Penn’s Netter Center Announces Partnership Award Recipients

The Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania has named Herman Beavers and the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance as the recipients of the inaugural Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award. 

Beavers and members of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance were honored for their partnership built around “August Wilson and Beyond,” an academically based community service course. The winners received a $5,000 award. 

A professor of English in the School of Arts & Sciences and the undergraduate and graduate chair in the Department of Africana Studies, Beavers has taught courses at Penn since 1989. He began teaching “August Wilson and Beyond” in 2013. 

In the course, students from Penn and WPCA members discussed a series of 10 works from playwright August Wilson, who focused on the African-American experiences of the 1900s and portrayed African-American life, through the lens of a Pittsburgh neighborhood. 

The WCPA works to cultivate community interest and support for the arts and develop cultural resources in West Philadelphia, As part of the class, Penn students and WCPA members conducted oral history interviews with West Philadelphia residents, based on topics related to the plays. Through the conversations, they explored the topics of race and class. 

Using the first-person interviews and class readings, the students and WCPA members worked together to create original monologues, which were shared with the interviewees and the community through live performances each semester. 

The course is designed to help students of all generations gain a deeper understanding of Wilson’s writing and the multi-faceted community surrounding Penn’s campus, Janee Franklin, the Netter Center’s academically based community service coordinator, said. 

“Given the course’s longevity, the continuously positive impacts that it has on both community members and Penn students and its ability to bring together the Penn and West Philadelphia communities, this outstanding partnership deserved to be honored with this award,” said Ira Harkavy, the associate vice president and founding director of the Netter Center

“Arts and culture provide a wonderful basis for building university-community partnerships,” Carol Muller, a music professor and chair of the faculty committee that helped to select the award recipient, said. “This ABCS course is an example of a genuinely mutually beneficial partnership that promotes intergenerational dialogue, increases understanding and advances learning for both the Penn students and members of the community.”

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