Amy Gutmann was inaugurated as Penn’s president 10 years ago today, during Homecoming Weekend in 2004. Over two interviews, Gutmann spoke about her tenure so far and her plans for the future. She spoke proudly of financial aid policies, campus expansion and the Penn Compact — the strategic plan focused on increasing access, promoting interdisciplinary knowledge and engaging with the global and local community. Below are lightly edited transcripts of the interviews.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: Having been at Penn for 10 years, what do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment so far as University president?
Amy Gutmann: There are two big things: One, the vision of the Penn Compact and now the Penn Compact 2020. ... Secondly, our all-grant, no-loan financial aid, which is part of that vision but is the single most important major step that we’ve taken to make Penn a more inclusive, affordable institution.
DP: What do you feel has been your greatest obstacle so far as president?
AG: For me, every challenge at Penn is an opportunity. And the big challenge of being Penn’s president is a form of “e pluribus unum” — out of many, one. ... The biggest challenge is to move the whole University forward, together. We have a very large, complex university and that’s what appeals to me about Penn. You name any problem in society and there’s some place at Penn where we’re working to solve — if not ameliorate — that problem. The challenge is to be able to have the resources that support the vision to move us forward.
DP: What aspect of serving as Penn’s president do you find to be most exciting?
AG: I find every aspect of being Penn’s president exciting. Being president of Penn is the exact opposite of boring. There are multiple challenges every minute of every day and as long as I find a way with my team of making progress, that to me is a great day to be able to meet the challenges. The impact that the Penn Compact has had is a source of great excitement for my team and me — and it’s definitely a team effort — so the Penn Compact 2020 is now for me the exciting new venture.
I’m most proud of our all-grant, no-loan financial aid initiatives, our support for great professors, for progress we’re making in outreach into the West Philadelphia and Philadelphia community, for Penn Park, for the way the campus has been transformed ... It’s all about serving people, giving people opportunities, making this great community here at home and around the country and all around the world.
DP: What do the next 10 years hold for you and for Penn?
AG: I hope they will be as exciting and productive — at least as exciting and productive — as the last 10 years. For the foreseeable future, my focus is on driving the Penn Compact 2020 forward, with all of our major strategic priorities and with a great team.
DP: What obstacles do you expect to face moving forward?
There are more opportunities than there are obstacles, and that’s why I’m optimistic about the future at Penn. The obstacles are formidable in that for higher education, we are facing a time where research funding from the federal government has leveled off, and one of our great obstacles I believe is also a great opportunity, and that’s we really need to do our very best to contribute to keeping educational opportunity open for talented, hardworking young people.
DP: Are you doing anything to mark the 10th anniversary of your inauguration speech? Is anyone bringing in cupcakes or anything?
AG: I have no special plans to celebrate. It’s going to be a typical busy day and week at Penn, but I am looking forward to the DP’s coverage. I think it will bring back fond memories.
DP: What do you remember about preparing for your inauguration 10 years ago? Were you nervous? Did you mess anything up?
AG: I do remember that I started preparing well in advance because I learned from having written my senior thesis in college at the last minute not to procrastinate. So I started early on a listening tour.
The other thing I remember visibly is much more mundane: I, for a while, found Diet Coke and dark chocolate the staple of my existence because there was so much going on. They were John and Kira’s chocolates, a Philadelphia company ... I’m just not recommending anybody to live on Diet Coke and dark chocolate! It’s not a good steady diet. For me, it came in handy when I had no time and I was running on a lot of energy and endorphins.Comments powered by Disqus
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