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University Council March 2 Meeting Coverage

March 15, 2011, Volume 57, No. 25

The March 2 Council meeting was the last for Dr. Reed Pyeritz as moderator since he is now on sabbatical. The meeting mostly revolved around diversity issues. There was a lengthy panel discussion, “A Review of Diversity Pipeline Initiatives throughout the University,” led by Dr. Lynn Hollen Lees, vice provost for faculty. She reminded everyone about the recently published Progress Report on Minority Equity (Almanac December 7, 2010). She acknowledged that faculty diversity has not increased as much as the University would like and suggested that moving forward more widespread discussion of strategies is needed.

Five panelists followed Dr. Lees:

Sean Vereen, associate dean of admissions, said that there will be a rapid diversification of the US high school population in the coming years and that traditional metrics such as SAT scores may be missing something. Penn is involved in numerous pipeline programs such as POSSE and CrestBridge; there are 150 students now at Penn from those two programs.

Nicole Myers Turner, Fontaine Fellow and PhD candidate in history, said there are 200 Fontaine Fellows on campus, including not only racial minorities, but also first generation students and those from low socioeconomic status; they receive financial support and academic development. There are monthly networking events for these graduate students who also interact with undergraduates in the McNair Scholars program.

William Gipson, associate vice provost for equity and access, mentioned several pipeline programs for undergrads, including the McNair program, PennCAP (Penn Collegiate Achievement Program) which serves 500 academically talented undergraduates; and PFP (Pre-Freshmen Program) which provides 100 students with a residential introduction to campus life during four weeks of the summer.

Dr. Susan Davidson, Weiss Professor and Chair of Computer and Information Science, SEAS, described AWE (Advancing Women in Engineering) which is intended to build a network for students. SEAS also runs GEMS, a week-long summer day camp to introduce girls to engineering, mathematics and science. It has doubled its enrollment over the past three years.

Lubna Mian, director of faculty development and equity programs in the Office of the Provost, said that the success of faculty diversity builds on the other pipelines’ efforts. She also noted that sometimes there is the additional challenge to find a position for two partners/spouses in a dual career couple. There are central subsidies available to help provide funding to departments who face such issues.

President Amy Gutmann said that while access and diversity are among Penn’s top priorities, the University is doing better with undergraduate diversity than with faculty recruitment. She said that by the end of the academic year there would be an assessment on what is working well, what isn’t and where more needs to be done.


Almanac - March 15, 2011, Volume 57, No. 25