Presidential Term Profs increase faculty diversity and eminence

A key feature of Penn’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence are the Presidential Term Professorships, which were established in 2011 and supported by a $2 million grant from Pew Charitable Trusts.

Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen says the program has recruited and aims to recruit “superb faculty who add diversity to our already inclusive faculty.”

“We’re extremely proud of the way in which this program has enabled us to be very aggressive in our recruitment, and very ambitious in our recruitment,” she says.

Benjamin Garcia, a Presidential Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics; Chyke Doubeni, a Presidential Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health; Enrique Mendoza, a Presidential Professor of Economics; and Daniel Mindiola, a Presidential Professor of Chemistry, were the first four Presidential Professors. They have been joined by seven exceptional scholars who contribute to faculty eminence across all University disciplines.

The most recent Presidential Professor is Michael Jones-Correa, a Presidential Professor of Political Science. He joined Penn in the fall of 2016 from Cornell University, where he was chair of the Department of Government.

An expert on American politics, political participation, and Latino politics and public opinion, Jones-Correa is currently analyzing data from his Latino Immigrant National Election Study for the 2016 election, which surveyed Latino immigrants before and after the presidential campaign.

“At a time when issues around immigration are so much in the public eye, he provides our own in-house expert on issues around immigration and citizenship in the United States,” Allen says.

Preceding Jones-Correa was José Arturo Bauermeister, a Presidential Associate Professor of Nursing. He came to Penn from the University of Michigan, where he was the founding director of the Center for Sexuality & Health Disparities in the School of Public Health.

Also director of the HIV Disparities Scientific Working Group at the Penn Center for AIDS Research, Bauermeister’s work focuses on developing HIV interventions for sexual and gender minorities.

“That work really takes an interdisciplinary lens to the activities we propose, including social and community change, and interpersonal and individual education,” he says.

“Not only has he thrown himself into his work in the Nursing School, but he’s already become an important faculty leader, working very closely with the LGBT Center and the Faculty Working Group on LGBT Issues,” Allen says of Bauermeister. “He’s just an amazing nurse, scholar, and community citizen.”

An acclaimed neuroscientist and a pioneer in exploring neural damage and repair, Ramon Diaz-Arrastia was named a Presidential Professor of Neurology in March of 2016. Announcing his appointment, Penn President Amy Gutmann remarked, “At the uncharted frontier of brain science and traumatic injury, few investigators have expanded our knowledge quite like Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia.”

Current Penn professors are not typically appointed Presidential Professors, but Daniel Q. Gillion is an exception. He was an associate professor at Penn when he was named the Presidential Associate Professor of Political Science in 2016. Gillion’s research focuses on race and ethnic politics, political protest, public inequality, and the American presidency.

“His work on politics and political behavior, public policy, and the presidency is a great resource to have right now,” Allen says. “We were very pleased to be able to offer him this important chair to underscore how much Penn values his leadership on campus.”

One of the world’s leading historians of the experience of slavery in the 19th century, Heather Andrea Williams was named the Presidential Professor of Africana Studies in 2014. Also a professor in the Department of Africana Studies, Williams recently completed her first year as undergraduate and graduate studies chair. This semester, she taught an undergraduate seminar called “Slavery and the Law,” which investigated the murders of enslaved blacks by their owners.

The Presidential Professors program has recruited renowned senior scholars at the full professor rank, dynamic associate professors, and, occasionally, entry-level professors. Donita Brady is unique in that she is a Presidential Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology.

“Donita Brady is a great example of an assistant professor whose research program and qualifications were so superb that she rose to the top in a very competitive process,” Allen says.

Appointed a Presidential Professor in 2015, Brady is studying the link between cancer and copper.

“What we found is that certain cancer cells use copper to communicate, so we are trying to get rid of the copper in order to decrease the communication,” she says.

A Penn alumnus and former chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden, Wendell E. Pritchett was named a Presidential Professor of Law and Education in 2014. In late April, he was named the University’s 30th provost.

“Not only are these scholars coming to Penn and engaging in really important research and scholarship, but they’re also taking the reins and becoming academic and administrative leaders,” Allen says. “We’re looking forward to welcoming three new Presidential Professors in the next academic year.”

Presidential Professors