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From the top, the view's not bad.

Below the large windows on the eighth floor of Huntsman Hall, outside the last fall University Board of Trustees meeting at which Judith Rodin will report as Penn's president, a bustling campus stretches east and west under the September sun.

It's a changed campus from what it was in 1994, when Rodin first took office.

Over the past week and a half, The Daily Pennsylvanian has examined these various changes -- in terms of academic reputation, finances, community relations, retail, facilities and safety.

Ten years ago, much of campus was a parking lot -- a poorly lit, underdeveloped, unsafe parking lot.

"People aren't afraid to walk around here anymore," said Phil Paul, the owner of West Philadelphia Locksmith Co. on Walnut Street. "It's somewhere people go to shop."

Better looking, the area is also better illuminated, better patrolled and under surveillance by a state-of-the-art security camera network.

Penn saw a graduate student murdered a few blocks from campus just one month after Rodin assumed her post -- but now, nine years later, just this past June, Penn was awarded the Clery Campus Safety Award for campus safety improvements.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush even commended Rodin for essentially personally improving the neighborhood's safety.

"She's totally involved in the community safety initiatives," Rush said. "She is the one who is running the whole safety... for the campus."

Many officials say community relations have also improved and will likely continue to improve if Penn honors its commitment to West Philadelphia not to expand any farther west than it has. With the acquisition of the postal lands to the east, the University should have no trouble keeping its end of the bargain while expanding toward Center City to meet its growing physical plant needs.

Nevertheless, not all Philadelphians have been happy with Penn's role in the city. According to City Councilman David Cohen, "Their position towards the people of Philadelphia has not been a good one."

"I take great pride in its general educational level and achievements," Cohen added. "But it seems to me they've been a partner of all the big monied interests."

One area that Cohen said has seen "a little bit of turnaround," however, is Penn's relationship with public schools.

The University opened the Sadie Mossell Tanner Alexander-University of Pennsylvania Partnership School in September 2001 -- an elementary school at 42nd and Locust streets -- and will soon be hosting a national conference promoting similar initiatives elsewhere at its Graduate School of Education.

Meanwhile on campus, the more attractive University has drawn more attractive applicants and accepts fewer of them. Median SAT scores and class rank are on the rise with each incoming class, while admission rates continue to fall every year.

"Presumably, the school's attracting more and stronger applicants," said Alvin Sanoff, the former managing editor of America's Best Colleges. "Word gets around, and students who go there report back to their high schools that Penn's a good place now."

Those students admitted to Penn receive more financial aid -- the University increased undergraduate financial aid spending by 11.8 percent this past year.

And Penn has the cash to back it up, as annual fundraising has more than tripled since 1995, rising from $135 million to a projected figure for this year of around $407 million.

From the new Perelman Quadrangle to Pottruck Health and Fitness Center and Huntsman Hall, renovations and new constructions have renewed the face of the campus proper. And although the initial plans for Penn's residences never quite came to fruition, work on the college houses from the Quadrangle to the high rises continues to improve student housing.

As the first female president of an Ivy League University, Rodin blazed a new trail for women pursuing careers in higher education -- and helped to put Penn on the map with one more unique milestone to its credit.

The University isn't what it was when Judith Seitz worked toward her undergraduate degree in psychology, nor is it much like the Penn whose presidency then-Yale Provost Judith Rodin was offered and accepted over the phone, at her mother's house in Philadelphia.

Whether Rodin is solely, partially or not at all responsible for the strides the University has unquestionably made, as the face of the past decade, she is almost always personally identified with them.

"Dr. Rodin has done a tremendous job as president," Undergraduate Assembly Chairman Jason Levy said. "She definitely set us on a very strong path."

The obstacles facing the next president who walks that path, however, will be of a different nature than those Rodin took on.

"The next president will have to sustain Penn's trajectory of achievement, and that in itself will take a considerable effort and a talented leader -- especially given the challenging nature of the financial environment," Provost Robert Barchi said.

He or she will also have to work at "differentiating Penn within its peer group of outstanding research institutions," demonstrating to potential students "what makes Penn the world premiere institution," in the areas it chooses or is best suited to dominate.

Executive Vice President and former Marine Corps Major General Cliff Stanley paid Rodin perhaps the greatest compliment one leader can offer another -- that the team she built will continue to achieve without her.

"There's a lot of stability," Stanley said. "I don't see that changing right now."

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