits the student passions and mission of the Cherna Fellowship.


  • Full time advanced standing/specialization students enrolled in the MSW Program.  There is only one opportunity available for this fellowship.


  • Complete online application.
  • Submit unofficial undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Updated resume
  • One page essay addressing these questions
    • What interests you in human services?
    • Why is that meaningful to you and your future career?
  • Interview


  • Applications are due March 1st, 2024. 
  • Students will be notified by the end of March, 2024 if they have been accepted for the fall/spring 2024-2025 fellowship. 

For more information about the Cherna fellowship read this PDF.


Contact Information

Tonya Slawinski, Ph.D., LCSW, Director, Field Education: