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Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken Penn Reading Project book for 2011-2012 Year of Games: Body & Mind

March 22, 2011, Volume 57, No. 26

prp logo year of games

The Provost, the Council of Undergraduate Deans, and the Office of College Houses and Academic Services are pleased to announce that Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World will be the text for the 2011-2012 Penn Reading Project (PRP). On the afternoon of Sunday, September 4, 2011, groups of first-year students and faculty leaders will join together to discuss the book as part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2015. 

In Reality Is Broken, Dr. McGonigal focuses on the major role that video and computer games play in our lives. By her count, more than 174 million young Americans are regular gamers, and the average young person will spend 10,000 hours playing by age 21. But far from finding these statistics frightening, Dr. McGonigal focuses on the positive role that gaming plays in social, mental and cultural development. Virtual realities have the power to make us happy and provide exhilarating rewards—and more important, these rewards can be harnessed in our daily lives to improve our outlook, reasoning skills and social interactions.  As the New York Times summarizes Reality Is Broken’s theme, “The Internet’s unprecedented power, its ability to envelop and interact with us, is a blessing, not a threat. We can build worlds in which nice guys finish first.”

This year’s PRP book is the kick-off for Penn’s Year of Games: Body & Mind, a project that involves multidisciplinary inquiry across Penn’s twelve schools and many resource centers. Among the participating entities are the School of Engineering, Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, Cinema Studies, the Penn Museum, and many other departments and programs. Year of Games programs will include lectures and symposia with celebrated scholars, conferences, site visits, etc., in an on-going exploration of the role games play in a wide variety of academic disciplines. Game playing connects the physical and the mental, and so mind and body will be central to the year’s conception of games.

PRP, now entering its 21st year, was created as an introduction for incoming freshmen to academic life at Penn. Past Penn Reading Projects have included Rose George’s The Big Necessity, Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia—as well as Thomas Eakin’s painting, The Gross Clinic. Information about the Penn Reading Project and its history can be found at: www.upenn.edu/prp/

Faculty members in all 12 schools are invited to take part as PRP discussion leaders. A copy of the text will be sent to discussion leaders and students in July, along with additional information about the Reading Project. If you wish to sign up, you may go directly to the database: www.rescomp.upenn.edu/prpleaders. (If you registered last year, you can simply update your information, and also indicate if you’ll participate in this year’s prep session and lectures.)

For more information, please contact: David Fox, director of New Student Orientation/Academic Initiatives, Office of the Provost, (215) 573-5636 or dfox@upenn.edu

Grants for 2011-2012 Theme Year Programming

The Provost’s theme year for 2011-2012 is dedicated as the Year of Games: Body & Mind, and following the tradition established with the Year of Evolution in 2008-2009, Arts & The City in 2009-2010, and the current Year of Water, we are encouraging programming that relates to the topic in many contexts: the sciences, the humanities, social culture and policy, the arts, etc.

To further this goal, the Provost’s office will sponsor a Year of Games Grants Program that will offer opportunities to create, participate in, and learn about games. The Grants Committee will evaluate applications based on the quality and innovation of the project and its potential to engage and involve the Penn community. We encourage multi-disciplinary and/or collaborative projects between Penn organizations and schools. Project leaders are encouraged to reach out to other schools and departments, especially to share expertise, networking opportunities, and invitation lists.

The guidelines (below) are for proposals for grants of up to $750, for which Penn faculty, students and staff can apply, either individually or in groups. There will be some additional funding at a higher level available for special projects—generally, larger conferences, speakers or special symposia that are co-sponsored by several Penn Schools or Centers. Examples from the Year of Water are a talk by Rose George, an international investigative journalist and author of The Big Necessity, which was the Penn Reading Project; and a day-long conference at the Penn Museum on Water and Ancient Civilizations.

For more information on the Year of Games, please contact David Fox at dfox@upenn.edu We look forward to your participation.

—Andrew Binns, Vice Provost for Education, Professor of Biology


You must be a current University of Pennsylvania student, faculty, or staff member, or a group comprised of at least 80% current University of Pennsylvania students.

You may apply as an individual student or as the representative of a student organization.

Faculty and staff projects must engage students as the primary participants.

For groups that are not formally registered with the Office of Student Life, a sponsoring Penn department or program is required.

Funding will be not given for proposals submitted after the activity has taken place.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.


The final project must be accessible to the entire Penn community (anyone from Penn’s campus must be able to participate and/or attend).

Grants can be up to $750, and may be funded in full or in part.

Applicants may request funding for the following project expenses: materials, transportation, equipment, publicity, facilities, fees, and payment to professional performers or technical assistants. Requests for travel or accommodation expenses for individual applicants are rarely funded, and applicants will be encouraged to rent or borrow equipment whenever possible.

Applicants may not request funding for: food and beverages or reception costs, stipends for their own time or work in creating the project, events designed as fundraising efforts for other non-profit organizations, routine curricular activities, or annual funding.

Students involved in the project cannot receive academic credit from any institution or department for the project. This includes senior theses and senior projects.

Please submit a thorough and professional application, including logistics, resources needed, and any details that have already been confirmed, as well as the following information:

1) Name of individual, department, center or group applying;

2) Name, campus address, e-mail, phone, and position for contact person and/or sponsoring faculty, program, or student group;

3) Name, date, time, and location of the activity (if applicable);

4) Number of students participating in the project and expected audience size (if applicable);

5) Brief description (up to 250 words) of the proposed activity and how it meets the grant criteria;

6) Location of the proposed project or event (applicant is responsible for all appropriate clearances);

7) Total amount of funding requested, list of other sources of funding, and itemized budget. If proposed activity is part of a larger activity (such as a campus-wide event or conference), provide a brief budget summary for the entire project;

8) University account number of sponsoring organization, department, program or student group, as well as the name, e-mail, and phone number of the person responsible for that account’s funds; list of contacts for any non-Penn groups involved in the collaboration.

Deadlines and Submission

Proposals will be considered on a rolling basis. We encourage submission as early as possible.

The application form is available on our website and  should be submitted electronically to: www.themeyeargrants.org

Almanac - March 22, 2011, Volume 57, No. 26