News

Penn Law’s Three Major Gifts: More Than $12 MIllion

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
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The University of Pennsylvania Law School has received three major gifts totaling $12.1 million that will fund new scholarships and other forms of financial aid, public interest programming and the teaching of legal practice skills.

Penn Law received an $8.6 million bequest from the estate of Elizabeth Hamilton, which will be used to provide financial aid, scholarships and grants to Penn Law students in honor of her late father, Owen J. Roberts—a US Supreme Court Justice, Penn Law graduate and dean of the Law School. Roberts Scholars will exemplify the Law School’s commitment to academic excellence, service to the community and future contributions to the profession.

“These gifts provide crucial support for students and programs across the Law School,” said Ted Ruger, dean of Penn Law. “This funding will help us continue to attract the best students, while supporting them financially, academically and professionally. It’s fitting that this gift is in memory of Justice Roberts, one of the most noted jurists of his time, and a man who has such a rich history with the Law School.”

The funds provided in Justice Roberts’ name will increase the already robust scholarship and financial aid support currently provided by the Law School. Penn Law offers a variety of merit-based and need-based scholarships to incoming students to ensure access to an elite legal education for students of all economic backgrounds. 

Born in Philadelphia in 1875, Justice Roberts attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Penn, he graduated at the top of his class from Penn Law in 1898. He taught at Penn as a teaching fellow and professor of law from 1903-1919. He was appointed to the US Supreme Court in 1930 and—following his judicial retirement in 1945—served as dean of Penn Law from 1948 to 1951. As dean, one of Justice Roberts’ key achievements was to provide students greater scholarship funding.

In addition, Robert Toll and Jane Toll, 1966 graduates of Penn Law and Penn’s Graduate School of Education, respectively, have given $2.5 million to further support public interest programs at Penn Law, through the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC). Mr. Toll, the executive chairman of the board of Toll Brothers, Inc., the nation’s leading builder of luxury homes, and his wife have been longtime supporters of Penn Law and its public interest programming.

Penn Law’s public interest program was renamed the Toll Public Interest Center in 2006 in recognition of a $10 million gift from the Tolls, which greatly expanded TPIC’s activities and scope (Almanac May 9, 2006). The TPIC, which supports 31 student-led pro bono projects, also provides financial support to students seeking to enter public and government service. The Toll Loan Repayment Assistance Program (TolLRAP) allows students who pursue public interest or government careers to receive up to $140,000 in tuition reimbursement.

Michael J. Rotko, a 1963 Penn Law graduate, has given $1 million in memory of his late wife, Denise A. Rotko, NU’73, GNU’76, who received her nursing degrees from Penn’s School of Nursing and also taught there. She was the stepmother of Thomas Rotko, L’94 and mother of Daniel Rotko, L’15.

The funds will endow the Denise A. Rotko Associate Deanship of Legal Writing and Communications, to be held by Eleanor Barrett, the head of Penn Law’s Legal Practice Skills program. 

“Lawyers need to be strong communicators, and we work very hard to make sure our students are effective legal writers,” said Dean Ruger. “This generous endowment highlights the critical work our legal skills program does to teach our students to think, act and communicate like lawyers.”

As the Denise A. Rotko Dean of Legal Writing and Communications, Ms. Barrett (Almanac January 22, 2013) will administer and teach the first-year legal practice skills course; design and implement new skills, writing and communications courses and programs across the Law School; and oversee the moot court program.
 

“My wife was devoted to teaching at Penn—as a student, an alumna and a faculty member,” said Mr. Rotko. “This gift honors her commitment to ensuring that students get the skills they need to be successful in their careers.”

Penn Law traces its history to 1790 when James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, framer of the Constitution and member of the first US Supreme Court, delivered the University of Pennsylvania’s first lectures in law to President George Washington and members of his Cabinet. Today the hallmarks of the Penn Law experience are a cross-disciplinary, globally-focused legal education and vibrant and collegial community. Penn Law prepares graduates to navigate an increasingly complex world as leaders and influential decision-makers in the law and related fields.

The David and Lyn Silfen University Forum

  • September 22, 2015
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Renowned government and business leaders joined University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann for a wide-ranging discussion on globalization, innovation and engagement between the United States and China during the Silfen Forum in Beijing, China on September 10. The David and Lyn Silfen University Forum series has been generously endowed by University Trustee David M. Silfen and his wife Lyn to foster conversation and debate regarding important contemporary issues. (Above, left to right) Penn Trustee Emeritus Howard Marks, W’67, co-chair of Oaktree Capital Management, LLC; Li Zhaoxing, former minister of foreign affairs, China; President Gutmann; Zhang Xin, CEO and co-founder, SOHO China Ltd.; General Colin Powell (retired), former US secretary of state.

Penn Wharton China Center

  • September 22, 2015
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In Beijing, China: Penn President Amy Gutmann (seated) next to a replica of the iconic Ben on the Bench statue with (standing, from left to right) Geoffrey Garrett, dean of the Wharton School; Vijay Kumar, the Nemirovsky Family Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science; Marilyn Jordan Taylor, dean of PennDesign; Denis F. Kinane, the Morton Amsterdam Dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Antonia Villarruel, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of the School of Nursing; J. Larry Jameson, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine; Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives; Pam Grossman, dean of the Graduate School of Education; Steven J. Fluharty, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences; and John L. Jackson, Jr., dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice.

Consultative Committee for the Selection of a Dean of the School of Design

  • September 22, 2015
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From the President and Provost

We are pleased to announce the formation of an ad hoc Consultative Committee to advise us on the selection of the next Dean for the School of Design. The members of the Consultative Committees are listed below. The Committee welcomes—and will keep in the strictest confidence—nominations and input from all members of the University community. For fullest consideration, communications should be received, preferably in electronic form, no later than October 31, 2015, and may be sent to the relevant Committee at the indicated website.

—Amy Gutmann, President

—Vincent Price, Provost

Chair

    • Michael Delli Carpini, Walter H. Annenberg Dean and professor of communication (ASC)

Faculty

    • Eugenie L. Birch, Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education

    • William W. Braham, professor of architecture

    • Jeffrey Kallberg, William R. Kenan, Jr. professor of music history and

        associate dean for arts and letters (SAS)

    • Ken Lum, professor and director of fine arts undergraduate program

    • Randall F. Mason, associate professor in city and regional planning and

        chair of historic preservation

    • Karen M’Closkey, associate professor of landscape architecture

    • Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, associate professor of history of art (SAS)

Students

    • Douglas Breuer (MArch’17)

    • William Fleming (city planning PhD)

Ex Officio

    • Joann Mitchell, vice president for institutional affairs

Alumni

    • Barbara van Beuren (MArch’88)

    • Kevin Penn (School of Design overseers chair)

Staff

    • Adam P. Michaels, deputy chief of staff, Office of the President

Consultants

    • Sheryl Ash, Isaacson, Miller

    • Benjamin Tobin, Isaacson, Miller

    • Courtney Tunis, Isaacson, Miller

Confidential website for nominations: www.imsearch.com/5583

Biomedical Graduate Studies: 30th Anniversary

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
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This year marks the 30th anniversary of Penn’s Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) program. BGS was established in 1985 to centralize and strengthen the administration of the biomedical sciences PhD programs across campus (Almanac March 19, 1985).  Over the ensuing decades, BGS’ student population has grown from around 350 to 750 students, and the BGS “umbrella” structure has become a model for biomedical sciences PhD programs nationwide; see http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs/faculty_overview.shtml Students are trained in one of seven highly interdisciplinary graduate groups, each of which extends well beyond any associated academic departments. Research training is provided among approximately 650 faculty members with appointments in the Perelman School of Medicine, the School of Arts & Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, School of Engineering & Applied Science, School of Nursing and the Wharton School, and affiliated institutions, including The Wistar Institute, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the National Institutes of Health.

BGS will celebrate its anniversary with a program-wide symposium and alumni weekend on Friday and Saturday, October 9-10, in the Perelman School of Medicine. The goals of the weekend are to highlight the contributions of graduate students to Penn’s biomedical research enterprise and to engage the BGS alumni in conversations with current students about career opportunities. Activities include:

• Keynote talks by:

Anthony Fauci, director of NIH-NIAID (National Institute of Allergy &

    Infectious Diseases)

Eve Marder, professor of biology, Brandeis University

Aaron Gitler, associate professor of genetics, Stanford University

Sarah Tishkoff, David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Biology and

    Genetics, University of Pennsylvania

Carl June, Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy,

    professor of pathology & laboratory medicine, University of Pennsylvania

• Additional scientific talks by alumni, faculty and current students

• Career panel sessions featuring alumni working in a variety of fields

• Career fair for one-on-one conversations between alumni and current students

• Poster presentations featuring research by current students

• 5-minute blitz research talks by current students and faculty

• Occasions for alumni to connect with former mentors, classmates and labmates

• Opportunities to make new connections with the Penn biomedical community

• Tours of new campus spaces

More information is available at: http://www.bgs30th.com/

Penn’s Collaboration with the City of Philadelphia on the White House’s New MetroLab Initiative

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
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The University of Pennsylvania will partner with the City of Philadelphia as part of the White House’s new MetroLab Network, which aims to improve urban infrastructure and foster equitable development in cities. The Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR), under the leadership of co-directors Susan Wachter and Genie Birch, will lead Penn’s involvement in the project.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Mayor Nutter and the City of Philadelphia to identify and implement real-world solutions to some of our city’s biggest challenges,” said Dr. Wachter. “Research universities have the physical and human resources to help their cities meet complex urban challenges through undertaking research, development and deployment of innovative projects at lower cost.”

The MetroLab Network, launched on September 14 at the White House Smart Cities Forum, aims to improve American cities by creating university-city partnerships committed to improving urban infrastructure, city services and public sector priorities. The Network will bring together university researchers with city decision makers to research, develop and deploy new technology in the provision of city services.

“We are proud to be a founding member of the MetroLab Network and look forward to working with the other cities and universities that are committing to deeper collaboration around Smart Cities solutions,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “We are already engaged in a number of projects with Philadelphia’s excellent universities and we are eager to see how these projects can continue to improve the quality of life in Philadelphia.”

As part of the MetroLab Network, the City of Philadelphia will collaborate with Penn and Drexel on three major projects that incorporate technology and analytics for improving infrastructure and city services, as well as fostering equitable development. In conjunction with city partners, Penn will collaborate to use technology to measure the impacts of new infrastructure, including green infrastructure, on neighborhood values. The three major projects will then use this new technology to address blight reduction, land banking strategy and local economic development, and will involve partnering with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the Philadelphia Land Bank and the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity.

The MetroLab Network is a project organized by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and will be managed by a management team, initially led by Carnegie Mellon University.

Deaths

Edward W. Brennan, Accounting

  • September 22, 2015
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Edward W. Brennan, W’48, W’66, a retired associate professor of accounting at Penn, died on August 29. He was 93 years old.

Dr. Brennan earned his AB in accounting (cum laude) from St. Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania in 1943. He served for three years with the US Army Air Force during World War II. He then earned his MBA in accounting from Penn in 1948, his JD from Temple University School of Law in 1952 and his PhD in finance from Penn in 1966.

Dr. Brennan joined the Penn faculty as an instructor in accounting at the Wharton School in 1948 and was promoted to assistant professor of accounting in 1956. He became an associate professor of accounting in 1971.

During his time at Penn, he served as chair of the Wharton School roster committee, as chair of the taxes committee for the University Senate from 1958-1959 and as a member of the Faculty Grievance Commission from 1976-1977. He also served as a pre-law advisor, a curriculum advisor for MBA accounting majors and business manager for the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. He took early retirement from Penn in 1987.

Dr. Brennan is survived by his wife, Elizabeth R., and his daughter, Patricia.

Meyer Kramer, Law School

  • September 22, 2015
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Meyer Kramer, L’44, a former instructor at Penn Law, died on June 24 at a nursing home in Brooklyn, New York after a long battle with dementia. He was 96 years old.

Mr. Kramer was born in Russia and grew up in Centerville, Iowa. He graduated from rabbinical school at Yeshiva University in New York City in 1941, then from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1944.

In addition to practicing law, he was a lecturer in legal writing at Penn’s Law School for three decades.

He also served as a rabbi  in Northeast Philadelphia at Adath Zion from 1951-1967, at Beth Telfilath Israel from 1967-1972 and at Bustleton-Somerton Synagogue from 1972-1975.

Mr. Kramer is survived by his son, Doniel; his daughters, Rena, CW’71, GEd ’73, Tamar and Shira; 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Christopher Jones, Penn Museum

  • September 22, 2015
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Christopher Jones, a Maya archaeologist and epigrapher most noted for his investigation and discovery of part of the historical record preserved in the inscriptions at the famous site of Tikal, Guatemala, died September 3 at his home in Kimberton, Pennsylvania after a long illness. He was 77.

A research associate (1973-2001) and following retirement, an active consulting scholar in the American section at the Penn Museum, Dr. Jones earned his BA at Harvard College and his MA and PhD (in anthropology, 1969) at the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation, The Twin-Pyramid Group Pattern: A Classic Maya Architectural Assemblage at Tikal, Guatemala, was based on his four years of excavation (1962-1965) with the Museum at Tikal, under the direction of William Coe. In addition to his fieldwork there, he directed site-core excavations at Quirigua, Guatemala, another Penn Museum project (1976 and 1977).

“We are greatly saddened by the loss of Christopher Jones,” noted Julian Siggers, the Williams Director of the Penn Museum. “We are fortunate that he left behind such a large and important body of work building upon our understanding of the ancient Maya.”

At the Penn Museum, Dr. Jones was actively engaged in the ongoing research and massive publication efforts of the site of Tikal—one of the largest ancient cities in the Americas and the capital of one of the most powerful polities, or city-states, of the ancient Maya in the Classical period (AD 200-900)—where the Penn Museum conducted excavations (1956-1970). He was one of a small number of scholars who was both a fine epigrapher and a skilled excavator. At Tikal, where he succeeded in deciphering complex king lists and dates, a dynastic history from the famous city, he also illuminated the nature of the important East Plaza through his careful excavations and key publication on this research.

Although his work and publications were scholarly, Dr. Jones delighted in sharing his love and knowledge of the ancient Maya with a broader public whenever the opportunity arose. He was instrumental in the creation of the Penn Museum’s long-running annual Maya Weekend, which began in 1983 and was one of the most popular programs to bring Maya archaeology and epigraphy to the public. For many years he led tours of Maya sites in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico for the Penn Museum, Wilderness Travel and the Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. Jones is survived by his wife, Leslie; four sons, Edward K., William P. (Christina Ewig), Frederick W. (Christine Achterman-Jones) and Ashton G. (Stelia Nappi); seven grandchildren, Moses, Carson, Gabriel, Zachary, Samson, Sebastian and Quinn; his brothers, Peter H. (Hal) and Nicholas (Sue); and his sister-in-law, Suzanne.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 18 in the Widener Lecture Hall at the Penn Museum. Contributions may be made in his name to the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, or to the Schuylkill Friends Meeting, 37 N. Whitehorse Road, Phoenixville, PA 19460.

Yotaro Kobayashi, Former Trustee

  • September 22, 2015
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Yotaro (Tony) Kobayashi, WG’58, a former member of the Board of Trustees at Penn, died of chronic empyema in Tokyo, Japan on September 5. He was 82 years old.

Mr. Kobayashi was born in London, England. He earned his bachelor of arts in economics at Keio University in Japan in 1956 and his master of business administration at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1958. Upon the completion of his studies, he returned to Japan to join the Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd. (now Fujifilm). In 1963, he began working at Fuji Xerox, the firm’s newly launched joint venture with the American company Xerox. He rose to the position of president and chief executive officer of Fuji Xerox in 1978 at the age of 44. He was appointed chairman and CEO in 1992 and chairman of the board in 1999. He became chief corporate advisor in 2006 and retired in 2009. During his tenure, Fuji Xerox expanded its sales territory, greatly developed its product line, brought about innovations such as the first multifunction printer/copier and in 1980 received the Deming Prize, Japan’s highest quality award. Because of Mr. Kobayashi’s strong interest in balancing the needs of the company with those of individual workers and the broader community, the firm also launched Japan’s first social-service leave program and broke new ground in family care leave and parenting leave.

At Penn, he served on the Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2002 and was a member of the Honorary Degrees and Awards Committee. From 1991 to 2005, he was an Overseer of the Wharton School. In addition, he served as a member of Wharton’s Dean’s Council from 2004 to 2008 and had been a member of the Executive Board for Asia since 1991. The University also benefited from his service as president of the Wharton Club of Japan and a member of the Penn Alumni Council and the Penn Alumni Board of Directors. He was a popular speaker on campus, opened many doors for the University in Japan, generously supported the Wharton School and was a driving force behind the creation of Wharton’s US-Japan Management Studies Center. For his extraordinary dedication to Wharton, he received the Wharton Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service, in 1989.

Mr. Kobayashi is survived by his wife, Momoyo, and his children, Kaku, Chiho and Maki.

Brian Sutton-Smith, Graduate School of Education

  • September 22, 2015
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Brian Sutton-Smith, a lauded developmental psychologist and emeritus professor in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at Penn, died on March 7 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in a nursing home in White River Junction, Vermont. He was 90 years old.

Dr. Sutton Smith (he adopted the hyphen later in life) was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He studied education at Wellington Teachers College, then earned his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree in educational psychology from Victoria University of Wellington. He came to the US as a Fulbright scholar in 1952 and studied at the University of California, Berkeley. He completed his doctorate in educational psychology at the University of New Zealand in 1954.

Dr. Sutton-Smith taught at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and Columbia University Teacher’s College in New York, then joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1977. He became professor emeritus in 1994. He was GSE’s recipient of the Excellence in Instruction Award for 1988-1989 (Almanac September 5, 1989), given for “contributions to teaching and learning.” He was program head of interdisciplinary studies in human development at GSE, and was also professor of folklore in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences. He taught social development and expressive development, aesthetics, play, games, narrative and children’s folklore.

He wrote three young adult novels in the 1940s, and later, approximately 50 books that included Child’s Play (with R. E. Herron, 1971), The Study of Games (with Elliott M. Avedon, 1971), How to Play With Your Children (and When Not To) (with his wife, Shirley, 1974), Toys as Culture (1986) and The Ambiguity of Play (1997).

In 2003 he received a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant to lecture and consult at the Australian Centre of the University of Melbourne and at the Museum Victoria (Almanac March 18, 2003). Dr. Sutton-Smith received lifetime achievement awards from the Association for the Study of Play, which he helped to found, and the American Folklore Society. He was a scholar in residence at the Strong Museum, a national museum of play in Rochester, New York, and his large collection of research materials on play is located there.

Dr. Sutton-Smith is survived by four daughters, Emily, Leslie, Mary and Katherine Moyer; and 10 grandchildren.

Governance

From the Senate Office: Faculty Senate Executive Committee Agenda

  • September 22, 2015
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Faculty Senate Executive Committee Agenda, Wednesday, September 30, Hourglass Room, University Club, Inn at Penn, 3-5 p.m.

The following agenda is published in accordance with the Faculty Senate Rules. Any member of the standing faculty may attend SEC meetings and observe. Questions may be directed to Patrick Walsh, executive assistant, at the Senate Office either by telephone at (215) 898-6943 or by email at senate@pobox.upenn.edu

1.      Welcome and introductions (3 minutes)

2.      Approval of the Minutes of May 13, 2015 (1 minute)

3.      Chair’s Report (5 minutes)

4.      Past-Chair’s Report on Academic Planning and Budget & Capital Council (1 minute)

5.      Letter regarding lowering the salary cap on federal grant applications  (4 minutes)

6.      Faculty Award of Merit nominations (1 minute)

7.      Update from the Office of the Provost (45 minutes)

        Discussion with Vincent Price, Provost

8.      Discussion and vote on the draft Committee Charges for

        2015-2016 Committees (15 minutes)

9.      Discussion and recommendations for SEC’s agenda for 2015-2016 (30 minutes)

10.  New Business (15 minutes)

Events

Human Resources: Upcoming October Programs

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
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Professional and Personal Development

Improve your skills and get ahead in your career by taking advantage of the many development opportunities provided by Human Resources. You can register for programs by visiting knowledgelink.upenn.edu or contacting Learning & Education at (215) 898-3400.

October 1: Penn Certificate Program in Administrative Excellence Session 1; 9 a.m.-noon; $100. A multi-session cohort program designed for frontline, support and administrative staff. Topics include office organization, communications style and skills, time and stress management, handling interruptions, writing, managing multiple projects, negotiating and working more effectively with your manager. The program will conclude with a session focused on succeeding in the decentralized Penn environment, building your network and clarifying your individual career plan.

October 5 & 6: AMA’s Getting Results Without Authority; 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; $75. Whether you’re dealing with bosses, colleagues, staff members or senior management, the ability to win respect, influence people and cultivate cooperation is absolutely essential to career success. What’s more, in challenging economic times, the people with whom you interact in business can change on a moment’s notice. The ability to adapt quickly and work with anyone to achieve desired results is crucial—especially when you don’t have immediate authority to command their cooperation. At this seminar, you’ll focus on the key elements of influencing others when there is lack of authority—personal power, persuasion and negotiation.

October 9: Your Career @ Penn; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Assists staff in building careers at Penn by helping to connect your skills and abilities with career opportunities. The focus will include both career resource breakout sessions and Penn Career Panels on ISC, finance and administrative support. All sessions will be facilitated by Penn HR and experienced professionals and career specialists. Topics include: increasing your marketability at Penn, internal job strategies and building a career development plan. For more information see www.hr.upenn.edu/CareeratPenn

October 13: Brown Bag Matinee: Building a Winning Team; 1-2 p.m. This will discuss team building as it specifically relates to attitude, positivity and mission/vision. Explore key concepts explained in the video by Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, that demonstrate why communication is key and that a unifying vision that rallies its members toward a common purpose is the way to successfully unify a team.

October 19: Boot Camp for Front Line Staff; 9 a.m.-noon; $75. Some of you are called customer care professionals; others are student services specialists, receptionists, client service professionals or even the director of first impressions. There are many different titles for this important role. You are the first person the student, customer, patient or client encounters in your organization. This encounter may be by phone or in person, but regardless, it sets the tone and reputation for your organization.
Ensuring that your “soft skills”—those skills you use in customer interaction—are at their best is imperative. What is often overlooked is the equally important need to learn ways to take care of yourself and your self-esteem in stressful, difficult customer situations. To be successful and happy in your work, you need the tools to help you deal effectively with customers.

October 20: Coaching Skills for Managers; 9 a.m.-noon; $75. To remain competitive, organizations need to retain valuable employees, address problems that interfere with productivity, and help employees achieve their full potential. But the traditional “command and control” method of managing employees has been shown to be less effective than involving people in their own development—and the best way to do this is to guide them through improvement using coaching tools and techniques.

October 21: Brown Bag: Getting Work Done; 11 a.m.-noon. How often is your well-planned day disturbed by interruptions? No matter what skills and strengths you already possess, the skill of acquiring more time cannot be one of them. Get more work done by learning how to eliminate time and energy wasters. By the end of the hour, you will have a toolbox full of strategies to cope with your daily distractions.

October 27: Managing Relationships: A Program for Millennials; noon-1 p.m. Are you a Millennial who finds it frustrating to work with your more seasoned colleagues because they simply can’t keep up with you? This just might be the thing holding you back in your career! In this session for Millennials we will discuss the importance of cultivating relationships with those in other generations as a mechanism for learning, growth and career mobility.

October 29: Conflict Resolution—A Win/Win Approach; 12:30-1:30 p.m. Conflict in the workplace should be addressed in order to maintain productivity, increase retention rates and improve morale. Failure to address conflict often leads to an escalation of the problem and may lead to unproductive behaviors such as resentment, displacement or defensiveness. This video will help you find a win-win solution by helping you master techniques such as: recognizing sources of conflict, using the collaborative management method, applying the A-E-I-O-U communication model, assuming the role of a mediator and developing active communication skills.

Quality of Worklife Workshops

Dealing with the demands of work and your personal life can be challenging. These free workshops, sponsored by Human Resources and led by experts from Penn’s Employee Assistance Program and Quality of Worklife Department, offer information and support for your personal and professional life challenges. For complete details and to register, visit www.hr.upenn.edu/myhr/registration or contact Human Resources at (215) 573-2471 or qowl@hr.upenn.edu

October 5: Breastfeeding Support Group; noon-1:30 p.m. Come meet other new moms on campus, get help with breastfeeding challenges or share what’s worked for you. If you are breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, pregnant and thinking about breastfeeding, or formula-feeding and curious about breastfeeding, this group is for you. This group is open to Penn faculty, staff, students, post docs and their partners. During the fall semester, the group will meet on October 5, November 2 and December 7. Funding for this group is provided by the Division of Human Resources, the Family Resource Center and the Penn Women’s Center.

October 8: Legal Document Planning; noon-1 p.m. Join trust and estate lawyer Margaret Sager to learn about the importance of estate planning, managing your estate during life and disposing of your estate at your death through the use of trusts, wills, beneficiary designation forms and other planning documents. Ms. Sager is a partner with Heckscher Teillon Terrill & Sager, P.C. and is listed as one of the leading trust and estate attorneys by The Best Lawyers in America. Ms. Sager’s practice includes estate planning for high net worth individuals, trust and estate administration, fiduciary litigation and related dispute resolution, guardianships of incapacitated persons and charitable giving.

October 10: Penn Family Day; 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; four free tickets to football game and Tailgate Party. Faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars are invited to bring family and friends to enjoy a free meal and games at the tailgate party. Visit https://www.hr.upenn.edu/myhr/familyday for event details and to reserve Penn Family Day tickets by October 6.

October 13: First Time Home Buyers 101; noon-1 p.m. This is an opportunity for Penn faculty and staff to learn the ins and outs of buying your first home, including tips for gauging financial readiness. Attendees will have the opportunity to receive answers to their questions from representatives of Penn Home Ownership Services and their lending partners.

October 14: Navigating the Penn Tuition Benefit System for Yourself and Your Family; noon-1:30 p.m. Join Penn’s HR Tuition Benefit Manager to learn more about the tuition benefit program and how you can use the benefit for yourself at Penn, or how the tuition benefit can support your dependents or spouse in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. At this session, you will learn more about coverage, how to request the benefit using the online tuition management system and tax implications if you are using the benefit for a graduate program. Whether you are using the benefit now for yourself or your dependents, or are planning to use it in the future, this session will provide a good overview of the tuition benefit and policies.

October 19: Purposely Planning Your Encore (Retirement) Career with Willo Carey; noon-1:30 p.m. Willo Carey, on-air spokesperson for WHYY and executive director of Wider Horizons, a service addressing the interests of the growing 50+ population, will lead a discussion around planning your retirement time with intent and purpose. “I always find myself invoking Carl Jung,” said Ms. Carey. “I think it’s been a well-kept secret until recently, but the second half of life really is the most interesting.” Nearing retirement eligibility, you’ve been exposed to a great deal of programming and support around financially planning for retirement, but have you considered the psychological and relationship adjustments that accompany retirement? The discussion addresses these issues.

October 29: Setting Boundaries at Work; noon-1 p.m. This workshop will provide managers and employees with the tools necessary to set and maintain boundaries in the workplace to create a healthy and productive work environment.

Healthy Living Workshops

Get the tools you need to live well year-round. From expert nutrition and weight loss advice to exercise and disease prevention strategies, we can help you kick-start your body and embrace a healthy lifestyle. These free workshops are sponsored by Human Resources. For complete details and to register, visit www.hr.upenn.edu/myhr/registration or contact Human Resources at (215) 573-2471 or qowl@hr.upenn.edu

October 2: Gentle Yoga, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Also October 23. Let your body reward itself with movement! Join us for Gentle Yoga. During this session, you will flow into modified sun salutations that loosen those tightened muscles and joints of the lower back, neck, shoulders and wrists. As an added bonus, you’ll get a workout in the process. Mats and props will be provided.

October 5: The first day of Penn’s Be in the Know Biometric Screenings; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Now in its fourth year, the Be in the Know campaign offers even more ways to learn about your health status and make improvements. In the process you can earn up to $180 (less applicable payroll taxes). Fall Be in the Know biometric screenings are available on campus at various convenient locations, October 5-November 20. All benefits-eligible faculty and staff can participate.

To get started with the Be in the Know campaign, register online at www.hr.upenn.edu/beintheknow for a free and confidential biometric screening. Biometric screenings are conducted by AreUFit Health Services, an experienced worksite health promotion company. The screening should only take 20 minutes. On the spot, you’ll receive your results and learn what they mean from an AreUFit health educator.

October 6: Relaxation Techniques; noon-1 p.m. This workshop will guide participants through relaxation techniques, many of which can be used anywhere—even at work. Techniques covered include: muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, mind imagery and combinations of these.

October 7: Mindfulness Skills Course, October 7 to November 4; noon-1:30 p.m. Also October 16 to November 6; 3:30-5 p.m. The four-week course, offered by Penn’s Employee Assistance Program, is designed to teach the core principles and practices of mindfulness, which include breathing meditation, body scan, sitting meditation and movement meditation. In addition, each class will focus on a theme linking mindfulness, stress and quality of life, and ample time will be devoted to experiential guided meditations. After all, the best way to learn about mindfulness is to practice it ourselves! By answering a few brief questionnaires before and after the skills course, you will have an opportunity to learn if the program has been helpful to you in terms of reducing stress and enhancing mindfulness skills. You may even find yourself more resilient at work and at home. The course emphasizes skill-building and sharing one’s experience with mindfulness practice in a group format.

October 9: Guided Meditation—Take a Breath and Relax; noon-1 p.m. Also October 30. Practice mindful breathing that focuses your attention on the present moment with kindness, compassion and awareness. Self-massage and gentle mindful movements that promote relaxation and reduce stress may also be included in the workshop. No experience is necessary. Sandra Herman, the instructor for the workshop, has 30 years of experience in the fields of social work and health education. She has a special interest and expertise in holistic approaches to stress reduction. Since 2007, she has conducted individual wellness sessions and workshops in stress reduction and smoking cessation for Penn students. These sessions incorporate not only educational and behavioral counseling techniques, but also mind/body awareness practices, including meditation, reiki, guided imagery, self-massage and qigong. Ms. Herman also maintains a private consulting practice with individuals and organizations, where she shares these varied methods for increasing calm and balance in facing life’s many challenges.

October 14: Chair Yoga; noon-1 p.m.; Also October 28. Plenty of people turn to yoga for exercise, but striking a pose isn’t for everyone. If you’ve been tempted to try it but don’t know where to start, it’s time to try chair yoga. Chair yoga is a more moderate form of yoga that’s done while sitting in a chair or using a chair for support. You get the same benefits of a regular yoga workout (like increased strength, flexibility and balance) but don’t have to master complex poses. Chair yoga can even better your breathing and teach you how to relax your mind and improve your wellbeing. Ready to give it a try? Join us for a free Chair Yoga workshop. And don’t worry about your experience or flexibility—chair yoga can be modified for all levels! This workshop will be led by Sergeant John Wylie, Department of Public Safety at Penn.

—Division of Human Resources

Be in the Know Wellness Campaign Begins in October

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Events
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Be in the Know, Penn’s wellness campaign, kicks off its fourth year this October with even more ways to support faculty and staff in achieving their health and wellness goals. This year, the campaign features the same biometric screenings and online health assessments participants have used in the past to learn more about their current health. New this year, Be in the Know activities will be offered year-round. Participants will also have more Bonus Actions to choose from and more chances to earn cash incentives–up to $180.*

Be in the Know 2015-2016 kicks off with free, on-campus biometric screenings held October 5-November 20. Register today for one of these events at www.hr.upenn.edu/beintheknow

New and expanded features of the campaign help participants make the most of what they learn from the Core Actions (biometric screening and online health assessment):

Year-Round Campaign–Biometric screenings will be held at various times each semester, allowing participants to join the campaign–and earn points toward cash incentives–any time. Be in the Know Bonus Actions will also be offered throughout the campaign year, which runs from October 2015 to August 2016.

Earn Points–and Cash–A new points-based campaign allows participants to earn points toward cash incentives. Complete the Core Actions, and earn $100. The more qualifying Bonus Actions you complete, the more cash you’ll earn. Earn 40 points in Bonus Actions and receive $40. An additional 40 points will get you another $40. In all, you can earn up to $180 with Be in the Know.*

Expanded Bonus Actions–Improve your health and wellbeing (and earn cash) with more qualifying Bonus Actions. They include things you may already do, such as your annual health screening, on-campus Wellness Walks, Penn’s wellness workshops and online educational programs through StayWell, Penn’s wellness partner.

Visit www.hr.upenn.edu/beintheknow for campaign details and updates.

*All cash incentives will be less applicable payroll taxes. You must be an active full- or part-time benefits-eligible faculty or staff member to participate. Bonus Actions may be completed and points earned at any time during the Be in the Know campaign. However, cash incentives will not be awarded until the two Core Actions are completed.

Update: September at Penn

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Events
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Conference

30  Ortner Center Panel & Speaker Event; panel speaks on their research about violence against women; Evan Starks, author of Coercive Control, will speak on domestic violence and forensic practice; 4-6 p.m.; Terrace Room, Claudia Cohen Hall (Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence).

Talk

23 How Large Organizations Think About Technology; Jane Margolin, C’13 & Yadavan Mahendraraj, W’14, Censeo Consulting Group; 6 p.m.; rooftop, Harnwell College House; PennCard required (College House Computing).

Growing Minds-Morris Arboretum’s Children’s Classes

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Events
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Peter Koniers (above) uses the skills he learned in Morris Arboretum’s Kids Click! Kids Photography Workshop to capture the beauty of the Arboretum’s wetlands.

Morris Arboretum’s Growing Minds program—classes specifically geared to younger visitors and their families—continues this fall with exciting new courses and seasonal favorites. Catch the fall before it leaves with a nature related course for your child—a vibrant start to the new season.

Each week in Nature Sleuths, children 5-7 years old will explore the great outdoors with a particular topic of focus. One week they may use binoculars to find migrating birds and the next week follow the progress of the leaves’ changing fall colors. A take-home art project completes this class, offered four consecutive Sundays beginning September 27, from 2-3 p.m.

For children 8-12 years old, an after school course, Kids Click! Kids Photography Workshop is a six-week class with a focus on the basics of photography–lighting, color, texture, composition and depth of field. They will also learn how photographers make a living and present their work on screen during the last session. Scheduled on consecutive Tuesdays from 4-5:30 p.m. beginning October 6.

How Does Nature Inspire you? Kids’ Art Series returns this fall with outdoor explorations designed for children 6-9 years old, to draw, build and design. Each class will include exciting nature studies and fun art activities. This series is offered on four consecutive Sundays beginning October 25 from 11 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

All Growing Minds classes will meet rain or shine with indoor facilities available for inclement weather. For information or to register online, visit morrisarboretum.org/GrowingMinds

Workshop for “Rain Check” Program

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Events
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On Tuesday, September 29, from 3-4 p.m., Morris Arboretum will host a workshop for the Philadelphia Water Department’s “Rain Check” program, which helps Philadelphia residents manage storm water at their homes. Designed to increase permeable surfaces and capture rain water in the city, this program offers participants a free rain barrel and/or a downspout planter, rain garden or porous paving installed at a reduced price. To learn more and to register, visit http://www.phillywatersheds.org/whats_in_it_for_you/residents/raincheck/signup Guests must register in advance to participate in and attend the workshop.

This program is funded by the Philadelphia Water Department and managed by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in partnership with the Sustainable Business Network (SBN).

Crimes

Weekly Crime Reports

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Crimes
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The University of Pennsylvania Police Department Community Crime Report

About the Crime Report: Below are all Crimes Against Persons and Crimes Against Society from the campus report for September 7-13, 2015. Also reported were 19 Crimes Against Property (7 thefts, 3 burglaries, 2 frauds, 2 other offenses, 2 vandalisms, 1 auto theft, 1 drunkenness and 1 liquor law violation). Prior weeks’ reports are also online. —Eds.

This summary is prepared by the Division of Public Safety and includes all criminal incidents reported and made known to the University Police Department between the dates of September 7-13, 2015. The University Police actively patrol from Market Street to Baltimore Avenue and from the Schuylkill River to 43rd Street in conjunction with the Philadelphia Police. In this effort to provide you with a thorough and accurate report on public safety concerns, we hope that your increased awareness will lessen the opportunity for crime. For any concerns or suggestions regarding this report, please call the Division of Public Safety at (215) 898-4482.

09/08/15          5:27 AM         3400 Spruce St                    Assault            Complainant struck on buttocks

09/08/15          8:06 AM         3600 Chestnut St                 Theft                Property taken from auto

09/08/15          10:15 AM       200 S 40th St                        Fraud              Fraudulent check received/Arrest

09/08/15          2:45 PM          3800 Walnut St                     Sex Offense   Confidential

09/09/15          2:59 AM         3100 Walnut St                      Sex Offense   Confidential

09/09/15          8:34 AM         4035 Baltimore Ave               Burglary          Property taken from residence/Arrest

09/09/15          8:51 AM         3620 Walnut St                      Vandalism       Unknown person spray painted wall

09/09/15          9:26 AM         3501 Sansom St                    Vandalism       Unknown person spray painted wall

09/09/15          12:51 PM        3400 Civic Center Blvd         Theft               Cell phone taken

09/09/15          1:49 PM          3600 Locust Walk                 Theft               Secured bike taken

09/09/15          10:05 PM        209 S 33rd St                        Theft               Rear wheel taken from bike

09/10/15          3:32 PM          4006 Spruce St                     Theft               Currency taken from purse

09/10/15          5:58 PM          140 S 34th St                        Theft               Dress taken without payment

09/10/15          11:08 PM        3900 Chestnut St                  Harassment    Unwanted texts received

09/11/15          11:06 AM       1 S 41st St                             Auto Theft       Auto taken by unknown person

09/12/15          12:26 AM       3650 Chestnut St                   Fraud              Unauthorized charges made on credit card

09/12/15          1:09 AM         250 S 36th St                         Liquor Law     Intoxicated male refused to leave/Arrest

09/12/15          10:50 AM       119 S 38th St                         Other Offense Male wanted on warrant/Arrest

09/12/15          7:09 PM          4100 Sansom St                    Assault            Officer assaulted by offender/Arrest

09/12/15          10:18 PM        100 S 41st St                         Assault            Complainant punched by offender/Arrest

09/12/15          10:25 PM        3600 Chestnut St                  Drunkenness   Intoxicated male cited

09/13/15          1:23 AM         3400 Civic Center Blvd          Theft                Secured bike taken

09/13/15          2:44 AM         43 Ludlow St                          Robbery          Complainants robbed by unknown males

09/13/15          8:14 AM         3200 Chestnut St                    Burglary          Lock box taken from store

09/13/15          9:36 AM         3200 Chestnut St                    Burglary          ATM broken into

09/13/15          8:49 PM          3400 Spruce St                      Other Offense Male wanted on warrant/Arrest

18th District Report

Below are the Crimes Against Persons from the 18th District: 6 incidents with 2 arrests (4 assaults and 2 rapes) were reported between September 7-13, 2015 by the 18th District covering the Schuylkill River to 49th Street & Market Street to Woodland Avenue.

09/08/15    5:25 AM    3300 Spruce St    Assault

09/08/15    2:45 PM    3800 block Walnut St    Rape

09/09/15    6:11 PM    3100 block Walnut St    Rape    

09/11/15    3:45 AM    4706 Baltimore Ave    Assault

09/12/15    8:40 PM    41st & Sansom Sts    Assault/Arrest

09/12/15    10:22 PM    100 block 41st St    Assault/Arrest

Bulletins

Reminder: Penn’s Preparations for the Papal Visit to Philadelphia

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Bulletins
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All classes and University-sponsored events are cancelled on September 25 to accommodate the travel and logistical challenges that will exist in the Philadelphia region during the visit by Pope Francis. Designated essential personnel—including offices such as but not limited to Public Safety, Dining Services and Facilities that provide essential services, University emergency personnel and those responsible for the health and safety of students and lab animals—will be required to report to work and should consult with their supervisors about accommodations and scheduling.

Other staff members, faculty members and students should treat the day under the same protocols as a weather-related suspension of operations. Penn Medicine staff should consult with their supervisors about work schedules.

Penn has created a website site to keep the Penn community informed of any changes related to the World Meeting of Families. It contains frequently asked questions, the schedule of campus services and related links.

For the the latest info see http://www.upenn.edu/about/papal-visit

October: National Cyber Security Awareness Month; Free Secure Disposal of Paper and Electronics

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Bulletins
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Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM)? Each one of us needs to do our part to make sure that our online activities are kept safe and secure—that’s what NCSAM is all about. For more information on resources and events available throughout the month to help protect Penn systems and data, visit the NCSAM table at the Employee Resource Fair (details below).

Did you also know that the annual Employee Resource Fair will take place on Thursday, October 8, from noon to 2 p.m. in Bodek Lounge, Houston Hall? The University Archives and Records Center has arranged for Penn’s shredding vendor, Recall, to shred personal papers free of charge for Penn employees during the Fair. This shredding service provides a great opportunity to reduce risks—such as the possibility of identity theft—by securely disposing of confidential papers that are no longer needed. Another Penn vendor, Gigabiter, will securely shred personally owned computer hard drives and properly dispose of personal consumer electronics (such as old TVs and monitors) that are brought to the Fair, at no charge to Penn employees.

Start gathering your unneeded documents and electronics now. On October 8, simply bring as many documents as you can carry to the Recall shredding truck that will be located on the walkway between College Hall and the Fisher Fine Arts Library during the Fair. Your papers will be shredded on site at no charge. Have your selected hard drives shredded, at no cost to you, at the Gigabiter truck that will be located near Houston Hall during the Fair. The best way to protect confidential information is not to have it —and this is a great way to get rid of it! In addition, bring your old consumer electronics to the Gigabiter truck at the Fair for free, environmentally sound disposal.

Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital: Open for Pets’ Emergencies During the Papal Visit

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Bulletins
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Hospitals across the Philadelphia area are making special arrangements to help human patients in need of care during the upcoming papal visit. But what about our animal companions? The Emergency Service at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital will be open 24 hours a day throughout the Papal visit to care for pets in need.

As the region’s only certified Veterinary Trauma Center and Level I Facility, Ryan Hospital provides cutting-edge technologies and advanced treatments from the area’s most experienced emergency care team. Ryan Hospital is located at 3900 Spruce Street. Penn Public Safety officers will be stationed at 38th Street to assist clients traveling to the hospital during the Papal visit. Free parking for clients is available in the hospital lot at 3900 Spruce Street.

Detailed closure maps and alternate routes to the area can be found at: http://www.upenn.edu/about/papal-visit-maps

Please note: Ryan Hospital will be open for emergencies only from Friday, September 25 through Sunday, September 27. Pet owners can call the emergency line at (215) 746-8911.

For more information, visit http://www.vet.upenn.edu

Talk About Teaching & Learning

Teaching Introductory Classes by Mark Devlin

  • September 22, 2015
  • vol 62 issue 6
  • Talk About Teaching & Learning
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When I started my position in the department of physics & astronomy at Penn in 1996, I had never been in front of a class in my life. I was assigned Introductory Astronomy (Astro 001) for my first course, given a book and told where to show up. I figured I knew astronomy pretty well, how hard could it be? Little did I know that a single student can teach you a very important lesson. I had just finished a long discussion on the phases of the Moon. With the wonderful information I had provided, the students would now be able determine the position of the Sun, the Moon and their location on the Earth just by looking at the phase of the Moon. Fantastic! Then she raised her hand. She stated in a very plain and matter of fact voice, “I have no idea what you are talking about.” I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. I was almost paralyzed with terror because, for the life of me, I could not understand why she didn’t understand. Thankfully I was able to stammer through the remainder of the lecture, but I was determined to never get in that situation again.

Astronomy offers a fantastic way to introduce science to non-scientists. People are naturally fascinated by the subject. Hardly a week goes by without some new and exciting astronomy picture or result in the news.  The very visual and inherently interesting topic attracts students who have always found astronomy appealing as well as those who figure it is somehow less painful than the other options for fulfilling their Physical World requirement! Whatever the students’ reasons for taking the course, the faculty in the physics & astronomy department are charged with making sure that they graduate with some basic literacy in science.

My problem with the student in my first lecture could be summarized by a comment from one of my colleagues who was faced with a similar situation. He said, “I don’t understand. When I was 12, someone told me about the phases of the Moon. It was simple. Why can’t the students get it?” Here’s the answer. Like many introductory courses, Astro 001 attracts a large cross section of students ranging from arts and English majors to economics majors. Some of the seniors have not seen or thought about an algebra problem since high school and would desperately like to keep it that way. What they are definitely not is a professor with a PhD in theoretical astrophysics like my colleague. The vast majority of Penn students are exceptionally bright and are willing to learn. However, when faced with material which is utterly foreign to all of their prior experience, they exhibit a combination of shock, denial, blame and fear. How do we overcome this?

I wish there were an easy answer, but the bottom line is that it takes time and experience. I have found two things that have at least accelerated my ability to effectively present complex science topics to non-majors. Office hours can provide a window into problems that affect the entire class. Even though I have 100 or so students in the class, only about 15 seem to regularly attend office hours—despite what I believe is a very generous policy of meeting with the students pretty much any time. By spending time with a few students who are both desperate and willing to reach out to you, a lot can be learned. Sometimes it will take me half an hour on a single problem before I can figure out the flaw in their reasoning which is keeping them from understanding. Then the “ah-ha” moment for me comes when I realize what the problem is and how to get them past it. The trick is to remember to incorporate it in the next lecture. My guess is that for every student who comes to your office hours with a significant problem or misconception, there are a dozen more students who have the same issue. How do I know this?

Two years ago I introduced clickers into my class. I figured it was time to move into the 21st century. I work with cutting-edge technology all the time in my research, but I had not made any significant changes in my teaching technology since I switched from plastic overhead projector sheets to PowerPoint (now I am really dating myself!). After a very mild learning curve, I was able to introduce about four “clicker questions” each lecture. The students were told they would get two points for the right answer, one point for the wrong one and zero for a no-show. Class attendance went from about 70% to near 100% overnight! The first test of the effectiveness of the clickers goes like this: Go over a reasonably complicated topic and show them some worked examples. Then ask, “Does everyone understand this? I can go over it again!” Generally, no hands will go up. Next slide–clicker question. When the results come in with 40% of the class getting it wrong, you realize that either they were too scared to admit they did not understand, or they had somehow convinced themselves that watching you do something meant they knew it too. This instantaneous feedback is invaluable in guiding and pacing my future presentations.

Sure, the students hate the clickers. Why? It’s simple; if you grade them, then they are forced to come to class! However, they certainly are aware enough to recognize the value. The last clicker question of the semester is, “Should I use clickers next semester?” 72% say yes.

Like it or not, one aspect of a successful course is keeping the students entertained. Sure, I can show a bunch of really cool pictures of objects in our Universe, but that only goes so far. It helps that I am naturally enthusiastic about the subject. When I talk about a supermassive black hole like the one in the movie Interstellar, I inject my enjoyment of the topic into the lecture and bring the students into the discussion by asking engaging questions like, “Why the hell did Matthew McConaughey choose to go first to the planet with a huge gravitational time dilation effect? I mean an hour down there cost twenty years on Earth! Isn’t Earth about to die?”  Then we go on to calculate the effect. The students really appreciate any effort that is made to put difficult topics in terms that they can relate to. When they respond positively, you get more satisfaction from teaching and everyone wins.

I have thought a lot about what I want the students to come away with at the end of my course. For most of them it will be the only formal exposure to science they will have in their lives. Twenty years from now, do I really care or expect that they will be able to calculate the force of gravity on a neutron star or the orbits of the planets around a distant star? That would be completely unrealistic. But they will remember they were able to do it at some point and that science is not magic. I hope I have done my part in producing a scientifically literate electorate who can think critically about topics far afield from astronomy such as global warming. Most importantly, I hope when their children ask them something about science, their answer is not, “I was always bad at science,” but rather it is, “I took astronomy at Penn and I loved it!”

 

Mark Devlin is the Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics in SAS. He is a recipient of the 2015 Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching. He is also the recipient of the 2010 SAS Dean’s Award for Mentorship of Undergraduate Research

This essay continues the series that began in the fall of 1994 as the joint creation of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Lindback Society for Distinguished Teaching. See www.upenn.edu/almanac/teach/teachall.html for the previous essays.