At Council on November 10, The President and Provost presented their annual State of the University reports. Below are the reports given by Provost Robert Barchi and Deputy Provost Peter Conn. President Rodin's report was published in the November 23/30 issue. --Ed
The State of the University, 1999-2000 by Robert Barchi and Peter Conn
It really is a pleasure to have this opportunity to tell you a little bit about what's happened with the academic programs of the institution during the past year. I want to diverge a little bit from tradition and not spend the whole time talking about what we've done, but rather also focus on where we're going so you will know what's happening during the coming year. I'll take a few minutes to talk about the global indicators, what people are saying about how Penn's doing in our core mission. Then I'll address strategic planning, how we do it and how that lays out at various levels of the University, what we've accomplished and what we're planning to do. I will conclude with some cross-cutting initiatives that we have to pay attention to during the year, where we are on those and where we're going.
You've heard the President say that we both have children who are seniors in high school and we're making the college circuit with our sons. It is interesting to hear what's going on with other students who are making that circuit. The very unquantitative statement is that Penn's hot. There's no question about that. Now as a scientist I'd like to see numbers that indicate that.
Lets take a look at where we were last year and how that compares to prior years in terms of how students see us. Let's look at two areas. One is our core undergraduate mission, which cuts across a large part of our academic enterprise, and the second, is the production of new knowledgeour research enterprise.
I look for trends because trends tell me something year-to-year. (figure 1) Here's a trend that tells me something. This is the number of students that have applied to Penn, going from 13,700 to nearly 18,000 last year. Our target number of admissions is 2,500. In order to get that number we have been accepting about 4,800. With the rising interest in Penn, Lee Stetson ratcheted down the numbers last year and accepted a lower number of students--about 4,668. In the end, we actually wound up with more students accepting Penn than ever before. This has caused some unhappiness with parents of incoming freshman and a lot of e-mail from those freshman who found themselves living in the Sheraton rather than the Quad, but it is an indication of how Penn looks to the outside community.
The admission rate, which is basically our quality indicator--how selective can we be in looking at the incoming class--has been getting progressively better. Down is good. We're dropping down this year, into the neighborhood of 26% and I would expect that the admission rate in the coming year will be well below that.
Now does that mean that we're just taking anybody that walks in the door? The answer clearly is no. If you look at the quality indexes, in this case the predictive index, that rolls together things like SAT scores and class rank and AP placement and everything else, all of the predictive indices, be they for the total applicant pool, the total pool that we admitted or the total matriculation pool, is continuing the trend upward. Not only are we being more selective, and is the pool getting bigger, but the students who actually matriculate here are of increasingly high academic quality.
An early indicator of how we are doing this year is the early admit pool. As you know, students that we accept in early admit, accept us with a rate that's in the high 90s. Our early admit pool as of today is up 15% from last year. We'll know in a couple of weeks what the final numbers are. That's a pretty good indication of where we are. Visits on campus, in spite of all the construction, are up considerably over last year. According to Lee, students who are accepted to Penn, who visit campus, accept us with about 70% plus probability. So overall the undergraduate mission looks very strong, we had a very good year last year, and I anticipate an even better year this year.
The other metric that I look at for how we are meeting our core mission, is research activity. One of the surrogates for research activity certainly not the only one, are total awards received, and total grant dollars coming into the University from all sources.
That's been trending upward progressively, especially in the latter part of this decade where Penn has enjoyed double digit growth at a time when many institutions have been flat. Much of that activity, not unexpectedly, has been in the School of Medicine. It's been expanding its space, expanding its faculty and those faculty have been very successful in obtaining grants. But I should point out that the grant dollars in the rest of the University are also expanding. And if you look at the school that's number one in terms of per capita grant dollars it's not the School of Medicine, it's the Graduate School of Education, one of our smallest schools. So this activity is spread all across the campus and is a strong indicator of the vitality of our research enterprise. We're close to $1/2 billion a year in research awards, $467 million last year and this year looks like it may well be another double digit growth year.
Now let me raise several areas regarding research where we have to work hard this year. I'm going to start with the bottom of the slide. (figure 2) Research has increasingly become a regulated business. There is more and more compliance that we have to do. That means more and more of our time that we have to invest in things that you will hear with acronyms like IRBs and IACUCs. These committees monitor patient-related research and animal-related research. We have to do an even better job to ensure our compliance. We have recruited two outstanding people to the staff, Andy Rudczynski and Joe Sherwin, to head up pieces of the infrastructure that support the research enterprise. But the investment in the infrastructure has been going up only 2%-3% per year at a time when the research volume has been growing 12-15% a year. We've been working with the deans to better link the financing of the infrastructure to the grant rise so that this infrastructure grows at a rate that's compatible with our overall enterprise.
I'll leave you with one note of caution here, and that is the cost of research. Every dollar that we bring into the University requires that we spend a certain amount of money for that research to be done, be it in light and heat, or safety and security, or a dozen other costs that go into the enterprise. That comes to the University in part through an indirect cost rate, money that's given to the University as a percentage of the total award. Unfortunately that indirect cost rate has been declining with pressure from the government. The federal indirect rate has dropped from 65% down to about 58.5% currently and is certainly going to continue to decline in coming years. In addition, our research portfolio includes grants that are not federal and bear little or no overhead, so the effective indirect cost recovery rate for the University is currently down around 38.5%. This is at a time when we are using bigger, better and more expensive research space. We have a major challenge that we have to deal with here to make sure that we do our research in the most efficient way we can and that we look very carefully at the cost of doing research. We have several committees that focused directly on that issue this year.
Let me turn now to strategic planning for this academic enterprise. We've talked on a number of occasions about the University's personality with its twelve schools and a small campus. I like to think of these as overlapping bubbles or a Venn diagram that may vary in terms of size by the number of students and the size of the research operation, but are clustered and overlapping because of the remarkable amount of interdisciplinary activity that takes place on the campus. Some of them are focused heavily on undergraduate enterprise, some of them are more at the professional level, some of them are combinations of both. How do you do planning for something as interrelated as this? (figure 3)
We use a multi-level approach here that looks at stratas of planning across the University. One strata looks at planning that deals with the University as a whole and all the schools' programs. This is the President's Agenda for Excellence. These are fundamental goals that are set for all of us in each school that we ask each school to articulate in their individual strategic plans. That Agenda for Excellence leads to academic priorities which might be between schools or within schools.
In addition, each school develops a strategic plan which interfaces with the Agenda for Excellence, and is done in conjunction with the other deans and the provost. That plan may have some components that are clearly part of the Agenda and other components that are school specific which may be within a school or ride between schools. Let's look at several of those layers. I'm not going to be able to cover all of what's been done or what we're going to do. I just want to highlight a few areas.
First, I'll highlight the Agenda for Excellence which is translated into action in the six academic priorities. Let me just choose three priorities and tell you about some of the exciting things that are happening.
Life Sciences Technology and Policy
I've spoken here before about the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience which we got off the ground in the spring of last year. That's now up and running, and Martha Farah is the head of the center. It has a physical space, and we just learned a couple of days ago that we received a $2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support program development and faculty recruitment in this area. The idea here is to make investments from the central administration in key interdisciplinary areas that can then be leveraged into additional funding outside. That's exactly the way we want to see things done. Another big one that we're going to look at this year is Genomics, an initiative, that again will cut across the campus, is an area that I think is critically important for our credibility in the life sciences.
American and Comparative Democratic and Legal Institutions
The Annenberg Public Policy Center opened on campus just a few weeks ago. It is a center that's committed to the education of students in communication and the use of communications to better society and to attain the highest goals of citizenship. Many of you saw the impressive things that this center did during the past election campaign: really remarkable interactions between students and candidates. I think it literally blew the socks off the some of the candidates when they heard what these high school students were doing and the kinds of questions they were asking. A tremendous program was put together there.
We've been able to recruit four key faculty members in Political Science last year and I think again with a faculty like John DiLulio this program is off and running.
The Urban Agenda
I'll mention just the urban education initiative that involves a number of our schools including the Graduate School of Fine Arts, the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Work. We recently heard from the School Board that $20 million had been appropriated for the construction of the new pre-k through 8 school in West Philadelphia. This is a true community school, but will also represent a major initiative from our academic institution both in helping to plan it and also providing the very best in education for the children that will be there. So again, a leverage opportunity. The Center for Children's Policy Practice and Research is bringing together medicine, law, social work, and Graduate School of Education, to focus on issues that have to do with improving the well-being of our children, the development of children, the opportunities to grow up safe and healthy in their homes and in their local environments.
With Larry Sherman, a revitalized Fels Center is being redirected and is back firmly in focus. I could go on with the other three Agenda topics in the same way. Lots of progress has been made during the past year and lots of new initiatives are being planned.
Some things can be done through the Agenda for Excellence but others require school-specific programs. I want to focus just on two schools in my comments. The environment in which any one school operates reflects what's happening for all the schools. We recognize that every school thrives only because of the success of all the schools. Having said that, there are some areas which we have to identify for special attention during the course of the year.
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Let me just mention two of them. One, SEAS, the President already focused on, and I'll go over it very briefly. If I look at what we can do to improve the visibility and level of our undergraduate program, we can accomplish a tremendous amount by taking a good school like SEAS and making it excellent. Perhaps more than taking an excellent school and making it one step better. We really need to focus on schools that can benefit from the leverage. This is an area that is resurging in terms of its academic potential. It is an opportunity for niche marketing because of interactions with medicine, law, and with other schools in the University. It's one where we focus on timing with leadership change, now having a new dean with Eduardo Glandt. We will be supporting the school as the President indicated in its three main areas, computer and information sciences, bioengineering and materials sciences with major new programs, major facility upgrades that will extend over a period of several years.
School of Arts and Sciences
The other area that is absolutely critical for the reputation of the University is the School of Arts and Sciences. It has the largest undergraduate student base. It provides a critical reputational area for Penn. We have strong new leadership in its dean, Sam Preston. It clearly has deferred investments in program and physical space, and fundraising potential which is still being developed. This is an area where we can focus our attention and leverage the effect. We concur with the areas that have been identified by the school in its strategic plan working in conjunction with the provost's office and the Agenda focusing on the humanities, English, history, the social sciences, political science and economics and in the natural sciences particularly on biology and psychology. You've heard me talk before about the critical need to upgrade facilities in some of these areas. One area that we'd like to focus our attention on is this area of the natural sciences.
Let me finish with a few more general initiatives that need attention during the coming year: again, cross-cutting programs that apply to each school, interdisciplinary programs that knit our schools together, the strategic plans of individual schools which can be improved so that the matrix in which the schools operate are improved. There are other aspects of the University that cut across all this. For example the entire complex of schools is embedded in a physical space and the President has already spent considerable time talking about the Campus Development Plan. That is something we are going to push very hard on this year, it is very important for the future of the core academic mission.
Another general consideration is technology. Everything we do, whether it's the core academic mission, student life, or athletics, whatever goes on in the University takes place in the environment of our technological competence. If we are going to be a great University, we must be at the cutting-edge technologically too. I have asked faculty to come together with me during the course of the year to look at how we use technology, to recommend how we can be at the very cutting-edge of technology in our own classrooms, in the exchange of information on campus and in distance learning. That also triggers other considerations that cut across the entire faculty in all our schools, the biggest of which is the issue of copyright policy. We have a committee that is now being formed which will meet during the spring that will work with the administration to finalize a Copyright Policy that can take us forward into these new areas of distance learning and software and web based information transfer.
In concluding, I want to tell you that the most positive thing that I've done in the past seven or eight months is to convince Peter Conn to be my deputy provost. I've introduced Peter to you before. You know his tremendous talents as a humanist, an author and a teacher. He's been a Penn person for many, many years. He's made a tremendous difference in life around the provost's office. I'm going to ask Peter to take a few minutes to talk about graduate and undergraduate programs that specifically fall under his purview and then perhaps then we can take questions together.
This is my first more or less formal appearance at Council in this new role, although many of you and I have crossed paths and even swords over many years. So I what I shall do is introduce myself and the elements of the assignment that the provost and I have talked about over the last couple of weeks and months, and then provide some particulars. The emphasis is actually going to be on undergraduate education rather than graduate education although, as Bob has mentioned, and as I will mention again, both are part of the package.
As you know, there has been a fairly significant redesign of the deputy provost position in this iteration. This was intended to underscore the centrality of educational purposes within the administrative activities of the University. A process of consultation has yielded a job description with three broad elements, which I will summarize in just a sentence or so apiece.
The first is to support the provost, who, if I may say so, is doing a terrific job, sometimes by taking responsibility for particular issues, and sometimes by serving as consultant or representative.
The second is to work with the schools, both undergraduate and graduate, usually by way of the graduate and undergraduate deans; both groups of deans are organized quite formally as councils and meet on a regular basis to advance their educational programs.
The third is to work with several cultural resource centers, such wonderful places as the Annenberg Center, the Institute for Contemporary Art, the Arthur Ross Gallery, the University Museum, to assist them in addressing common goals, projects and problems. I want to return to that one at the end of these comments.
Let me begin with three governing assumptions, which I shared both with the committee I talked with last summer and again with Bob. In designing a deputy provostship which called some particular attention to the educational purposes of the University, we were at the same time insisting on the following key statement: that neither undergraduate nor graduate education at Penn is broken or in need of repair. Every measure available to us, from student evaluations of teaching, to admissions and matriculation data, to the research grants and the prizes won by the faculty and their academy memberships, indicates that our collective efforts are strong and indeed are surely stronger than they ever have been. By all the national rankings, people out there agree with that. The redesigned deputy provostship therefore represents an effort not to solve a problem but to capitalize on success at a major transition point in the University's history. That was the first assumption and it continues to guide my own thinking.
Second, Penn is a federal institution, as our moderator and constitutional scholar Will Harris regularly reminds us. The principal responsibility for the conduct of our educational enterprise lies with the individual schools and with their faculties and deans and students and so we work under that governing assumption.
Third and finally, within that framework, the provost's office does continue to play certain important roles. You've heard about some of them with respect to planning and there are many others. But from my point of view, the first of my own roles is to attempt to expedite, to articulate, to encourage, sometimes to discourage, and when appropriate to monitor-for instance, to measure existing programs and proposed initiatives against the University's goals, specifically as laid out in the Agenda for Excellence. In other words, there does remain a long list of educational and academic issues, especially those that engage more than one school at a time, for which some oversight or involvement at the provost's level seems appropriate. I'm going to give you a list of some of those in which I found myself involved. In a sense this will provide you with some of the details that underlie the general overview that the President and the Provost have already provided.
You've heard a great deal about this, so I'm not going to tell you a lot about it again. I will only emphasize that this is a remarkably ambitious undertaking. The dollars that we hear associated with possible renovations and construction are quite extraordinary--indeed depending on my mood quite alarming. But the intellectual ambitions are even more important: in a relatively rapid period of time, to transform what had essentially been a set of dormitory spaces into educationally and culturally productive spaces, and along with that to provide opportunities for students actually to take leadership roles. I will tell you quite candidly that I regard the College House System as very much a work- in-progress. I bring two perspectives, first as a member of the faculty, if that's still a permissible self reference, and as a master of one of these College Houses, which provides what I would never call a worm's eye view but a hands-on experience. Clearly, heroic efforts have been undertaken and some tremendous accomplishments can be itemized. Nonetheless, it seems reasonably clear that the College Houses are not yet adequately imbedded in the culture of our campus. I don't think that our faculty are sufficiently attentive to them. Frankly I'm not sure that all our students are sufficiently attentive to them, and here remains a lot of interesting and challenging work to be done. As you know, every new student now is automatically enrolled in a College House, and College Houses continues to involve many students after even their first year. In addition to undergraduate participation, the program involves a significant number of graduate students, since something like 125 graduate students are now living in those undergraduate residences as advisors and staff members.
A related and emerging and quite exciting work-in-progress is what we sometimes call hubs. Writers House has been tremendously successful and has called remarkable attention to the opportunities that ar offered by non-residential spaces where students are brought together by their shared interest in some subject or theme. I've had a close view of Civic House, the second of our hubs, because I've been rather actively involved in it. These first two so-called hubs provide both extraordinary opportunities for Penn, that simply weren't here as recently as five years ago. Students themselves comment at great length on it, and also express interest in additional hubs. So again this is a work-in-progress, in the sense that what hubs could mean to our campus is an almost open-ended question . Indeed so successful have the first two been that every day by e-mail I hear from at least one group or individual nominating himself or herself or themselves to be the next hub and telling me exactly which very attractive central campus space they ought to occupy.
There are also a long list of what I will call thematic connections among and across schools in which I'm either already deeply engaged or looking forward to addressing. I'll give you just a couple of examples. Internationalism, by which I don't mean exclusively the administrative work done so ably out of the Office of International Programs, but rather the theme of globalism and internationalism which is so central to the Agenda for Excellence. In fact we are a far more international university than we used to be by every measure, and technology and transportation are making universities of our sort more global in our populations and perspective every day. Where does Penn want to be in five years, for instance, with respect to programs of study abroad for undergraduates? What common standards should there be university-wide? Another topic of interest to the broad community is service learning courses. Penn offers more of these courses, which combine academic work with one kind of community service, than any other university in the United States. We are attempting in more or less sophisticated ways to give students the opportunity to enrich their educations both as young scholars and as citizens and servants of the community. Once again, what sorts or level of university-wide standards might be appropriate?
Another rapidly emerging issue which is transforming every aspect of our common experience is, of course, technology. My particular interest is in such questions as the uses of technology in distributed learning and advising. How can technology best be used by Penn faculty for teaching students elsewhere? How can technology enrich our courses on campus? Research, which the provost illustrated on the macrolevel with respect to the astonishing numbers of research grants and contracts that our faculty generate, is of great importance as well to our educational program for both graduate and undergraduate students. I have been consulting with faculty and students on the design of a research hub or center; I hope fairly soon we'll be able to offer a wheel out a draft and let people poke at and give us advice on. The purpose would be to enhance the opportunities for students to get high quality research work done. Sometimes it will mean providing some funds or facilities or some venues to make contacts they might otherwise not have been able to make, and to assist departments and schools and individual faculty in supporting their students. We will probably propose linking this--this is a prediction not a promise--with some kind of an institutional central effort to coordinate the care and management for our students in their competition for fellowships and scholarships. I need to say that with great caution and civility and prudence, because there are a lot of people on this campus who work effectively and ably in assisting students right now compete for national fellowships and scholarships. We do very well. The question is, can we do somewhat better; can a central effort which brings a lot of these very able citizens together with some additional faculty and student resources perhaps enhance our efforts, and can we link that in turn with our emerging research effort? I think perhaps we can.
Although advising is a concern across all the schools, the College is right now embarked on an ambitious self study and renovation project. Here, frankly, my role is to assist Rick Beeman try to get to wherever it is the College ought to get to. But all the schools share a concerns across their boundaries. Undergraduates take courses in all the different schools and the College Houses, too, are a site of advising opportunities that are still not fully developed .
Penn InTouch and Penn InTouch 2000 are extraordinary new technological tools for advising. Most of you are familiar with the current Penn InTouch. Certainly the students in the room use it all the time. Most of you haven't yet seen Penn InTouch 2000. It's going to knock your socks off when you do.
I've convened a task force on academic integrity which includes faculty and students from all four undergraduate schools. I want to emphasize that this task force had its origin in a student initiative. The students of the honor council argued persuasively that it would be productive for students and faculty and administration to sit together and design mechanisms and programs that would attempt to influence what we might call the culture of academic integrity at Penn. The recommendations that this task force will make sometime next semester will be intended to make the issues more visible, to have them taken more seriously, and to make them more part of the university's daily conversation.
Penn's identity as an urban university has been powerfully re-affirmed in recent years. Our faculty and students are increasingly and actively involved, as residents and partners in our community. We want as effectively as we can to enable and assist in the tremendous opportunities and help Penn students and faculty take even more advantage of the local community and of the City generally than they already do, to make significant contributions to the community's welfare, and to derive as much educational benefit as possible from their interactions.
Putting all of these elements together, I believe that we have a chance to construct and nurture a more distinctive educational and cultural identity here: to make "Penn" at least as much and perhaps more than merely the sum of its extraordinary parts. I will describe by way of concluding one initiative which represents a microcosm of how this could happen. I mentioned that I work with the cultural resource centers such as Annenberg Center, Institute for Contemporary Arts, and so on. We've put together quite recently a new Council on Arts and Culture, about which I may come back and report on at greater length. It's quite exciting, because in bringing together those various Penn cultural centers, we aim to see if we can accomplish several things at once. We would like to make these centers more visible and more actively used, and to see what can be accomplished by linking them together collaboratively to address shared tasks and concerns. But in addition to that, we are committed to the proposition that we can take greater educational advantage both for our graduate and undergraduate students of those resource centers by linking them with curricular and quasi- curricular sites, including the College Houses. We aspire to to bring those resources more fully into orbit of the community, both on and off campus. Because of the range of opportunities this could offer, it serves as a microcosmic example, which engages educational and cultural and community issues more or less in the same place; I'm enjoying it tremendously.
Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 14, December 7, 1999