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COUNCIL State of the University: Report of the Provost
November 20, 2007, Volume 54, No. 13

At the October 24 Council meeting, the first part of the State of the University was presented:
President Amy Gutmann gave the Report of the President (Almanac October 30, 2007),
which included comments by Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations John Zeller on the
University’s $3.5 Billion Campaign, Making History, and by Executive Vice President
Craig Carnaroli on Penn Connects, the campus development plan.

At the November 14 Council meeting—the last of the semester—Provost Ron Daniels spoke about Penn’s Diversity and Internationalization initiatives.

Provost Ronald J. Daniels

I’m fond of referring to Penn as a traffic hub—something like a Grand Central Station of knowledge. We draw the best students and faculty to our campus, and at the same time, we send Penn citizens out into the world to gain knowledge and translate what they know into practice. In the Penn hub, institutional values come together as well, reinforcing each other and building toward a common mission. To that end, I’m delighted to discuss Penn’s latest diversity and international initiatives. Together, these priorities mutually reinforce each other while enhancing the range and reach of the Penn ethos, allowing us to provide the best experience for our students in Philadelphia while exporting the best of Penn to the world. 

We are working on a number of projects to create an even more welcoming and inclusive culture for all members of our community. We are doing this because it is the right thing to do, because enhancing our diversity is vital to the future success of our university, and because educational institutions have an extraordinary capacity—and responsibility—to lead their larger societies towards a more just and open culture.

Our new Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, Vincent Price, is heading up our efforts on the faculty side. During the past year, the Office of the Provost has sponsored workshops for deans and department chairs on best practices in faculty recruitment, retention, and promotion. We’ve commissioned expert surveys of the literature on unconscious bias and mentoring across difference, which we’re sharing with the deans and department chairs, and this semester, we’ll publish a follow-up to the 2005 Minority Equity Report, which will report on our progress on faculty diversity. 

On the student side, we’ll soon appoint an Associate Vice Provost for Access and Academic Support Initiatives. This person will report to the Vice Provost for University Life, Dr. Valarie Cade, and will, in consultation with a new faculty advisory group that will be headed by Associate Provost Andy Binns, provide focused leadership for major institutional access, pipeline, and retention initiatives for Penn students at all levels. 

The new AVP will lead our work with peer schools to increase the pipeline of future graduate students and faculty from underrepresented groups to ensure we’re not simply spinning our wheels against a fixed pool of candidates. To that end, we will continue to support a number of critical programs to increase the inclusion of under-represented minorities in academic professions. These include the McNair Scholars Program, Fontaine Fellowships for graduate students, the Leadership Alliance Program, PREP, the National Physical Sciences Consortium, National Name Exchange, and the NSF/AMP Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

Finally, for the second consecutive year, we have sponsored a Summer Mentorship Program for high school students, in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia. We received 415 applications from tenth and eleventh grade students for 61 spots at the Dental Medicine, Education, Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Nursing schools. Priority was given to students from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education, including those from lower income families and those seeking to be the first in their families to attend college.

The Penn education is a global education. No student should leave this campus without a meaningful understanding of global society: its complexities, its contradictions, its homogeneity, and its differences.  The acquisition and application of this knowledge is the work of a lifetime, permeating all fields of endeavor from the arts and sciences to business, law, health care, and engineering. Global knowledge is human knowledge, and it affects humans on every scale in every corner of the world, from West Philadelphia to East Timor. There is a reason we talk about local and global missions together—they are connected by the transmission of ideas, and also by a common ethos.

A major internationalization initiative for this year centers on global health. This is an area in which Penn can make great strides in setting a global agenda, bringing together our strengths in areas as diverse as genomics, informatics, community-based research, communication, policy, and law.

I was delighted to announce at the start of the semester that we were able to enlist Dr. Brian Strom to help us coordinate our university-wide efforts around global health, in the newly created position of Senior Advisor to the Provost for Global Health Initiatives. Dr. Strom will work closely with me, the President, and our senior leadership team to expand, implement, and coordinate the University’s global health initiatives. We’re thrilled to have his expertise at our disposal.

On a similar note, Dr. Harvey Friedman is now Director of the Botswana-Penn Partnership, working closely with us on Penn’s significant initiatives in Botswana. In deepening our relationship with the university there, he will also serve as Deputy Dean for Academic Development at the University of Botswana Medical School. Dr. Friedman has successfully raised a significant capital gift from a private foundation, and is now working to secure remaining funding for a new clinic building that will increase our capacity to provide treatment, patient care, and research on HIV/AIDS in that region.

The Botswana program has been a stellar model for what we can achieve not just internationally, but also in the United States. It is a critical region to which we’re bringing the best of Penn, enhancing the educational, cultural, and research opportunities for students and faculty in return. With this model in mind, we are enhancing our work in the Katrina-affected regions through projects coordinated by Dr. Genie Birch, Dean Richard Gelles, and Dr. John DiIulio. As clear plans take shape, we will be bringing them to the attention of faculty and students.

I also want to point out that the Botswana and Gulf Coast projects are inherently reinforced by the work we do locally. For instance, Nursing Professor Loretta Sweet Jemmott’s NIH-funded AIDS work in Botswana builds on work she has been doing to prevent HIV transmission among adolescents of color in Philadelphia. The same is true for many of the problems we’re working on around the world. Take urbanization for example. As the developing world builds modern cities and economies, the lessons, experiences, and challenges that we’ve had in Philadelphia become strikingly relevant. 

With all the exciting work we’re doing around the world, we have to ensure that our students get to make the most of these new and established opportunities.  Penn Abroad is a critical component of Penn’s commitment to “global engagement”—in fact, I think many of us regard it as indispensable to that effort. 

We’re affirming our belief in immersing, stimulating overseas experiences, and we’ll be reviewing programs to ensure that they’re as challenging and rewarding as we hope they will be. We’re setting up a faculty advisory group with the mandate to establish clear criteria by which we will measure and evaluate our undergraduate student exchange programs. This will be instrumental in helping us to decide which programs to initiate, maintain, or enhance. Ultimately, we’re seeking to ensure that Penn undergraduates have the best array of exchange opportunities available. We’re also looking for better measures of the student experience abroad as well as the student and faculty experience through ISSS (International Student and Scholar Services) to ensure constant improvements in the delivery of services. 

In closing, I hope you will see that our diversity and international initiatives, which the President has also talked about on many occasions and which are vitally important to all of us, are mutually reinforcing and equally vital to our mission to send the best of Penn to the world while bringing the best of the world to Penn. Together, they reflect an ambitious agenda for the 21st century and the ideal of Penn serving as the “Grand Central Station of knowledge.” 

Click here for more coverage of the University Council meeting.  

Almanac - November 20, 2007, Volume 54, No. 13