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Press Release

Teresa S. Thomas

For immediate release:
November 1, 2002

Carnegie Mellon Classes Assist Family Services of Western Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh—One of Carnegie Mellon University's objectives is to help build, support and sustain the economic, educational and cultural development of the Pittsburgh area. Toward this goal, many Carnegie Mellon academic courses have formed strong relationships with nonprofit organizations in the Pittsburgh community, such as Family Services of Western Pennsylvania, to create mutually beneficial projects.

Family Services of Western Pennsylvania assists and supports families and individuals with social services. Some of their services include drug and alcohol awareness programs, loan assistance, outpatient assistance, mental retardation services, foster care for children, housing assistance, and mental health programs and assistance.

According to Marc Andrews, director of Family Services, the organization has a long and positive relationship with Carnegie Mellon. During the fall semester, Senior Lecturer and Information Systems Program Director Randy Weinberg's class will design a computerized survey tool to record and manage client feedback. Assistant Professor of English and Rhetoric Andreea Ritivoi's class will create documents for the Family Services' three-year strategic plan and help the agency to develop program policies and procedures.

These projects give students an opportunity to work with clients on real problems and adhere to deadlines. Ritivoi's and Weinberg's classes are on aggressive schedules, as their solutions must be ready for Family Services by early December.

In 2000, Carnegie Mellon was estimated to have donated $1 million in services to the community for the information systems projects alone.

The major in Information Systems requires seniors to work on a small team project to graduate. The course instructors, including Weinberg, Senior Lecturer Larry Heimann and Lecturer Kevin Stolarick, select projects that are socially worthwhile and are often for local nonprofit or charitable organizations. The class assesses the organization's needs and then creates solutions such as a database or Web site to meet those needs. Weinberg said, "Technology alone never solves the problem. The class must observe and interact with the organization to understand how to introduce a new technology into their workplace."

Ritivoi's students will serve as writing consultants for several of Family Services' documents. Ritivoi said that these types of projects remind her students that they are not only writers, but they must be problem solvers as well. Many clients will not know what they want, but they know what is currently not working well.

"The students have the opportunity to return something to the community and to develop caring for those with different life experiences and circumstances. For many students, this may be their first exposure to nonprofits, and perhaps their only experience," said Weinberg. "I'm looking forward to working with Family Services. We're a perfect partnership — it's a win-win situation."


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