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Crossing Bridges at Penn State Greater Allegheny

click to enlarge Since 2017, Penn State Greater Allegheny’s Crossing Bridges Summit has invited national and local speakers to address racism. In 2019, Dr. Johnathan White, Assistant Teaching Professor of History at Greater Allegheny spoke with Dr. Cornel West.
Since 2017, Penn State Greater Allegheny’s Crossing Bridges Summit has invited national and local speakers to address racism. In 2019, Dr. Johnathan White, Assistant Teaching Professor of History at Greater Allegheny spoke with Dr. Cornel West.
Racism has been declared a public health crisis in Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh, as well as in other cities across the United States. Members of our campus community take this seriously and work in earnest toward social change, particularly as we strive to bridge racial divides in our region. Founded in 2017, the Crossing Bridges Summit uses a multi-pronged approach to engage the campus and community in an effort to address this crisis.

This year our theme is Black women’s health. When the Crossing Bridges Summit committee, which is comprised of faculty, staff, and students, read and discussed Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race report, we were concerned about the findings in the report. We decided the data on Black women’s health warranted further attention. We live in a city with some of the best health care in the world, and it was difficult for us to fathom that Black women in our communities were suffering and dying at the rates reported. For example, one finding is that Black maternal mortality rates are 97% higher than those in comparable cities. We wanted to do something. We wanted to be part of the change.

Since the Crossing Bridges Summit brings national and local leaders together with members of our community to take up pressing issues and identify actionable items, we decided this would be our forum for dialogue and change to engage this issue. We planned a four-part series produced by WPSU that featured a panel of experts to address the findings in the report. Summit Talks follow each panel as we invite community members to reflect on the panelists’ comments and recommendations in order to determine actionable items we might take to realize needed change.


In the Fall of 2020, we hosted two virtual panels. The first considered Black maternal health, and the second considered socio-economic impacts on Black women’s health. Our Spring 2021 series begins on March 18 at 3 p.m. when our third panel takes up questions about the psychological impacts on Black women’s health. The Summit Talks will follow on March 20 at 10 a.m.

This is a timely and critical discussion. The pandemic alone has had a significant impact on mental health and Black women have been disproportionately impacted. Please join us for this event at watch.psu.edu/crossingbridges. Our fall series is archived at that site.

Our final event of the series will consider political impacts on Black women’s health (Panel: April 15 at 3 p.m.; Summit Talks — April 17 at 10 a.m.) This year, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Allegheny Health Network serve as the Platinum Sponsors for our event.

The Crossing Bridges Summit is broader than our Speaker Events and Summit Talks, and includes student-led Unity Talks, a visiting scholar (Dr. Thomas G. Poole), and a Taskforce on Racial Equity and Justice. The Penn State Greater Allegheny students lead Unity Talks on campus. These talks are focused on raising awareness about racist practices and the lived experiences of our students. Over the past few years, they engaged questions about identity, safety, and activism.


Part of the mission of Penn State Greater Allegheny is to be a catalyst for individual and social change as we seek to impact the world and the communities around us. This program is one of the ways in which we are fulfilling this mission. Given the tragic events of the past year, this work is more pressing than ever.

For more information about The Crossing Bridges Summit, please email marketing-psuga@psu.edu.

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