Welcome Back From the President

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Amy Gutmann

Celebrating Penn People

Welcome back from winter break. I want to begin the New Year by thanking you, Penn’s unsurpassed faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends, for all the good you do here and in the world. Together, we have propelled our University to unprecedented heights of inclusion, innovation, and impact. Together, we will do even more in the semester to come.

We can gauge Penn’s rise by the world-improving and life-saving work of our faculty, such as the first-ever FDA-approved gene therapy treatment for cancer. We can measure our reach with rankings, with our University being named #4 in Reuters’ list of the top 100 most innovative universities in the world (up from #8 the previous year). Penn also moved up to #3 from #17 in the most recent National Science Foundation Education R&D Survey. We can also be enormously proud of the countless achievements of Penn students, faculty, and staff who, each year, bring great honor and recognition to our University. I want to briefly recognize just a few examples.   

Seniors Chris D’Urso and Zikri Jaafar recently earned prestigious Rhodes scholarships for graduate study at Oxford. They both share a passion for community engagement, human rights, and social justice, and their work embodies the finest attributes of Penn scholars who are working to make a profound difference in the world. Chris has focused on consumer protection and advocacy as the founder of Penn CASE (Consumer Assistance, Support & Education), which is providing education and support to local consumers in our community. He also has been actively engaged on the Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community. Zikri’s undergraduate research has focused on social-impact bonds. He also has done volunteer work with refugees and has been an ambassador for Penn’s Giving What We Can. Chris and Zikri are extraordinarily talented, engaged, and committed individuals who are deeply deserving of this preeminent recognition. Congratulations to our latest Rhodes Scholars!

Penn also boasts seven new faculty inductees to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine (formerly called the Institute of Medicine). Representing SAS, Penn Nursing, and the Perelman School, these exceptional faculty have made seminal contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health. I invite everyone to join me in congratulating Lewis Chodosh, Christos Coutifaris, Maria Oquendo, Michael Parmacek, Therese Richmond, Dorothy Roberts, and Flaura Winston.

We are enormously proud as well of Penn’s four new faculty fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society. Representing SAS, the Perelman School, and Penn Vet, these extraordinary faculty have been honored for their scientifically and socially distinguished efforts. We congratulate Gustavo Aguirre, Daniel José Mindiola, Hongzhe Li, and Anil Rustgi.

As we celebrate these and the many other accomplishments of Penn’s people, I want to remind our seniors and their mentors that the deadline for both the President’s Engagement Prize and the President’s Innovation Prize is January 19. These Prizes not only publicly recognize and reward creative projects that promote the greater good. They also proclaim our most cherished values as a university: to educate and support our students for meaningful leadership and lifelong citizenship.

Each Prize bestows a generous living allowance for one year after graduation and up to $100,000 in project expenses. All full-time undergraduates who will graduate in May, August, or December of this award year are eligible to apply. I encourage seniors with a great idea to submit an application, and I very much look forward to receiving them.

Embarking on the spring semester, I encourage all of us not only to celebrate the wonderfully diverse and creative community we call home, but also to be mindful of our own health and the wellbeing of those around us. We rightfully focus on the wellness of our students, but I want to emphasize that faculty and staff should also reach out if they are in need, take advantage of the resources available to the Penn community, and care for one another. I am grateful for all the students, faculty, and staff who are working so passionately on this important priority, and we will continue to do all that is possible to sustain a campus community in which everyone can thrive.

To the entire Penn community: Welcome back to campus, and welcome to a bright new year at Penn!