Eye on the future: Penn’s global initiatives

WHAT: In August of 2011, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price announced the appointment of Ezekiel Emanuel as Penn’s first Vice Provost for Global Initiatives. A world-renowned bioethicist, Emanuel is also a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professor with appointments in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy in the Perelman School of Medicine, and the Department of Health Care Management in the Wharton School. This fall, Emanuel released what he calls “a strategic framework” for increasing Penn’s global impact over the next five years.

THREE PILLARS: The strategic plan, Emanuel says, rests on three pillars of action: preparing students for an increasingly global society, strengthening Penn as a global agenda-setter, and promoting productive leadership to advance healthy lives and societies around the world. These general goals will be met by implementing some new programs designed to better coordinate the many global initiatives already happening on campus and around the world. “Penn is a decentralized place and my job is to bring people together much more effectively,” Emanuel says.

WORLD HEADQUARTERS: One of the highlights of the strategic plan is a proposal to establish a World House on campus. The house would provide a focal point for all the global activities happening on campus, Emanuel says. In 2011, according to the strategic plan, the various academic and research centers at Penn organized more than 80 conferences on global issues, and a large number of informal seminars and activities related to global topics also occurred on campus. “Nevertheless,” Emanuel explains, “we at Penn don’t have a focal center for these events. The house would provide that and a way for students and faculty to get involved.” Emanuel envisions a place similar to Kelly Writers House, where “on the first floor there would be an inviting forum area, and on the second floor there would be an area focusing more on the programmatic issues, research, and global initiatives.”

INTEGRATING KNOWLEDGE: To prepare the strategic plan, Emanuel conducted an inventory of the many programs, initiatives, collaborations, and research projects that Penn students and faculty are involved with around the world. One of his goals is to better integrate all the activities, making sure the folks at one end of the campus knows what folks at the other end are doing. “We are involved in incredible initiatives, we just haven’t been great at making the best of bringing them all together,” he says. Emanuel also wants to do better at providing incentives for faculty to teach cross-disciplinary, and cross-school courses on global topics.

GO SEE THE WORLD: Lots of Penn students travel and study abroad sometime during their undergraduate experience. But, according to the strategic plan, few spend an entire year abroad, and fewer still participate in international fellowships or employment after graduation. Emanuel hopes to change that by increasing the number of international internships, research and volunteer programs, as well as the number of post-graduate fellowships. He also wants to expand opportunities for students to participate in global collaborations with professional schools and training programs. 

QUAKERS ACROSS THE GLOBE: Penn’s alumni network worldwide is 20,000 strong, and Emanuel wants to get them involved more deeply with the University’s global initiatives. He especially wants them to provide support for faculty research and connect actively with students abroad, serving as cultural ambassadors and mentors.