Over more than 30 years at the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, Christina J. Groark, Ph.D. has had an incredible impact on children, families, and communities all over the world. In honor of Dr. Groark’s dedication to university-community engagement, we are asking our friends, partners, colleagues, and alumni to make gifts to The Dr. Christina J. Groark Community Engagement Fund. With these donations, the Office of Child Development will create the Dr. Christina J. Groark Community Engagement Award, which will be bestowed annually to support a University of Pittsburgh student seeking to gain community engagement experience at a nonprofit organization focused on young children, families, and/or communities. This fund will be administered and recipients will be selected by the Director of the Office of Child Development or his/her designees. The fund will recognize and extend the legacy of contributions Dr. Groark made to children and families.
Why Contribute to our Project?
Pittsburgh’s rich philanthropic history and neighborly attitude has made the city home to a multitude of nonprofits that can teach students valuable skills and priceless knowledge. By providing students with a monetary award, we intend to relieve some of the financial burdens many students encounter and thus allow them to focus more intently on their work being done in collaboration with a nonprofit. This Fund will continue to grow and strengthen the relationships between the University of Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities. Lastly, we hope that this Fund will encourage students from diverse fields to become part of the important work being done at nonprofits and create a lifelong passion for community engagement.
Born to immigrant parents and raised in New York City, Chris (as she is known to all) started working with children while a freshman at Hunter College of the City University of New York at what was then the New York Foundling Hospital, forecasting years of dedication to children without permanent parents. Chris received her doctorate in Special Education/Research in 1989 from the University of Pittsburgh and focused on babies with the most severe and profound disabilities, taking her to a series of hands-on and leadership positions working with vulnerable children. Years later, this passion continued into her personal life when, after having two beautiful girls, she and her husband adopted a child who was at risk of a lifetime of difficulties. He has since grown into a warm, kind, and productive citizen.
For the past 30 years at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, Chris has gone from Director of Community Relations, to 25 years as Co-Director alongside Dr. Robert B. McCall, and finally appointed as sole Director of the Office of Child Development. Beginning in 1994, Chris was a University faculty member, publishing nearly 100 articles, chapters, and books. She also was responsible for directly and indirectly bringing more than $200 million in project funding to the region.
The human contributions of Chris’ career far out-strip the enormous number and dollar value of her projects. Chris has devoted her professional life to implementing evidence-based practices in services for children with few resources, whether children in Pittsburgh or the Russian Federation, Latin America, China, or most recently Kazakhstan. These efforts have resulted in several innovative programs that exist years later in the Pittsburgh region as well as a legislated change in practice in orphanages across the entire Russian Federation. Her projects have literally saved lives and raised families out of the depths of poverty and despair to live productive lives.
A Pioneer in University-Community Engagement
Before coming to the University, Chris was director of several community programs. Once at the University, she created the Office of Child Development’s emphasis on community engagement, focusing on partnerships with community organizations. She often led the project creation (bringing evidence-based practices to the project), grant writing, and project implementation processes, but always in close collaboration with one or more community organizations. This engagement style of university-community activity is now a national trend among many universities, and it constitutes one of the University of Pittsburgh’s recent priorities.