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COUNCIL State of the University: The Provost's Report December 3, 1997

Implementation of the 21st Century Project and Internationalization Goals by Stanley Chodorow

[The traditional State of the University presentation to the University Council was given in two parts this year, with President Judith Rodin's on November 12 and Provost Stanley Chodorow's December 3. Noting that the President's report had covered some academic topicsnotably graduate education, and research activities and their fundingDr. Chodorow said he would amplify her report on globalization (see page 7) but first would concentrate on the 21st Century Project, and particularly the new College House plan that will go into effect in Fall 1998. The body of his report follows.]

The President spoke about the 21st Century Project and changing the undergraduate experience in her inaugural address in the Fall of 1994and about that time we were setting up and charging a Provost's Council on the Undergraduate Experience. That Council worked through the year and produced the 21st Century Project for the Undergraduate Experience, and since the Fall of '95 we have been implementing, testing, piloting different parts of the program.

The 21st Century Project is divided into three parts:

-- An academic component, which has been working through the college and school curriculum committees, and through SCUE and other groups that work on academic matters. It had, on the academic side, three basic functions or goals: One was to increase the role and participation of undergraduates in research activities throughout the University in all twelve schools. Second was to develop the Penn tradition of multi-disciplinary and particularly cross-school academic programs. Third was to develop, on the model of existing programs like Writing Across the University, what might be called high-level skills programs that deal with the fundamental intellectual techniques and skills that students need to succeed both in their academic work and beyond. I will come back and report on those in a minute.

-- Student services, and Penn In Touch is an example of the second goal, to create a responsive and highly supportive environment for student learning. Improved Penn In Touch services have resulted in more effective registration for classes and so on. There has been a continuous improvement in the availability of information, and over time there will be a continual improvement of the information available to students and the ability of students to manage their own lives through Penn In Touch wherever they happen to be and can get on the web, as well as coming to the Franklin Building or to other service centers around the campus as we develop them.

-- Residential living is the largest project and the one I will start with today.

Forming Residential Communities

In the winter and spring of 1997 we formed a committee, the Residential Planning Committee, chaired by David Brownlee, professor of Art History, to look back over Penn's many reports on college houses and residential life, and come up with a reportnot a set of recommendations that would be like all the other ones that had gone back tens of years at Penn, but a report that recommended what could in fact be implemented: How could we do what we had been saying we ought to do for years and years?

They produced a report called Choosing Community in the spring of '97 that was reported to the community, and talked about here at Council. At the same time the administration had commissioned a consultant to come in and look at the actual buildings, their physical condition, the finances of the system, and go through in a systematic way and give us an idea of what kind of work had to be done on these buildings to bring them up to what all of us would like to think of as Penn's standard. That report, as it came into its final stages, was coordinated with the Brownlee committee's work, so the Brownlee committee was able to use the data being produced. Thus when it made its report, Choosing Community, that report was not merely a set of ideasit was a set of ideas grounded in the realities of our system. What they said to us in the spring of '97 was, "We can do it." And what it was they said we could do was to create a comprehensive system of college houses in our residences.

The Residential Planning Committee had done some preliminary work in dividing up a geography of our residences and showing how it could be organized; they had done some preliminary work in defining the nature of these residential communities.

Over the summer, a technical team of faculty and staff sat down with that report, which had been the product of faculty, staff and student participation in the committee and in the vetting of it, and we asked that group to show us how we could do this by the fall of 1998. It was an implementation group that set to work. And they in turn produced a report to the community that showed us how we could do this next year using all the existing residences.

I want to remind you of what we were trying to accomplish. Our goals were to create an intellectually dynamic, varied, and rich living experience for undergraduates. By rich we meant both rich in the sense of having a lot of services and a lot of characteristics that students seek, and also having varietythe kind of variety that Penn students have come to know and love in the Penn environment, of being able to live in different kinds of buildings, in different settings, in larger and smaller communities, on campus and off campus. This was a program of campus housing which needed to be integrated with fraternities and sororities on the one side and with the fact that Penn students often move off campus. We only house about 60% of our students so 40% of them are living off campus in one venue or another, and we needed to have a system which would integrate and take into account all of those sites of student life.

The second was to integrate residential, intellectual, cultural, social and recreational activities through the residential system. In implementing this plan we took the results of student surveys and focus groups that had been carried out both by the Brownlee committee and by the consultants, Biddison Hier, asking students throughout the institution what they were looking for. And students told us that they were looking for the following things:

Students wanted to strengthen residential life on the campusimprove it and strengthen it.

They wanted to enhance the academic support offered to students. And students told us that they wanted the support to be brought home, by which they meant they wanted to have the services in and near their own residences, where they were living. I remember a conversation with a student who said, "At two o'clock in the morning when you have a math problem and you're living in the High Rise, it just isn't sensible to have to walk all the way to David Rittenhouse Labs for a counseling session, if it in fact is open." So they were saying that the counseling centers and help centers should be where they live, and not across the campus. The fact they were asking about two o'clock in the morning tells you something that is also important: that opening our support offices from 9 to 5 a.m. to p.m. was the wrong 9 to 5; that we needed to bring it home in that sensewhere the students live and when they live there, when they're in fact, awake there.

Students stressed that they wanted more faculty-student interaction.

They wanted freedom of choice, which they have now;

Undergraduates wanted a variety of living options, such as those I've already mentioned.

They wanted excellent facilities and excellent staff, and that was in effect the purpose of the Biddison Hier consultancy, to figure out what the condition of our existing buildings was in detailfinding out exactly what needed to be done.

And finally, students said that they wanted greater student participation and leadership opportunities in the residences.

When we sent this working group off in the summer we asked them to bring back a plan that would be implemented in the fall of 98. We wanted something tangible and important to happen in the fall of 98we didn't want a plan that could only be implemented five years or eight years from now. We wanted them to preserve all of the successful models already existing at Penna lot of those are existing college houses, and there are several very successful ones. We wanted to preserve and build upon living and learning programs, which are also very successful models. We wanted a plan which was simple and we wanted a plan which was adaptable. We knew that over time we were going to renovate all these properties; that the student body would change its interests; that the faculty would change their interests; and we needed a system which would adapt to the human communities that would inhabit them. Those were the basic principles of this plan.

What the Residential Communities Working Group came back with was a proposal and a demonstration that we could create twelve college houses, using all of the residences that now exist, in the fall of 1998. That would include four of them in the Quad (Community, Wendy and Leonard Goldberg, Spruce and Ware College Houses); one in each of the three High Rises, (Hamilton, Harnwell and Harrison College Houses); and Gregory, Hill, King's Court/English, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Stouffer College Houses.

In creating this geography of twelve houses, the committee also found that we had in residence now some basic facilities that each of the houses really needed. We had study centers and study space, like computer labs and seminar rooms, we had a modest amount of office space, we had some multipurpose facilities and recreational facilities of various kinds. It was also critically important to organize the dining facilities that are on campus to create dedicated dining for each and every one of the college houses and they were able to show how we could do that as well, with a modest investment in capital over what is already in existence.

Each houseeach of these communities of undergraduateswould have a Faculty Master and an additional faculty fellow in residence (at least one; there were several in which there would be more than one other faculty member). Each would have a House Dean, who would be an administrative officer full time. In addition to helping to run the house in the ord-inary sense of administering the House Dean would also be a source of information, counseling, guidance to the students in that housea liaison to all the services of VPUL and other offices for students throughout the University. Each would have Graduate Associates; we would double the number of graduate students living in residencenot only providing a richer mix of older students with experience that we want our students to have or at least have access to, but also a source of support for the graduate students as well, which we think is important. We also would also distribute the Resident Advisors more evenly across the College Houses.

So these communities have an infrastructure of faculty and staff and students. The most important aspect of each of these houses, which differ from one another physically and in size and in many other ways, is that each will have a certain set of basic services available through them that will be uniform throughout the houses. This is known as the "Wheel Project" and it involves, already the distribution of help in mathematics and in writing into the residences, and information technology, the famous ITAs who help students hook up their computers at the beginning of the year and fix and deal with problems that arise during the year.

There's also been a piloting of library support. There's also been an undergraduate group called EFFECT that was piloted last year and has continued this yeara group of students who are engaged in research in various parts of the University, who are proselytizers of research and who give papers and tell students how to get involved in research.

We're talking about adding other help services through the Wheel Project throughout the residences. One of the features of this kind of service provision is that it operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Second, it's based on the electronic network, which means that it's not only available to students in residence but to all students who are hooked into our network and who can reach these help services through the residences. Students who go through the college houses will be able to stay involved if they wish, even if they live off campus; will be able to participate in the houses to which they belonged when they were on campus. And a very high percentage, virtually 98% or so of our freshmen, live on our campus so they will all have had this experience. And they will be able to continue to participate in the life of the house.

The governing organization of the houses is based on House Councils. They are, as I like to call them, basically student republics. They provide leadership opportunity, an opportunity for creating and sustainingand changing, enlarging, or shrinkingprograms and determining activities.

The present living and learning programs will continue to exist as nested in these houses. One of the problems of existing living/learning programs is that as they grow and shrink they can create problems for themselves because they have commitmentsrental commitments and so onso that if they shrink they become too weak to survive but if they grow they push against their existing facilities. By nesting them in the larger college houses, we will allow for their growing and shrinking as student interest waxes and wanes, but also for forming and unforming in accord with student interest. And, the increase in the infrastructure of staffing in the residences will give more support to the living and learning programs than they have ever had before.

So we have a strong belief that the residential system, the new college house system, will provide greater variety; it will continue to have choice; students will be able to move from one to another at will, as their desires for certain kinds of housing change. It will provide a framework for the physical renovation of these properties, and for the expansion of the system if that becomes an option or desired goal. It will provide students with leadership opportunities in running these houses, with the guidance and assistance of the faculty and the staff in the houses.

This fall, once we had announced the program and figured out that we actually could do it, the two groups that became the leaders in are the VPUL Office and Business Services, which has responsibility now for the management of the residences and also is helping with assignments. Working together, we've produced the information necessary to go to students so they'll all understand what this system is about and what the characteristics of each of the houses is. We are in the process of beginning recruitment of the faculty masters; many of the masters are already in place but we need a few others, and we have already identified several people who are interested. We will be recruiting house deans starting in January. We have just about completed recruiting of a staff person in residential life on the VPUL side to manage the staff and the development of new house councils in the high rises. We're working with students in the Residential Advisory Board, with the Undergraduate Advisory Board for the whole 21st Century Project to get students directly involved in the formation of what I called the student republics in the houses.

All of this is now ongoing. We expect that by the end of the spring everything will be in place and ready. Students will have made their choices, both our continuing students and the incoming freshmen, and this system will be in place on the first of September 1998. It is an unbelievable achievement of the people who did this work: David Brownlee, Al Filreis, Chris Dennis, Val McCoullum, Steve Murray, Larry Moneta, were the working group over the summer. Thanks go, also, to the many students, faculty and staff over the last few years who helped shape the vision that these folks brought to concrete reality. It was a very hard job to do, very complicated, and they have done a magnificent job and are to be thanked.

Coordinating the 21st Century Project

I was quite happy to announce yesterday that Steve Steinberg, who is the executive director of the Penn National Commission that the President chairs, has agreed to be an interim coordinator of the 21st Century Project for us. We have a system that will allow him to be the person who understands and keeps an eye on all the different parts of the project, which are staffed individually. Steve Steinberg is a long-term member of this community. He's been here since 1978, he has a Ph.D. in philosophy, he continues to teach, he has served the President and the Provost of this institution throughout his time here, he knows this institution well, he's one of our principal advisors about the rules and regulations of University Council (I think he's memorized the entire set of bylaws) and he's exactly the right kind of person to do this coordination for us and I'm really delighted that he is willing to do it.

Other Aspects of the 21st Century Project

We've established an undergraduate research center, which I think of as very similar in some respects to the Career Planning & Placement Center. It is a center that will coordinate information about research projects and get it to undergraduates, advise undergraduates about research opportunities throughout the University, provide them with information, and provide faculty with access to students who might be interested in their research activities. This is temporarily located in Houston Hall. When Houston closes it's one of the offices we will move, and we are now finalizing those plans as well.

We have started up the Foreign Language Across the Curriculum program. We have courses this fall in commercial Chinese, contemporary Russian through film, and contemporary French politics, each taught in the target language. This will expand in the spring, so this program is getting under way and doing very well.

We have a pilot program in Speaking Across the University (SATU), a program of rhetoric and public speaking, on the same model as Writing Across the University (WATU). We've got a program now training the students who will be attached to courses in which the SATU program will be lodged in the spring. We're getting faculty to sign on, and to make public presentation and speaking part of their course requirements.

We have developed a whole series of interdisciplinary courses:

Creating, Managing and Presenting the Arts (Wharton/College);
Cognitive Neuroscience, Engineering/College;
Technology and Engineering, Wharton/Engineering;
Applied Health Services and Policy Research, Nursing/College; and
Logistics, Manufacturing and Transportation, Wharton/Engineering.

These are all examples of programs; they don't exhaust the list, but it gives you an idea of the multidisciplinary programs, both majors and minors, that we are developing under the 21st Century Program.

Area Studies and Globalization

I'll turn briefly to internationalization.

One of the goals we've had in the Agenda for Excellence is the strengthening and rethinking of area studies. Area studies were a product of the Cold War, and were supported by the Federal government very generously over quite a long period of time, 30 or 40 years. But the Cold War is over, and the Federal grants are drying up. We need to rethink the role and the structure of area studies.

The Ford Foundation has instituted a program called "Crossing BordersRevitalizing Area Studies," inviting 150 or more universities to apply. Penn was one of 30 institutions to get a $50,000 planning grant. We will have this grant for the next 15 months, and be able to compete then for a Stage Two grant, which would be a major grant in support of area studies in the University.

The key to our approach to this has grown out of our internationalization conferences. As you may know, I have held an internationalization conference each year that I've been Provost. As the Agenda for Excellence and its six academic initiatives were defined, we focused the international conferences on one of the six initiatives each time. Out of the one on international health programs, we discovered that the area studies and the health schools that were engaged abroad had enormous things in common, and they needed one another. Remarkable connections were made, and out of this conference grew the international health forum, which is a standing group of people across the Universityboth area studies people and health school peoplewho are engaged abroad, and particularly the African interest group which unites African area studies program with the health schools that have programs in sub-Saharan Africa. We used that as the foundation for our Ford proposal. We were the only institution in the United States that actually linked area studies to professional programs. This is, I think, a direction in which Penn has a unique advantage and in which we will really rethink and redevelop area studies in a whole new framework.

The third annual Provost's Conference which was held in March of 97 was focused on the urban agenda and the effects of globalization on major cities, and produced a whole set of research agendas and topics which are being absorbed into the urban agenda as we develop that as one of the six initiatives.

In addition, in the past year we have vastly increased our World Wide Web resources in international programs. If you want to see a remarkable page look at the African Studies, which is the major site in African Studies in the world today. In May of 1997 just in that one monththere were over 736,000 hits on the Penn African Studies web page. My favorite story there is about somebody in Indonesia who came through the page looking for someone somewhere who knew something about the artificial insemination of camels; and through the web page they linked up with someone in Ethiopia who was a specialist in that. They made the connection that was needed for the transfer of knowledge and information from Ethiopia to Indonesia.

There's an international page in the School of Dental Medicine which announces the School's designation as a WHO collaborating center in oral and infectious disease, education research and care. There's a "Wharton in the World" web page; and of course the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which is probably our most international unit, has a web page which reports on all of its programs around the world. So electronic communication both within Penn and for Penn is a very important component of our international programs.

We have new affiliations that are either in place or being negotiated: L'Ecole des Etudes en Sciences Sociales, L'Ecole Polytechnique, the University of Utrecht and the University of Zimbabwe are important new collaborative sites that we are developing.

A Final Word

Finally, I'd like to thank everybody for your words of farewell and to say farewell myself, at least to the provostship. This organization [University Council] has been a remarkable one. We didn't have one where I came from, and watching a community come together and deal with every possible kind of issue in a forum like this has been extremely instructive and in many cases upliftingand always interesting.

I deeply appreciate the opportunity that Judith Rodin gave me in appointing me as provost of Penn. This is an extraordinary institution. I haveas you well know because it's reported in the D.P. been visiting various places around the country and I can testify that by comparative analysis, Penn is one of the truly great universities in the world today; and it has been a real honor and a pleasure to serve you. And serve is what a provost does; it is I think what all of us in the administration do. It is a service to knowledge and to the students, to the faculty, to the future of this institution; and it has been an extraordinary experience for me. I take away wonderful memories and much more experience than any person deserves to get from a three-and-a-half-year stint in a job. And I hope that I get an opportunity to take that experience to the next level of my career. So thank you very, very much.

Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, December 16, 1997, Volume 44, Number 16