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COUNCIL State of the University

Last Wednesday's Council meeting was primarily devoted to the extended reports on The State of the University. The portion of the presentation by President Judith Rodin is below; the remaining sections will be published next week.

I'm delighted to have this opportunity to report on the State of the University. I'll be joined in this presentation by my colleagues, Peter Conn, Neal Nathanson and Robin Beck. I will lead off and present a structural overview and a few highlights, and then Peter will talk about the Strategic Plan; Neal about research--where we've made a number of very significant changes and have a number of accomplishments to report--particularly in the area of research compliance; and Robin will talk about technology.

Starting with our incoming freshman class, clearly, as we have said so many times, they are the brightest and most talented group of men and women that we have had. I know that's always hard for the sophomores, juniors and seniors to hear, but the data each year show that the recruited classes are more and more talented. We are struck by the data that was reported in the Chronicle of Blacks in Higher Education and we are working to try to understand why as an institution Penn's yield of African American students is lower than that of our peer groups, something that actually we were unaware of until we saw the data. We will be back to the community with a report on that in the near term. In the aggregate however, the percentages in terms of actual numbers of African American students are a bit misleading. Penn and Cornell are at the lowest in the group in terms of percentages but in terms of absolute numbers, are actually the highest. It's just that we have such a large incoming class. So in absolute numbers we are not under-represented relative to our peers but our yield is clearly troubling and we will examine it.

We are very pleased at a number of quite significant faculty recruitments and retentions. There will be a report within the next few weeks on the efforts of the Provost's Office and the various schools with regard to Gender Equity. We are waiting for the Diversity Minority Equity Report and that committee is hard at work and we intend to make a great deal of progress in both areas in the coming recruitment cycle.

As you know, Raymond Davis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, so in three years Penn has had two Nobel Prize winners and we think we have many more on the horizon. Daniel Janzen, who was previously named a MacArthur Fellow and recognized, with the Kyoto Prize, was awarded the Albert Einstein World Award for Science based on his compelling work in environmental conservation.

Many of you know Stuart Churchill, Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering, who was awarded one of the highest awards of the National Academy of Engineering, the 2002 Founders Award. Susan Fuhrman, Dean of the Graduate School of Education, was elected to the National Academy of Education and our Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis was elected last week to the Institute of Medicine; and many of our faculty learned of their election to that part of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ira Harkavy, whose leadership of the Center for Community Partnerships certainly has to be credited in large part for Penn's #1 ranking in Service Learning by U.S. News & World Report, will be honored on November 9 by National Campus Compact. Ira will receive the Ehrlich Award, named for former Penn Provost Tom Ehrlich, for his work integrating service into the curriculum and institutionalizing service learning at Penn as well as literally being a role model for many other colleges and universities across the country and increasingly across the world.

Even closer to home, and outside the academic arena, the entire City of Philadelphia will have the opportunity to sample the literary creativity of one of our own talented faculty in creative writing. Lorene Cary's book, The Price of A Child, will be the book that the City of Philadelphia will be reading together this spring--and we're delighted that her work was acknowledged and is part of the One Book--One Philadelphia project being sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia.

We have added new people this year to administrative positions in critical roles. Jerome Knast is the University's Director of Student Disabilities Services. This was a position that was recommended based on a committee report and discussion that we had many times in Council that we organize disabilities services for our students all in one place. That is now accomplished and we have a great new leader for that effort.

Tim Fournier is now Penn's Institutional Compliance Officer. He will be operating within the Office of Audit and Compliance; there are many issues of institutional compliance both regulatory issues and legal issues that Tim will be responsible for.

Lauren Steinfeld has been hired as the first Chief Privacy Officer of a university, and many of you have had contact with her already in her role in protecting our privacy, particularly when it comes to personal information and assuring the University's compliance with new privacy regulations regarding medical information which will be extremely important, both our own personal information in receiving medical care and the information that we hold with regard to our patients in this large health care organization that we run.

I am especially pleased to note that Cliff Stanley joined us as Executive Vice President on October 16 and he has certainly hit the ground running. We're enjoying working with him and we look forward to his participation in Council. We expect to have a broad community celebration and chance for people to get to know him and we'll be posting notices--a big open community party for everyone on The Green within the next week or two.

We're still involved in the search process to hire a Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations. We're part of the way through that process and we hope to have someone named in the near term.

Some of you are aware that Dr. Robert Martin, who has been CEO of the Penn Health System and fulfilled many other leadership roles within the Health System over his five years at Penn, is retiring at the end of June. So, we will be in a search mode for a new CEO of the Health System. We have our senior leadership in place with Dr. Arthur Rubenstein, who is the Executive Vice President for the Health System and Dean of the Medical School. Dr. Rubenstein tells me that he is already in the search process and is interviewing search firms. So we hope to move quickly in that area.

We as a campus community, and certainly the administration who worked so closely with her, are mourning the loss of our dear colleague, Dr. Barbara Lowery who was so important in the Provost's Office and to our faculty, in particular, fulfilling the responsibility for faculty appointments and promotions and many other areas of responsibility. She was a great University Citizen, chair of Faculty Senate my first year as president and somebody who helped me to learn about this complicated place and then has so ably served the University in her administrative role. Her legacy is great and we all learned from her.

Penn's investments in the West Philadelphia community are certainly beginning to demonstrably yield significant returns. Particularly in terms of engaging other partners to become involved in promoting and contributing to economic development in the neighborhood. We announced last week a new partnership with Citizens Bank to promote community revitalization through financial options. They will be offering almost $30 million of outright grants and loans to continue housing improvements, small business development and other opportunities for growth and expansion of our efforts which really ended in the 47-48th Street range and were bounded by Market and Pine. With this infusion of new resources, the boundaries can be expanded to at least 52nd Street and take a broader cut from north to south as well. If it hadn't been for Penn's belief in the neighborhood and investment in the neighborhood at an earlier time, we certainly would not have been able to bring these kinds of financially well-resourced partners to the table to involve themselves in these efforts.

We also opened our Penn Assisted public school to a great deal of celebration a few weeks ago named for Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, a Penn alum. The school is really flourishing and has great potential, particularly at this time when the Philadelphia schools are so troubled and there is so much concern about how we as a City will really support public education. Penn has demonstrated not only it's commitment but it's extraordinary capacity to give a lot of hope to our West Philadelphia community in this beautiful school and in the sister and brother schools that will go along with this and be co-resourced--Lea School, and Bryant and Wilson--some of the lowest performing schools in our neighborhood

that Penn and Penn people are also taking responsibility for. I think we all can feel proud of a University that not only is a great Ivy League institution but a University that has taken such a leading role, a partnership role, in its community and tried to really make a difference.

From a development perspective, the University has fared quite well this year. In the first quarter of the fiscal year, we've received over $148 million in gifts and pledges. Notably, of course, the $100 million to the Annenberg School by the late Walter Annenberg and Leonore Annenberg. But even that aside, the $48 million has us right on target for the first quarter in what our expectations are. We received a terrific gift of $4.5 million, from Robert McNeil and the Barra Foundation, to build a new center, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, which is very exciting. That money is going not only to a physical structure but to a lot of graduate student and postdoctoral support in the area of Early American studies that we're thrilled about. The $3 million gift from trustee Paul Kelly, to the School of Arts and Sciences for the Huntsman program in international studies and a variety of other areas.

I raise the fundraising issue not only to say that we're doing well and that many people who worked hard at this deserve a congratulatory note, but to tell our community that we are doing well at this time has additional resonance. Dartmouth has just announced a large series of layoffs and some faculty freezes; before that Stanford and Duke also announced a significant number of layoffs and faculty freezes that are being influenced both by poor endowment performance and by a lack of continuing receipts in philanthropy that was pledged. We are in the position clearly, where we did some necessary belt-tightening last year and we may do some this year again, we may certainly need to do that, but both in our fundraising and also in the performance of our endowment relative to our peers' endowment performance, Penn is actually doing quite well. So many of the gains in our peer institutions' endowments that had us sort of shocked in the heyday of the late nineties, have more than been taken back by the erratic performance by these same investment vehicles in the early period of this decade. Penn didn't participate broadly in the upswing, but Penn is not being buffeted by the downturn nearly to the same extent. So I feel good about that. I think we can feel confident this investment philosophy and our philanthropy is on course.

I was reflecting on what I talked about last year in my State of the University Report and clearly last year at this time we were all so much reeling from the effects of September 11 and I think it would have been hard then and certainly I didn't try to anticipate what the long term impact would be. But I must say that reflecting back on the year I can say with so much pride that this University has been an amazing place this year. All of you are credited with why that has happened. It's been a place where people have really talked across their differences, where we have come to understand other points of view even if we don't accept them. We're willing to listen to one another, and where we really do have a sense of what makes this a great community and what differentiates us may be from some of our peer institutions where there has been less effort over years to really build the fabric of the community, and at Penn that effort has always been maintained and I think we've benefited from it.

We also saw in this year, the formation of I*STAR, the University's Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response, which has brought faculty from across the University doing research and teaching in areas related to terrorism, to homeland security, broadly defined, whether it's the safety of the food supply or risk analysis, or bio-terrorism, together to do some really exciting work. There will be new courses developed, there will be new graduate and postdoctoral opportunities as a result of some of the work they are doing and I really think it's a very exciting and also a common if you will, indicator of Penn and the way Penn responds in its interdisciplinary efforts to the practical challenges that we face.

I think that I will close with this, and merely say that from my own perspective, that I think the University is in a wonderful position to take its next step forward. We have a Strategic Plan in hand as Deputy Provost Conn will tell you. The schools and centers are working on those plans during this year, and we have tremendous ambition for where we go next. It really is an opportunity to consolidate the gains that we've made to Build on Excellence, which is the title of the next Strategic Plan and to continue moving Penn forward. Moving Penn forward means not "the institution" it means Penn's people because you, I, all of us, we are the institution and our goal is to make the experience of being here for all of us one that is energizing and positive--one that we feel we benefit from as well as have the ability to contribute to and that's the underlying goal of what Building on Excellence is really all about.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 11, November 5, 2002