Ben-Porath, who will begin her role on Sept. 1, has taught in the Graduate School of Education since 2004 and is currently the MRMJJ Presidential Professor of Education. Penn President Liz Magill and Provost John L. Jackson Jr. announced the decision on July 19.
In addition to her capacity as professor, Ben-Porath previously served as special assistant to the University president, chair of the Penn Committee on Open Expression, chair of the Penn Press Faculty Advisory Board, and a founding board member of the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy. She is also the author of multiple books, including the 2017 book, “Free Speech on Campus."
“There are few if any faculty scholars anywhere more qualified to lead this effort than professor Ben-Porath, whose expertise, experience, and leadership in issues of free speech and civil discourse have earned high international regard,” Magill wrote in the announcement.
Ben-Porath succeeds Michael X. Delli Carpini, the inaugural faculty director of the SNF Paideia Program, who retired as the Oscar H. Gandy Emeritus Professor of Communication and Democracy in 2022. He continued to serve as the program's faculty director and is currently the interim dean of the Annenberg School for Communication.
Ben-Porath’s scholarly discipline involves studying schools and colleges as democratic institutions. She has held fellowships at Princeton University, Harvard University, and Tel Aviv University.
“Sigal Ben-Porath is one of the world’s most powerful and eloquent advocates for the role of universities in sustaining free speech and civil dialogue,” Jackson wrote in the announcement.
SNF Paideia promotes engaged citizenry and civil discourse through curricular and co-curricular programming. The program, currently in its fourth year, was established in 2019 with a $6 million gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
In her new role, Ben-Porath will convey the program’s mission to the wider Penn community and the foundation, manage the executive director and five-person staff, and teach Paideia designated courses.
“[Ben-Porath] is the ideal scholar to take on the leadership of our pioneering SNF Paideia Program, which aims to instill these values in our students, who will go out to shape the world of the future,” Jackson wrote. “It will be exciting to see the impact that they all will make on our shared global communities in the critical years ahead."