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Photos by: Ethan Wu, Chase Sutton, and Kylie Cooper Credit: Georgia Ray

In 2020, many long-time Penn administrators left their positions, paving the way for new faces on campus.

The former Vice Provost for University Life left her role after 25 years to serve in a new student engagement position at Penn. Wharton made history by appointing the school's first Black and female dean, and the University Chaplain is taking on additional responsibilities as Vice President for Social Equity and Community.

Penn also announced that the current Dean of Admissions and Chair of the Board of Trustees are planning to leave their positions.

New Vice Provost for Student Engagement Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum Former Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum left her role in June to become Penn’s inaugural Vice Provost for Student Engagement. McCoullum, who served as the VPUL for 25 years, is now able to focus more on Penn's pipeline and college preparatory programs for high school students in Philadelphia.

She added that she has always been interested in policies and programs that affect students in urban school districts, or who are first-generation or low-income, as they are groups with which she identifies.

“It's so exciting to join my two loves, University of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia, in a way that I can actually have even more of a direct impact on the connections that Penn has woven, and work with all of you as a Penn family in my city to have Penn be even more of a strong partner in the life of our city,” McCoullum said.

New Vice Provost for University Life Mamta Motwani Accapadi Mamta Motwani Accapadi assumed her role as Penn’s Vice Provost for University Life in August, replacing McCoullum. Prior to coming to Penn, Accapadi served as the Vice President for Student Affairs at Rollins College in Florida since 2013, preceded by four years as the Dean of Student Life at Oregon State University.

Accapadi, who began meeting with student organizations virtually before the semester even began, said she looks forward to bridging the gap between students and administrators as the VPUL. Although she was disappointed to begin her role online, Accapadi said that it has allowed her to attend more student-organization events than she would have been able to attend in person. 

“It's been humbling to start in this role not being able to be in a room to gather folks and build community,” Accapadi said. “It’s also presented the opportunity to rise and work harder and be creative in how I show up and present.”

New Wharton Dean Erika James Erika James made Penn history on July 1 when she became the first female and Black dean of the Wharton School. James replaced former Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett, who left Penn in July to serve as dean of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

James, the former dean of the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, said that Wharton’s impact on the business world compelled her to accept the new position. Her main responsibility, as Wharton dean, is to advance the school's mission of creating the world's next "visionaries, inventors, and trailblazers," as well as to leave Wharton better than it was when she started the job. 

“I want to make sure that we continue to elevate [Wharton students'] scholarship and ensure that it is applicable to help solve the world’s greatest challenges,” James said. “I think Wharton is particularly primed to be able to do that because of the scale and reach.”

New Vice President for Social Equity and Community Charles Howard University Chaplain and 2000 College graduate Charles Howard began his tenure as Penn’s first Vice President for Social Equity and Community on Aug. 1. In his new role, Howard designs and oversees the University’s Projects for Progress, a $2 million fund created to support pilot projects on research that addresses social issues and inequities.

Howard has served as University Chaplain since 2008 and continues to do so in conjunction with his new role. As a Penn alum, Howard said he is excited to work with student groups such as the cultural resource centers and activist groups to create positive change at Penn and in Philadelphia.

“When students are protesting at trustee meetings and in front of College Hall, it's like I see me,” Howard said. “Back then, it was sweatshops and racism and violence, and now it’s violence, policing, and fossil fuels. I feel like if I was a student today, I’d be right there with them.”

Departing Dean of Admissions Eric Furda After 12 years as Dean of Admissions, Eric Furda will leave Penn on Dec. 31 to join the college counseling team at William Penn Charter School. 

Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett wrote in an email to the Penn community that Furda's decision to leave is a "very personal one," as his two children are currently enrolled at William Penn Charter.

Under Furda's leadership, Gutmann and Pritchett wrote "the diversity and academic excellence of [Penn's] classes have grown each year," particularly highlighting the Dean's work in prioritizing the admission of more first-generation, low-income students to the University.

A replacement for Furda, a 1987 College graduate, has not yet been announced.

Incoming Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok — Scott Bok, 1981 College and Wharton graduate and investment banker, will become the chair of the University’s Board of Trustees on July 1, 2021. Bok is the chairman and CEO of independent investment bank Greenhill & Co., Inc. He will succeed David L. Cohen, who has served as chair since November 2009. 

Bok has earned three degrees from Penn: a bachelor's of science degree in economics from the Wharton School and a bachelor's of arts degree in political science from the College of Arts & Sciences in 1981, and a JD degree from Penn Law School in 1984. Bok said that his gratitude for the experiences and opportunities Penn has given him led him to first become involved with the Board of Trustees in 2005.

“Like so many people who graduate from Penn, I came away with a wonderful, positive feeling toward the school and with the desire to some way stay involved and to give back to some degree, given so much of what I have been able to achieve in life is really a function of the great education I got at Penn,” he said.

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