From the President
The Vital Place of the Arts and Sciences
As we return to campus to begin this new year, I feel invigorated by
how well so many things are going at Penn. I hope you share my enthusiasm
and pride: I do not believe we could return to a more active, more inspiring
university anywhere in the world.
Simply consider: the most academically gifted class in Penn's history
enrolled this fall. These remarkable first-year students-- and all of our
outstanding undergraduates, present and future-- will benefit from an innovative
College House system that will create a series of vibrant new residential
communities on campus. All will also benefit from the unique opportunities
Penn gives students to reach out broadly, vault over disciplinary walls
and learn about "what's going on over there" in another classroom,
another department, another field of study. And all will have the chance
to participate in genuine research projects that could expand human knowledge--one
of the unique rewards offered to students by a great research university.
What is more, our world-class faculty have recently won some of the
most coveted awards in their fields as they continue their extraordinary
productivity in the classroom, the library, and the lab. As Penn faculty
lead the way in a broad range of disciplines, their students, the University
and society as a whole are enriched.
The sounds of jackhammers and diesel cranes have continued to fill the
air as the Perelman Quad has moved rapidly ahead, the IAST building has
been completed and Sansom Common has turned a former parking lot into the
talk of the city. And the University and our neighbors in West Philadelphia
have reaped the benefits of UC Brite--our successful program to provide
exterior night-time lighting for homes and apartment buildings in the neighborhoods
near Penn--and of the University City District, as well, that has cleaned
our streets and enhanced our security.
The source of my greatest pleasure this January is the School of Arts
and Sciences, which is greeting a superb new group of leaders who are joining
the splendid associate deans already in place. A world-renowned scholar
and 20-year member of Penn's faculty, Dean Samuel Preston is the perfect
leader for Arts and Sciences as we approach the next century. College Dean
Richard Beeman, another renowned scholar, will celebrate three full decades
at Penn this year. And Vice Dean Michael Mandl is coming to Penn from Duke,
where he expertly served that university's provost as Director of Academic
Financial Services, Budgets and Systems.
Joined by the other associate deans and staff in the SAS Dean's Office,
these leaders will transfuse the School with new energy, spirit and direction.
Students, faculty and staff in Arts and Sciences--and all the rest of us
at the University-- could not be more fortunate.
In a note I received from Sam Preston over the holidays, he reminded
me of the central role the arts and sciences have played in humanity's
progress. As he eloquently put it:
- ". . . the development and transmission of knowledge has transformed
the face of the globe. The average American now has resources, opportunities,
and health conditions that are far superior to those of European royalty
several centuries ago. These advances are the product of the application
of rational thought, emphasizing logic and tests of consistency with evidence,
to our understanding of the natural and social world. What is more, the
practice of creating and interpreting literature, music and art--a central
province of the arts and sciences--not only helps us make sense of our
lives but also develops critical thinking skills that are applicable far
beyond the classroom. These processes need to be nurtured and protected
within the academy and their value and relevance to our daily lives understood
and appreciated by all."
I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment, and I am committed to supporting
our new Dean in his efforts to fulfill the teaching and research missions
As a final thought, it is clear that the School of Arts and Sciences
and the University, through prudent fiscal management, resource development
and strategic reinvestment, must ensure that faculty members have the facilities
and other resources they need to perform their roles with maximum effectiveness.
As everyone in higher education knows today, this is not a simple matter:
raising private funds and securing research dollars are increasingly competitive
and com-plicated endeavors. The difficulty of the task does not make it
any less important, however. Rather, it must strengthen our resolve, energize
our efforts and inspire the greatest care in all we do.
Just as Sam Preston has given his pledge to do everything he can at
SAS in this essential effort, so he and the School have received mine in
return. The future of the arts and sciences is integral to the continuing
expansion of knowledge. And it is vital to the future of our University.
--Judith Rodin, President