President's Message - The Penn Compact: Cultivating Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation - January 2010

January 18, 2010

Dear Members of our University Community:

Despite the largely disenchanting events of the past ten years—recently dubbed by Time Magazine as “the Decade from Hell”—we at Penn have avoided 21st-century ennui by cultivating creativity, collaboration, and innovation. In the new millennium, we forged ahead in teaching, research, and service. We also opened 14 new buildings, completed the historic acquisition of the former postal lands, and launched our ambitious campus development plan, Penn Connects. 

Our partnerships to create a more vibrant and safer West Philadelphia thrived. In recognition of our ongoing efforts to engage with our neighbors and community leaders, the Survey of Best College and University Civic Partnerships recognized Penn as the “Best Neighbor” among national colleges and universities. This first-place award made special mention of our university-assisted school model, our service learning curriculum, and our Penn Connects master plan.

We also strengthened our academic research collaborations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. In Botswana, we helped to build institutional capacity to mitigate the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS and partnered with the University of Botswana, the Ministry of Health, and Princess Marina Hospital on clinical care, research, and education. In China, we built upon our longstanding collaborations with eminent universities and expanded our strategic partnerships with Tsinghua University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

In 2009, we made significant progress toward reaching our Penn Compact goals and rounded out the “aughts” with a series of noteworthy achievements. To honor our ongoing commitment to increasing access, we expanded our financial aid budget, implemented a no-loan policy for all aid-eligible undergraduates, and again increased base stipends for all graduate students. Our current year’s tuition increase was the smallest at Penn since 1968.

While attracting the finest students and scholars to Penn, we also hired eminent faculty members and completed capital projects in areas of strategic importance. Two new Penn Integrates Knowledge professors joined our ranks this year: Daniel S. Och University Professor Dr. Shelley Berger, a world-renowned genetics researcher, and Dr. Karen Glanz, a globally influential public health scholar. The Annenberg Public Policy Center opened, providing a beautiful new forum for students and scholars, and the long-anticipated Roberts Proton Therapy Center brought state-of-the-art cancer care to our advanced and integrated medical center.

Now, we begin a new decade together, uplifted by our achievements and optimistic about the future. We will continue to make a Penn education accessible; we will continue to integrate knowledge and seek innovative ways of addressing complex problems; we will continue to build a culture that fosters academic eminence, and we will continue to engage with local and global communities as we work to improve the world.

Along with the more than $750 million in total research awards that Penn currently receives, new resources made available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act will buoy our efforts to integrate knowledge across disciplines. With $169.1 million to date in ARRA funding from 333 grants, Penn will continue to drive progress in science, engineering, and medicine. Awards received thus far will fund diverse research projects as far-ranging as the development of health behavior intervention technologies, the analysis of public opinion about gene therapy, and the creation of touch-based interfaces between people and virtual objects.

Our Penn Integrates Knowledge Neuroscience Initiative will deepen and expand our strengths in neuroscience by adding five additional PIK professors and more programmatic funding. This initiative will foster new interdisciplinary collaborations between the School of Medicine and other schools, and help advance our understanding of the human brain.

We will complete three significant capital projects this year. This spring, we will cut the ribbon on a second campus fitness center and a varsity weight room in the gleaming new Weiss Pavilion at Franklin Field and celebrate the completion of the Music Building’s transformative renovation and expansion. The Fisher Translational Research Center, now soaring above Civic Center Boulevard, will usher in a new era of achievement in translational medicine and medical research at Penn.

Our campus is expanding, yet it remains compact enough to provide unique opportunities to connect our 12 schools with one another and strengthen the University through increasingly productive community engagement. This semester is peppered with occasions to enjoy the company of familiar and new colleagues. At the end of the week, our Faculty Senate will host the fourth annual Founder’s Day Symposium, and, on Sunday, we will kick off RecycleMania, a good-natured waste reduction contest with other colleges and universities.

Milestones give each of us an opportunity to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. We made it through the “Decade from Hell” together and, in the process, managed to move our University closer than ever to eminence. With the Penn Compact as our guide, we will drive ever greater progress far into the future.

Happy New Year and welcome back!


Amy Gutmann