The new academic theme for the 2012-2013 school year is “Year of Proof.” Can this prove to be more successful than previous themes?

Credit: Quan Nguyen , Shelli Gimelstein / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Get your magnifying glasses and #2 pencils ready: next year will be the Year of Proof.

The Office of the Provost selected the new theme for the 2012-13 academic year, which will “examine just what the nature of proof is … across a whole series of disciplines and ideas,” Director of Academic Initiatives of the Office of the Provost David Fox said. “In some fundamental way this is deeply connected with what academics do.”

Faculty, students and administrators who helped select the year “[looked] for something all 12 of our schools … and our various resource centers, libraries, galleries and student centers could all participate in,” Fox said.

For Engineering sophomore Naomi Hachen, the Year of Proof brings to mind evidence and the TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She has enjoyed past theme years, adding that “it was cool that there were so many different events around campus linked to them.”

After kicking off the Year of Games with the Penn Reading Project during New Student Orientation in September, the University has planned a number of events related to the theme, including an upcoming talk by Will Shortz who creates crossword puzzle for publications including The New York Times.

The Year of Proof will aim to “really engage in that theme in a serious and meaningful way, and that can take all different forms,” said Vice Provost for Education Andrew Binns, who coordinates the discussion surrounding theme selection. He added that there will be “grass roots, ground-level programming” such as college house events, in addition to University-wide events related to the theme.

“A lot of the theme year is about research grants and seed money for various projects and courses,” Fox said. “It may be that the big events are front-loaded for freshmen with the Penn Reading Project, but during the course of the spring is when a lot of College Houses do their own events … through Year of Games funding, and students do research projects.”

Along with incorporating the theme in academic courses and Penn preceptorials, Fox hopes to create events that allow undergraduate researchers to present how they proved something — from mathematical concepts to literary ideas. He also sees applications of the theme in the Annenberg School for Communication’s work in fact-checking politicians’ claims in the upcoming presidential election.

For the Year of Proof, the goal is to leave the theme “as open as possible … there is an extraordinary number of interesting applications,” Fox added.

The Year of Proof “sounds very scholarly and academic. I prefer more of the tangible themes of the past,” College sophomore Drew Hasson said, referencing the Year of Water and the Year of Games. “There seems to be a trend [in theme years] going toward more confusion … it’s harder to have a concrete goal.”

Hasson added that while theme years are “a great idea to try and unify the campus,” he sees them “fizzling out” toward the end of the year.

College junior Benjamin Yang added that the previous two themes were “really big during New Student Orientation time” but have since become less well-known across campus.

Engineering senior Avi Shenoy, on the other hand, has seen the theme year becoming integrated into his class curriculum. “I just had a professor in class today bring up the Year of Games. He showed us a game where you … fold proteins,” he said. “I definitely see people try to make an effort to incorporate it.”

Expected to launch mid-summer, the Year of Proof website will serve as a resource for the Penn Reading Project as well as various programming, grants and research associated with the theme.

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