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The Penn Futures Project unites three deans’ aims in serving the children and families of West Philadelphia. (Photo by Stuart Goldenberg)

Credit: Stuart Goldenberg

The Penn Futures Project, a collaborative effort among three Penn schools to serve the Philadelphia community, has appointed two new faculty leaders: Nutrition and Nursing professor Terri Lipman, and Child Development and Education professor Vivian Gadsden. 

Launched in 2015, the Penn Futures Project promotes an interdisciplinary approach to serving children and families in Philadelphia. Together, members of the School of Nursing, School of Social Policy and Practice, and Graduate School of Education aim to help local community members while simultaneously providing community-based training for graduate students in the field.

This past March, the deans from the three schools named Lipman and Gadsden to serve as the project's first faculty leaders. The new positions were officially adopted in July and requires them to work with both deans and faculty members to advance the project's mission.  

Penn Futures currently oversees five initiatives, most of which include partnership with the Philadelphia community and government organizations. These include a data analysis project to map communities that need pre-kindergarten service, the development of a multidisciplinary child welfare certificate, and the formation of guidelines to train teachers, nurses, and social workers to better serve LGBTQ students. 

The group also oversees the Calvin Bland Faculty Fellowship, which supports one faculty member from each of the three Penn schools to research race, gender, and health in communities of color.

Both Gadsden and Lipman said they are excited to take on their new roles leading Penn Futures. 

“We are very pleased and honored to be able to think through the possibilities for the three schools to collaborate in the way that they’re doing and to work with our colleagues as well as people in communities to see if we can make a real difference," Gadsden said. 

Both Lipman and Gadsden have worked extensively in child welfare and have been involved in Penn Futures for several years. 

Lipman is the assistant dean for community engagement in the Nursing School, and sits on the executive board of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Previously, she served as director of Penn’s Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, which is the only acute care program in the United States where students engage with members of the community throughout the course of their curriculum. 

Gadsden has served as the director of the National Center on Fathers and Families and as president of the American Educational Research Association, conducting extensive research on Head Start and other preschool programs in Philadelphia. 

“In some ways, Penn Futures is very much an amalgamation of what we’ve been doing over time,” Gadsden said.