Penn Community Scholars Program
About the Penn Community Scholars Program
The Penn Community Scholars Program (Penn CSP) is a training program for community organizations offering skill development in community-academic research partnerships. The Penn CSP not only arms scholars with the tools necessary to expand their research capacity, but with personal connections to work alongside and along with academic institutions and funders throughout the region. Its’ rigorous curriculum aims to increase knowledge, attitudes and beliefs around the meaning of and the need for community-academic partnerships, and walks participants through the research process, building research skills that lead to a culminating pitch presentation.
To date, the Penn CSP has built capacity among more than 50 individuals from organizations that serve largely minority, low-income communities in Philadelphia. At baseline, organizations come into the program with varying levels of research expertise and infrastructure. Process and impact outcomes are assessed throughout the program and following to measure program satisfaction; changes in knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and self-efficacy; behavior change; and the organizations’ intent and practice of conducting research.
The Penn CSP started in 2015 through a partnership between the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Program, with a vision to establish a more robust infrastructure to: support community engagement; build community capacity to serve as research partners; and promote the development of equitable partnerships to address critically important health, social, behavioral, and environmental research and policy initiatives between diverse Philadelphia communities and the University of Pennsylvania. It is now a free-standing program co-directed by Sara Solomon (Deputy Director, Penn Injury Science Center) and Nicole Thomas (Executive Director, Urban Health Lab) with primary funding from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at the University of Pennsylvania.
Enhance community capacity to develop, implement, and evaluate programs
Improve community capacity to form and sustain research partnerships
Foster dialogue and opportunity for collaboration between existing Penn and community initiatives
Serve as a networking resource for Penn researchers and community-based organizations
Across all cohorts, participants noted high program satisfaction and increased knowledge, self-efficacy, and positive attitudes and beliefs towards conducting research.
increase in trust in the research process
increase in confidence in developing program goals and objectives
increase in confidence to identify a problem
increase in positive attitudes toward the importance of research
increase in desire to partner with an academic
The Penn CSP includes 10-12 sessions across 2 academic semesters, with education goals and topics on:
The need and meaning of community-academic partnerships
The research process
Research skill development
Conducting community needs assessments; identifying community problems; developing and refining research questions; drafting logic models and memorandums of understanding; partnering with academics; navigating the institutional review board (IRB)
Developing and presenting a professional pitch
Participating in a culminating symposium
The Intersection of Community, Academia, and Grant-Making
The culminating symposium where Community Scholars “pitch” their idea to a panel of researchers and funders
As a community-based agency… we have historically struggled to develop meaningful and truly collaborative relationships with research partners because we weren’t able to “speak the language” of academics and researchers.
We are currently using our new research knowledge gained from the Community Scholars Training Program to pitch several research projects within various academic institutions in Philadelphia, including Temple and Penn.
In fact, we used our pitch in a meeting with one of our hospital partners and were able to obtain direct funding in the exact amount we were seeking for the first time in nearly 10 years!
Community Scholars Alumni
A & W Community Solutions
African Family Health Organization
Al Bustan Seeds of Culture
American Heart Association
Belmont Alliance Civic Association
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
Coalition of African Communities
Delaware Valley Fairness Project
Dept. of Behavioral Health
Five Loaves & Two Fish Unlimited – Hero, Inc.
Habitat’s Home Repair (Habitat for Humanity)
Intercultural Family Services
Jarell Christopher Seay Love and Laughter
Lutheran Settlement House
Mt. Zion Baptist Church
Nationalities Service Center
No More Secrets Mind Body Spirit Inc.
Oromo Community Organization of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services
Prevention Point Philadelphia
Promise Zone Research Connection
Sayre Health Center
Sisters R Us Circle of Survivors
Southwest Community Development Corporation
Penn CSP is led by individuals who have committed their lives to genuine community engagement, with the goal of building a bi-directional bridge between community and academia to achieve health equity and increase the benefit of research to the communities it is meant to serve.
Nicole Thomas, MBA
Sara Solomon, MPH, RD
Lucy Wolf Tuton, PhD
Andrew Belfiglio, MPH