COUNCIL The President's Report on the State of the University

Priorities and Progress in 1997-98

Presentation to the University Council October 14, 1998

by Judith Rodin

It is my great pleasure at this time of year to report to you on several areas of the State of the University. With only a limited amount of time, and an enormous amount of accomplishment in the past academic year, I've elected to focus on two particular areas: One is the academic mission of the University-especially the part of that academic misson that's expressed in the Agenda for Excellence, the strategic plan-and the other a review of Penn's initiatives in University City and West Philadelphia.

These initiatives are vitally important to the mission of the University, and have been much discussed at University Council and in other arenas of the University. I announced at the last meeting a website on West Philadelphia, so some of you have already been exposed to a great deal of information but I'd like to highlight it here. There was a particular interest expressed to Steering that we spend some time on the progress made on the PreK through 8 school, our collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia and the Teachers' Union, so I've asked Susan Fuhrman and Stephen Schutt to join me in that part of the conversation.

Academic Accomplishments in 1997-98

Recall that the first goal of the Strategic Plan is that we attain comprehensive excellence, that we secure Penn's position as one of the world's premier research and teaching universities, and that our undergraduate program be considered in the very top group.

Last year our data showed that the undergraduate program was indeed one of the most selective in the nation. Just 29% of applicants were admitted for the Class of 2002. Academic qualifications continued to rise, with the average combined SAT of 1401, up from 1383 a year ago. That's important in two ways-one, that it increased, and the second to note that Penn could have an even higher number than 1401 if we chose to fill our class with students who had perfect SAT scores. But there is a variety of determinants of admission to the undergraduate pool, and while SAT scores are important, they're certainly not the only criterion.

Penn's undergraduate program ranking, of course, has increased- to 6 th in the U.S. News rankings-and Wharton's undergraduate program is number one in the nation for the second year in the row.

Diversity increased last year. In the Class of 2002, students hail from 48 states; 9.6% of them are international, and 36.1% are minority students. And because I know there is considerable interest in the number of underrepresented minorities, I've given you the actual numbers: 143 African Americans and 117 Hispanic and Latino students in the entering class.

One of the major initiatives expressed in the Agenda for Excellence was to develop a number of multidisciplinary curricular innovations. Citing only those developed last year:

  • A new program in molecular life sciences across biology and chemistry for undergraduates.
  • A new curriculum in technological liberal arts within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences that draws heavily on SAS faculty and programs.
  • A six-year joint degree program between the College and Law, and Engineering and Law, joining a program rolled out the year before between Wharton and the Law School.
  • A new program in digital media design, which is a collaboration among the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Engineering, and Annenberg, which has enrolled undergraduates this year and is very exciting.
  • The Undergraduate Research Center, about which we are very proud (and one example of the incremental success of that program: I visited the poster session two years ago and it was held in a small room in the Faculty Club, although one of the larger rooms that the Faculty Club had; and the poster session last year took all of the ballroom space in Penn Tower). So even within only a year, we see just an enormous increase in the number of undergraduates doing substantive and significant research in their disciplines.
  • A reanimation of the Speaking Across the University curriculum and a pilot project on Foreign Language Across the Curriculum, both exciting initiatives that are going to need some effort and tweaking as we continue to get them right, but are certainly under way as pilot initiatives.
  • A joint degree between Nursing and Wharton in health care management, which has drawn some extraordinarily outstanding undergraduate applicants. And,
  • The continuing evolution of the student- led preceptorials, which has become a really rousing success among the undergraduates and those of us on the faculty who teach them.

New residential and recreational initiatives were very much in the forefront of last year. The launching of the full-scale College House System was an achievement of a large number of people working together to present and to create a wonderful and innovative set of college houses and college house programs. And though it is not a curricular matter, the opening of the Katz Fitness facility obviously was a first step in an ongoing effort to improve recreational athletic facilities for our students.

Strengthening the Schools and Disciplines

The goal of all of our academic departments is that they be at the top tier, and our graduate and professional programs must draw the most able students in the nation and in the world. In giving you some highlights, I will at least talk about each of the schools a few times, but under each of the headings you won't get something about every school or we would be here long into the night.

  • Medicine has now implemented its Curriculum 2000, which is very exciting, and was the recipient of a number of quality awards last year, including a Quality of Health Care Award.
  • Engineering had its highest Ph.D. class ever in terms of qualifications and number of applications.
  • Law had higher quality than ever before, and in the face of a national decline in law school applications we think that that's especially important to note.
  • The Graduate School of Education had as one of its goals to make the Ph.D. cohort smaller and better funded, and that is moving apace; and the qualifications are demonstrably higher.
  • Wharton had the highest number of applicants in the MBA program last year that it ever had, and again the quality of the class the highest ever.

One of the most important things for Penn as a world class institution is that we have a world class faculty. We continue to work with the Deans and the Provost aggressively on faculty recruitment and retention, and had quite significant success last year. It was wonderful to see the extraordinary level of new appointments made last year-very distinguished colleagues at the senior level, many of whom are named here, and also a very significant number of outstanding junior faculty. These are just a few examples:

SAS was able to attract Randall Collins in sociology and Susan Stewart in English, who are wonderful colleagues and many of you know them already.

In SEAS, Keith Gooch, bioengineering, and Eric Boder, chemical engineering joined us.

In Grad Ed, after a long search, Diana Slaughter-Defoe was selected to fill the Constance Clayton chair in urban education, something that is significant not only for the School's aspirations but the University's with regard to the Urban Agenda initiative.

Annenberg appointed a new public opinion scholar, Vincent Price of Michigan.

Law named Anita Allen in human rightrs law and David Skeel in business law.

Medicine chose three very important department chairs-Steven Altschuler in Pediatrics, Richard Salcido in Rehabilitation Medicine and Mark Tykocinski in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine-and also filled a number of endowed professorships.

Richard James Gelles's joint appointment in sociology and social work brings the nation's leading expert in family violence to Penn.

The School of Veterinary Medicine made nine very significant appointments, seven of them in clinical studies, and two in basic science departments, Animal Biology and Pathobiology.

After a lengthy search, the Graduate School of Fine Arts found the noted city planner Eugenie Birch to chair the city and regional planning department.

Nursing brought Nancy Tkacs to the Division of Science and Role Development.

Dental Medicine brought Scott DeRossi and Margaret Grisius in Oral Medicine and Amer Abu-Hanna in Restorative Dentistry.

And Wharton had another strong recruiting year, with a net in-crease in standing faculty that is one year ahead of schedule in Wharton's strategic plan.

It was a terrific year at the level of retentions as well, which is another important indicator-though sometimes not as widely known-of our ability to continue to be the institution of choice for so distinguished a faculty.

We completed last year the search for a new SAS Dean, Samuel Preston; the Dean of the College, Rick Beeman, was also appointed; and we're very enthusiastic about their leadership.

Last week, as you know, we announced that the Provost and I have taken some unrestricted bequest funds received by the University and provided them for the School of Arts and Sciences to continue moving forward its set of strategic initiatives.

Continuing, as outlined in the Agenda for Excellence, our process of rigorous, normative external review of two schools each year, we completed Dental Medicine and the Graduate School of Education last year, and Law and Engineering are scheduled for this year.

The Provost Search Committee is moving ahead and we look for-ward to the progress that the committee makes and to its outcome; and we are, as we speak, selecting the school search committees for the deans searches for Engineering, the Law School and Wharton.

Research Support and Other Funding

To secure greater research funding and new sources of support is always an issue as we continue to have an appetite that far exceeds our resources, so we continue to look for new and creative ways to fund the extraordinary number of programs we have at the University.

This was an unbelievable year for Penn, and that is attributable to the extraordinary faculty that we have-because much of this funding comes through merit-based peer review by the federal government. It is significant that so many opportunities for new sources of support were demonstrated in a year when there was not a large increase in the overall federal budget for basic research or clinical research. The federal data actually lag by two years, but in as recent a report as we are able to get, Penn moved from 13th in 1995 to tenth in 1996, in overall research and development expenditures.

That number will dramatically rise as we get the 1997 and 1998 data, and one of the reasons that we know that with confidence is that we had set a 2 percent increase as our FY98 goal for incremental research awards. Penn was up instead 14 percent last year-$415 million for FY98, surpassing, I think, all of our Ivy peers in funding for FY98 from the federal government.

The School of Medicine's NIH ranking in research dollars has grown from fifth in 1996 to third in 1997, and again the 1998 data may push that even higher.

The Graduate School of Education, receiving $14.4 million, has the highest per capita faculty research dollar number in the University, and we're delighted to see that.

The School of Nursing's awards went up significantly, and our School of Nursing is now ranked number one in federal research funding for schools of nursing.

The School of Arts and Sciences' considered growth-almost five percent annual growth over the past five years, continued against a background of stable NIH funding and decreases for NSF.

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences went up 17 percent in this past year and continued its very accelerated growth in per capita faculty grant revenues.

The School of Veterinary Medicine continued to increase as did Dental Medicine; and Social Work, though it has a smaller pool, received some very competitive National Institute of Mental Health grant funding for center projects.

Annenberg received a very significant grant to increase the quality of campaign discourse; the Wharton School's grants went up relative to the prior year; and Law and the Graduate School of Fine Arts, where historically the funding sources at the federal level are really quite limited, are continuing to look for new opportunities to find federal funding for their research initiatives.

Federal research grants are not the only mechanism through which the University increases its resources, and we are hard at work on our development activities. These data present to you those funds that are raised explicitly for initiatives that are in the Strategic plan, in the Agenda for Excellence. Since the plan was developed, $382 million has been raised for the strategic plan. Last year $190 million was raised for the plan (the overall amount raised last year was about $308 or $310 million-there's a lot of unrestricted usage and obviously programmatic usage that isn't related explicitly to the Agenda for Excellence). Last year $25 million were raised for undergraduate financial aid in particular, which is a very significant initiative for the trustees and the administration, raising the number to $49 million with a goal for this year of $40 million more. So we will be approaching $100 million, we hope, by the end of this year, in new endowment raised specifically for undergraduate financial aid. And since the start of the Agenda for Excellence, there have been 18 newly endowed chairs, so we're moving very aggressively in that area as well.

New Programs

Another part of the academic initiative was to invest in strategic masters and continuing education programs, again this is just in FY98. There was a lot of activity in thinking through and then enrolling students in a number of innovative programs.

In the School of Arts and Sciences, four new programs were developed: A master's of bioethics, with Medicine; a master's of biotechnology, with Engineering; a master's of environmental studies; and an M. Phil degree-and a master's in medical physics is largely approved and will be under way.

You've heard the Provost talk a lot about the distributed learning initiatives. Last year was the year in which there was considerable closure, both on the part of the Provost's committee that reported on distributed learning and in the initiatives that were undertaken. Several of these are pilot and experimental; we'll have a chance to understand the success of the Wharton Executive Ed program with Caliber Learning Network. Nursing and the School of Arts and Sciences are exploring distributed learning opportunities; the School of Arts and Sciences in alliance with several of our peer institutions may be offering through distance learning some precollegiate courses for outstanding high school seniors, and we think that this is a very interesting opportunity for us. And, with the leadership of Jim O'Donnell and Al Filreis, 32 students who were accepted by early decision to Penn last year par-ticipated in a cyberseminar and got to know Penn and one another for about six or eight months. I had the great pleasure of meeting with them on campus and hearing about how that experience framed their sense of Penn and their entry to the Penn community. It was extremely exciting to do that and we'll look forward to more of those opportunities.

To continue looking at the masters and continuing ed programs, in Engineering along with a masters of biotechnology there is also a masters in telecommunications, and I've already talked about the digital media design. Wharton is doing a masters in the management of technology, building on the successful M&T (management and technology) undergraduate program.

The Six Priorities

You're very familiar with the six strategic academic priorities that were articulated in the Strategic Plan that go across disciplines and often schools. Just to refresh your memories, I'll report on those that are under way.

American and Comparative Democratic and Legal Institutions, and the recruitment of leading political scientists, is continuing apace; and we solidified and worked further on our academic partnership with the National Constitution Center. As part of that the Law School has developed a website for the Constitution Center, and Kim Sheppele, a professor in law, political science and sociology, is the visiting senior scholar this year (Rick Beeman was the first). A Journal of Constitutional Law has made a lot of progress in the Law School. The Annenberg School is doing a pilot for a new radio series on the Consti-tution, called "The Constitution Speaks, But What Does It Say?" which we have very interesting early reviews on.

The Urban Agenda: Dean Susan Fuhrman chaired a multidisciplinary faculty planning committee, looking at the following question under the urban agenda: What, as we approach the 21st Century, are the really powerful and salient questions about urbanism as an intellectual discipline, as an area of inquiry? They have identified five or six exciting areas that they believe will define urbanism in the 21st century. They've identified capacity within the Penn faculty to address those issues, and, importantly, they have also identified in their report where strategic hires will be needed. They have also recommended the development of an institute for urban innovations at Penn that is quite exciting.

Information Science, Technology and Society also reported last year, via a committee of faculty chaired by Greg Farrington. They looked broadly at the future of computer and information science, but they clearly indicated that the academic discipline at the center of all of this is computer science, and that Penn would have to-and indeed is eager to-increase and further the number of computer and information science faculty at this university, and develop broader and deeper initiatives in this area. That is moving forward as well.

The Humanities: You've read recently [Almanac September 29] the announcement of the Humanities Forum. Much of the work for that took place last year. A group of activities will engage not only the scholarly community at the University but also the local area community in the arts and letters and the humanistic traditions most broadly defined. Wendy Steiner, the chair of English, will be the first director. Its first conference will be in the spring, on local Philadelphia authors, so we see it having interface with Kelly Writers House and a variety of other activities as it moves forward, not only within the humanities, but also asking how the humanities touch other disciplines in the arts and sciences and indeed the professions.

The Life Science, Technology and Policy area was launched with the appointment of a committee chaired by Bob Barchi, the chair of neurology and neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience is a very exciting new discipline that joins the disciplines of biology and psychology and neurology, among others, and is very promising as an emerging field of study. Trying to understand mind/brain connections and how the mind and the brain work at the most biological level, all the way through to cognitive science and linguistics, is exciting work.

The only initiative not yet under way is in Management Leadership and Organization. There have been many conversations and we are certain that this year that initiative will begin as well.

The Urban Agenda and the Community

As I see what Penn does in the community, the component that I'm going to report on is clearly just one part of an overall agenda for the University. Penn's community work is expressed wonderfully in volunteer work that goes on in so many forms, by faculty and staff and students. We find the extraordinary array of volunteer activities to be the base through which we connect most successfully with the community; and so we continue to be grateful to all of you who contribute to the community through your volunteer efforts. Similarly, Penn is among the national leaders in its community service-learning programs, one of its academic initiatives, with about 70 undergraduate courses in service-learning now. As they have evolved, they are not only wonderful and fertile grounds for the instruction of our undergraduates, as we integrate--true to our mission--theory and practice, but through them we also connect with the community and serve that community in remarkable ways.

Since time is brief, what I'll talk about today, though, is Penn's institutional face to the community apart from the work of the students, faculty and staff as volunteers. The goals we've together developed for our role in the community are:

  • ensure that our community is clean and safe; that it
  • provides high quality, diverse housing; and that we
  • enhance and improve public school options for neighborhood children;
  • revive commercial activity, particularly in University City; and
  • accelerate economic development.

There has been much progress over the last year in each of these five areas.

Clean and safe: The creation of a Special Services District was a highlight two years ago, but I count it in last year's accomplishments as well because it has continued to grow, to provide incremental services, and to redefine itself over and over again: "Go West!" and many other programs and initiatives make it clear to us that this is a very significant contributor to our community, and something that has changed our lives in very significant ways.

We're continuing to work on how to develop local capacity for delivery of services, and to develop ways to improve community infrastructure. UC BRITE completed its efforts last year-thirty square blocks were lit up in University City as a result . And this year we have kicked off the UC Green program, with many people-faculty in the department of landscape architecture, many student groups-involved in creating excellent and invigorated green space throughout the University City area.

Last year was a tremendous year for the goal of working on high- quality diverse housing. We began the acquisition, rehab and resale of single-family houses, and some of you heard last year from D-L Wormley about that. We acquired twelve properties, we rehabbed them, we have already sold back two. Two are under agreement of sale, four under construction, and four in the design stage. The University is not in this to make money; we are in this to help our faculty and staff locate in University City if they so desire in attractive and affordable housing.

To further our aspiration to provide affordable housing, we enhanced last year the University Guaranteed Mortgage Program, providing $15,000 up-front incentives or $21,000 over a seven-year period to an already generous guaranteed mortgage program, with the target area being University City. I'm proud to indicate that the local realtors have had 57 sales in five months [under this program]; 60% have been staff, 27% faculty and 13% Health System employees. Our goal is to bring more of our faculty and staff back into the community, so that ultimately we have a very robust community that includes Penn-related and non-Penn-related people in about equal numbers-what, in a sense, University City used to be twenty-five and thirty years ago and has not been for quite some time.

We have worked hard to enhance and improve public school options for neighborhood children, and I will turn that over in a moment for Susan and Steve to discuss that with you in detail.

But it's very important to know Penn's role in a holistic way in relation to the overall initiative of the School District. The City of Philadelphia has been divided into "clusters" and there are cluster chairs-administrators who are hired by the School District-to work with those clusters. But last year the School District asked several corporate leaders to take responsibility for various clusters. Penn took responsibility for the two obviously most related to us, University City and West Philadelphia, with Susan Fuhrman chairing one and Ira Harkavy chairing the other. And we're very enthusiastic about the amount of energy and effort and coordination that has gone into that. This will serve all of the schools, from PreK through 12, in University City and West Philadelphia.

I've mentioned before our Center for Community Partnerships, which continues to engage faculty and students and staff, and increasingly alumni-last year we began a program for alumni in their local communities; and so several of our alumni clubs around the United States began community service projects in their local communities under the Penn banner. So this is something we think we can extend out, and really demonstrates again the continuing commitment of Penn people wherever they are, to their local communities.

Commercial activity is a driver for the economic success of any area, so we've continued to pay attention to neighborhood amenities-which not only serves the community and is an attraction for those of us who live there, but also spurs economic development. We have tried to provide better retail choices through Sansom Common-a broader array, while accommodating those stores and services that for so long have served the University City community. You've heard much about the 40th and Walnut Street Projects; a great deal of effort and thinking going into the development of those last year. And I want you to understand how much we are committed, not only trying to think of what we can do but how we can leverage our investments, our resources, our ability to bring people to the table, to bring other major sources of investment to West Philadelphia. That is something we were able to do with great success last year, bringing Fannie Mae to Penn as a strategic partner for the purchase and rehab of both single family homes and other buildings in the area, and getting others to come and invest in this area because they see Penn's commitment is deep and broad and they are willing to be strategic partners and bring money and resources of all sorts to the community.

Accelerate economic development: Again, we want to leverage the capacity of the region. Penn has ways to do it but we also have strategic partners. We've expanded our "Buy West Philadelphia" program, which was $16 million when I became president, and last year was $42 million in local purchases. We've made active efforts to enhance business recruitment. We have a director of economic development that's working with officials at multiple levels to tap resources for business recruitment to the area, and skills training. Something about which I am particularly proud because it represents such a positive change is that we have made very active and substantial efforts to recruit local minority- and women-owned businesses to the building projects that we have undertaken over the past couple of years. We began this as an experiment in BRB 2, where 24% of the workers on the project were either minorities or local area residents, and on the Sansom Common project, 40% of the workforce were minorities or local area residents. The reason that's so important is that we've helped to provide access to trade unions that before were not as readily available to minorities and women, and so these are people who not only are working on a particular project, but gaining access to opportunities that will extend well past our own building initiatives at the University.

Equally important, we created last year a Skills Development Center at University City High School, to provide comprehensive job training both for our University employees who want certain kinds of skills that we may not offer at the University, and for area residents seeking skills that would have direct and immediate applicability in the new kinds of commercial ventures being cultivated in the area.

When I look ahead and say what I hope the five-year impact of all this will be, it is that we will have a safe and attractive and secure community (and that's a responsibility of all of us); that we will have enhanced educational possibilities for neighborhood families; and, importantly, that we will have more Penn families in our neighborhood to take advantage of it. It is that we will have eliminated distressed residential properties in our neighborhood, and will have developed a very vibrant commercial corridor that we can all enjoy on 40th Street; that there will be dramatically increased private sector investment, non-Penn investment, in West Philadelphia and University City; and that we will work with our strategic partners as we have in strengthening and enhancing the Market Street corridor. This is an important initiative, not one in which we play a leadership role but in which we have a partnership role.

One of the most difficult issues-and I just heard it again in the report of the chair of the community relations committee-is the question of "who the community is." I would like to say that when it comes to consulting, those of us who have been most directly involved with this goal have indeed consulted broadly and deeply, with a very diverse number of constituencies-with elected bodies and with PFSNI, with Spruce Hill Association and many others, with a variety of other groups within the community. But I think we all know well that, as is true of all Philadelphia areas, West Philadelphia is not a single community, it's not a single neighborhood. It's literally hundreds of different community groups and org-anizations, each made up of people who legitimately consider themselves stakeholders in what goes on. It would be impossible to consult with absolutely everyone; but because we welcome the broadest array of input we have created the website that I indicated, and we will continue, as I have today, to report on progress. We welcome input in formal or informal ways as these goals move forward.

There's no corner on wisdom here, but we think that we are making dramatic progress. It is turning heads in Philadelphia, and I hope you're as pleased as I am.

Dr. Rodin turned the program over to Vice President Stephen Schutt and Dean Susan Fuhrman of the Graduate School of Education, whose joint presentation is in this issue. They were followed in turn by Interim Provost Michael Wachter's report with College House System Director David Brownlee, scheduled for coverage in a later issue.

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 9, October 27, 1998