The 21st Century Project, a major strategic initiative of President Judith Rodin and Provost Stanley Chodorow's Agenda for Excellence, began with President Rodin's October 1994 inaugural address, in which she described a model for the future of undergraduate education at Penn. "Implementing a 21st Century Undergraduate Education," by President Rodin and Provost Chodorow, appeared soon thereafter in Almanac (October 25, 1994). "The 21st Century Penn Undergraduate Experience: Phase One" was published for comment in Almanac Supplement, May 25, 1995. In January 1996 the first progress report on the project appeared in Compass. That report outlined the project in its second phase and described the responsibility of the Council of Undergraduate Deans, chaired by Provost Chodorow, for conducting its work. The current report continues from that point. In it, we present the project as it has developed as a whole, beginning with its vision and describing its three main goals. The progress of work on the project is indicated by annotated listings of its principal activities in 1996-1997.
Like us, Franklin lived in a period of rapid and radical change. He and his contemporaries were aware of the consequences of their leadership. In his manifesto for the founding of the University of Pennsylvania and in his Autobiography, he expressed the values and point of view of the self-made nation and the self-made man. These values united the practical with what Franklin called the ornamental--the theoretical and beautiful. The nation and the individual must unite the ability to get things done--to build a new life and a new public order in the New World--and to create and appreciate the principles--intellectual, moral, and aesthetic--on which the new constructions rested. This is the inspiration and foundation of Penn's educational mission, which unites theory, practice, and service to society. It is also the inspiration for the new directions we will take under the 21st Century Project.
The 21st Century Project serves the educational vision articulated by Franklin. Taking advantage of the intellectual riches of Penn's twelve schools located together on an urban campus, the Project aims to educate leaders--to create citizens as Franklin intended--by giving students experiences that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Cognizant of the powers of new technologies to reshape higher education, the Project is at the same time a commitment to make Penn a premier place for undergraduate study, where students participate actively and directly in the creation of knowledge. In this sense, Penn seeks to make every student first a problem solver--a critical thinker and a user of knowledge--and then a problem seeker--a maker of knowledge.
The three interrelated goals of the 21st Century Project are
The 21st Century Project will shape the curriculum of the future by developing an array of programs that teach the principal intellectual skills- -analytical thinking and oral and written expression--at the highest level, skills that range across all disciplines and all human intellectual activity. The curriculum of the future will use information systems and residentially based learning to extend undergraduate education beyond the traditional classroom and laboratory, reaching students where they live and at the times they prefer to work. Penn's commitment to research as a significant part of undergraduate education likewise envisions that learning will occur beyond the boundaries of the classroom and course schedule. Multidisciplinary programs that draw upon the strengths of all of Penn's schools will increase the potential for undergraduates to be engaged in creative independent work and will rely similarly on an expansive conception of the curriculum. Throughout this work, the University's enduring commitment of service to society will strengthen and unify the design of Penn's curricular and extracurricular programs.
The Writing Program will be redesigned to create a unified program of courses that fulfill the writing requirement across the four undergraduate schools and to coordinate the services of peer Writing Advisors and the Writing Center. The Writers House will become the hub of co-curricular teaching and will serve students across the campus. A program of electronic tutoring is being developed as well.
The committee on Foreign Languages across the Curriculum will submit a proposal and work toward a set of course offerings that integrate language and cultural study in a variety of disciplinary contexts across the four undergraduate schools. This project supports the goals of globalization presented in the Agenda for Excellence.
Programs in numeracy, speaking and rhetoric across the curriculum, and visual and auditory learning will be developed. Planning for a Teaching /Learning Innovation Center, including resources in information technology, will progress.
To be fully educated, Penn's students must learn not only of the state of knowledge but also of the ways in which knowledge is expanded. It is only when our students become involved in expanding knowledge that they will come to have a full appreciation of what it is to know something. They will see just how exciting it is to add to knowledge and just how fragile our continuously changing understanding of the world really is. Experiences of this sort will enrich their education, strengthening their conceptual and analytic tools and enhancing their ability to contribute to society no matter what their chosen field of concentration.
The Council of Undergraduate Deans has already begun to change New Student Orientation to emphasize the opportunities undergraduates have to engage in research on campus and in the community. The Academic Fair, for example, introduces students to the unparalleled opportunity for learning on this campus. Many brochures and documents sent to prospective students will be revised along the same lines.
Planning for an initiative to create an undergraduate research center as a hub comparable to the Writers House will proceed. The center will coordinate funding for undergraduates engaged in research and make information on research available to both students and faculty. An undergraduate research World Wide Web site will come on-line to improve the flow of information about research across the University, and especially between faculty and students.
To enrich the curriculum in keeping with the goals of the Project, the Council of Undergraduate Deans has also provided funding for three interschool courses: "Creating, Managing, and Presenting the Arts," "Cognitive Neuroscience," and "Technology and Engineering in America." Funding for new courses across schools, including service-learning courses, will be offered this year. This work is supported in part by a grant from Pew Charitable Trusts (received April 1996), to enhance academic programs and undergraduate education as part of the Agenda for Excellence. A grant from the Kellogg Foundation (received August 1996) will support development of service-learning and research-based courses that serve West Philadelphia. New courses will be funded in three areas: environment and health, nutrition and health, and culture and community studies.
Support for new courses is intended to lead to larger numbers of major interschool programs like the Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB) and interschool minors. The range of University minors, offered across schools, will be increased. Such minors now available include Actuarial Mathematics (Wharton and the College), Nutrition (the College and Nursing) and Cognitive Science (SEAS and the College). University minors under consideration include American Public Policy (Wharton and the College) and American Law and Legal History (Wharton and the College). New joint- and dual-degree programs will join Management and Technology, and International Studies and Business. Nursing and Health Care Management is now recruiting for September 1997; a six-year joint-degree program leading to a B.S. in Wharton and a J.D. in the Law School was announced in October 1996.
The InTouch Committee and the Implementation Committee on Electronic Support Systems for Advising is in process of creating a flexible, effective undergraduate advising web. Improvements to PENN InTouch scheduled for this academic year include on-line registration and drop/add, as well as pathways to World Wide Web sites for schools and course homepages through PENN InTouch and the Penn Web. Additionally, PENNcard digital photos, scheduled to be available to the undergraduate schools in 1996-1997, will enhance both teaching and advising by allowing faculty to have class lists or class cards with student pictures. Other projects include development of an on-line academic program planner and a program of tutorials offered by students to faculty who want to create World Wide Web homepages for teaching.
The 21st Century Project, the Division of University Life (VPUL), and Information Systems and Computing (ISC) have begun a Computing-in -Residence project in Van Pelt College House. Providing help to undergraduate users as close to home as possible, this project enables students to connect themselves to the network, solving most problems that occur in making the connection and using academic applications and information technology. It employs teams of newly trained students, backed up by ISC staff. The benefits to users and providers of service go beyond connectivity to community building and leadership development.
The 21st Century Project for the Undergraduate Experience intends to create a living environment for the academic community of the next century by integrating the intellectual and cultural life of the University into residential living. The initiatives in this part of the Project aim to enhance the living experience of undergraduates while preserving the variety and choices of living environments now available to Penn students.
The University is currently studying its options for improving residential living and the community of the campus. This is a crucial component of University-wide planning. During the course of this academic year, the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life, in collaboration with the
Office of the Executive Vice President, is conducting an extensive residential facilities review. This review will include a comprehensive analysis of the residential system and its programs, with attention to market conditions and to the financial and physical state of the residences. The goal is to expand the types of housing options and to improve Penn's housing stock for all undergraduates.
A concurrent study of campus food services will be undertaken jointly by the Divisions of Business Services and of University Life. This second
study will assess the University's current systems and opportunities for providing student meal plans, retail food services, and catering and vending on campus. It will identify preferred methods and models for providing products and services that are high quality, cost effective and flexible in order to meet the expectations and changing requirements of the students, faculty and staff of the University of Pennsylvania.
A third study intended to assess the quality of life in the University community is a review of campus recreation, conducted by the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics. This study will help the University to improve the quality and availability of athletic facilities, both buildings and outdoor spaces, and of recreational programs. The University recognizes that physical well-being enhances intellectual achievement and that opportunities to participate in individual and team athletics enable students to handle stress, to orient themselves to life-long health and fitness, and to build relationships across the Penn community.
One primary goal of the Project in looking at residential life is to increase the interaction between undergraduates, faculty, and graduate students, building upon existing residential programs. During the review of the residential system, the University is considering the establishment of geographically distinct and intellectually robust communities within the residences. These communities would be composed primarily but not exclusively of freshmen and sophomores, for whom they would make Penn small and intimate within the larger context of the research university.
The communities would be led by faculty and would provide enhanced opportunities for students to interact with faculty and graduate students outside of class. They would be designed to offer high-quality, affordable housing, with amenities including access to electronic networks, high-tech classrooms, and flexible space for an array of programming. The communities might also provide some services to students, such as computing support and academic services for skill development in math, writing, foreign languages, information technology, and music. They might offer support for curricular and co-curricular activities, including courses initiated by students. The communities could give students the experience of membership in a diverse community that encourages leadership development.
The results of the current review of the residences will enable the University to determine an optimal delineation of these residential communities, which, at the outset, will be developed from existing housing facilities. The initial goal will be to house all freshmen and to increase the percentage of sophomores within each community as additional communities are developed from existing or newly constructed housing stock.
The Project is working to achieve this goal both in University residence halls and in cooperation with fraternities and sororities. In 1996-1997, the fraternities and sororities will implement, with the assistance of the Project, a plan for enhancing their role in the intellectual and cultural life of the University.
The Writers House, a nonresidential center, opened with the fall 1996 semester. This hub of cultural activities for writers across the campus and
in the neighborhood and region offers workspace for creative writers and writing activities, and performance space for readings and other events. It will eventually include offices and desktop publishing facilities. Although non-residential, the Writers House creates the atmosphere of a home and models the concept of a hub facility for co-and extra-curricular learning. According to its mission statement: "Affiliations with the Writers House complement and enhance students' academic experience at Penn, extending beyond classrooms into a community which creates and recreates, encouraging expression and encouraging its writers to define the nature of that expression for themselves".
The 21st Century Project has offered funding for 1996-1997 to support Science and Technology Wing's further expansion into High Rise South, where two floors of upper-class students who lived together in the first-year STWing program at King's Court/English House have chosen to continue as a group. The extraordinary growth of STWing in the last year--doubling the number of upper-class participants--has increased demand for funding for equipment and programming. The project is now positioned as an experiment in virtual community, creating an opportunity for cooperative research and other co-curricular ventures, including leadership development, between first-year and upper-class students. Students are responsible for writing proposals for use of the funding provided by the 21st Century Project. Academic Programs in Residence, the 21st Century Project, and STWing faculty and staff are responsible for oversight. This plan to enable students to manage a major expansion of program is unique in the residential system at Penn.
The student-driven Effect Project, a residential organization for undergraduates engaged in research, opened in fall 1996. Located in Van Pelt College House, Effect will give students the opportunity to bring their research activities into the social and intellectual life of the House, making use of Van Pelt's new high-tech classroom and the "Sandbox," a well-equipped work space for computing run by students. Student members of Effect will manage funding to support research, learning stewardship by practicing it themselves. Programmatic offerings will include presentation of work in progress and special events for faculty and students. The Effect Project plans outreach programs to students who do not reside at Van Pelt House. In September 1996 the group arranged its first public presentation of a student's research, at Hill House.
The development of a large-scale student center will address the need for improved and increased space for student activities in the academic core of the campus. The quadrangle will feature rehearsal and performance space, meeting rooms, lounges, reading and music rooms, cafes, multipurpose rooms, student government offices, student organization offices, and a student art gallery.
--Judith Rodin, President
-- Stanley Chodorow, Provost
Volume 43 Number 12
November 12, 1996
Return to Almanac's homepage.
Return to index for this issue.