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COUNCIL State of the University

The October 29 Council meeting was primarily devoted to the annual State of the University presentations. Provost Robert Barchi's presentation appears below. Last week's issue contained President Judith Rodin's Report, including the portion presented by Landis Zimmerman.

  • Honors
  • Strategic Plan
  • International Students
  • Strategic Initiatives
  • Middle States Accrediation


    You've heard me say many times that the quality of the institution really is a reflection of the quality of the faculty, and we have an outstanding faculty. In the past year our prizes ranged from the Nobel Prize in physics through a variety of prizes in medicine and chemistry. A significant number of our faculty have been elected to the National Academies, the McArthur Fellowship--which we heard about recently-- and the American Philosophical Society. We're just starting to hear the results from this year and I know it looks like it's going to be as good as it was last year.

    We are equally proud of the performance of our students. With Art Casciato and CURF helping us out, we have had another great year. We have 18 Fulbright fellowships, three Gates, three Goldwaters, and four Thourons. What this says is that the outstanding students that we have always had are now starting to get some of the recognition that they fully deserve. We also have an increasing number of students moving through the Rhodes scholarship pipeline and making it to the finals. I know that as time goes on we'll start to list more Rhodes as well. So we're very, very pleased with what our students are showing. It's not that the students have changed, I think that it's just an indication of recognition from the rest of the world of the great students that we have.

    Strategic Plan

    Let's review the objectives for this planning process; we've been working on this for almost two years now, and we've refined our approach to the strategic plan. There are three levels of emphasis in the plan. First, we are clearly in the very top group of research universities in the world, and one of our major objectives is to maintain our competitive position in that rapidly moving cohort. Now realize that being one of the top ten means that you are running with a very fast crowd, no one's standing still, and in order to keep our competitive position we will have to continue to invest heavily in our faculty and our students, our programs and our physical plant. So the first objective we have to have is to maintain our competitive position, and that's no mean feat. But in addition to that, we have to build on our differentiating strengths, and we will be making that the second major focus of the strategic plan. Finally, we're looking to other areas where we think that an investment over the next eight years will truly be transformative to the way the University looks.

    You've seen the plan before; I'm not going to speak about it at all today except to say that it does have four major categories that focus on assuring academic excellence, on capitalizing on differentiating strengths, on looking at the way education is going to be carried out in the 21st century, and ensuring that we have the capacity to do that here at the University. What we have been doing in the past six months or so is creating the overarching umbrella of a strategic plan for the University, and we've been working out the business plan that goes along with that.

    The Leadership Agenda

    Additionally, each one of the schools has now been asked to draft or redraft their strategic plans, so that they are consonant with the overall academic plan of the institution. They have been doing that; the deans have been sharing their plans with each other and refining them. Their final plans have been brought together over the course of this summer. Next week we will be presenting to the Board of Trustees the individual strategic plans of each of the 12 schools and showing how they interdigitate with the overall strategic plan for the University. That will lead, as the President indicated, to a development plan for the University, and for each of the schools, that will form the underpinning for a capital campaign that we will roll out perhaps a year or so from now.

    Integration of School Strategic Plans

    What we need to do is fill in the foundation of perhaps a billion dollars worth of projects, which will solidify our position and allow us to continue to be very competitive in this group of very rapidly moving top-research intensive universities, in the country, and in the world. Secondly, we will spend perhaps another billion dollars in the ideal world, developing our differentiating programs and developing our academic priorities. Finally, we would like to see about $1.5 to $1.8 billion go into efforts that will truly transform the campus, transform the University and leave it a place in eight years which is fundamentally different from the way it is right now.

    International Students

    Academic Level 2002-03

    About a third of our international students are in our master's and professional programs, that includes our MBA programs, about 25% are undergraduates and that constitutes about 10% of our undergraduate population, about 25% are in our Ph.D. programs, and the remainder are either in immediately post-degree practical training or in our ELPs. We were concerned that the fallout from 9/11 might have a negative impact on our international student population in terms of incoming students. We have seen a slow but steady increase in the number of applications and matriculations in our foreign students reflected mainly in the graduate student population. Our undergraduate population is held constant and we have not seen any drop-off in this part of our student body, which is so important to maintain the diversity on campus and maintain the cultural mix that we think is critical to the educational environment in which all of us learn.

    Where we thought we might have problems, for example is the number of documents issued through OIP. Of the documents issues we've had, 24 were in denials and 28 in delays at the original level. We're getting these problems right at the point of the applications being processed through the embassies in these foreign countries. They are by and large not delays that are occurring in the interaction between our international program office and SEVIS. They are happening well before that. They are almost exclusively in a few target countries, 31 of them were in fact in China. We're doing the best that we can working through our representatives and our contacts to try to accelerate the resolution of those delays, and see if we can get some of those denials reversed. The reasons are the ones you might expect. There are delays because of visa interview appointments, difficulty with security advisory opinions, that is sensitive academic areas or certain restricted countries. There are also an increased number of visa denials where the consular official has reason to believe the student plans to immigrate to the United States, that it is not their intention to return to the country of origin, that particular country requires in order for that visa to be issued.

    It has become increasingly difficult to enter and leave the United States freely, so we have to caution our students not to leave and expect to come back in two to three weeks for a vacation because they may experience re-entry difficulty. Secondly, we have increased oversight and regulation for all changes in academic status, academic program, current local address, where we're required to notify the government, they are required to send us back documents. So, the process takes much longer. It's a process over which we do not have that much control. Thirdly, there are noticeable changes that happened in the immigration regulation, and the notice that we get is usually very short. Finally, SEVIS--the tracking system for all these policies and all these programs--is still not 100% reliable. There are still glitches and delays that occur in that massive digital database system. OIP has been very responsive to this. As you know, they process documents for visa applications; they do all the reports to SEVIS, and they provide all the advice to our University community. In 2002-2003 they did about 9,000 advising visits and just since July 1 of this year they have already done 2,500 advising visits. This is on top of the tremendously increased workload that they have in dealing with all the visa information that has to go to SEVIS and come back from SEVIS and all the paperwork that hasn't been supplanted by the electronic system. They do provide advising appointments now two-days-a-week and have walk-in advising three-days-a-week.

    There are a number of special programs, including the first one, which was organized with the assistance of and at the request of GAPSA, the UA and GSAC. There will be an open forum with those bodies in early December and we hope that will be an opportunity again for a free and open exchange of information between the students who are having difficulties, and the part of our organization that has to resolve those difficulties.

    Strategic Initiatives

    Office of Strategic Initiatives

    In creating the Office of Strategic Initiatives, the idea was to look comprehensively at what we're doing at the University. Certainly we are in the business of generating new knowledge at Franklin's University, we are in the business of teaching, of transmitting that knowledge to our students, but we're also in the business of translating that knowledge into useful tools for the common good. That's technology transfer, that's reaching out into the community. You've heard President Rodin talk about all the wonderful things that Penn has been doing with the city and with the community that requires active shepherding, active outreach in community involvement and engagement. The idea was to create a single portal for the University and that's what the Office of Strategic Initiatives is all about and to pull under that portal technology transfer, corporate R&D relationships and regional economic development. So what we did is to create a new position for a Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives, and to align under that Vice Provost, the Center for Technology Transfer--that's headed by Lou Berneman, and new groups in regional economic development, and to realign some elements that were previously in development and augment them to create a robust corporate relations entity. What we've also done now is to add advisory bodies on tech transfer and corporate relations drawn from each of the 12 schools to advise the Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives, and make sure that we are fully-coordinated across campus and that we're not doing this with multiple contacts through the same outside corporation or the same outside economic development entity but that Penn has a unified and integrated approach to these things. We recruited Les Hudson to do this job; we were able to recruit him here in June of 2003 (see Almanac April 29, 2003). So I hope that he'll come and speak to you himself at one of our future meetings and tell you about some of the exciting programs that he's doing: technology transfer, 442 new patent applications last year, 82 new options and license agreements. More importantly, there were 12 new start-up ventures last year. Two or three years ago that number was one or two. $10.9 million was distributed through the Patent Policy and a number that we're starting to track more carefully now, the net present value of our portfolio, the technical risk adjusted valuation of our portfolio which we believe is now about $73 million and a measure of how we're performing year on year. We're looking now to evaluate this segment of the portfolio--the projects that haven't gone out to start start-ups, that haven't been licensed or optioned, and ask how we can move these through the pipeline more efficiently. One of the topics that I hope we'll review with you during the next few months are some of the new ideas Les has to move those projects forward.

    You've heard about the corporate relations that we have now with GlaxoSmithKline, through Arthur Rubenstein's effort in the School of Medicine, a $10 million initial investment which we hope will be extended over the next five years at about $10 million a year. We're currently in negotiations with IBM, in both the life sciences area and the e-education areas and we're looking forward to some ongoing and growing relationships with IBM. We're in initial negotiations with Wyeth, and with Lockheed Martin and that list will continue to grow over the subsequent months.

    Regional Economic Development is a question of coordinating the efforts we have. You know that President Rodin was instrumental in putting together Innovation Philadelphia; I've had a lot of input into PA BioAdvance; John Fry was on the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership board. What we need to do now is coordinate all of these efforts, make sure we're speaking with one voice across all of these regional economic development opportunities in the community. That's exactly what we're doing through this office.

    As an example of one opportunity, we're pushing the nanotechnology opportunity that started with Drexel and Penn in the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership, to form the Nanotechnology Institute (NTI). We're now moving to beef-up the infrastructure at both Drexel and Penn and looking at the beginning of the next calendar year to present the State with opportunities for creating a broader nanotechnology center that has more impact on local economic development and local community industries. More importantly, we are thinking about building regional center facilities that will benefit both Penn and Drexel and will really be significant additions to our research infrastructure using leveraged funds from outside the University.

    The Vice Provost for Research is a critical position in the University; we will have a new Vice Provost for Research onboard and in place on November 3 (see Almanac November 4, 2003). On the associate provost's side, the search committee is actively working and I personally am eager to hear how they are doing, soon.

    Middle States Accreditation

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    Middle States Accreditation is a process that we go through periodically at Penn. This is the formal accreditation process for the University. There isn't any question about Penn being accredited but we have to go through this process, and as we do we should use it as a mechanism for assessing ourselves in an area that we think is important. And that's exactly what the Middle States Review Committee has asked us to do. The area we have chosen is graduate education. As you know it's one of the strategic priorities for the University in our academic plan. We are also coming up on a National Research Council set of evaluations within the next two years, something that's only done every ten years but benchmarks our programs with respect to other institutions and leaves us with a mark that we will have to live with for the next ten years. So we're very focused on trying to see how we can improve our graduate programs right now and what we should be doing ourselves over the next six-to-eight years to work our way through this process. We've done a self-study, and we will be using the Middle States process to do that. Over the past 18 months we've had a series of six major committees chaired by our faculty members working under the leadership of Walter Licht and in collaboration with Peter Conn, our deputy provost, looking at the key areas of graduate education. Now each one of these committees has been working through two semesters and has developed preliminary reports, shared them, has now come out with draft reports that they have submitted and are putting together for comment. These draft reports are now hopefully bringing interaction from the rest of the community and will now be bringing those forward as Penn's product for our interactions with the Middle States review team.

    The review team is chaired by Don Randal, the former provost at Cornell, who is now president of the University of Chicago; Jerry Ostriker, formerly the provost at Princeton, an astrophysicist; Peter Ellison, who is the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. So it's a really good external review team; they will be leading us through this process. The external review is scheduled for May 2-8, 2004; we should have a final report back by the 19th and then a meeting to discuss their findings and to give our response to it in June 2004. So I look forward to your participation and we're going to probably be calling on many of you around the table to help us out with this. Not only do we go through an accreditation process, but also we come out with a process that gives us some insights in a very critical area which is graduate education.



      Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 12, November 11, 2003