Guest Columnist: Judith Rodin Guest Columnist: Judith RodinI hope you had a wonderful summer. Now that you are on campus -- some of you for the first time -- you may be speculating about the upcoming year. In fact, some of the speculation began early. Over the summer, I was asked on several occasions what "the plan" is for the year ahead. Each time I gave the same basic response: "The plan is to follow the plan." Because Penn is large and disparate, it may appear at any given time that a range of distinct and unrelated activities is taking place around campus. New technology here, new programs there, construction and reconstruction: "What does this have to do with that?" is a frequently heard question. The answer, much of the time, is that seemingly disconnected endeavors and developments are, in fact, essential and interwoven parts of our institutional agenda. They relate to each other like the working parts of a body and, as Penn drives ahead toward comprehensive excellence, each has its own vital role. Penn needs and has a blueprint, an Agenda for Excellence, because more than ever before, students need a superb education and the world needs the growth in knowledge produced by the best research universities. Moreover, the world of higher education is growing ever more competitive and, unless Penn strives to be among the best, we will end up -- certainly not among the worst -- but among the many. That is simply unacceptable for the university founded by Benjamin Franklin. With this as background, I offer an account of our recent progress on a number of fronts. Each is an area of emphasis in the Agenda for Excellence; our progress is not happenstance. Exciting new academic programs We have launched vigorous new programs in a number of Penn's schools in a campus-wide spirit of innovation. To highlight just a few, the School of Arts and Sciences has instituted a rigorous quantitative skills requirement that will help prepare its graduates for life and careers in the 21st century. SAS and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have also established a small battery of competitive new master's programs. The School of Medicine is moving forward with Curriculum 2000, perhaps the most significant curricular development in medicine this century. The Law School is developing strategic cross-school programs with Wharton, SAS and other schools as it takes broad advantage of Penn's multi-disciplinary opportunities. And significant advances in distance learning are being made across the University. A leader among universities in the wise use of technology Penn continues to be recognized nationally for its innovative leadership in the use of information technology. Undergraduates who live in first-year and college houses will see a real breakthrough this month in our support for their computing needs -- through a support-in-residence program that integrates computing support with academic support in math, English and the use of library resources. The rest of the campus is settling in to the first full year of computing service delivered under a new decentralized-support model that puts users more directly in touch with technical resources. Penn's groundbreaking Resnet project is finished. And we're beginning to link up with new high-speed networking that goes beyond what the conventional Internet can do. An urban campus of great beauty and function Penn's academic programs have been enhanced and enriched by our peerless campus. A unique gem in the middle of a major city, it remains home to each of our twelve schools and is being wisely, strategically developed. This year we will see: * Completion of the world-class Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and Logan Hall for the College and several SAS departments * Construction on our new student center, the Perelman Quad; a revitalized Sansom Street running west to the new Sansom Common; and new laboratories and research space in Biomedical Research Building II * Planning for new and renovated SAS and SEAS facilities and a new Wharton building that will help solve the School's dire space needs. A neighborhood that is clean and safe Cleanliness and safety are the two main goals of the University City District that was inaugurated in August. Supported by Penn and other area institutions, UCD will complement city services with cleaning, security and other services specially tailored to our West Philadelphia community. UCD will augment the University's commitment to the safety of our community. Over the past year we added more than twenty new police officers to our force and contracted with a leading firm to bring state-of-the-art electronic security systems to our buildings and residences. Because of our continuing efforts, the number of reported robberies in our area has dropped significantly from a year ago. When crime does occur, our police are now able to make more and quicker apprehensions. Our students are equally impressive. I know our upperclassmen join me in welcoming Penn's Class of 2001 -- our "millennial class." The road that led these bright young people to Penn was documented in a marvelous April cover story in U.S. News and World Report. And our student "accept rate" is even higher than last year's record. Our newest students bring great promise to Penn, the excitement of the new millennium, and the hope of many good things to come. So, too, does all of our strategic planning, implementation, and progress. Together we are advancing the University to a position of preeminence in the approaching century. I look forward to continuing the journey with you.Comments powered by Disqus
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