In Principle and Practice: Penn’s Focus on Tomorrow

President Liz Magill unveils strategic framework for the University.

Locust Walk in twilight.

In the mid-1700s, after founding what would become Penn, Benjamin Franklin used a kite and key during a storm to better understand electricity. His most famous experiment, he worked to “draw down the lightning,” striving to discover, disseminate, and employ knowledge for its sake, and also for the benefit of humankind.

It’s with a similar ethos that President Liz Magill unveiled her strategic framework In Principle and Practice: Penn’s Focus on Tomorrow, guided by recommendations from the Red and Blue Committee and shaped further by new University initiatives launched earlier this fall. The new framework captures what the world needs most from Penn and how it will cultivate a community that rises to the challenge—the University’s very own kite and key experiment.

“This moment of challenge is exactly the time to recommit to our ambitions for the future and to further our connections as a community,” Magill wrote in a message to the Penn community announcing the new framework. “Just as we are launching urgent University-wide efforts to combat antisemitism and interconnected forms of hate, including Islamophobia, and identifying ways to strengthen our bonds with one another, this strategic framework emphasizes strengthening community, deepening connections, cultivating service-minded leadership, and collaborating across divisions and divides.”

Penn’s four core principles, as described in the framework, are “the essence of who we are,” and they are the University’s “enduring values and distinctive strengths.” The principles include:

The Anchored University

  • Our exceptional and diverse people, communities, and campus are our anchor, the foundation of all we do, and they guide and propel Penn.
  • Being an excellent Philadelphia neighbor and global citizen is essential to Penn’s mission.

The Interwoven University

  • The more ideas and people from all backgrounds we bring to the table—and the more interconnected and less siloed our community—the more rigorous, more resourceful, and more effective Penn is.
  • Leadership in interdisciplinary excellence distinguishes Penn.

The Inventive University

  • Penn is a powerhouse for breakthroughs in all fields.
  • Penn addresses great challenges and opportunities.

The Engaged University

  • Penn cultivates leaders who serve.
  • Penn seeks dialogue and collaboration across differences and divides.

Five practices directly support and strengthen the University’s educational mission, helping to “channel Penn’s excellence and its boundless creative energy to meet the needs of our time.” They are meant to guide, not decide, Penn’s future course, as the institution remains responsive to emerging ideas and agile to constant change. All practices are meant to be pursued comprehensively, across schools, centers, and people at Penn. Practices include:

  • Accelerate interdisciplinary pursuits
  • Lead on great challenges of our time (namely climate; health; data; and democracy, trust, and truth)
  • Grow opportunity and strengthen community
  • Deepen connection with neighbors and the world
  • Foster leadership and service

In her message, Magill thanked the Red and Blue Committee, including Provost John L. Jackson Jr., who chaired the effort, which laid the foundation for the In Principle and Practice framework.

“It was an honor to lead the Red and Blue Committee, as we engaged the Penn community to help us envision the University’s future,” said Jackson. “We shaped what we learned into recommendations, which have been thoughtfully represented throughout this strategic framework. The work continues, as we all strive together to meet our ambitious goals in the years ahead.”

Magill encouraged all to read the strategic framework and to stay tuned in the upcoming months, as faculty, staff, students, and alumni are engaged with its implementation.

“Articulating our ambitions for the future is especially crucial now, when urgent global challenges are provoking anguish, fear, and testing our community,” Magill wrote. “We are responding exactly as we have so many times before, by working together to improve Penn for the future. That is the core and essential purpose of In Principle and Practice.”

For more information on the University’s strategic framework, visit