FROM THE PRESIDENT
Moving Forward Together
Happy New Year! I hope all of you enjoyed a rejuvenating holiday with friends and loved ones. I wish each of us the best of luck with keeping our New Year’s resolutions!
We’re all resolved to keep our great University moving forward under the Penn Compact. I’ve been thrilled to see our great faculty, our amazing students, our fabulous alumni, and our multi-talented staff both uniting behind our overarching vision of propelling Penn from excellence to eminence in all our core endeavors, and also contributing to the evolution of the Compact as a catalyst for bold and innovative ideas for moving the University forward.
Achieving eminence will depend in large part on accomplishing two objectives that are inextricably connected: making Penn more accessible and affordable to talented undergraduate and graduate students from all backgrounds, and empowering preeminent faculty across all 12 schools.
We have already taken two important steps to propel Penn from excellence to eminence in graduate education. First, we have raised the minimum stipend for Ph.D. students by 11 percent to $17,500 starting in the 2005-06 academic year. This increase places Penn among the national leaders in supporting graduate education, and we will take the necessary steps to stay there.
Second, thanks to generous individual gifts from a number of our Trustees, beginning this fall we will offer summer stipends of approximately $3,900 each to 15 entering Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences. The stipends, which will be named fellowship prizes, will boost our capacity to educate the next generation of the world’s top scholars in their chosen fields.
To achieve true eminence in teaching and research, we must focus on retaining and recruiting the very best faculty. One important way to strengthen our superb faculty for the future is to create more endowed faculty chairs that build specifically on Penn’s comparative advantage as the Ivy League University that prizes—and supports—integrating knowledge across disciplines and engaging with local and global communities.
Creating many more endowed faculty chairs while growing our endowment for financial aid will be among my highest priorities in our upcoming capital campaign.
The Penn academic community and I are also committed to moving forward together at great speed in charting new ground in local and global engagement and in integrating research and teaching across schools and disciplines in order to address the greatest intellectual challenges of our times.
For example, only last fall Penn became one of only six universities nationwide to win a major National Science Foundation grant to create a new Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. This could not have happened without close collaboration among Penn Engineering, Penn Medicine, and our School of Arts and Sciences. Penn pulled together a team of superb faculty in chemistry, condensed-matter physics, molecular biology, medicine, and, of course, in materials science and other fields of engineering. As a result, our new Nano/Bio Interface Center is now poised to become a magnet for top faculty throughout the world who want to drive the nanotech revolution, and for their superb students who will carry the nanotech revolution still further into the future.
In other areas, a major highlight of the spring will be an international symposium devoted to understanding the complex socioeconomic and political dimensions of women’s health and to identifying strategies that will promote safe motherhood in an unsafe world. Arising from the collaboration between the Schools of Nursing and Medicine, the Penn Summit on Global Issues in Women’s Health has already sparked great interest among a large number of faculty who are contributing their own research to the enterprise. They are also building new relationships with one another that are potentially groundbreaking in their implications for innovative research, teaching, and public service.
And although it’s less than a year old, the Penn Institute for Urban Research is well on its way toward shaping the future of urban studies and practice. The Institute recently created a Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics (MUSA) degree program, which will train graduate students in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and social spatial statistics while giving them a foundation in urban issues across multiple academic fields.
The Penn Summit on Global Women’s Health, the Penn Nano/Bio Interface Center, and the Penn Institute for Urban Research are achieving an integration of knowledge that will lead directly to global engagement by shaping future institutional initiatives and contemporary professional practices. They are but three of the many ways in which our faculty, students, and staff are coming together to generate new knowledge and discoveries that connect Penn to communities around the world as partners in transformation.
I know of no other university where such collaborations take place so happily and successfully. And I see nothing stopping us from riding the wave of the Penn Compact to become a 21st century university that is truly without peer.
I must close this message on a somber note. I join with all of you in grieving the tragic loss of more than 150,000 lives caused by December 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. And I shudder at the scale of suffering of so many of our fellow human beings who survived the tsunami yet remain at grave risk.
This tragedy reminds us that we live in an interconnected world, and that we have a responsibility to offer whatever care and assistance we can. As a University community, we will provide appropriate services to students, faculty, and staff whose lives have been directly affected by the disaster. And I encourage each of you to assist in the ongoing relief effort underway by giving to the agency of your choice.
Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 16, January 11, 2005