The abrupt exit of the longtime leader of the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, Inge Herman, has left students confused and raised questions about the circumstances surrounding her departure.
Inge Herman, who has been executive director of the dual-degree program since 2003, left Penn in the fall. Around mid-October, students noticed that she had not been in her office and rumors began circulating around the program about the reasons for her exit.
On Nov. 1, the faculty directors of the Huntsman Program emailed students to say Herman retired in a two-sentence email that praised "her hard work in helping us build Huntsman in to the strong and thriving program that it is today."
Peter Winicov, the director of Media Relations at the Wharton School, passed along The Daily Pennsylvanian's request to comment to Ron Ozio, the director of Penn Media Relations, who later declined to comment.
Herman, who was reached by phone this week, said she made an agreement with the University to not discuss the program or the reasons for her exit. She declined to speak further.
The Huntsman Program, a joint program in international studies and business, which grants students degrees both from the College of Arts and Sciences and Wharton, was first established in 1994 to “prepare its students to become leaders in today’s increasingly interconnected world.”
Herman had been the Huntsman Program’s executive director since 2003, guiding the program for over a decade. As a leader who played an integral role in building the program, she worked closely with the Office of Admissions, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Wharton Undergraduate Division.
Aside from her work with many offices within Penn, she was also closely involved in student life. She served as the primary academic advisor for the fewer than 200 students in the program.
In a 2014 DP article, Wharton senior Jara Krys, a former Huntsman student who took a leave of absence from Penn and later went into sex work, revealed that during her time as a student, Herman had disclosed personal information about Krys to her peers on many instances, alienating her from the rest of her class.
Many students declined to discuss Herman, but the few who went on the record said she has been very helpful in answering questions about academic coursework.
Alex Bendix, chair of the Huntsman Student Advisory Board and a College and Wharton senior, said Herman was the “figurehead” of the program.
“Everyone referred to her by her first name. When you meet Huntsman alumni from a decade ago, they would always ask about Inge and how she’s doing,” Bendix said. “She was, in many ways, representative of the program.”
In addition to advising students, Herman was a “constant presence in the life of a Huntsman student,” Bendix said.
“Whenever I walk[ed] into the Huntsman lounge, she was always there. I really enjoyed talking to her, and a lot of other students did too,” College and Wharton sophomore Aiden Reiter said.
College and Wharton freshman Ben Lu said students were told they would be getting a new director at the start of the spring, but Herman's position is still vacant. In her absence, Associate Director Marco Alves has been running the program.
“It’s very confusing, we’re definitely being kept in the dark about the whole thing," Lu said.
Students interviewed for this piece praised Alves, but noted that the workload required for the role has left him at times overwhelmed. As the only full-time Huntsman administrator, his portfolio of responsibilities has vastly expanded since Herman left.
“Marco has been great, but it definitely felt like a loss in a way because [Herman] was someone who looked out specifically for my academic interest,” Reiter said. “Marco is dealing with almost 200 students by himself, it’s a lot more, and harder, for him to do.”
The official Huntsman website currently lists professor Robert Jenson and professor Rudra Sil as the co-directors of the program, along with Alves and Flora Cornfield, an administrative staffer who oversees students’ study abroad programs. Sil and Cornfield both declined to comment on her departure, and Jenson and Alves could not be reached via email.