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COUNCIL: State of the University: Report of the President
October 28, 2008, Volume 55, No. 10

President Amy Gutmann

Earlier this week, students, faculty, staff, trustees, overseers, and alumni received a letter from me regarding the impact of the economic and financial climate on Penn (click here).

Most members of the campus community are concerned not only with the overall impact of unsettled markets on Penn, but also with the specific impact that it will have on their respective schools and centers. Fortunately, our strategic priorities and our prudent management of resources put us in a very strong position and will continue to do so as we navigate emerging economic realities.

By every major measure, Penn is stronger than ever before. This is not to say that we are immune. Penn may face challenges. We will meet them by doing what we do best: focusing on strategic priorities, managing budgets responsibly, and doing more with less. These traditions have served us in fair and foul weather and will remain the centerpiece of our approach to this challenging time in our nation’s history.

If nothing else, present circumstances give Penn an opportunity to show an unparalleled level of focus and a staunch dedication to our highest priorities. Our ability to thrive through these troubled times will further distinguish us and, ultimately, advantage us as we continue to support the best and brightest students, regardless of economic background, and recruit and retain the most eminent teachers and scholars.

Despite the realities of our present-day economy, I am pleased to report that we continue to have the capacity to pursue initiatives that are focused on further integrating knowledge and increasing access at Penn.

Today, I would like to share the context for the new Penn Integrates Knowledge Neuroscience Initiative. This initiative is enabled by a landmark $50 million contribution from the Health System. The PIK Neuro Initiative will support five new Penn Integrates Knowledge professorships in the field of neuroscience. It will provide start-up funds for collaborative research, and strengthen interdisciplinary initiatives between the School of Medicine and other schools within the University.

Why neuroscience? First: Achievements in other areas of medicine have far outpaced our understanding of the brain. Now more than ever, advances in neuroscience are critical. The prevalence of autism and other developmental disabilities afflict the world’s children. The ubiquity of neurodegenerative diseases plagues our aging population. In the vast uncharted territory of neuroscience, we seek insights that will improve lives.

Second: Our genes, our nervous systems, our senses, and our behaviors have an impact on every facet of our lives. This fact translates into endless opportunities to integrate knowledge between the neurosciences and other areas of study. A better understanding of the brain science of eating can inform approaches to healthcare policy creation, obesity prevention, or eating disorder intervention. That’s just one example. Neuroscience is rich with opportunities for fruitful collaborations and its growth at Penn will further our goal of integrating knowledge.

Third: We have an excellent foundation on which to build. Penn’s Mahoney Institute is the oldest neuroscience institute in the nation and, today, Penn boasts one of the world’s leading neuroscience research communities. With 182 faculty from 32 departments across six schools, our community of scholars is well-positioned as a global leader and will elevate neuroscience at Penn to an unprecedented level of eminence.

We have been advancing initiatives in the neurosciences for years. Now, efforts must be coalesced and we must move forward boldly. I’d like to call on Dr. Rebecca Bushnell, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Glen Gaulton, Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer of the School of Medicine, to share the renewed vision for neuroscience at Penn.




Almanac - October 28, 2008, Volume 55, No. 10