How Excellent? , continued


Irvine Auditorium, the renovated Houston Hall, and Wynn Commons. Photos by Gregory Benson Photography.

 

 

The creation of the College House system in 1999 was another signature development relating to undergraduate life. Each of the 12 College Houses, which accommodate a total of 5,400 undergraduates, has a live-in faculty master, house dean, and advisers. Through a program known as the Wheel, students have around-the-clock access to in-person and online advising in math, writing, library research, foreign languages, computer science and engineering, and career services. Each house also has its own computer lab, with staff that can provide quick help for hardware and software problems whenever they occur.
    In addition to the 12 residences, two “hubs” for special interests established themselves on campus during this period. The first, Kelly Writers House, has become ground zero for all things literary on campus, while Civic House is headquarters for community-service activities. Other hubs are in the planning stages—for example, in science and technology and performing arts.
    Some $138 million has been raised for undergraduate financial aid, and $75 million for graduate and professional students. Nearly 400 new scholarship funds have been established.
    Recruiting and retaining top-flight faculty is key both to educating students and to extending Penn’s standing as a leading research institution. The 1995-2000 period has seen significant growth in the number of endowed professorships established at Penn. University faculty have also been able to attract a growing share of funding for sponsored research.
    Penn has added 57 new endowed professorships during the Agenda—key bargaining chips in attracting the best and brightest academics. Formerly on the faculty at Princeton, Dr. John DiIulio C’80 G’80 was named a Fox Leadership Professor, for example. DiIulio, who recently resigned a head of President Bush’s office of faith-based programs, is one of several new faculty in political science—a department singled out in the Agenda as both central to Penn’s academic priorities and in need of rebuilding. Other new faculty include Dr. Lawrence Sherman, one of the world’s leading criminologists, who came to Penn to direct the Fels Center of Government [“A Passion for Evidence,” March/April 2000].
    Growth in external funding for research by Penn faculty has accelerated from 2 percent annual growth in 1995 to 11 percent annually over the last five years, and jumped by 13 percent in FY2000. That year, the University received nearly $540 million in external funding, up from $322 million in FY95.
    New research centers established during the Agenda include the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute; the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, focusing on studies of the mind, brain, and behavior; the Center for Bioinformatics, designed to link biomedical researchers, computer scientists, and mathematicians working on computationally intensive research; and the University-wide Genomics Institute [“Gazetteer,” May/June].
    Perhaps the most concrete (and brick, and steel, and glass) evidence of change over the last five years has been the explosion of construction activity on and around the campus, which has included an array of both commercial and academic space.
    Falling into the category of major campus amenities are Sansom Common and the Perelman Quadrangle. Sansom Common, completed in 1999, transformed a surface parking lot at 36th and Walnut into a major crossroads of the University, anchored by the Penn Bookstore and the Inn at Penn, and including several restaurants and retail establishments. Perelman Quad, completed in fall 2000, combined extensive renovations of four of Penn’s most historic structures (College Hall, Houston Hall, Logan Hall, and Irvine Auditorium) and one 1960s-era building, Williams Hall, with construction of a new central plaza, Wynn Commons, to create a new hub of undergraduate life.

 

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