Bobby Turner: KIPP founder represents 'other extreme'
Turner said celebrities, like Ashton Kutcher, raised awareness of his series
October 20, 2013, 8:54 pm · Updated October 20, 2013, 11:05 pm·
After bringing in several celebrities who flirt with social impact on the side, Bobby Turner is bringing in a speaker who dedicates his entire life to social impact.
The Lauren and Bobby Turner Social Impact Executive Speaker Series will host its first non-celebrity speaker, 1991 College graduate and Knowledge Is Power Program co-founder Michael Feinberg in Huntsman Hall on October 24.
“I wanted to really create a hype in the first couple of years to expose our students to the kind of speakers we can have,” Turner said. “Now that the student body has been exposed, we’ll have even more people.”
Feinberg, he said, is the “other extreme” to the kind of speakers who have previously spoken in the Social Impact Series. When Feinberg graduated from Penn, he began working for Teach For America. In 1994, he co-founded KIPP, one of the country’s largest operators of public charter schools which has had success in getting a high percentage of their graduates to go on to college.
The Daily Pennsylvanian recently published an editorial calling on Wharton and Turner to bring in speakers whose primary focus is social impact as opposed to celebrities. Turner said in response that by bringing celebrities, his goal was to “raise awareness” of the Turner Executive Speaker Series, and now he’s “following up with practitioners.”
In the past, Turner brought celebrities including actress Eva Longoria, rapper Ludacris, former tennis player Andre Agassi and former basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson. More recently, the series hosted actor Ashton Kutcher.
Marketing professor Deborah Small, who studies what causes people to engage in to philanthropy or social impact, said that there are advantages and disadvantages to having celebrities speak about this topic on campus.
Small said that, “people model celebrities,” so that “the audience is going to be larger.”
However, she added that students should “question the motive of the celebrities. Because all the celebrities are doing this because it’s good for their image.”
The Turner series has, in the past, only hosted one speaker per semester. This year, Feinberg will be speaking just a little over two weeks after Kutcher, which Turner said is because of timing. He added they confirmed Feinberg as a speaker in October 2012.
Ideally, Turner would “like to have a mix” of celebrities and “daily practitioners” of social impact.
“I’d bring one very high profile speaker every year,” he said, in addition to a low profile speaker.
Turner added that he does not consider Feinberg as low-profile, though. “Michael Feinberg in the world of education is more high profile than Ashton Kutcher,” he said.
Managing Director for the Social Impact Initiative Sherryl Kuhlman said she is looking forward to having an alumunus speak in the series.
“We want students to see that there are multiple paths to creating positive social change in the world,” Kuhlman said in an email.