University of Pennsylvania

Penn News


On the evening of April 24, the Benjamin Franklin Society (BFS) welcomed 318 members and guests to the Rubin Museum of Art to share conversation and hors d’oeuvres among some of Asia’s finest artworks and antiquities. The reception was a celebration of the University’s leadership annual giving donors, including alumni, parents, students, and friends of Penn.

School of Social Policy & Practice Overseer and BFS member Larry Wieseneck, W’87, PAR’18, greeted the crowd and shared his thoughts on the significance of their contributions before introducing the night’s special guest speaker, John L. Jackson, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice.

Quick Facts: 

Charles Custis Harrison served as provost from 1894-1910, a roles that equates to the modern president.

Penn’s history has been molded by many capable hands, but our physical presence—our contribution to the Philadelphia skyline—is largely attributable to an oft-overshadowed provost, Charles Custis Harrison.

Harrison—founder of the Franklin Sugar Refinery, one of the largest refineries in the world at the turn of the century—served as Trustee from 1876 until his death in 1929, and served as Provost from 1894-1910. He brought not only business acumen to his role at Penn, but also a host of wealthy industrialist contacts and political leaders.

Quick Facts: 

Penn GSE students Jooeun Shim (left) and Noora Noushad (right), along with Associate Professor Susan Yoon (second from left), ask Penn Alexander students to describe what kind of social and scientific impact their mobile app can have. Photo by Daniel Burke Photography

by Juliana Rosati

Penn GSE Associate Professor Susan Yoon wants science to empower students—both to develop the skills their futures will require and to live as engaged citizens.

“Science content and processes are not just academic things,” she says. “I want students to be able to take what they learn and apply it in the world to do good and effect change.”

Through a variety of research projects, Dr. Yoon has developed tools, curricula, and teacher training to bring science to life for students in ways that improve learning and incorporate twenty-first-century skills.

In her latest project, she is developing a way to teach science and computer programming, or “coding,” simultaneously. Supported by the Gregory and EJ Milken Foundation, the Lori and Mark Fife Foundation, Penn’s University Research Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, the project could meet a need felt by schools across the country.

A Curriculum for Change

Vijay Kumar, Professor and Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, has a big goal in mind for his tenure – grow to become the top engineering school in the nation. Accomplishing this means recruiting and retaining the world’s best faculty and students, giving them state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and enhancing the interdisciplinary programs that make Penn unique.

The School relies on private philanthropy – especially unrestricted funds that can make an immediate impact on the School’s greatest areas of need. A gift to the Engineering Annual Giving Fund may be used to recruit top faculty, support student-run programs like Penn Electric Racing, purchase computer and laboratory equipment, upgrade facilities, and more.

Recently, Alex Kruger ENG’96, W’96 came up with an innovative idea to boost the School’s Annual Giving Fund by issuing a challenge. He promised an additional $50,000 if the number of donors could grow to 1,921—an increase of 100 donors—by the close of the 2016 fiscal year.

Penn Engineering donors heeded the call, meeting and exceeding the goal well ahead of schedule. As part of the challenge, current graduate students and created the first Graduate Student Challenge, which was also incredibly successful.

Click here to watch a video about the Graduate Student Challenge.

To find a success story about graduate student fellowships, one need look no further than the Dean’s office in Meyerson Hall. “I have three graduate degrees from Penn,” says Frederick Steiner, Dean and Paley Professor at PennDesign, “and I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go here if I didn’t have financial support.”

It’s a problem many prospective graduate students face when they consider PennDesign. Right now, the gap between the aid being offered and the cost of tuition is often more than $40,000 per year. The result of this gap is that, increasingly, the top candidates who are accepted to PennDesign end up enrolling elsewhere.

The School is facing a tremendous need to increase financial aid, not only to retain these high-performing students, but also to retain faculty, increase the diversity of the student body, and enable students to take greater risks in their post-graduate careers.

“What Penn has done with undergraduate scholarships has been transformative, and there’s been a general recognition that we need to do the same thing with graduate and professional students,” says Steiner. “The most important issues of the 21st Century will be addressed by the disciplines in PennDesign. We need to give our students the freedom to pursue their real interests without the burden of debt that inhibits their careers.”

Click here to hear to learn more about the case for fellowships at PennDesign.