A Year at Penn: 2015-16

Penn President Amy Gutmann warmly welcomed this year’s incoming students with a 106th Convocation address that told of the opportunities for “endless discovery” and profound personal transformation awaiting them at Penn. Nearly nine months later, 260th Commencement speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda regaled the graduating class with personal and historical stories of transformation, illustrating his assertion that “stories are essential.”

The academic year that spanned these speeches proved the truth of their words. Stories of students transforming their lives abounded—as did stories of students transforming the lives of others through their civic-minded and knowledge-fueled action. There were stories about inaugural President’s Innovation Prize winners poised to implement the breakthrough medical devices they invented, and stories about President’s Engagement Prize winners whose projects will transform the lives of underserved people as near as Philadelphia and as far as the farms of India.

It was also a banner year for stories about groundbreaking faculty discoveries, such as that of Carl June, whose development of personalized T-cell therapy inspired Vice President Joe Biden to kick off the national “Moonshot” cancer cure initiative at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.

It was a year of campus transformation, as well, with a host of construction projects expanding Penn’s innovation infrastructure: the Richards Medical Research Lab, the Steven A. Levin Building for Neural and Behavioral Sciences, Perry World House, New College House, and the Pennovation Center’s Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub (PERCH) are yielding state-of-the-art spaces for faculty and students to create new stories of transformation, discovery, and friendships forged along the way.

  • Text by Christina Cook
  • Video by Rebecca Elias Abboud