Carol Muller and West Philadelphia High School named 2021 Provost-Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award Recipients

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett and Netter Center Director Ira Harkavy have named Dr. Carol Muller, Professor of Music in the School of Arts and Sciences, and her partners at West Philadelphia High School as the recipients of the 2021 Provost/Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award.

Carol Muller, PhD, is Professor of Music and Director of the Minor in Jazz and Popular Music Studies. She is being recognized for her exceptional work on projects that engage Penn graduate and undergraduate students in music, arts, and wellness partnerships with the West Philadelphia/Philadelphia community through Academically Based Community Service (ABCS).

Dr. Muller is being honored for the quality and sustainability of the partnerships she has created over the years with schools and with jazz, gospel, Islamic and recent African diaspora communities in West Philadelphia. Since 2001, Dr. Muller has taught numerous ABCS courses in ethnomusicology, working closely with many West Philadelphia partners, including Millenium Baptist Church, the Quba Institute, Second Antioch Baptist Church, the Sudanese American community in Cobbs Creek, and West Philadelphia High School. Among other things, the collaborative research projects involving Dr. Muller, Penn graduate and undergraduate students, and community partners have produced multiple forms of media that tell the stories of the history and evolution of jazz and gospel music in West Philadelphia.  Dr. Muller’s ABCS work has made positive and enduring impact on Penn students, community partners, and colleagues who have had the opportunity to work with her.

Dr. Herman Beavers, a member of the review committee, stated, “Dr. Muller pioneered the arts-based community service-learning course at Penn.  Her ability to establish mutuality and trust is nothing short of miraculous. She approaches every community partner with reverence and respect, and perhaps most importantly a genuine curiosity about and openness to whatever they are willing to share.”

One of her long-term community partners, Saida Abdul-Abiz of the Quba Institute stated, “Dr. Carol Ann Muller has served as an advisor, and supporter to Quba. The UPENN-QUBA faculty project centered on a participatory investigation of music and Quranic memorization within the religion of Islam. Professor Muller demonstrated exceptional fluency in personalizing the course framework to meet the cultural and religious expectations of the host community. She also insisted on allowing full participation by community partners in its implementation ensuring the growth of all students involved in the learning process.”

This award also recognizes Dr. Muller’s active work in promoting music and arts as a form of therapy and healing. Dr. Terri Lipman, Chair of the Review Committee, noted, “I had the privilege of presenting at Trauma and the Arts, an international conference organized by Dr. Muller in collaboration with PHENND.  I have spoken at many conferences over the years - but I have never experienced the depth of emotion, empathy and community that was engendered by this initiative. In a country riddled with trauma related to a pandemic and social injustice, it is incredibly inspiring to imagine how Dr. Muller’s research grounded in music and the arts can help us all to heal.” 

West Philadelphia High School will be co-recipient of the financial component of the award. The $10,000 award will be evenly divided between Dr. Muller and her community partners in order to further develop and expand their work together to create a therapeutically informed sustainable music technology program that can serve as a local and national model. This is a collaborative project between Penn faculty, Netter Center university-assisted community school staff, Penn undergraduates, and the teachers, administrators, Support Team for Education Project (STEP) personnel, and students at West Philadelphia High School. The project seeks to address student trauma by combining the School District of Philadelphia’s STEP behavioral health intervention with a fully equipped music technology studio as a gathering space for students to learn how to use the technology, to listen to the creative work of others, to collaborate, and make their own beats/words. The goal is for students to recognize the impact of the trauma caused by poverty and violence, and to be given psychological and artistic resources to turn their lives around, to begin to hope, and to imagine a way into a more productive place in their lives. Dr. Muller is working closely with the Netter Center team, West Philadelphia High music teacher Brian VanHook, Principal Marla Travis-Curtis, Vice Principal Rachel Marianno, and Penn undergraduates Wes Matthews and Ben Moss-Horwitz, among others. 

A virtual ceremony will be held on Monday, June 21, 2021 1:00-1:30pm EST during which Deputy Provost Beth Winkelstein (by video) and Netter Center Director Ira Harkavy will present the Provost-Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award to Dr. Muller and her partners at West Philadelphia High School. An in-person reception will be scheduled in the fall to recognize Dr. Muller and her partners and present them with their plaques.


The annual Provost/Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award recognizes sustained and productive university-community partnerships. Junior and senior faculty along with senior lecturers and associated faculty from any of Penn’s 12 schools are eligible for nomination, together with their community partners. The $10,000 prize is split between the faculty member and the community partner.

The 2021 Provost-Netter Center Faculty-Community Award Review Committee was chaired by Terri Lipman, Assistant Dean for Community Engagement, Miriam Stirl Endowed Term Professor of Nutrition, and Professor of Nursing of Children at Penn School of Nursing; it also included Herman Beavers, Julie Beren Platt and Marc E. Platt President’s Distinguished Professor of English and Africana Studies, Graduate Chair of Africana Studies, and Faculty Director of Civic House; Dennis DeTurck, Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor and Professor and Undergraduate Chair of Mathematics; and Vernoca Michael, Member of the Netter Center Community Advisory Board.