News Briefs

news briefs


New York City’s utilitarian, but unsightly construction sheds that protect pedestrians at building sites are getting a makeover because of a Penn School of Design student’s vision. Young-Hwan Choi’s design for the Urban Umbrella beat out 163 competitors to win the American Institute of Architect’s urbanSHED International Design Competition.

Choi, a first-year architecture student, worked with a team of professionals including architect Andrés Cortés and engineer Sarrah Khan to produce a design with translucent roof panels that allow more light to shine through than the old steel and plywood sheds. The Urban Umbrella has tree-like supports, so storefront views won’t be obstructed. The design allows for easier access and more pedestrian space on the sidewalk, and colored appliqués can be added on the translucent fiberglass roof to create a stained glass look, making the design both functional and attractive.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the winner of the design competition in late January, adding that this will be the first time the city’s sidewalk sheds have been significantly updated since the 1950s.

WXPN showcases up-and-comers

WXPN has entered a two-year partnership with Weathervane Music Organization, a community-based non-profit production company, in an effort to showcase independent musicians. The collaboration, called Shaking Through, will help rising musical artists develop their craft and market their music through an online and video series. Over the next two years, 15 to 20 independent artists will be selected to make highend audio and video recordings of their original music with production resources provided by Weathervane Music. These recordings will then be released online at and and promoted on the radio and in other formats by WXPN, including on-air features, live concerts, podcasts and social media. The project is intended to help undiscovered artists gain an audience base with the long-term goal of giving them a firm footing in the entertainment industry.

The first three artists selected by the 2010 Shaking Through guest curators Daniel Smith of Danielson and Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog, are Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten, Chicago folk-pop group Sonoi and Philadelphia’s own Strapping Field Hands.

Eat chips, save the planet

Penn has taken another step toward its goal of becoming the greenest campus in America, installing a new line of energy efficient vending machines. The machines, called 2b U, are made with LED lighting with dimmer capabilities and a smart board that displays nutritional information and other messages. Penn is the first university in the nation to introduce the machines on campus.

Inside, the machines carry traditional snackfood favorites, but the items must meet certain standards, including being either organic, all natural, locally produced, vegan or gluten-free. In addition to fair trade chocolate and locally made chips, the machines also offer more nutritious options such as raw nuts and juice, as well as products that help support local charities. The first of the 2b U machines can be found in McClelland, Harnwell and Rodin College Houses. Additional machines will be installed across campus in the coming months.

Using Katrina to help Haiti

Using lessons from its Feldman Initiative, a three-year commitment to rebuild Hancock County, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina, the School of Social Policy & Practice has created a disaster-relief model to address how universities can best assist communities after natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti. The Feldman Initiative allowed Penn faculty, staff and students to volunteer, using their specific areas of expertise to help in the recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. It also gave SP2 the opportunity to research the long-term needs in a post-disaster environment, including the mental-health issues that may arise and the important role of social services.

“What we’ve found is that a university can be most helpful in capacity-building, in addition to direct relief. The longterm goal here is to give the Haitians the ability to continue rebuilding themselves,” says Richard Gelles, dean of the School. During the next few weeks, faculty members from SP2 will be reaching out to their partners who also participated in the overall Penn in the Gulf post-Katrina relief efforts, including the schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Applied Science, Nursing, Dental Medicine and Design, to determine how they could be most helpful in rebuilding Haiti. In the meantime, the School of Social Policy & Practice’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy has established a series of online updates informing potential donors how to get more bang for their charitable bucks. These updates can be found at See related story about the Center on page 1.

Summer research stipends still available

The Trustees’ Council of Penn Women is offering four $5,000 summer research stipends to female faculty or faculty members whose research is centrally concerned with the role of women in society, science, or arts and letters. The awards are designed to assist the promotion of standing faculty to the permanent rank of Associate Professor. Those who have previously applied and did not receive an award are encouraged to apply again.

Proposals are due by March 5. They will be reviewed, and the stipend awarded, through a peer review process. It is expected that the research, or a significant subset of the research, will be concluded during the summer of 2010, and a written report will be submitted to the review panel and to the Trustees’ Council. For more information, contact the Alice Paul Center for Research on Women and Gender at 215-898-8740.

Originally published on February 18, 2010