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 42 individuals from 31 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. 

Evaluated Program Results:

 Across all cohorts, participants noted strong program satisfaction, and increased knowledge, self-efficacy and positive attitudes and beliefs towards conducting research.

  • 119% increase in positive attitudes toward the importance of research. 

  • 81% increase in participant desire to partner with an academic.  

  • 78% increase in participant confidence in ability to identify a problem in the community. 

  • 69% increase in participant trust in the research process. 

  • 49% increase in participant confidence in developing program goals and objectives 


The Penn CSP started in 2015 through a partnership between the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) and the 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. Currently, the Penn CSP is housed in the Penn Injury Science Center (PISC) with primary funding from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at the University of Pennsylvania. To date, we have successfully mentored 4 cohorts of community-based organizations, with a total of 42 participants from 31 organizations.

Program Goals

  • 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

Educational Content

The Penn CSP covers 10-12 sessions across 2 academic semesters, with education goals of:  

• Understanding the meaning of and the need for community-academic partnerships

• Understanding the research process 

• Research skill development  

• Conducting community needs assessment 

• Identifying community problems 

• Developing and refining research questions

• Drafting logic models and memorandums of understanding 

• Partnering with academics 

• Navigating the IRB 

• Developing and presenting a professional pitch 

• Participating in a culminating symposium: “The Intersection of Community, Academia, and Grantmaking”

Program Leadership


Sara Solomon, MPH, RD and Nicole Thomas, MBA                                                                            


Assistant Director

Lucy Tuton, PhD               


Program Coordinator

Theresa Soya, MPH


Program Consultants

Heather Klusaritz, PhD, Elaine Weigelt MPH

Community Scholars Program

application will reopen

 Fall 2021  

Click here to see the 2017-2020 Evaluation Report 

For additional information about the community scholars program contact Sara Solomon