Study Away Pittsburgh

Questions and Answers for Community Partners

What is the Penn State Pittsburgh Study Away Program? When will it begin?

The Penn State Pittsburgh Study Away Program is a semester-long affordable, transformative, urban educational experience for 3rd and 4th year Penn State students. Modeled after the Study Abroad Program,  students will be placed with community partners, and participate in an in-depth community-based learning experience in sustainability while residing in Pittsburgh for the entire semester.

What are the curriculum and community placement options?

Based on feedback, we have identified two options to meet community partner and student needs.

Option A: 20 hours per week internship combined with two online courses and a weekly urban sustainability course taught at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh.

Option B: 40 hours per week internship combined with the weekly urban sustainability course.

Why would a community partner be interested in participating in this program?

This program offers community partners knowledgeable boots-on-the-ground 3rd and 4th year students. Students will come from various majors and minors such as landscape architecture; geography; marketing; communication; recreation, parks & tourism management; community environment development; and sustainability leadership. Penn State will provide the community partner with the student best matched to carry out the desired community impact for their scope of work/project.

How can a community partner participate?

Prospective community partners need to submit a project proposal which includes: ¬†organization’s name, project supervisor, project overview, desired student skills, desired student availability per week, resources offered to the student, desired project results, and community impact.

Community Partner Proposal Open: Now
Community Partner Proposal Close: Fri. Feb. 8, 2019
Community Partners are Notified of Student Placements: Fri. Apr. 5, 2019
Student Placements Begin: Mon. Aug. 26, 2019

Please direct any inquiries as well as the proposal submission to Lisa Kunst Vavro at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh at or call 412-263-1753.

How many hours per week will the student be available for community placement work? How many students will be placed per community/project? Can the community placement be multi-semester in duration?

The community placement will be 20 hours or 40 hours depending on the option chosen by the student. Depending on the number of interested community partners, and the scope of work for projects, it is possible for more than one student to be placed with one community partner. Projects lasting longer than one semester are permitted as long as each semester’s work is discrete, understandable, and doable by the subsequently assigned students.

Who matches the student with community partner’s needs? What kind of student skills can be expected by community partners? If there are HR or performance issues, who is responsible?

Penn State will offer the best student match, based on the community partner’s scope of work/project. Student expertise will be in the areas of landscape architecture, geography, recreation/ parks/ and tourism management, community/environment/development, business and sustainability. Minimum technology skills will include full knowledge of Microsoft Office and most social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The Coordinator at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh is responsible for addressing any HR or performance issues. Community partners are required to participate in an orientation meeting prior to placement and post placement evaluations. The Coordinator will be in regular contact with the partner organization to discuss any issues. The Coordinator will meet regularly with the students during placement.

If placed with a community organization, will the students be paid?

There is no cost to the community partner for the student placement of 18-20 hours or 36-40 hours per week. Community partners are encouraged to submit their project proposals and request to be paired with a qualified Penn State student at no cost. In subsequent semesters, Penn State may explore options for both paid and unpaid placements, along with sponsored fellowships.

During community placement, who is responsible for liability? Are any restrictions placed on where a student can work or the work content?

The University’s insurance does not extend to cover the student’s actions while the student is working for the community site. If the community site requires liability insurance, the site needs to inform the student of this requirement as soon as possible so that the student can purchase the required insurance and verify that it was purchased.