Women & Business: Heather Starr Fiedler, Ph.D.

Heather Starr Fiedler Ph.D. is Chair of the Department of Community Engagement at Point Park University and Co-Founder Play it Forward Pittsburgh

201002 Pghmag Wib Dsc 0239rheatherA “Kodak kid,” born and raised in a small town near Rochester, N.Y., Starr Fiedler’s home was full of cameras, which sparked an early interest in media. But her broadcast journalism studies at SUNY College at Buffalo left her wanting a career that contributed more directly to society. She discovered a joy in teaching during her graduate studies at SUNY Albany and Nova Southeastern University. A visit to “fun and friendly” Pittsburgh impressed her and, soon after, she decided to relocate. In 2000, she joined Point Park University as a faculty member and, later, was named chair in the School of Communication.

In 2011, Starr Fiedler co-founded Play it Forward, which each year collects tens of thousands of gently used toys, books and games and gives them to families in need. She serves as co-chair of the organization’s board. “The organization was born in our basements and quickly grew. Now we have hundreds of volunteers and give out toys to over 5,000 local children every year,” she said.

Five years ago, Heather decided to step down from her Communication chair position to start a nonprofit outreach initiative for the school, Wood Street Communications, and become the founding director of a new PhD program in Community Engagement at Point Park. “Even if it meant taking a step down, it was more important to find work that had deep meaning to me than keep climbing the ladder,” said Starr Fiedler.

The Community Engagement program became a department in 2017, with Starr Fiedler serving as Chair. The department works to strengthen campus-community relationships by promoting service learning, supporting faculty, staff and student social impact work and preparing students for service in civic and community organizations. This work is more important now than ever, as evidenced by the need for the campus food pantry, which the department oversees. “The need for food support among our college students tripled when the pandemic hit and now we are adding things like PPE and other care items to our inventory,” she said.

Starr Fiedler was named one of 14 “Women in Media” by the Women & Girls Foundation of Western Pennsylvania 2010 and was selected as one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2009.

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