Al Filreis, a Penn English professor, has been inducted as one of 14 founding members into the Minerva Academy.
The Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship is a nonprofit that attracts and directs financial support toward academic programs for Minerva students and research for its faculty. The induction comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Filreis, who is heavily involved in the Kelly Writers House.
The Minerva Academy, a committee of intellectuals, contacted Filreis to ask him to serve as a member. The committee is the first of its kind, offering a distinguished honor and a $500,000 award to recognize innovation in colleges and universities.
Filreis has previously won several teaching awards, including the Lindback Award and the Ira Abrams Award. The Carnegie Foundation also named him Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 2000.
Filreis, who was appointed to a position at Penn directly after graduate school, has a history of campus involvement. When the building across from 1920 Commons had a vacancy in 1995, he and a group of volunteers made up of faculty, students, staff and alumni came together to transform the house into the community space that is now the Kelly Writers House. It was originally envisioned as an opportunity to experiment with different kinds of teaching and learning. In 1997, Paul Kelly, a 1962 College graduate and 1964 Wharton graduate, funded renovations to the house and the Writers House was given its current name.
Kelly Writers House is unique because it is open to students pursuing all fields of study. “The Writers House is an independent, standalone sight for creative ventures, where students from all different backgrounds, all free and open, can invent and create things,” Filreis said.
In the almost 20 years that the House has been operating, it has created a variety of projects, including several student magazines and internship programs. It also hosts famous writers and is the only program on campus that live streams videos of every Writers House event.
Filreis tries to stay connected to all of his students, including former students, and says the connections have created sustainable relationships that have allowed the opportunity for internships and guest speakers.
The Writers House is currently planning an addition to the house that will begin in May and most likely be finished by November or December. Plans include adding a second floor student project space, a second floor classroom and a recording studio. The recording studio will allow for double the amount of recordings as are currently possible, and will be available to interested students during the day and evening.
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