Trustees approve new academic programs


Penn will expand offerings in Africana Studies, Product Design and Bioethics




Beginning this fall, students will have expanded academic options due to the Board of Trustees’ approval of three new programs on June 22.

At their biannual meeting last month, the trustees voted to create an Africana Studies department, a Masters in Bioethics Training program and a Masters in Integrated Product Design program.

Africana Studies Department

The Center for Africana Studies is moving its academic functions into a new department of Africana Studies starting July 1.

While the options for degrees will not change, the creation of a department allows the program’s directors to hire standing faculty, said Camille Charles, director of the Center for Africana Studies.

Charles will serve as interim chair of the new department until a permanent director is hired.

“One of the things that has been difficult for us to offer our students is a single place where they can find their faculty,” Charles said. “With a department there is that place, and there is a better sense of where to go when they need advising or mentoring.”

The 10 faculty members currently in the center have dual primary appointments, meaning they are appointed to another department as well.

Since the new department can retain standing faculty who are appointed solely to teach Africana Studies, Charles expects the number of undergraduates in the program to increase because Africana Studies will be perceived as a more stable program.

“Often [professors] are trained in traditional disciplines and do Africana Studies as well, but there are also really good faculty who are trained in Africana Studies,” Charles said.

“Sometimes it’s hard to sell a traditional department on hiring somebody with those credentials,” she added. The new department “puts Penn in a position to offer more and better training courses and exposure to scholarship on Africa and the diaspora.”

Masters in Bioethics Training

In fall 2013, the Center for Bioethics will offer a new Bioethics Training masters program. Unlike the current Masters of Bioethics program, the new program will enroll a limited number of students expected to undertake significant research projects.

“We expect these people to become professors,” said Vice Provost Ezekiel Emanuel, a professor of medical ethics and health policy. “We’re expecting them at the end of two years to have published two to three papers in the literature.”

The program has recruited three new faculty members, one for the bioethics program and two who will share appointments with other departments. While Emanuel says he will only enroll four students, the new courses offered will be open to students in other programs.

“Having Penn produce people who are going to dominate the field is a big opportunity to shape how the field will go in the future,” he added.

Masters in Integrated Product Design

A new masters of science in Integrated Product Design degree will begin this fall, allowing students to work with faculty in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Design and the Wharton School to develop products for a technology-driven world.

“Manufacturing tools and techniques have advanced at such a rate that it sometimes seems that it’s possible to create almost anything,” Sarah Rottenberg, associate director of Integrated Product Design, wrote in an email. “We teach our students to really explore what’s worth making and how to optimize new products to create both economic and social value.”

The new MS option will supplement a masters of science in Engineering IPD degree that has existed for about five years. Unlike the MSE, the new degree will not require an engineering background.

“I’m looking forward to having a little more than just engineering. As much as I like it, it’s very linear,” said rising Engineering senior Molly Dee, who is submatriculating into the masters program. “This is a good opportunity for people who are looking for something that’s a little more creative.”
Students submit portfolios demonstrating past project work as part of the application, and the program is already enrolling sub-matriculants from both Engineering and the College, according to Rottenberg.

After graduating from the program, Rottenberg added, students will be “well suited to work in house at product manufacturing firms as designers or engineers, work at design consultancies, in entrepreneurial settings at startups or as founders of their own companies.”

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