Professor Andy Tan and Community Partners Receive 2023 Provost/Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award
Tan and community partners Cross-Grade Sports and OurSpace were honored for their collaborative work in the West Philadelphia community.
At a Dec. 14 ceremony, Provost John L. Jackson, Jr. and Netter Center Director Ira Harkavy presented Annenberg School for Communication Associate Professor Andy Tan and two West Philadelphia-based high school internship programs—Cross-Grade Sports and OurSpace—with the 2023 Provost/Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award.
Andy Tan, associate professor for communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and director of the Health Communication and Equity Lab, was named the winner of the 7th annual Provost-Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award at a Dec. 14 event. Tan’s partner co-recipients were two West Philadelphia-based high school internship programs, Cross-Grade Sports and OurSpace.
The annual award, which grants $5,000 to the faculty member and $5,000 to the community partner, recognizes local, productive, and sustained faculty-community partnership projects. Winners are selected based on the project’s engagement, impact, and sustainability, said Ira Harkavy, associate vice president and founding director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. The work should be “deeply mutually beneficial,” which is essential to the work of community engagement, he said.
“For Benjamin Franklin, the purpose of this institution, and really of all education, is developing in young people an inclination and an ability to serve,” Harkavy said. “Franklin emphasized that learning is for improving the human condition, to make the world better, not for its own sake.”
Tan, who is also director of the Health Communication & Equity Lab at the Annenberg School, has maintained an ongoing partnership with both Cross-Grade Sports and OurSpace.
Tan was chosen for his work in the West Philadelphia community. Since his arrival at Penn three years ago, he has taught a number of Academically Based Community Service courses including Public Health Communication Research and Evaluation in the Digital Age and Utilizing Mixed Methods in Community Research. In his courses, Tan’s students partner with local high school students to identify relevant issues for place-based problem solving.
His partnership with Cross-Grade Sports began in 2020 while mentoring Ava Kikut-Stein (Ph.D. '23), then an Annenberg Ph.D. student, who partnered with Cross-Grade Sports to design and implement a peer-to-peer health communication project.
Cross-Grade Sports, based at West Philadelphia and William L. Sayre High Schools, improves students’ access to and engagement in fitness and health by delivering sports-based youth development programs for elementary students.
“Andy has successfully connected to local partners in his teaching, his research and advising, and all of his work in health communication and equity, in ways that have advanced community engagement at Penn and also improved the health and well-being of members of the larger community,” Jackson said.
OurSpace, hosted at the Penn LGBT Center, works with LGBTQ+ Philadelphia high school students to help solve problems such as inadequate queer sexual health education and a lack of safe spaces in their schools.
Paulette Branson, the Netter Center’s director of student engagement and community building, accepted on behalf of the high school programs and students.
While accepting the award, Tan highlighted his youth partners’ contributions. “You have been the driving force in ensuring that our work is meaningful and impactful and that we ask the tough questions rather than seek easier paths, so that we can continue to make a difference in our community. Your enthusiasm and passion for our work have really kept us motivated.”
While introducing Tan, Jackson highlighted his commitment to West Philadelphia partners. “Andy has successfully connected to local partners in his teaching, his research and advising, and all of his work in health communication and equity, in ways that have advanced community engagement at Penn and also improved the health and well-being of members of the larger community,” Jackson said. “This award recognizes his innovative design and teaching in graduate-level Academically Based Community Service courses in communication, as well as his co-developed research with local communities.”
Much of Tan’s work, including tobacco research, vaccine promotion, and other forms of health communication, have incorporated community-engaged scholarship, which is the idea that problems can best be solved by collaborating with community stakeholders throughout the research process.
Tan’s 2021 graduate-level ABCS course, Public Health Communication Research and Evaluation in the Digital Age, used youth participatory action research principles collaborating with students at West Philadelphia High School and Sayre High School to co-develop public health communication interventions around issues of sleep, nutrition, and how those behaviors combine to affect mental health.
Tan began working with OurSpace in 2022 teaching students about the research process and how to reach LBGTQ+ youth with anti-tobacco messaging. As a result of the partnership, Tan has adapted a second graduate ABCS course, Utilizing Mixed Methods in Communication Research, to be offered this spring.
Previous award recipients include Lori Flanagan-Cato and science educators at Paul Robeson High School (Lou Lozzi, David Rowe, and Brian Horn); Carol Muller and West Philadelphia High School, Terri Lipman and Inthedance, LLC; Joan Gluch and Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers; Rich Pepino and Partners in the School District of Philadelphia; and- Herman Beavers, West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and the Paul Robeson House & Museum.