Penn Community Scholars


Created in 2007 by the Office of the Provost, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) is a university-wide center that promotes interdisciplinary research, education and practice in public health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Program 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. In 2015, CPHI and the RWJF Clinical Scholars Program partnered to launch the Community Scholars Program (CSP), 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.


  • 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

2015-2018 Community Scholars Pitch Presentations: 

Organization Pitch Presentation
Promise Zone Research Connection Developing Philadelphia's First
A & W Community Solutions Dorothy Project: A Community Surveillance System to Increase Public Safety and Safety Perception in West Philadelphia
Belmont Alliance Civic Association/ Promise Zone Research Connection Decreasing Infant/Toddler Irritant Dermatitis
Five Loaves & Two Fish Unlimited - Hero, Inc. Educating, Empowering and Equipping Philly Youth to Graduate College Debt-free through a Student-Led Catering Business
Alzheimer’s Association - Delaware Valley Chapter Use of Promotoras as an Outreach/Education Tool for Alzheimer's Disease among the Latino Community
Oromo Community Organization of Pennsylvania Identifying Barriers, Creating Awareness and Accessing Social Services for the Oromo Community in Pennsylvania
Habitat’s Home Repair (Habitat for Humanity) Prescribing Healthy Housing: Addressing Unsafe and Unhealthy Housing Conditions through Integrated Partnerships between the Health and Housing Repair Sectors
Coalition of African Communities Investigating Cancer Screening Behaviors through Group Discussions to Improve Wellness among African Immigrants in the Philadelphia Area
Dept. of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services The Gap in the System of the Children Impacted by the Opioid Epidemic
Sayre Health Center  Ask the Doc Program: Increasing Engagement, Access and Positive Health Outcomes for Sayre High School Students
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