Understanding civic engagement

In the latest episode of Penn Today’s ‘Understand This …’ podcast series, Herman Beavers of the School of Arts & Sciences and Glenn Bryan of the Office of Government and Community Affairs discuss civic engagement—and jazz.

Civic House exterior with foliage
Civic House. (Image: Eric Sucar)

Welcome to the latest episode of the “Understand This ...” series, a Penn Today podcast. This podcast series is designed as a journey to understand how to solve problems of the day—and of our time—by uniting minds from different disciplines. 

Joining for the conversation in this episode is Herman Beavers, the Julie Beren Platt and Marc E. Platt President’s Distinguished Professor of English and Africana Studies, and faculty director of Civic House; as well as Glenn Bryan, assistant vice president of community relations in the Office of Government and Community Affairs. Together, they discuss the Year of Civic Engagement, building relationships with the West Philadelphia community, and, with the selection of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” as this year’s NSO Reading Project pick, explain the relationship between jazz and civic engagement. 

Follow “Understand This …” on Apple Music or your preferred streaming platform to keep up with new episodes.

community members talking
An event at the Community Education Center on Lancaster Avenue, featuring Penn students, West Philadelphia residents, and students from William G. Sayre High School, who joined Professor of English and Africana Studies Herman Beavers's and Instructor Suzana Berger's “August Wilson and Beyond” class for the Fall 2018 semester.  (Pre-pandemic photo.) 

Jump-off points:

9:30: Defining civic engagement.

14:10: Bryan talks about his work at Penn.

23:30: Beavers discusses the building of “infrastructure” at Penn to put students in contact with surrounding communities. 

35:48: Bryan talks about being a jazz performer and playing Convocation. 

48:32: Beavers explains “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” as the Reading Project text this year.