Nurturing Academic Exploration

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

By Blake Cole

As new students arrive on campus they begin a journey that will continue to shape their work and goals long after they leave. The Penn Arts & Sciences educational tradition provides students with a diversity of learning opportunities, whether it’s collaborative work in the classroom, engaging with the community outside of the classroom, or working alongside faculty mentors in labs.

In the course August Wilson and Beyond—co-taught by poet, musician, and literary scholar Herman Beavers, the subject of our cover story—undergraduates work alongside William L. Sayre High School students and West Philadelphia residents to study the works of award-winning playwright August Wilson. This same spirit of community immersion is on display in “Minds in the Wild,” which profiles a lab group as they lead two studies at the Academy of Natural Sciences to better understand how children learn, part of an effort to move mind and brain research out into the community.

Heading into the lab, “Summer of Science” follows undergraduates, who, as early as the summer after their first year, have the opportunity to work directly alongside faculty, allowing them to conduct critical research in a collaborative setting. And in “My VIPER Summer,” we take a look at the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research—a small and select cohort of students committed to solving the energy problems the world faces.

Generations of students and faculty have learned and researched in David Rittenhouse Lab (DRL), the building that’s the focus of the retrospective “Space, Time, and Laboratories.” Built in 1954 to house math and physics and astronomy, DRL has been the setting for myriad scientific breakthroughs that have impacted global learning. Though the Lab’s legacy is strengthened with each new crop of accomplished student researchers, the article also discusses how the departments would benefit from new facilities.

Penn Arts & Sciences is also impacting the global and cultural space. In “Whatever You Say, Say Everything,” we examine political scientist Brendan O’Leary’s career, from aiding in peace negotiations in Northern Ireland to advising the Prime Minister of Kurdistan. And “Recovery and Rejuvenation” profiles Penn’s Educational Partnerships with Indigenous Communities initiative, which builds alliances with Native Americans to restore Indigenous knowledge systems and languages.

We are grateful for the opportunity to share the experiences and accomplishments of our students, faculty, and alums. We hope you are as inspired by their stories as we are. Thanks for reading.