As an institution, Penn prides itself as a locus of innovation and knowledge. Over the last two years, administration, faculty and students across the University have engaged in an in-depth study of undergraduate education at Penn as a part of the accreditation process for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. On a practical level, accreditation ensures that the University will continue to receive federal funding for initiatives such as student financial aid and grants. As students who have been given a front-row seat to this process, we have seen this as an opportunity for Penn to challenge itself to reshape and rethink parts of the undergraduate experience. We are pleased with the student involvement in the self-study and the results Penn has chosen to highlight.
The self-study concludes with a set of six major recommendations. These recommendations include:
• devoting a larger proportion of endowment income to international applications from low and middle-class families
• promoting participation of undergraduates in research at the graduate and professional schools
• implementing new methods of teaching that incorporate online and active learning
It is of critical importance that the University has explicitly recognized these areas as priorities to be improved in the coming years. At any moment, there is a Penn student walking down Locust Walk worried about their financial aid package for next year, trying to find their first research position or skipping lecture because they don’t find it an effective way of learning material. The self-study provides a framework within which administrators can take action to address these concerns.
We believe, however, that if meaningful change is to occur, it will take the work of more than just administrators. Students hold an equally important role in strengthening the undergraduate experience at Penn. The successful implementation of initiatives such as active learning and diverse research opportunities requires feedback from students about their experiences and perceptions. This is evident in sections such as finance and administration, where the report speaks about the need for more classroom space on campus. As the University moves forward with planning a campus for the future there will need to be a balance between construction of classroom space, performance space, meeting space and other defined areas. Student guidance on these decisions can help guide administrators.
The release of the preliminary report presents an avenue for students across the University to get involved and voice their opinions. Public comments, questions and suggestions are an integral part of the self-study process. Any feedback can be submitted online to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. In addition, students are encouraged to attend the University Council meeting on Dec. 7, which will be devoted to discussing the self-study.
The recommendations put forth in the self-study will shape the development of undergraduate education at Penn for the coming years. Many of the recommendations have the potential to place Penn at the forefront of undergraduate education innovation. We encourage you to read the report, discuss the findings with those around you and provide feedback to the self-study committee over the next few weeks.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.