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For the people of Bome Valley in northwestern Cameroon, reliably clean water has long been an uncertain thing. But this summer, students of Penn Engineers Without Borders and their alumni mentors greatly increased its certainty by partnering with local communities to boost the purity and efficiency of their water supply systems. Another Penn EWB team undertook similar efforts in Pajomel, Guatemala. Working at the junction of engineering, intercultural exchange and public health, Penn students made a dramatic difference.

When I’m asked, “What sets Penn apart?” I have much to say. But I always return to one thing: our students. Penn Engineers Without Borders is yet another exceptional example of what you, as Penn students, bring to the table every day and in so many ways. You are here because you share Penn’s passion: the conviction that we are at our best when bringing diverse knowledge and talents together to improve our world — both here and around the globe.

This same passion led, 10 years ago, to the creation of the Penn Compact, the guiding vision that has propelled us from excellence to eminence by advancing our core endeavors of teaching, research and service. That same passion gave shape and momentum to the enormous success of the “Making History” campaign. Now, at a pivotal crossroads in our history, Penn is positioned to achieve even more. Where do we go from here?

As members of our University community, you have a profound stake in the answer. So I want to share with you an outline of a renewed vision for the future, designed to lead Penn through the next decade and beyond as one of the world’s preeminent academic institutions.

Our vision is Penn Compact 2020. It renews Penn’s fundamental priorities — increasing access, integrating knowledge and engaging locally, nationally and globally. It propels Penn’s momentum as a world leader in higher education and in addressing enormous challenges such as climate change and energy, food supply, health and politics. At its heart, “Penn Compact 2020” will guide us in strengthening three core values that make us uniquely Penn:

Inclusion, by making sure that the most talented, creative and hard working students from all backgrounds can learn and achieve at Penn.

Innovation, by fostering discoveries and new ways of thinking to address the most important issues of our time.

And Impact, by ensuring the benefits of Penn’s research, teaching and service are shared at home and around the world.

Here is a partial snapshot of what to expect as we move ahead with “Penn Compact 2020”: Robust all-grant, no-loan aid, extensive diversity initiatives, an expanded Penn World Scholars Programs and advanced online open learning; more interdisciplinary professorships and collaborative inter-school programs such as Penn Brain Science; an even more advanced and beautiful campus with the opening of the renovated ARCH building and the new Singh Center for Nanotechnology and construction of a new College House and renovation of Hill House; and expanded global engagement with the new Perry World House and Penn-Wharton China Center.

“Penn Compact 2020” is far-reaching in scope, and your role in this vision is significant: Keep doing what you do best.

Pursue your passions and develop your creative talents across schools and departments. Connect with the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships to undertake original projects with eminent faculty. Explore Penn’s array of superb interdisciplinary programs, cultural institutions, athletics and recreational opportunities. Partner with the Netter Center, Civic House and Fox Leadership to engage in dynamic service learning. Venture out and discover all Philadelphia has to offer while you’re here pursuing a world-class education.

Whether in Cameroon or on College Green, Penn students show the world what is unique about one of the world’s greatest universities. As you hear more about “Penn Compact 2020” in the months ahead, please do not hesitate to offer your perspective. Above all, never underestimate the many ways you are vital to Penn’s present and to our future. Together, let’s be sure to make the most of this new and exciting year at Penn.

Amy Gutmann is the president of the University of Pennsylvania.

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