Marc Cherna Fellowship

The Cherna Fellows program is an exclusive opportunity for students pursuing graduate degrees in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work. Jointly administered by the University’s School of Social Work and the Institute of Politics, the Cherna Fellows will embark on experiential learning opportunities within Allegheny County. These experiences will address all of the core competencies in social work while placing a heavy emphasis on developing knowledge and practice in public policy analysis, development, and advocacy. 

Job Description: Learn more about this year's Cherna Fellowship

Project Scope: Working with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to gain experience addressing complex systems issues by assisting in the development of programming and identifying public policy opportunities that can positively impact individuals, families, and children.

Competencies: Download the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards for Baccalaureate and Master's Social Work Programs 

Applications: Check back in early 2024 to apply. 

Eligibility: Full-time, 2nd year Master of Social Work students through the University of Pittsburgh


  • Application
  • Resume
  • Unofficial undergrad and graduate transcripts
  • Essay

This program celebrates intellectual curiosity, courageous thinking, and the ambitious goal of creating system changes at the federal, state, and local levels for a better and more just world. The Cherna Fellowship program is designed to offer highly motivated and visionary students an opportunity to address critical societal issues with an intent to improve upon public policy, economic realities, and funding contexts that impact human rights, social justice, and the provision of life-sustaining social services. 

Throughout the program major milestones will be developed according to the planned length of placement and the locations of the placement.  Projects will be co-created by the students and the placement location with the Institute of Politics and the School of Social Work. Major project milestones will be crafted to assure that Cherna Fellows can demonstrate each of the social work core competencies. Special emphasis will be placed on the following:

  • Understand historical, social, cultural, economic, organizational, environmental, and global influences that affect social policy
  • Identify key existing and/or absent public policy that supports or impedes a person’s quality of life 
  • Identify social policy at the local, state, and federal level that impacts well-being, service delivery, and access to social services; 
  • Assess how social welfare and economic policies impact the delivery of and access to social services; 
  • Apply critical thinking to analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice. 
  • Understand and apply public policy research methods at the federal, state, and local levels
  • Understand policy development including community engagement and advocacy
  • Understand the practicalities of public policy development at the legislative, judicial, and administrative branches of government depending on the social issue
  • Understand the funding context supporting and against a social issue including public and private funding mechanisms


About Marc Cherna  

For twenty-five years, Marc Cherna provided extraordinary leadership as Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, developing increasingly effective ways to deliver essential services to our most vulnerable neighbors. The excellence of his efforts has been shaped by both innovation and determination, and he has earned many special forms of recognition for his achievements.

The most important products of his efforts, though, are the countless lives that were saved or improved through the work of the DHS team as it dealt with such seemingly intractable challenges as homelessness, child abuse, substance use disorders, and mental illness. However, Marc’s impact was even more substantial because his innovative approaches also provided inspiring models for other communities.

During his tenure as Director, Marc was actively engaged with the University of Pittsburgh, serving as a member of the Board of Fellows of its Institute of Politics and the Board of Visitors of its School of Social Work. The Marc Cherna Fellowship Fund is being created to advance two worthy purposes. It will stand as a lasting tribute to Marc for his exceptional leadership. It also is a perpetual investment in the critical work yet to be done in areas that have been central to his career.