Elsie Hillman Civic Forum to Launch In January 2016

Issue Date: 
October 12, 2015

Programming for the University of Pittsburgh’s Elsie Hillman Civic Forum is beginning to take shape. 

The “Elsie Forum,” as it has come to be known, was established by Pitt’s Institute of Politics through a grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. Designed to bring together community leaders and young people for educational programs, research projects, and mentoring, the forum’s purpose is to encourage students to become involved in the Pittsburgh region’s civic growth. The forum is named after Elsie Hillman, a beloved Pittsburgh political leader, activist, and philanthropist who died in August.

Elsie Hillman

“Mrs. Hillman was an amazing individual who was able to bring people together in a mindful way to have a dialogue that focused on the greater good,” said Terry Miller, director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics. “She was well-known and admired for her dedication to civic engagement, and her legacy will continue through the forum.”  

Miller will lead the forum’s activities with the support of a national advisory council. She worked closely with Hillman after the announcement of the grant, and together, they developed the framework for the forum’s programming.

Members of the national advisory council will convene at Pitt on Oct. 16 to finalize and prepare programming, which will begin in January. The council comprises local and national leaders, including a former senior advisor to President George H.W. Bush, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, and Midge Rendell, a federal judge and former Pennsylvania First Lady. 

Forum programming will focus on three areas: leadership development, research projects, and civic engagement. It will work with other Pitt entities, including the University Honors College and the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership.  

The national advisory council will discuss proposed new programs that will connect classroom learning with community needs through experiential and academic projects; encourage leadership development through mentoring and civic activities; and advance student-led and community-based research geared toward enhancing positive social change. A mix of course credit and scholarships will be offered to undergraduate and graduate students who participate in forum programs. 

“The forum will help to bring young people and the community together to fuel progress in the Pittsburgh region while reflecting the generosity and humanity Mrs. Hillman displayed throughout her life,” said Miller.

Two existing Institute of Politics programs will be integrated into the forum: the internship program and the Legislator for a Day program. The latter sends Pitt students to Harrisburg to shadow a state legislator for a day.

Many of the forum’s programs will be student-driven, and Miller said she plans to actively encourage the leadership of student groups to be involved.