April 28, 1998
Volume 44 Number 31

'A Woman Warrior'

The Penn Reading Project selection for this fall will be Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior (subtitled "Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts"), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for the best book of nonfiction in 1976.

Over the summer, the paperback will be mailed to more than 2000 entering freshmen, and some 200 faculty volunteers will prepare to lead small discussion groups in the fall before the start of classes.

"The Woman Warrior is a memoir constructed as a series of essays," said David Fox, associate director of Academic Programs and Residence Life.

With The Woman Warrior, the Penn Reading Project enters its eighth year of starting new students' college lives with a common experience. The selection of a prize-winning work by a leading woman writer/scholar also honors the 25th anniversary of the Penn Women's Studies Program, Mr. Fox said. (Maxine Hong Kingston now teaches writing as a lecturer in English at UC Berkeley).

The book was chosen by a committee led by Dr. Al Filreis of Van Pelt House, with Professors James O'Donnell (Hill), Jan van der Spiegel (Ware), Jorge Santiago-Aviles (King's Court/English), Philip Nichols (Stouffer) as House members; Professors Julie Fairman of Nursing and Carol Deutsch of Medicine; students Nicole Baker and Jasmine Park; and staff members Dr. Kent Peterman of The College and Dr. Chris Dennis of Academic Programs in Residence Life.

Faculty who wish to volunteer for discussion groups can obtain the book and details of participation by calling Mr. Fox at 573-5636 or e-mailing him at dfox@sas.upenn.edu.

Interim Vice President for Business Services Marie Witt

Marie D. Witt, associate vice president for business services since July 1997, has been named Interim Vice President for Business Services, Executive Vice President John Fry announced last week. Ms. Witt will fill the position left vacant by the recent death of Steven D. Murray, who had served as Vice President for Business Services since 1992.

A search for a permanent replacement will begin soon, Mr. Fry said.

"We are fortunate to have someone with Marie's breadth of service and commitment to the University to step in at this difficult time," Mr. Fry said. "Marie worked closely with Steve over the years on numerous key projects, and I have no doubt that the Division of Business Services is in good hands under her direction." Among the special projects she has handled are the campus food services study, planning for the new Bookstore, and the Faculty Club/Inn at Penn proposals.

Ms. Witt took her B.A. from Penn in 1981 with an individualized major in human resources and organizational psychology. She joined the staff that year as a personnel specialist in Human Resources, moving to Business Services in 1985 as a communications analyst for Telecommunications. Six years later she was named director of support services for the unit, providing support to the Penn's Children Center, Class of 1923 Ice Rink, Penntrex, and Computer Connection, as well as for human resources and marketing within Business Services.

From 1996-97, she served as chair of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, and was a member of the Benefits Redesign Committee.

Note on a Memorial: Preparations are being made for a campus memorial service for Steve Murray. If the date set is prior to the publication of the next Almanac, information will be posted on the web at www.upenn.edu/almanac/. Posted there now is a note on the family's establishment of a foundation in his name.

Distributed Learning in Action: 'Wharton Direct'

The University of Pennsylvania and Caliber Learning Network, Inc., Baltimore, Md., have entered into an agreement that will offer a series of interactive business courses through the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at the Wharton School, according to Interim Provost Michael L. Wachter.

"Wharton Direct" will be delivered through Caliber Learning Network centers throughout the country, he said, representing the first time that a major business school has combined the effective elements of live classroom experience with the most advanced on-line and satellite learning technologies to create a highly-interactive, networked "classroom" that spans the country. The courses will incorporate real-time interaction between Wharton professors and students, as well as between students in different locations, through the use of integrated satellite, video conferencing and PC networking.

The first group of programs offered will be the "Working Knowledge Series," a collection of applied foundational courses that will provide mid-level managers and technical professionals with concrete business tools needed to increase their effectiveness at work. The courses, which will begin in September 1998, will integrate the essentials of strategy, finance and marketing needed to develop an internal business plan as well as target other essential business skills such as analyzing financial statements, forecasting and understanding the drivers of competitive advantage.

Courses will combine live satellite instruction with team-based activities and on-line interaction, as well as customized courseware and network applications to provide a rich, learner-centered environment. Typically, courses will be held in three-hour sessions, once-a-week, for five to eight weeks. Students will be able to access the learning network between sessions to conduct research, complete projects and confer with both their peers and the faculty.

"Wharton Direct" was developed for organizations and individuals who face increasing demands for high-quality business knowledge, but cannot afford the time and travel associated with traditional campus-based programs, according to Wharton's Vice Dean for Executive Education and External Affairs Robert E. Mittelstaedt. Students will be able to participate in the Wharton executive development program and benefit from exposure to the ideas and experiences of their peers around the country, without leaving their own areas.

"Collaborating with Caliber allows us to reach high-potential managers who do not have access to Wharton's on-campus offerings," said Vice Dean Mittelstaedt. "The courses will combine the best features of traditional education with the advantages of technological innovations."

A digital satellite network will deliver live Wharton instruction to participants in Caliber centers across the country. Room-based video conferencing systems will support real-time dialogue between Wharton faculty in Philadelphia and remote individual students, and a wide area PC network will distribute courseware to the desktop while connecting students to instructors and other students via e-mail approach facilitated by advanced audio, video and computer technology. Students will be able to speak and interact with Wharton faculty in Philadelphia by clicking a button on their multi-media workstations; a videoconferencing camera will focus on the student for face-to-face dialogue.

"Wharton Direct" is the first initiative announced since the completion of the report on distributed learning (Almanac April 21) that established policy and procedure for such ventures. Previous distance learning initiatives at Penn have included courses, seminars and programs that range from an advanced Latin course on the philosopher Augustine, in which more than 300 students and scholars around the world participated, to a 16-month master's program in nursing that leads to a certificate in nurse midwifery, offered by the School of Nursing to practitioners throughout Pennsylvania and using videoconferencing.

Faculty members in SEAS and the Dental School have also been involved in innovative uses of computer technology to deliver coursework to students and alumni, and Vice Provost James J. O'Donnell and Dr. Alan Filreis of English are engaged this spring in a non-credit e-mail course with 32 students who were accepted through the Early Decision process and have enrolled as members of the class of 2002. The course has enrolled students from as far away as Pakistan and Malaysia.

Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 31, April 28, 1998