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Amy Gutmann speaks to the students of the new Integrated Studies Program Credit: Christina Wu , Christina Wu

What a summer we’ve had. We cheered 2004 School of Arts and Sciences graduate Susan Francia and the U.S. women’s eight as they dominated the 2,000-meter rowing finals at the Olympics in London. We felt special pride as fellow 1977 Law School graduate Anita DeFrantz — captain of the women’s eight bronze medalists at the 1976 Olympics and later the first female vice president of the International Olympic Committee — draped the champion’s gold medal around Susan’s neck.

That sight inspired me, as do so many things about Penn—the brightest and most talented students, the finest teaching, the revolutionary breakthroughs and research. It was a golden summer for Quakers everywhere.

Which is not to say we kicked back, flipped on the Olympics, and took it easy while you were away. Not by a long shot.

We have been putting the final touches on a stunning new addition that joins our campus together like never before. Shoemaker Green, located by the Palestra and Franklin Field, provides nearly three acres of verdant grass and tree-lined walkways for the University community to enjoy. Shoemaker Green links College Green to our eastern gateway: the Palestra, Hutchinson Gym, the Weiss Pavilion with its new Education Commons, and to our focal point of community activity and sustainable natural beauty, Penn Park.

Integrating campus life along with knowledge — this is the vision of our Penn Compact made vivid and tangible in this new space. But don’t take my word for it. You must see it for yourself. Please accept this invitation to join me for the grand opening of Shoemaker Green on September 20th at noon. Come celebrate with your Penn family: good food, entertainment and great company await you.

The newly renovated 1920 Commons also opens this week with an array of exciting enhancements. We have also begun work in earnest on the ARCH building, as you can tell from the scaffolding at 36th and Locust Walk. When it’s finished next year, this historic facility will be the ideal hub for student arts, research and culture. We are forging full steam ahead on the second phase of our strategic campus plan, Penn Connects 2.0, which means that you’ll see these and many other terrific transformations all around Penn in short order.

This is the “Year of Proof” at Penn. Freshmen are reading the play “Doubt,” and students, faculty and staff will be exploring evidence and certainty across disciplines. Throughout the year, whether you’re in hot pursuit of answers or hungry to do more around your University, keep in mind the words of poet John Keats who wrote, “Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced.” Or to put it gastronomically (this is Philadelphia after all!): “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” In short, it’s a proven recipe for success in learning and in life to get out there to see, to connect with others and to engage.

I encourage you to seize every opportunity to consider a new idea and to pursue a fresh interest. Take full advantage of Penn’s many world-class schools and centers on our beautiful and uniquely compact urban campus. The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships can pair you with eminent Penn faculty to undertake original research. Reach beyond your major and take a language course, a health policy seminar or whatever sparks your curiosity. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships by volunteering to tutor young West Philadelphia students or by enrolling in one of over 60 academically based community service courses.

You have at your fingertips an exceptional selection of cultural institutions. Explore the riches of the past at the University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology MAYA 2012 exhibition. In October, gather your friends for an evening with the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi (one of the world’s great percussion ensembles) at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Experience the uniquely fun, clever art this fall of Jeremy Deller’s Joy in People exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

I also call on you to flex your muscles of civic engagement. Chuck political apathy out the window and join your classmates in Penn Leads the Vote. This nonpartisan, student-led network will help you register, find a polling place on campus, and cast your all-important vote. For the 2008 United States presidential election, Penn students blasted through previous young voter records by bringing 89.6 percent of the student body to the ballots. This presidential election, I know we can do even better.

An Olympic medal is wonderful, but the real gold at Penn can be found in all this great University has to offer. From our new Shoemaker Green and Penn Park, to limitless opportunities for integrating knowledge and campus life, the resources here are the stuff of champions. Make the most of it. I wish you the very best and welcome you to another wonderful Red and Blue academic year.

Amy Gutmann is the president of the University of Pennsylvania. Her email address is

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