Ideas in Action
The Provost announces the establishment of a program to provide undergraduates with new research opportunities and the chance to apply classroom learning in real-world contexts. This program will consist of a new set of problem-based classes called “Ideas in Action” courses. These can be new courses, or can build on existing courses, converting them to the problem-based learning model. In each “Ideas in Action” course, students will conduct research and analysis under the supervision of a Penn faculty member around a project brought to the class by a leading public official or distinguished policymaker from outside the University. The policymaker will meet with the class at its outset to present them with a real-world problem and will return at the end of the semester for an in-depth briefing on the students’ research findings concerning that problem. If the faculty member so chooses, the policymaker may also come to the class periodically during the course of the semester.
The Fels Institute of Government will coordinate the program. The policymaker may be identified by the faculty member running the course or, if so requested, the Fels Institute will assist in identifying an appropriate person. Each “Ideas in Action” course will be listed in the instructor’s home school, and will be cross-listed in Fels under a Fels 400 course number to provide one-stop course listing and administrative support for the courses. Fels will organize the initial logistics for the courses (including arranging rooms, preparing brochures, and listing the “Ideas in Action” courses with the Registrar). Fels will also support these courses with a project manager, to work with the distinguished policymaker, faculty member and students on the project and its logistics. Fels will publish the students’ final reports describing the outcomes of their research on the Institute’s website and make the findings available to policy makers across the nation and around the world.
An example of an “Ideas in Action” course is Professor Harvey Rubin’s class on homeland security in Philadelphia, taking place this term. Students in the course have worked with the city’s homeland security task force and have helped assess the city’s plans for dealing with catastrophes, both natural and deliberate. At the end of the course, students will brief Mayor John Street on their findings.
Interested faculty members who wish to discuss a possible “Ideas in Action” course or would like more information should contact Professor Donald Kettl, director of the Fels Institute of Government at email@example.com.
This program will be piloted in the four undergraduate schools. A grant of up to $5,000 will be made available for each course to cover the cost of bringing the distinguished policymaker to campus, for housing while here, and to cover such incidentals as a meal with the class. (It may not be used as an honorarium for the distinguished policymaker.) The Provost’s office expects to fund 8-10 “Ideas in Action” courses during the 2006-07 academic year.
Faculty members interested in sponsoring “Ideas in Action” courses should notify the Provost’s office by May 19, 2006 by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ideas in Action course proposal.” To the extent possible, the following information should be provided:
• Name of Penn faculty member
• Phone number
• E-mail address
• Course number
• Proposed maximum course enrollment (faculty are encouraged to keep these courses small, no more than 25 students)
• A brief description of the course
• Name of the proposed outside distinguished public official or policymaker
• His or her professional affiliation
• His or her phone number and e-mail address
• A copy of his or her bio or CV should be attached, if available
• A brief description of the research project the students will undertake in the course
Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 30, April 18, 2006