Penn Community Scholars Program

2015-2016 Community Scholars

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) is a university-wide center founded in 2007. CPHI promotes interdisciplinary research, education and practice in public health. The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiative’s mission is to educate and train public health leaders and practitioners, foster multi-disciplinary collaboration, and promote excellence in public health research and community partnerships.


Since 1972, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has worked to identify the most pressing health issues facing America. RWJF believes that good health and health care are essential to the well-being and stability of our society and the vitality of our families and communities. The mission to bring meaningful, lasting change- with the goal of building a Culture of Health that enables all in our diverse society to lead healthier lives is what guides this fundamental premise. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been driven by a continuous cycle of research, evaluation and learning. Through funding sound, objective analysis to help expand the evidence in our fields of interest, identify gaps and opportunities, and set targets and goals, RWJF evaluates programs to determine what is working, what isn’t and why. Together, RWJF determines how best to achieve a meaningful impact, and ensure its strategies remain effective as the nation’s health challenges continue to evolve.


Through the partnership of RWJF and CPHI the vision is to establish a more robust infrastructure to support community engagement and health policy research between community organizations in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. The overall goal of this partnership is to develop a sustainable model supported by the University of Pennsylvania that builds on existing infrastructure. RWJF at the University of Pennsylvania has promoted community-academic partnerships, trainee scholarship and community-based participatory research with notable achievements over the past 10 years. Building on CPHI’s strong network of community partnerships, the Community Scholars program will be used to pilot the infrastructure needed to institutionalize access of community organizations/individuals to Penn researchers and vice versa, ultimately expanding opportunities for academic community partnerships.


  • 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

CONTENT (2 semesters / 8 to 10 sessions):         

  • Understanding academic community partnerships
  • Developing/Refining research questions
  • Skill development related to IRB, MOU, Logic Model, Citi Training,
  • Developing a Pitch
  • Participation in a culminating symposium: “The Intersection of Community, Academia, and Grantmaking”


  • Successfully mentored 2 cohorts of community-based organizations (total of 30 participants from 18 organizations)
  • Symposium attended by over 200 community members, health and social service agencies, students, and faculty each year

“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)

“The Community Scholars program was one of the most professionally satisfying learning experiences I've ever had. I have been talking about the power of the program with lots of colleagues. It gave us the opportunity to think more deeply and carefully about what it takes to create responsible and productive research partnerships … the program also gave me new and extremely valuable insights into the process of defining a project and pitching it to funders.” (Penn Community Scholar, 2017)


  • Institutionalize Penn Community Scholars Training Program
  • Build community capacity to perform research
  • Build partnership capacity for Penn researchers
  • Facilitate the expansion/enhancement of mutually beneficial community academic research partnerships

2015-2017 Community Scholars Pitch Presentations: 

Organization Pitch Presentation
Lutheran Settlement House Show how domestic violence screening can be done in pediatric settings
Intercultural Family Services Inc. Expanding the Field of Dreams
Schuylkill Center  Increasing Park Engagement to Build Healthy and Vibrant Communities
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Novel ways to get girls moving at a young age
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Money-saving idea to reduce recidivism among previously incarcerated paroles
American Heart Association Decreasing Barriers to Blood Pressure Screening
The Village Adverse Childhood Experiences APP
Al Bustan Seeds of Culture Cross-Cultural Exchange Through the Arts
Blessings Inc. Metamorphosis Program for Young Adults Transitioning Out of Foster Care
APM Healthy Homes
The Village Parent Readiness Tool
ARTZ Philadelphia Dementia Quality of Life Programs