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University of Pennsylvania

While many of you were away for the summer, something extraordinary happened. On a sunny day in June, the Penn Museum’s 13-ton sphinx went outside for a stroll.

The historic move of the sphinx to the Museum’s main entrance hall is part of our ambitious transformation of the Penn Museum. After many months of creative and careful planning, a Penn team constructed a custom ramp and deployed technology not unlike that used in air hockey tables to lift and move the ancient statue to its new home. Like the sphinx itself, this feat of hands-on engineering was a wonder to behold. 

It is also a fine metaphor for the ethos that distinguishes our Penn community: We learn and discover best when we roll up our sleeves and engage. Putting knowledge into practice and service is a hallmark of the Penn experience. As we embark on a new academic year, I encourage you to seize the enormous array of opportunities at Penn to get out there, to connect with others, and to engage every day.  

The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships can pair you with Penn faculty to undertake original research. Join with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and volunteer to tutor young West Philadelphia students, enroll in one of dozens of Academically Based Community Service courses, or mentor young athletes through the Young Quakers program. Partner with the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program to pursue research and service fellowships. Flex your muscles of civic engagement and join your classmates in the nonpartisan, student-led Penn Leads the Vote initiative.

For all seniors, I invite you to consider competing for this year’s President’s Engagement Prize and President’s Innovation Prize. Unmatched in size and scope anywhere in higher education, these Prizes provide a graduating Penn senior or team of graduating seniors with up to $100,000 and a generous living stipend to undertake transformative projects that make a real difference in the world. 

You also have at your fingertips an exceptional selection of cultural and arts resources. The Penn Museum is an excellent place to begin both for learning and volunteering. Take a break and visit the “Design with Nature Now” exhibit, presented by the McHarg Center at the Weitzman School of Design, celebrating the profound legacy of legendary Penn landscape architect Ian McHarg. Be sure to stroll the galleries of our Institute of Contemporary Art, which for more than half a century has championed rising artists. For some of the world’s best in dance and theater, make a date with the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. 

The Annenberg Center is also home to the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, which provides grants and other strategic support to faculty, students, cultural centers, and artists at Penn to drive inspiration, creativity, and action across disciplines. For student-driven programming in the arts, be sure to check out the Platt Student Performing Arts House. 

The list of Penn opportunities to get out there, to put knowledge into action and service, goes on far longer than I can hope to cover here. I encourage you to seek out and try the opportunities that spark your interest most.

It’s not every day a sphinx goes for a stroll. But at Penn, every day brings countless ways for you to engage. Welcome to another action-packed year at Penn!

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