Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
As we begin the New Year, I want to thank every member of the Penn community for moving our Penn Compact forward and for supporting our Making History campaign to make Penn both more eminent academically and a more formidable force for social good.
A review of just a few accomplishments over the fall illustrates our dynamism and momentum. Our new financial aid program to replace loans with grants for all financially eligible students by 2009 will give more talented students from every socio-economic background access to a Penn education. We are strengthening connections across disciplines by launching new interdisciplinary initiatives, and we are connecting across neighborhoods by implementing the first steps of our campus development plan Penn Connects, which will transform both Penn and Philadelphia. We are developing a productive partnership with Philadelphia's new mayor and Penn alumnus Michael Nutter (W'79). We are also building our own educational and research capacity while we contribute our wide-ranging expertise to improving communities at home and around the globe.
On October 20, 2007, we launched our $3.5 billion Making History campaign, the largest fundraising campaign by far in Penn's history. We have shot past the halfway mark to reach $1.77 billion – 51% of our goal – a resounding vote of confidence in Penn's future. In January, Chairman Jim Riepe, Deans Rebecca Bushnell, Eduardo Glandt, Tom Robertson, Mike Fitts, and I traveled to Asia to bring our message to wonderfully engaged alumni, parents and friends in Hong Kong and Tokyo. (Please check out www. makinghistory.upenn.edu for campaign updates and information about upcoming events.)
Fulfilling the promise of Penn's students
Strengthening our undergraduate financial aid program has helped us to increase access for the most talented students regardless of their socioeconomic background. In 2007 Penn boosted by 62% the number of undergraduates able to replace loans with grants by raising the family income level cap for loan elimination from $50,000 to $60,000. Last month we announced a major expansion of our no-loan financial aid program to include middle and upper-middle income families. Starting September 2008, students with calculated family incomes of less than $100,000 will receive loan-free aid packages, while families above that level who are eligible for financial aid will receive a 10 percent reduction in need-based loans.
By September 2009, all undergraduate students eligible for financial aid – currently 40% of our undergraduate enrollment – will receive loan-free aid packages. With this program, which we will fund in perpetuity through our Making History campaign, we are fulfilling our Penn Compact commitment to make a Penn education ever more accessible to high-achieving students with extraordinary leadership potential.
Our early admissions cohort for the Class of 2012 is our highest achieving group yet. We saw a five-point increase on SAT scores and a two-point increase on SAT II scores over the previous year's record high class. I am proud that our early admits also are more diverse than any previous group; under-represented minorities constitute 13.5% of the group, up from 12.6% during the previous year. International students constitute 10.2%, up from 9.5%. We admitted 1,147 students who will make up 48% of the incoming Class of 2012.
This fall Penn students won prestigious Rhodes, Marshall and Fulbright scholarships. Our Rhodes Scholarship winner, Huntsman Scholar Joyce Meng (C'08, W'08), plans to pursue master's degrees in economics for development and financial economics at Oxford University. Our Marshall Scholarship winner, Stephen Danley, a 2007 alumnus from the College, will pursue a master's in comparative social policy at Oxford. Seventeen other extraordinarily impressive Penn students won Fulbright fellowships to study, teach, and conduct research in their choice of more than 150 countries.
Notable awards and appointments
It takes great faculty to teach great students and produce path-breaking research, and I am delighted to note that many Penn faculty members were honored with distinguished awards over the past semester. I mention only a few here: Professors Morris J. Birnbaum, Yale E. Goldman, and Mark Liberman were elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
I am also delighted to note several key academic and administrative appointments. Path-breaking genetics researcher Sarah Tishkoff will join our faculty as the sixth Penn Integrates Knowledge professor. Her appointment underscores Penn's leadership in encouraging innovative scholarly exploration across disciplines. Robert W. Carpick, who was named Outstanding New Mechanics Educator by the American Society for Engineering Education, has been appointed director of the Nanotechnology Institute, a regional academic research and technology commercialization collaboration among Penn, Drexel, and the Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Our magnificent Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology opened its first season under its new director, Richard Hodges, a distinguished classical and early medieval archaeologist who has been director of The Prince of Wales' Institute of Architecture in London and The British School in Rome.
Stephen D. Golding will become our Vice President of Finance and Treasurer on February 1. He built a stellar record of financial management leadership during the past 17 years as executive director of financial affairs at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Stacey Lopez has become our new Assistant Vice President for Institutional Research and Analysis. She previously led the institutional research operation at Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned an exceptional reputation for her commitment to excellence in data analysis and reporting.
I am especially happy to report the selection of Eric J. Furda as our new dean of admissions, effective July 1. Eric is vice president for alumni relations and former executive director of undergraduate admissions at Columbia University, where he guided a historic rise in undergraduate admissions and engineered the successful merger of Columbia College's and the School of Engineering & Applied Science's admission processes. Eric also has deep Penn roots: He is a 1987 graduate of the College, where he was a four-year letter winner in lightweight football. He also served as regional director of admissions from 1987 until 1991.
Eric’s 17 years of experience in competitive undergraduate admissions, combined with his keen understanding of the complex issues facing major urban research universities today, make him the ideal choice for this critical position. Eric is as thrilled to be back at Penn as we are to have him. To facilitate a seamless transition, he will join Penn March 1 as special assistant to the president.
We extend our gratitude to Eric Kaplan, who took leave from his position as associate university secretary to serve as interim dean of admissions. Eric ably led the Admissions Office through this year's Early Decision process which produced the strongest, most talented, and most diverse cohort in Penn history.
Innovative multidisciplinary and service-learning initiatives
We recently established the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IRM), under the leadership of eminent Penn scientists Jonathan A. Epstein and Ralph L. Brinster. The IRM will foster new and significant campus-wide research collaborations to explore the frontiers of stem cell biology and pave the way towards the discovery of lifesaving therapies in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases, wound healing and aging.
We are also launching a Center for the Integration of Genetic Healthcare Technology to study the certainty or uncertainty of results from genetic testing. Under the leadership of Reed Pyeritz, director of Penn Medicine's division of Medical Genetics, this new center will engage researchers across a broad range of disciplines, including medicine, bioethics, law, behavioral and social sciences, clinical research, public policy, economics, and genetic and genomic research.
NewCourtland Elder Services has made a $5 million endowment gift to Penn Nursing's Center for Transitions and Health in support of the Center's urgently-needed work in the emerging field of transitional health. The first center of its kind in the nation, the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health will serve as a hub for research, education and policy making related to the needs of those with chronic illnesses such as heart failure, diabetes or depression.
We also are providing an unbeatable set of educational leadership experiences for our undergraduates via outreach into our communities and experiential learning. Two marvelous endowment gifts will propel this signature part of our Penn Compact forward. Thanks to a $10 million endowment gift from Robert A. (C'52) and Penny Grossman Fox (C'53) – bringing their total support for Fox Leadership to $23 million – our Robert A. Fox Leadership Program will expand course offerings, events, and hands-on leadership experiences and education for our students. A $10 million dollar naming gift from Edward (C'53) and Barbara Netter will position our Edward and Barbara Netter Center for Community Partnerships to become an ever more prominent model of academically based service-learning and university-based support for community school endeavors in West Philadelphia.
At the forefront of sustainability
Attaining environmental sustainability worldwide depends on collaborative efforts both within and among institutions. Universities have a leadership role to play. For example, Biology Professor Dan Janzen's award-winning research on the diversity of species in Costa Rica's Rincon Rainforest has helped to drive that nation’s conservation efforts, which were showcased at last year's Wharton Global Alumni Forum for Latin America.
I am especially proud that Penn has become a national university leader in enhancing environmental sustainability through an ever wider range of collaborative action, research, and teaching. We added a green roof to English House and completed a carbon footprint inventory, a significant milestone. We are pursuing LEED certification for several of our renovation projects and for all new buildings. And in November, I joined fellow presidents from major universities around the world and a small group of scholars invited by the presidents (Professor Eric Orts, who directs Wharton's Environmental Management Program, was our Penn representative) to discuss ways that universities and the United Nations can individually and collaboratively do more to address climate change. The setting was the annual Global Colloquium of University Presidents, chaired by United Nations secretary-general Ban K-moon.
A team of Penn ecologists, evolutionary biologists (including biology professor Peter Petraitis), and Penn students will examine climate changes in northern Mongolia on a five-year, approximately $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant. Their goal is to understand how the basic ecology of the region will respond to rapid shifts in environmental conditions and to inform local governmental policy on land preservation and management.
A broader reach, a deeper global impact
We have enriched Penn's global perspective with new integrated research projects and international scholarship students. Our Penn Global Initiatives Fund sponsored five new research partnerships between arts and sciences and our professional schools. They include a series of research retreats between Penn and the University of Botswana, a genomics project comparing men of European and African descent to explore the role of genetics in disease risk, a two-day conference at Penn on feminism in South Asia, and the Second Annual Global Development Initiative Forum, which will increase service learning and applied research internships with international NGOs in Africa and Asia.
I enjoyed meeting with our first eight Penn World Scholars, who arrived this fall. Chosen from a geographically, linguistically, and culturally diverse pool of students – with financial need – for their outstanding leadership potential and academic achievement, they come to Penn from Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Israel, Latvia, Pakistan, and South Africa. Listening to their insightful observations about Penn and enthusiastic accounts of their Penn freshman experience, I was inspired by the contributions that these scholars already are making to our community.
Just as the educational experience on Penn's campus has never been more internationally dynamic or diverse, so, too, our off-campus international partnerships have never been deeper or more mutually beneficial. Our partnerships in Botswana and in several Central American countries illustrate our commitment to truly meaningful and productive global engagement. Our Guatemala Health Initiative, for example, brings together faculty and students from Medicine, Nursing, the College and Wharton to develop community-based initiatives to improve access to clean water, food, and medical care for a Mayan community. Penn participants not only are improving local living conditions; they are acquiring valuable skills in Spanish language, ethnographic research, intercultural communication, multimedia and film production, intercultural communication theory, sustainable agriculture, disaster relief, working with mental and physical disabilities, religious studies, and pedagogical technique.
A new day for Penn and Philadelphia
Being a force for good begins at home. Penn is committed to making our great city ever safer, healthier, more vibrant, and better connected. Many civically-minded Penn faculty, students, staff, and alumni are taking active roles in moving Philadelphia forward, including most recently doing our part in supporting our new mayor's agenda to control crime, improve education and build our city's economy.
Our faculty and student design clinic, Penn Praxis, directed by Penn Design adjunct assistant professor Harris Steinberg, presented city officials with a comprehensive plan for Philadelphia’s Delaware River waterfront that calls for creating a livable and pedestrian-friendly community between Oregon and Allegheny avenues from the river to I-95. Meanwhile, our Penn Project for Civic Engagement, directed by Harris Sokoloff, produced an action agenda for turning Philadelphia into "the next great city" soon to be presented to Mayor Nutter and City Council.
Growing the campus … and the neighborhood
Once again, Penn has earned well-deserved national recognition for our record of safety on campus. A survey by Security Magazine ranked Penn number one among institutions of higher education and sixth overall out of 500 businesses and organizations recognized for being proactive in improving security. I know that you join me in expressing our special appreciation for the vigilance, dedication, courage, and 24/7 service provided by our Department of Public Safety officers and their leadership.
We can also take pride that our Health System has received bond rating upgrades from Standard & Poor's (AA- from A+) and Moody's (Aa3 from A1). The reports cited UPHS's record of fiscal performance, clinical excellence, and four years of notable operating improvement.
Improving campus facilities is the third big campaign priority, and the perfect complement to our other two priorities of furthering financial aid (for undergraduates, graduate, and professional students) and faculty support (including professorships and a wide range of programmatic research and teaching support). Renovations to the high rise residential College Houses, Civic House, Penn Nursing's Fagin Hall, are completed or well underway. We are in the planning and design phases of renovations for our Music Building and facilities at Franklin Field.
Our campus master plan, Penn Connects, envisions the creation of a strong commercial, residential, and recreational neighborhood along the river. We took a major step in November toward realizing this vision when Brandywine Realty Trust, our development partner for the new mixed-use commercial district along 30th Street, began demolishing the Post Office Truck Terminal Annex between Chestnut and Walnut streets. I had the honor (and the thrill of feeling the uncommonly palpable power) of sitting behind the wheel and driving the truck hoe that struck the first blows in demolishing the Annex to make way for the new office tower.
Brandywine will redevelop the site as Cira Centre South, a new office, hotel, and retail complex that will spark economic development along the eastern-most part of our Walnut Street property – and allow us to move some administrative services to this site as we strengthen our academic core. This will not only enliven Walnut Street to our east but also greatly enhance the connections between University City and Center City.
Although the calendar year is young, our academic year is fully underway, with so much for us to accomplish. Thank you for contributing to our momentum toward achieving the goals of our Penn Compact. And Happy 2008!