Two new Penn professors are breaking ground and breaking curriculum boundaries.
Thursday afternoon, the University appointed Barbara Mellers and Philip Tetlock as new Penn Integrates Knowledge professors. Starting Jan. 1, both professors will serve in the Wharton School and the Department of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences.
Penn President Amy Gutmann introduced the PIK program in 2005 as a University-wide project to attract and hire outstanding faculty to integrate knowledge across schools at Penn. Mellers and Tetlock are the 11th and 12th PIK professors to be appointed and the first PIK appointments in Wharton.
The two professors have been married for almost 20 years. They left their professorships at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and moved to Philadelphia over the summer. Since September, they have been teaching classes as visiting professors.
Mellers, who will be the I. George Heyman University Professor, is a globally recognized scholar of judgment and decision-making. Tetlock, the future Leonore Annenberg University Professor, has focused on political psychology and organizational behavior.
“They bring a lot of strengths to an already very strong field,” Gutmann said, adding that the appointments are “path-breaking.”
Their recruitment is a “real coup” for the social sciences, according to School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rebecca Bushnell.
“Their expertise to our faculty will enhance Wharton’s research environment and support new intellectual directions,” Wharton Dean Thomas Robertson wrote in an e-mail.
The first research project they plan to conduct will look at expert political judgment and accuracy of political forecasting. They will study biases and overconfidence by psychologically measuring the decisions of potentially thousands of people over a few years.
Tetlock said he and his wife usually work independently of one other. “This project is the biggest collaboration we’ve done in our careers,” he said, adding that it will be “somewhat of a new departure.”
“We’ll be looking for a lot of students to help, both in Wharton and the Psychology Department,” Mellers added.
Strong collaboration with students is one of the “hallmarks of their work,” Provost Vincent Price said. “Students at Penn will benefit for many years.”
He predicted that along with bringing together psychology, management and marketing, they will have “strong interactions” with members of the science departments, the Annenberg School of Communication, the Law School and other parts of the University.
“We plan on staying at Penn for the rest of our careers,” Tetlock added. “It’s a very good intellectual match between our research programs and programs of various colleagues in both schools.”
Psychology Department Chairman Rob DeRubeis called the new appointments “the best early Christmas present.”
“They’re great scholars and scientists, they have tremendous visibility in our field, and they’re wonderful people,” he said. “To have two of them join us at once is pretty amazing. We couldn’t be more excited.”