On the Move

On October 20, the University began the public phase of Making History: The Campaign for Penn, which aims to raise $3.5 billion by 2012. The launch included parties on College Green and under a big tent erected on Penn’s recently acquired postal lands, which featured brief speeches, a laser light show and fireworks, and a specially created video.

When I interviewed her in early October about the campaign, I asked President Gutmann what impact Penn was hoping to make with the celebrations. “I hope that alumni, students, staff, neighbors—everyone—will come away with [a sense of] just how diverse and vibrant the Penn community really is, how great the opportunities are moving forward,” she said. “But I hope that none of us comes away feeling complacent or self-satisfied. I think that’s another distinctive feature of Penn. We’re always on the move, entrepreneurial, dynamic, never satisfied with where we are today. And that’s going to make us all the greater tomorrow.”

This issue’s cover story, “Seizing the Moment,” addresses in some detail the directions in which Penn hopes to move with Making History, but our other stories also speak to that questing Quaker spirit.

Time was, engineering students had their heads filled with mostly rote knowledge, acquired a set of marketable skills and, with luck, went off to enjoy a comfortable career. No longer. Technology moves too rapidly now, and in unpredictable ways, and the expectations of students, honed on the Internet and videogames, have changed too much as well.

In response, faculty in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science are introducing curricular innovations that aim to teach “the process of innovation, the process of creation,” as one puts it. The available evidence seems to show that students are learning at least as much as they do with more traditional approaches, but it certainly sounds like more fun, what with the exploding robots and extra-credit treasure hunts. Associate editor Trey Popp tries to keep up with the kids in “Digital Natives in Tomorrow’s Classroom.”

Before he became a lawyer, Marc Falkoff C’88 majored in English and psychology at Penn. (He also has a doctorate in American Literature from Brandeis.) As a member of the informal “Guantánamo Bay Bar Association,” Falkoff has been one of a cadre of attorneys working pro bono to represent detainees held at the U.S. military facility in Guantánamo as “enemy combatants.” Among his clients was a Yemeni man who wrote poems, and Falkoff soon became aware of other prisoners’ writings. Inspired by a book of poetry by a U.S. soldier who had served in Iraq, Falkoff recently shepherded a collection of the prisoners’ poetry, Poems From Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak (University of Iowa Press), into print.

As senior editor Samuel Hughes notes in his profile of Falkoff, “Prisoners, Poems, and Principles,” there are those who will see him as, at best, a “useful idiot” (in the words of one blogger), but he considers himself a patriot. “The lawless detentions at Guantánamo undermine everything that makes our country great,” he says.

Also on the move this summer was Gabe Crane, a senior in the College, who spent two months of it paddling a canoe the length of the Mississippi River—with funding from Kelly Writers House and the Center for Undergraduate Research—blogging all the way. Read about his journey and what it taught him in this issue’s “Notes From the Undergrad.”

And in “All Things Ornamental,” Lisa Dinhofer GFA’76 talks about Losing My Marbles, the playful, dazzling mosaic she created for the New York subway system, which became her way of giving something back to “the place that nurtured and inspired me.” That, she says, “is unbelievable and the coolest thing of all.”

Nov|Dec 07 Contents
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