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2021-admin-turnover
Clockwise, from top left: Asian American Studies Program professor David Eng, Penn President Amy Gutmann, Dean of Admissions Whitney Soule, and Vice President for Public Safety and Superintendent of Penn Police Maureen Rush. Credit: Joyce Lin , Max Mester

In 2021, several high-ranking members of Penn’s administration announced their plans to leave Penn, either temporarily or permanently. 

Penn President Amy Gutmann's nomination as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany left questions about who will lead the University if she is confirmed, and Provost Wendell Pritchett’s leave of absence led to a temporary transition in one of Penn’s highest-ranking administrative positions. 

Whitney Soule also replaced Eric Furda as dean of admissions this year, and Penn Police Superintendent Maureen Rush announced her plan to retire.

Feb. 9 — In February, Penn announced that Whitney Soule, senior vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin College, would be the next vice provost and dean of admissions.

March 19 — David Eng, a professor of the Asian American Studies Program, was slated to leave the University in the spring because of the longstanding issue of declining support for the program. At the time, Eng was one of only three tenured professors in the program.

In the fall, the University announced it would add three new faculty members to the Asian American Studies program next year. The move reignited hope for the future of the program after a longtime struggle between the University, students, and faculty to create support for ASAM. Currently on a sabbatical leave, Eng plans to return to Penn in spring 2022. 

May 6 — Philosophy professor Karen Detlefsen began her new role as vice provost for education on July 1, following a May announcement.

Detlefsen took over the role — which oversees undergraduate and graduate education at Penn, designing and implementing policies that promote academic excellence, innovation, and interdisciplinary knowledge — from Beth Winkelstein.

May 11 — Penn President Amy Gutmann announced in May that Provost Wendell Pritchett would take a leave of absence through the fall 2021 semester due to health issues.

Deputy Provost Beth Winkelstein temporarily took over Pritchett’s role as provost beginning July 1. The Provost's Office oversees all departments pertaining to University life including teaching, learning, and research across the University, as well as student life. 

July 2 — In July, President Joe Biden nominated Gutmann to serve as the United States ambassador to Germany. Gutmann wrote to the University community that she plans to continue to serve as president until June 30, 2022, or possibly earlier if the U.S. Senate confirms her as ambassador. 

Students largely embraced Gutmann’s nomination to be the next United States ambassador to Germany, but several expressed uncertainty about the University’s transition to new leadership.

Sept. 8 — In September, Penn announced the formation of the Consultative Committee to select the next University president.

The Consultative Committee consists of seven trustees, two deans, five faculty members, one staff member, one undergraduate, and one graduate student. The committee was formed by the Executive Committee of the Trustees and is charged with “seeking the advice of their respective constituencies on the challenges a new president might face, strategic priorities, and recommended strengths and experience for the new President," according to the Almanac.

Members of the Penn community can fill out a survey to nominate candidates, list characteristics they hope to see in the next president, and describe challenges they see Penn facing during the tenure of the next president.

Oct. 12 — In October, Vice President for Public Safety and Superintendent of Penn Police Maureen Rush announced that she will retire from Penn at the end of December.

Rush has been at Penn since 1994, during which time she has launched several public safety initiatives on campus and faced criticism from University and Philadelphia community members. 

Rush has received heightened criticism from members of the Penn and Philadelphia communities in recent years. The police murder of George Floyd in May 2020, which prompted nationwide protests against police brutality, sparked scrutiny of Rush and of Penn's police presence on campus and in the greater West Philadelphia community.

Nov. 3 — The United States Senate confirmed 1981 Penn Law graduate and former Board of Trustees Chair David Cohen as the next U.S. Ambassador to Canada. 

President Joe Biden nominated Cohen — a former Comcast executive who previously served as chief of staff to Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell — to the position in July. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, signaling bipartisan support for his nomination.

Correction: A previous version of the article stated that ASAM professor David Eng left Penn this spring when in fact he is currently on a sabbatical leave and plans to return in spring 2022. The DP regrets this error.

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