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Council: State of the University

November 1, 2011, Volume 58, No. 10

Dr. Amy Gutmann

Milestones and Recognition

Penn Park photo by Scott H. Spitzer

Penn recently reached two significant milestones. The first: our Making History campaign hit its $3.5 billion goal (applause) with 14 months yet to go. One of our presenters today, who I will call on after the Provost reports, is our outstanding Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, John Zeller. John will provide an overview of what we have accomplished thus far, and importantly, discuss our continuing efforts to achieve our remaining goals and priorities. We have a lot more to do, but we have incredible momentum—and, unlike the Phillies, we’re not going to lose it.

The second significant milestone is the completion and opening of our spectacular Penn Park. I hope that many of you have already had the opportunity to use or visit the Park. It is a wonderful, green oasis with state-of-the-art athletic fields and courts for our student athletes and for recreational programs and uses. It’s a great addition to Philadelphia, and increases Penn’s green space by nearly 20 percent. The athletic fields are first and foremost for the Penn community, but when they are not in use by the Penn community, members of the broader community can reserve them as well. 

Penn Park also has spectacular views of the Center City skyline. The evening we officially celebrated the Park’s opening was not great weather-wise. It rained off and on all day, with intermittent showers even through the ribbon-cutting. But our students flocked to the park and we had a significant crowd on hand for the opening.  As the sun set that evening, the rain ceased, and a double rainbow emerged. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Penn homepage recently, but we have a photo of the rainbow over Penn Park and Center City—a fitting symbol for the cornerstone of our Penn Connects campus master plan.  

These are two great milestones but there is another recent event that I am just as proud of.  A few weeks ago, the White House announced that Ralph Brinster, a faculty member in our School of Veterinary Medicine, was awarded the National Medal of Science—the highest honor our nation gives to a scientist, and Ralph Brinster is the preeminent professor of veterinary medicine, probably in the world.  He is the eighth Penn faculty member to receive this honor (Almanac October 4, 2011). Dr. Brinster’s work is in reproductive biology and genetics, and he is truly a pathbreaking scientist. 

Three Penn faculty members were among the 65 newly elected members of the very prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. They are Dr. Vivian Cheung, Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. Dan Rader (Honors and Other Things).

Our younger faculty are also receiving important recognition. Dr. Claudia Valeggia, an associate professor of anthropology in Arts and Sciences, was recently selected as one of this year’s winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, which is the highest national award that a young scientist or engineer can receive (Almanac October 11, 2011).   

So whether we are talking about our Making History campaign, or recent additions to our beautiful campus and facilities, or our fabulous faculty receiving well-deserved accolades, the state of our University is excellent. Penn’s momentum is palpable.   

The person I rely on most to help lead Penn forward on the academic side is our Provost, and this summer we released our Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence to deepen and renew Penn’s longstanding commitment to embracing an eminent and diverse faculty. So I am going to turn the presentation over to Dr. Price, who is going to discuss the Plan in more detail.  

Dr. Vincent Price

Thank you very much, President Gutmann. The heart and soul of a great University are the students—the fabulous students we have here at Penn—and also the terrific faculty. The sort of faculty member like Ralph Brinster, who did such pathbreaking work in transgenesis. So the state of our University is quite strong, but it is the future state of our University that will be the focus of our presentation today. Because the Plan that President Gutmann and I issued, our Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, is designed to look forward and to capitalize on every resource we have to diversify and strengthen this already great faculty.

We have already begun to implement the very early stages of the Plan, and we are working quite closely with Penn’s 12 schools this year in helping them develop their own specific plans to advance faculty diversity and excellence. We are also committing additional resources to new initiatives that we are launching this year. 

With us today, we have Vice Provost for Faculty Lynn Lees, who will explain the Plan in more detail. She will talk about where we are at this point and where we intend to go this year, and then we will have time for questions and answers. With that, I will turn things over to Dr. Lees.

Dr. Lynn Lees

I am very glad to be able to talk with you today about the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, because this Plan is not going to be successful without the support and active engagement of faculty and students. The President and Provost have made very clear their conviction that building a more eminent faculty at Penn means building a more diverse faculty. The pledges in the Penn Compact for access and interdiscipinarity go hand-in-hand with widening the group of people who teach our increasingly diverse student body. The text of the Plan was published in Almanac (September 6, 2011) and this meeting is a continuation of the presentation of the Plan to various University constituencies to make sure that the Plan is understood and widely communicated.  

What I want to do today is give you a little background on the Plan and then present its major elements so that you can ask questions and we can begin to have a broader discussion. The Plan itself grew out of a campus-wide discussion last winter that began and intensified in December after the publication of the Minority Equity Report (Almanac December 7, 2010), which my office presents every three years to assess the changing composition of the standing faculty. The University collects data on the proportion of faculty who are white, black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian and the proportion of men and women on the faculty. The last report showed that, in 2009, approximately 18% of the faculty were ethnic minorities and approximately 30% were women. These proportions represent large increases when measured against the numbers of the early 1990s, but we would like them to be much higher. The report was widely discussed and in the spring of last year at a University Council meeting the President called for the immediate creation of a Plan that would help schools broaden their efforts to recruit an eminent, outstanding and diverse faculty. 

The focus was on retention, recruitment and pipeline programs. Last spring Joann Mitchell and I began a series of University-wide consultations, which were extremely profitable and interesting. We learned a lot and that information informed the Plan that you read in Almanac that was completed in June of 2011. 

Definition of Diversity

I want to begin with this definition because it is central to our conception of diversity at Penn. We have a very broad definition of diversity here at Penn. This comes from a Trustee resolution and from a variety of other University publications: “One University that draws its strength from a multitude of races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, historical traditions, ages, religions, disabilities, veteran status, interests, perspectives and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Our broad definition of diversity includes many types beyond those that are mandated as categories of classification and record by the federal government. This definition of diversity presents a challenge for us and I think this challenge needs to be kept in mind as we move forward to implement the Plan. 

First of all, as I said last spring, the PhD pool for African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans is very limited. Only about 4% of the pool today in the US consists of underrepresented minorities and we have no data that enable us to track the proportion of LGBT PhDs or those from modest socioeconomic backgrounds, for example. It is very important that part of our plan for moving forward consists of pipeline programs that will widen and deepen pools of candidates from all backgrounds that are underrepresented on our faculty. 

The second point that I want to make, and again it is of central importance as we think about how to implement the Plan for diversifying the faculty, is that hiring is done at the school and department level. It is not done centrally. So the commitment to diversity must be evident across the University and not just at the level of the central administration.

Next Steps

Now, what do we do moving forward? Here are some of the next steps that we developed. We need to have increased communication and transparency. It became very clear that a large number of the very excellent programs that we have at Penn today were not widely understood and were not in the forefront of the minds of people hiring in departments. In addition we have to expand partnerships between the central administration and the schools. This will require additional planning at the school level and we have already begun to work with the deans to make that happen. Recruitment has to be linked to retention of the faculty that we have hired, and that means faculty development and mentoring, as well as expanding the pipeline and then assessing where we are in the longer run.

In order to increase the availability of information about diversity at Penn and the many activities underway at Penn, we are developing a University-wide diversity website. We have hired Cooper Graphic Design to design a first-rate website that we expect to be launched by the middle of December. We have had widespread consultation across campus about the content and functionality of this website.  Those of you who were in the University Council meeting where these issues were discussed last spring will remember that Wendy De La Rosa reported that you had to click about 18 times in order to find diversity on the Penn homepage.  When this site is launched, that will not be the case.  I think you will be very pleased with what you find.

Within the next month there will be a brochure that can be used to both communicate the contents of the Plan and to indicate the commitment of the University to its goals. There will be much broader media outreach, through Facebook and YouTube, and we are working with University Communications in order that our site will have continuous linkage to important events and statements across campus. 

I want to review the contents of the Faculty Plan for Diversity and Excellence through dividing it into three different categories: continuing programs, enhanced programs and new initiatives. 

Continuing Programs

Some of the most important programs that we can make an investment in for the future are pipeline programs. Penn has quite a few excellent pipeline programs both on the central level and the school level. When we consulted with people across campus, it was our evaluation last year and that I think of many of the people in this room, that the pipeline programs are working very well. What we need to do is simply to continue them, to increase them where we see there are resources and a need, and to continue to give them a great deal of attention from the central administration and schools.

Let me just mention a few of these:  Run by the Provost’s Office, the Fontaine Fellows, and run out of VPUL, McNair Scholars and Mellon Mays Fellows for the undergraduates. We have a program for dual-career funding which adds central administration resources to enable schools to hire in two different schools, by giving them extra resources for that second position. In addition, we have an extremely successful leadership program, the Penn Fellows, which takes mid-career faculty and introduces them to leaders across campus and helps them build networks across schools in order to give them a sense of the wider University. All these central programs we think are working very well and we pledge to continue them.

The schools have a variety of programs that work on pipeline and on mentoring and these also are ones that are going to continue.  Let me just mention two of the pipeline programs for graduate and undergraduates which we think are particularly successful and could be models for similar programs at other schools. The engineering school has an incredibly good program called Advancing Women in Engineering, the AWE program, which has been very successful in the last several years in increasing the number of female undergraduates in the engineering school.  The biomedical faculty’s Biomedical Graduate Studies program has been very successful in widening the pipeline into biomedical studies for minority and female scholars. These I think are models for the rest of the University. 

Schools are going to be both continuing and deepening the amount of resources and attention given to mentoring of faculty. I just want to mention two superb programs in the Perelman School of Medicine: FOCUS works on the retention of and leadership training of women on their faculty, and the Minority Faculty Development Program does a fine job of building new networks among their faculty and helping them with a variety of programs and workshops that answer their concerns as junior faculty members.

Enhanced Programs

There are a number of programs that have been working well that should be expanded in scope and supported with additional resources so that they have an even greater impact. The first is the Faculty Opportunity Fund, which offers central resources to schools for hires that will diversify the faculty. We are planning to expand the number of years in which central support can be offered from two to five years. We have a whole series of family-friendly policies, which we plan on deepening and widening.  One of the most exciting new family-friendly policies under discussion right now is the proposal by Perelman to have a part-time track for academic clinicians and we think this will speak especially to the needs of dual career families who might need more than six years of reduction in duties during a period of childcare or other family care. We have under discussion a series of enhancements to our childcare programs, which we think will make it easier for parents to attend conferences and obtain emergency evening care when they need to remain on campus. 

New Initiatives

I have already mentioned two new initiatives—the diversity website and brochure. We also will conduct a faculty survey in November and December to collect information on faculty experiences and opinions on a variety of University policies. One of our most exciting new initiatives is the Presidential Term Professorships. I am very happy to announce that money for this program is in place. The Pew Foundation granted Penn $2 million to finance these professorships. We are in the process of establishing guidelines and procedures for selecting these professors.  We are going to expand a creative new program of dissertation fellowships in the area of humanities and social sciences and we’re going to use graduate fellows to run a series of workshops that will offer mentoring to graduate students. You will hear announcements about new partnerships with minority-serving institutions in the near future.  We think that these collaborations will be a way of bringing new people into teaching arrangements with our students and will provide linkages for research, team projects or summer internships. 

The schools’ primary responsibility in the short run is to create their own diversity action plans. Each school’s plan will take into account its scale, organization and culture.  My office is working now with the deans and their representatives and by the end of the spring semester, we expect to have all of these plans fully developed and implementation strategies in place.

Each of the schools will also have their own diversity search advisors to replace the faculty affirmative action officers. This is one of the largest innovations that we are proposing.  We expect that each search will have attached to it a diversity search advisor who will work with the department or school to aggressively broaden the pool of candidates.  We expect that these diversity search advisors will be respected senior faculty appointed by deans. They will be trained either within the school or by someone in the Provost’s Office and they will be actively involved in searches. The precise way that the role is organized in each school will vary depending upon its size and organization and we are in discussions now about what will work best in each of the schools. 

Assistance Available to Schools

These are some of the things that we think will be and can be implemented this year. We have issued guidelines to help the schools with the design of their diversity plans. We are collecting pool data and information about resources for recruitment and ad placement, so we can increase the resources readily available for schools and departments as they do their broader outreach. We are offering training and orientation for diversity search advisors, and matching funds for hiring with the Faculty Opportunity Fund and dual-career funding. There are resources in place to support both of these initiatives. 

The central administration has committed $50 million in central spending over five years that will be matched by school spending at the same level. These will be put together as an Eminence and Diversity Fund to finance the programs that I’ve described for you. So what we have is a comprehensive plan for recruitment, retention and pipeline programs. These efforts will be designed and rolled out during the next several months that will be actively discussed within schools by faculty. 


Dr. Lees answered questions regarding whether or not training on unconscious bias will be available to diversity search advisors (Yes). To the question of whether or not point people have been appointed yet by the schools, she said that she was aware of appointments having been announced by Nursing and Veterinary Medicine and the rest are still in discussion. When asked if the school plans will be made public, Dr. Lees said that statements regarding the plans will be available on the website.

Next week:

John Zeller’s presentation on Making History TheCampaign for Penn.

Almanac - November 1, 2011, Volume 58, No. 10