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COUNCIL State of the University

The November 3 Council meeting was primarily devoted to the annual State of the University presentations. Below are Interim Provost Peter Conn's remarks, along with the portions of his report presented  by Carton Rogers and Leslie Hudson. Last week's issue contained President Amy Gutmann's report, including presentations by Omar Blaik, Craig Carnaroli and Medha Narvekar.

Peter Conn

I too am going to divide my report into a brief section that I will deliver, and then I'll be introducing two of my colleagues, Carton Rogers, the new Vice Provost and Director of the Libraries, and Les Hudson, our Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives.

Faculty Honors

I'd like to start by talking about the faculty. This is a subject that always fills me with particular enthusiasm and in the past year the faculty has done remarkable work. I want to specifically mention a few names and a few achievements.

Shiriki Kumanyika, professor of biostatistics and Epidemiology, was inducted into the Institute of Medicine;

Bruce Kuklick, from history, and Bruce Mainwaring, chairman emeritus of the University Museum's Board of Overseers were elected to the American Philosophical Society;

Robert Sharer of Anthropology, and Rogers Smith of political science were both named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as was our benefactor, who has been in the news recently, Leonore Annenberg;

Six Penn faculty members—it was a bumper crop—received Guggenheim Fellowships including Joan Dayan from English; Talya Fishman from religious studies; Susan Lindee from history and sociology of science; Peter Stallybrass from English; David Stern from the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies; and Margo Todd from history;

Three Penn faculty members received the very prestigious Sloan Research Fellowships including Joshua Gold from neuroscience; Sudipto Guha from computing and information science and Frank Schorfheide from economics;

Nobel Laureate and Professor Ray Davis received the prestigious Enrico Fermi Award for his research on neutrino physics;

Olivia Mitchell of the Wharton School won the 2003 International INA-Academia Nazionale dei Lincei Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of the insurance field;

Paul Hendrickson from the English department won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle award in non-fiction;

Steven Hahn from history won the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Award for his book, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration. As some of you may also know Steven gave the first Provost's Lecture of the year a couple of weeks ago over in Irvine and it was spectacular. He is a wonderful teacher as well as a distinguished scholar;  

And professor emeritus George Crumb—himself a former Pulitzer winner, by the way, and one of several in our music department—was named Composer of the Year in the 2004 edition of Musical America.

That's a select list and it's selected from a much longer list. It is absolutely a treat to be able to report on the myriad and multifarious activities of this faculty.

Provost's Awards for Faculty

Last year the Provost's Office initiated two new awards to pay tribute to our faculty as teachers and mentors.

The first, the Evan C Thompson Endowed Term Professorship for Excellence in Teaching, which was supported by a grant from Wharton alum Evan Thompson, was awarded to Dennis DeTurck from the math department. Those of you that know Dennis or know of Dennis will have no difficulty understanding why he would be the first recipient of this remarkable award. He's a wonderful scholar and a beloved teacher. And to have achieved his reputation as a teacher in a subject like math is no mean achievement! He embodies the very best of teaching through his curricular innovation, his community outreach and his concern for the quality of teaching both his own and in his department. He deserves our gratitude.

We also inaugurated the Provost's Award for Distinguished Ph.D. Teaching and Mentoring last year. This is an attempt to single out that group of faculty who in addition to everything else they do provide extraordinary mentorship for the many Ph.D. students that we enroll each year.

The first year's committee selected recipients with an eye towards the candidate's own research; their success in collaborating on doctoral committees and graduate groups; an ability to attract outstanding doctoral students; and a record of good doctoral placements.

In each of these areas, our first two recipients, Stuart Curran of the English department and Amos Smith of chemistry, are exemplary. Among many other things Amos has been the chief advisor on close to 100 Ph.D. dissertations.

Diversity Initiatives

We have undertaken a set of diversity initiatives in the Provost's Office and I want to report on just a couple of those. As I hope most of you know, less than a year ago we created and filled a new position, Assistant Provost for Minority and Gender Equity Issues, and named Loretta Sweet Jemmott from the School of Nursing to this position.

Loretta works closely with our Associate Provost Janice Bellace, and it's our effort to institutionalize and strengthen the attention that the Provost's Office does pay and will continue to pay to issues of gender and minority equity.

I have included these topics on the agenda of the Council of Deans and will be returning to these issues regularly throughout the year.

Dr. Sweet Jermmott's  background make her the superb candidate for this position.

Her own research has focused on numerous health issues effecting women and minorities. She is one of the nation's foremost psychiatric mental health nurse behavioral scientists in the field of HIV risk reduction.

Last spring, Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson announced the creation of a Diversity Outreach Advisory Board which is intended to provide him, and me, with strategic and practical guidance in support of the efforts of the Office of the Undergraduate Admissions to recruit a diverse undergraduate student body which is essential to the excellence and the undergraduate mission of this University.            

The new Board, which began meeting this fall, is comprised of four faculty members, four students, and two alumni appointed by the Dean of Admissions upon the advice of the Provost. It began meeting this fall and has indeed already been meeting successfully.

The Board will in turn be seeking information from relevant stakeholders including University Trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and other community members.

The Board has a charge which is quite specific:

• Developing strategies for working with high school counselors to create a diverse and highly qualified pool of candidates; 

• Identifying additional means for insuring a diversified and highly qualified applicant pool;

• Recommending other programs and mechanisms to the Dean of Admissions designed to enhance our diversity profile. 

Student Honors

Another of the delights of the job I'm in is the quantity of good work that our students do as well. I want to highlight a few of them. The number of applicants to and successful competitors for competitive fellowships has been growing dramatically over the last few years.

In the past year we can report:

21 Fulbright winners;

4 Thouron recipients;

3 Mellon Fellowship winners and 3 Rotary Foundation winners;

2 National Science Foundation winners;

2 Goldwaters;

as well as a Luce winner, our third in four years, and they are very hard to get;

a Boren Fellowship;

a Soros Fellowship;

and one Rhodes Scholar, David Ferreira.

Each of these awards honors the individual students, of course, but it also brings distinction to our institution. And I want to pay particular tribute to Art Casciato and his staff at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, or CURF as it is affectionately known, which in the years since it was put into motion has really ramped up quite dramatically the amount of support and the coordinated assistance that our students get who are seeking these fellowships. 

Civic Engagement

I have a comment in here on civic engagement but in fact it simply echoes what the president said so I'll cut it short. It's something that this University has treasured and I believe has been good at. I think it's quite clear that the new president plans to put a very considerable emphasis in that domain and she's building on our strengths. I think that our activities in terms of the recent election ratify again the extent to which our students are prepared to step up and provide leadership both on campus and off campus in making sure that our engagement as citizens, and as the prospective leading citizens of this nation, are attended to.

Weingarten Learning Resources Center

Finally, I want to mention another facility that wasn't on Omar's list: the Weingarten Learning Resources Center which the president opened just a week ago—a remarkable new resource at 3702 Spruce Street in the old Stouffer Triangle.

The Weingarten Learning Resources Center houses the Office of Learning Resources and the Office of Student Disabilities Services, providing academic support and accommodations for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at Penn. 

It is a comprehensive set of services, made possible through generous gifts from Jeffrey Weingarten (W '70) and his wife Susan, and the Anne (CW '71) and Eric Gleacher Foundation. We're very grateful to them for their vision and their commitment. I was in New Haven when this was opened last week but I understand that it was an exceptionally moving occasion when the parents, the donors, the staff and the president got together to open that new center.

Penn has in recent years emerged as a leader in this very important area. Our new center is attracting attention and over the last three years Penn has hosted what has become the annual national conference on this subject here at this University. Other universities are now looking to us admiringly for the work that we do both through our facilities and through the extraordinary staff that works in that program.

That completes my part of my own report and what I'd like to do now is introduce Carton Rogers, who is our Vice Provost and Director of Libraries.



  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 12, November 16, 2004


November 16, 2004
Volume 51 Number 12


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