AG Headshot June 2018
Courtesy of the Office of the President

Penn summers are a whir of camps, conferences, and construction. Yet that flurry of activity cannot compare to the energy and excitement that come in the fall when everyone returns to campus. It’s good to have you back and to welcome you to another exciting year at Penn!   

Over the summer, we were delighted to announce the appointment of Penn’s first-ever chief wellness officer. Benoit Dubé will direct wellness initiatives across the University and lead a newly integrated division of Student Wellness Services that will address all facets of physical and emotional health for our students. 

As we searched for the first director of this kind among our peer institutions in the Ivy League, we knew we had to find an exceptionally caring, creative, and enterprising leader. Dubé fits the need ideally. A member of the Penn community since he arrived to serve as a resident and then chief resident in psychiatry in 1997, he has earned accolades from his colleagues and the devotion of generations of Penn medical students for his work championing inclusivity, balance, and wellness at Penn Medicine. In 2011, he received a Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence. 

Speaking with Dubé, I have been impressed with his understanding of the need to enable faster access to care for more students, and his deep commitment to promoting a genuine culture of wellness across campus. Welcome Dr. Dubé!

Another aspect of creating a more welcoming and healthy environment on the Penn campus premieres this fall and will continue to expand and evolve in the semesters ahead. 

For some time now, we have been looking at how we can build a deeper sense of belonging, increase connections, improve decision-making, and promote engagement that enhances the academic experience among our second-year undergraduates. 

Freshman year is marked by the excitement of move-in and all things new. Our juniors and seniors have rich traditions and growing expectations about the place they are making for themselves in the world. Yet, in many ways, it is sophomore year that sows the seeds of future satisfaction and success. This is a time when making good decisions is key. 

It is no surprise then that one strong recommendation from the Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community was that we explore how we could better promote the second-year/sophomore experience. The Task Force identified unique needs of sophomores related to academics and research, co‐curricular opportunities, social standing and community, housing choices, personal finances, budgeting, and pre‐professional exploration. It also recommended we develop a comprehensive two‐year College House program that will enable students to take full advantage of the educational and social opportunities on campus as both first‐ and second‐year students. 

The first of these increased efforts to make sophomore year a more vital year will start at the Welcome Back picnic for sophomores and juniors on Aug. 28. We will follow up soon after with Sophomore Day on Sept. 14, during which we will celebrate the class and the offices that serve them. In addition, we are partnering with the Sophomore Class Board to plan a spring event for our students in their second year to celebrate the milestone of making it “halfway there” to graduation. Ideas are welcome! Contact the Class Board if you would like to be involved in planning a new Penn tradition.

We will be announcing new initiatives and programs specifically aimed at enhancing the sophomore experience as the semester progresses. Stay tuned. We also encourage everyone — no matter what your year — to engage in the midterm election season and register to vote. Penn Leads The Vote will once again be running registration and information drives on campus in advance of the Nov. 6 election, so be sure to get involved.   

Welcome to another exciting year at Penn!

AMY GUTMANN is the eighth president of the University of Pennsylvania.

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