Pitt Social Worker Appointed Chair of Nonprofit Focused on Disadvantaged Communities

Issue Date: 
December 15, 2016


In high school, Keith Caldwell was the go-to guy. If you needed help with a problem, if you were facing a tough challenge or just needed to talk, Caldwell was there.

“I enjoyed helping people and making a difference,” says Caldwell, director of Pitt’s Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program and an assistant professor.

Today, those same sentiments and sense of mission have resulted in Caldwell's appointment as Chair of the Board of Commissioners for the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise (PACE), a local nonprofit that fuels other nonprofits to be engines of positive social change in distressed neighborhoods.

Caldwell joined PACE in 2009 when he was invited to serve on its Board of Commissioners. In his new leadership position, he is poised to help determine grant awardees and create opportunities for nonprofit staff to offer broader, more efficient service to those seeking jobs, affordable housing, workable transportation options, and appropriate health care in Pittsburgh.

“Part of my training as a social worker is a commitment to personal and community empowerment,” says Caldwell, which also reflects why he was first attracted to PACE. Formed in 1968 in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., PACE’s longstanding mission has been to help African American and economically disadvantaged communities address needs from within.

For his part, Caldwell’s social work has always been rooted in both community and academics — and the idea that each of those pillars strengthens the other. 

At Pitt, Caldwell has found his way into “macro” social work, which focuses on large-scale social issues that affect entire communities.  “I was always interested in helping people and simultaneously interested in large social issues and the great leaders who challenged the status quo,” he says.

In 2002, Caldwell completed the MSW program at Pitt and became the Director for Advancement for North Hills Community Outreach, where he oversaw Compassion Allegheny, a federally funded project that provides training and technical assistance to faith-based and community-based organizations throughout Allegheny County. 

He also served as the Community Development Coordinator for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ project that provided families with community-based, family driven, culturally competent services.

In addition to PACE, Caldwell is also board president for Advancing Academics, an Allegheny County nonprofit that aids low-income, high-achieving high school students in their quest for higher education.

As he pursues a Doctorate of Education in Pitt’s School of Education with a concentration in Higher Education Management, Caldwell continues to look for new ways to apply the social work skills he gained by working with children with disabilities, organizing communities to better support teens with mental illness and their families, working on workforce development with Pittsburgh’s growing Latino community, or leading Pitt's undergraduate social work program.

“The BASW program continues to excel and grow under Keith Caldwell’s guidance," says Valire Carr Copeland, associate dean of academic affairs in the School of Social Work. “His expertise in engagement, capacity building, and innovative approaches to complex social issues are essential for training the next generation of social workers.”

And Caldwell embraces that mission.  “At Pitt, we have a great ability and responsibility to be in service to communities that host us,” he says. “As I sit at the tables of grassroots organizations, I realize the importance of being able to meet that responsibility.”