Penn Community Scholars Program

A training program for community organizations, offering skill development in community-academic research partnerships.

The Penn Community Scholars Program (CSP) equips participants with the tools necessary to expand their research capacity and with personal connections to work alongside 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. Participants are guided through the research process and build research skills that lead to a culminating pitch presentation.


The Penn CSP was co-founded in 2015 by Nicole Thomas (Director, Urban Health Lab), Sara Solomon (Deputy Director, Penn Injury Science Center), and Dr. Lucy Wolf Tuton (Adjunct Professor of Medicine and of Prevention and Population Health) with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The program has grown with primary funding from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at the University of Pennsylvania.


A vision to…

support community engagement

build community capacity to serve as research partners

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.

Program Goals

Enhance community capacity to develop, implement, and evaluate programs

Improve community capacity to form and sustain equitable 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

Program Results

Across all cohorts, participants have noted high program satisfaction. From the beginning of the program to the end of the program, participants on average experience significant increases in 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

Educational Content

The Penn CSP includes 12 sessions across 2 academic semesters, with education goals and topics on:

The value of community-academic partnerships

Understanding the research process

Skill development (e.g., logic models, research questions, concept papers)

Creating and presenting a professional pitch

Lucy Tuton

The Intersection of Community, Academia, and Grant-Making

The culminating symposium where Community Scholars “pitch” their idea to a panel of researchers and funders. The 2024 symposium will take place on March 21, 2024.

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!

Penn Community Scholar, 2016

Participating Organizations

To date, the Penn CSP has built capacity among more than 60 individuals from 40+ organizations that serve largely minority, low-income communities in Philadelphia. Organizations come into the program with varying levels of research expertise and infrastructure. They graduate feeling more prepared to be equal partners in research.

Some of the organizations we’ve worked with…

  • A Book A Day
  • A & W Community Solutions
  • ACHIEVEability 
  • African Family Health Organization
  • Al Bustan Seeds of Culture
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia
  • The Apologues
  • ARTZ Philadelphia
  • Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM)
  • Beckett Life Center
  • Belmont Alliance Civic Association
  • Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
  • Blessings Inc.
  • Coalition of African Communities
  • Delaware Valley Fairness Project
  • Dept. of Behavioral Health
  • Educators for Education
  • Five Loaves & Two Fish Unlimited – Hero, Inc.
  • Forum Philly
  • Habitat’s Home Repair (Habitat for Humanity)
  • Imani Star Development
  • Intercultural Family Services
  • Jarell Christopher Seay Love and Laughter
  • Know Your Worth Girls, Inc.
  • Lutheran Settlement House
  • Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA)
  • Moms Like Me
  • Mt. Zion Baptist Church
  • Nationalities Service Center
  • No More Secrets Mind Body Spirit, Inc.
  • NOLA Foundation (Nurturing Our Lady Achievers)
  • Oromo Community Organization of Pennsylvania
  • Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association
  • Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
  • Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services
  • Philadelphia Legal Assistance
  • PowerCorps PHL
  • Prevention Point Philadelphia
  • Promise Zone Research Connection
  • Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation
  • Sayre Health Center
  • Schuylkill Center
  • Sisters R Us Circle of Survivors
  • Southwest Community Development Corporation
  • Students Run Philly Style
  • theVillage
  • UnMask Youth Program
  • Voices Against Violence
  • Worth Womb Work, Inc.
  • Wynnefield Residents Association
  • Young Chances Foundation

Past Guest Speakers

We extend our sincere gratitude to the excellent guest speakers who have supported the Penn Community Scholars Program and our annual symposium.

  • Roy Rosin, Chief Innovation Officer at Penn Medicine and Interim Executive Director at the Center for Health Care Innovation
  • Frances Barg, Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Douglas Wiebe, Professor of Emergency Medicine and of Epidemiology, Director of the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center
  • Joan Gluch, Associate Dean and Division Chief of Community Oral Health at Penn Dental Medicine
  • Mark Neuman, Associate Professor of Anethesiology and Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Stephen Kimmel, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Victoria Cargill, Senior Director of the Center for Public Health at the Milken Institute, former NIH Program Director
  • Shimrit Keddem, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine & Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Amy Hillier, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice
  • Hillary Bogner, Associate Professor of Family Medicine & Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Rev. Chaz Howard, University Chaplain and Vice President for Social Equity & Community at the University of Pennsylvania