David Asch: Putting the framework to work

As he completes his fourth decade at Penn, the senior vice president for strategic inititiatives takes on putting the University’s strategic framework, In Principle and Practice, into work.

As the person appointed by Interim President J. Larry Jameson to lead the implementation of Penn’s strategic framework, In Principle and Practice, Asch has spent the past two months meeting with people from schools and centers across campus. “It’s like going back to college again,” he says. “Maybe this should make me feel old, but I’ll tell you, it makes me feel young and energized.”

David Asch.
David Asch, senior vice president for strategic initiatives. (Image: Courtesy of Penn Giving)

In Principle and Practice is an impactful project with a broad scope. Asch explains where the initiatives will have the biggest impact.

“Implementing the strategic framework and doing the work of the University are one and the same; the difference is that now we just have a clearer decision-making scaffold and language we can use to both achieve and express unity of purpose,” he says. “It is the lens through which we see Penn. Yes, the plan charts us toward some new horizons, and we always want new horizons. Meanwhile, some of the great challenges of our time are timeless, like health, and others that have always been there—like democracy, trust, and truth—now carry fresh meaning and renewed urgency. Still others present novel and pressing imperatives: How do we protect the planet and its inhabitants? How do we steward the development and use of data and AI toward their most constructive purposes?”

Asch emphasizes the role philanthropy plays in prioritizing the initiative’s goals. “Philanthropy is a critical way for people who love Penn and support its mission to participate in and accelerate its journey,” he says. “The strategic framework was built around the question, ‘What does the world need from Penn?’ Penn is positioned to make contributions other institutions just can’t. That position comes with obligations to the world, and we can’t meet those obligations without our friends and their support—financial support, leadership support, and the enthusiasm of our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and donors.”

“There is no disguising the fact that we just went through an abrupt leadership change,” Asch adds. “But we have a few things going for us: First, the skills and sensibilities Interim President Jameson has honed over decades are precisely the skills and sensibilities Penn needs now; people see in Dr. Jameson someone who can lead us forward while preserving the essential values that have defined Penn for so long. Second, we have In Principle and Practice, which positions him well for this task.”

Read more at Penn Giving.