Spotlight on: University of Pittsburgh

The Chesapeake and Potomac Pitt Club - better known in CAN as Pitt - has become synonymous with community service. Earlier this year, the club won the Philanthropy Award at the inaugural Annual CAN Awards Night. They also led the league in donations at the CAN Softball Tournament School Supply Drive.

Community is at the heart of the Pitt club, according to Rebecca Borghi, a long-standing member and the vice president of CAN.  That community has strong ties to the university as well as the DC area.

“The local area alumni from Pitt are typical of the people that you find in the greater Pittsburgh area. Everyone is open to meeting new members and supporting the university in all that they do,” Borghi said. “I feel that even after you leave Pitt, whether you were from the Pittsburgh area or not, you always to some extent call Pitt ‘home.’  The University of Pittsburgh is grounded in the community that it is a part of and young students are connected not just from the education they acquire while there, but the whole experience that they gain of their time there.”

Giving back to the community also allows the club to create personal connections with local alumni as well. “The club is always looking for way to give back to the community. By offering a diverse set of charitable activities, everyone has a chance to participate in a cause that is special to them,” Pete Ciarrocco, the C&P Pitt Club treasurer, said. “If people cannot relate or find value in a charitable organization, they will not be motivated to come out and support the cause, no matter how well organized it may be.”

One of the most popular events the Pitt Club hosts is Ecumenical Community for Helping Others (ECHO). ECHO helps families in the greater Springfield Area of Fairfax County by supporting a family at Christmas through donations of gifts and gift cards.  Alumni have also volunteered hours at ECHO’s Christmas shop facility in Springfield. “This is popular because it has such a personal touch to it,” Ciarrocco said. “We get a wish list and go shopping for that family.”

Since Pitt believes in community, it reaches out to its community in many different ways.

“In addition to the efforts of the PAA (Pittsburgh Alumni Association) in reaching recent graduates, word of mouth has played a vital role. When I first moved to the D.C. area, several friends told me about the Chesapeake & Potomac Pitt Club and the benefits of joining,” Brooke Rupert, C&P Pitt Club’s past president, said.

The club also uses the Web as a tool to recruit new alumni and to get the word out about its events.

“We use social media extensively. While we still use traditional email blasts, we follow that up with tweets on Twitter, Group messages on LinkedIn, and frequent posts to our Facebook account. To help us manage these communications, we have social media chairperson that is responsible for promoting our events through the social media outlets,” Ciarrocco said.

Borghi agrees. “Social media includes – Facebook, Twitter, and Group messages on LinkedIn.  Our National Alumni Association on campus at Pitt also helps promote some events to their distribution list.”

The club starts early in embracing Pitt students into the local alumni community.  “The club hosts a Pitt-Nic annually for incoming freshman from the area,” Rupert said. “Many of those students return to the DC area after graduation as alumni and look to join the club.”

Pitt has also added to the CAN community through work with the Shawn Felty Cancer Fund.  Shawn Felty was a local alumnus who died of colon cancer in December 2009. Since then, the fund has created the annual CAN Coaches Challenge, a softball tournament (usually held in April) based on the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The club also participates in the Scope It Out 5K, a run/walk to benefit colon cancer awareness.