Global Penn by the Numbers
number of alumni living outside the US
percentage of undergraduate students from outside the US
countries they represent
percentage of graduate and professional students from outside the US
1 in 3
faculty members engaged
in global activities
partnerships Penn has with universities around the world
number of conferences held at Penn in 2011 pertaining to global issues
number of students who studied abroad at some point in academic year 2010-11 (including non-credit activities)
Source: Office of the Vice Provost
for Global Initiatives
In Marchthe University announced that it would create a campus home for its far-flung efforts. Located at 3803 Locust Walk and expected to open in two or three years, Perry World House—named for Penn Trustee Richard C. Perry W’77 and his wife, Lisa, who are providing a $10 million gift—will “play a central role in Penn’s efforts to educate a new generation of leaders and scholars,” providing a central hub for global activities and initiatives, Gutmann says.
While the design remains to be worked out, the facility will draw inspiration from its next-door neighbor, Kelly Writers House, with an inviting space to convene on the first floor and offices and rooms for meetings on the second. In addition to providing a gathering place for faculty and students from across Penn’s schools, it will house the new Global Solutions Program, dedicated to analyzing and developing innovative policy solutions to global issues.
Perry World House will be perhaps the most visible, tangible outgrowth of the University’s new strategy for global initiatives. It will also be one of the only bricks-and-mortar approaches in that strategy.
In the early 2000s, “international branch campus” became a buzz term in higher education. The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education reported that there were 78 international branches of American colleges and universities in 2010, each of which offered degree programs taught in English. Nearly 80 percent of those branches had been opened after 1999.
The new overseas outposts were meant to serve international students seeking American educations and American students studying abroad. Yet some people saw the branches as more fad than fixture. Inside Higher Ed described them as “the flavor of the month or, perhaps, the decade” in 2011. The flavor had begun to fade by then, with some schools shuttering their international branches and others scrapping plans to construct new ones. As one professor told the Associated Press, also in 2011: “The gold rush mentality of the 2000s is over.”
Even as other institutions raced to build campuses abroad in the early 2000s, Penn hung back—and in its new global strategy, the University has no plans to start developing international branches. “We’re an institution dedicated to education and research and really making a difference in the world,” Emanuel says. “Building branch campuses is a real-estate business.”
As Guillén puts it: “I just don’t see why you need a degree program in Singapore or China or Abu Dhabi in order to be a university that engages globally. We should instead be using the resources we already have in new ways.”
Rather than degree-granting campuses, Penn is building up small centers in East and South Asia—specifically, the Penn Wharton Center in Beijing and the Delhi-based University of Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study of India. Emanuel says those facilities are meant to provide a physical location for international student interviews, faculty research, classes, and conferences. “All of that is really important,” he adds, “but you don’t need a campus for it. You can have a very modest, efficient office.”
Beyond that, the University will continue its quest to “improve the world and afford the opportunity for healthy and inspired lives to others,” Emanuel says. “It’s what we do in the Botswana-UPenn Partnership [“Prognosis Botswana,” Mar|Apr 2007]. It’s what we do in the Penn Med Guatemala Health Initiative. It’s what we do when we’re engaged in training with other universities.” Under the new strategy, the University will develop more of these partnerships in four major regions: China and East Asia, India and South Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
With that and everything else the University is working toward abroad, it will be a busy five years, certainly. What does Emanuel hope to see at the end? “Our goal is to have Penn leading in engagement in a variety of places in the world,” he says. “I would like to see our footprint and our programs really enhanced in many, many different countries.”
Back on the Global Penn website, I’m still clicking. In Brazil, I discover a Wharton “Global Modular Course”—meaning an intensive three-to-seven-day workshop held abroad—titled “Managing in Emerging Economies: Energy & Infrastructure in Brazil.” In Sweden, I find 27 faculty projects, including a brain injury study for youth hockey players and a clinical trial for rare diseases. I see 624 alumni and four clubs in Australia.
Finally, curious to see what will happen, I try clicking on the United States. 0 opportunities. Of course. This site isn’t about everything that Penn is doing in Philadelphia and around the country—the things we so often read about or even witness firsthand. It’s about celebrating the University’s global reach and watching as that reach expands day by day, year by year. The globe-trotting Ben Franklin would be proud.
Molly Petrilla C’06 writes frequently for the Gazette and manages the magazine’s arts & culture blog.
There are nearly 1,500 alumni living in India today and another 1,500 reside in China. As presidents of the Mumbai and Beijing Alumni Clubs, Ramanan Raghavendran ENG’89 W’89 LPS’13 and Loretta Evans GEx’95 have each spent several years fostering strong alumni communities in these countries’ major cities.
Evans has been living in China for nearly a decade now. “I thought I’d stay for a year, but then I got here and I liked it,” she says. “I’m able to do really exciting things here.” That includes starting a new business, the Gartell Group, Inc., which focuses on consulting, software development, and geophysical technical services. It also includes leading the Penn Club of Beijing for the last three years.
The alumni club hosts a combination of “social, learning and just plain fun” events, Evans says, from a Chinese New Year festival to student meet-and-greets to seminars for those interested in starting a China-based business.
“I really am delighted when someone finds an event on our website and just shows up,” she adds. “We were having an event for [Engineering] Dean Eduardo Glandt [GCh’75 Gr’77] once and an alumnus from New Jersey just happened to be in Beijing on business and came by. I was so thrilled! If we have a presence like that and people know they can come while they’re in town, that makes me so happy.”
Raghavendran helped co-found the Penn Club of Mumbai several years ago after noticing a “large alumni presence” in the Indian city—close to 1,000 people, he says. The club hosts a formal gala and an informal mixer each year, along with smaller events that showcase visiting Penn professors or center on stimulating themes.
“For our annual gala, we don’t look for outside luminaries,” Raghavendran says. “We specifically time it to coincide with trips to India by Penn deans and it is they who keynote the gala. We’ve been fortunate in having SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell, Dean Glandt, and Admissions Dean Erica Furda [C’87] all find time in their busy schedules to speak with alumni.”
A managing partner in the private-equity firm Kubera Partners, Raghavendran serves on the advisory board for Penn’s Center for the Advanced Study of India and the University of Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study of India, the New Delhi-based counterpart of CASI. He’s also chair of the India Secondary Schools Committee for Penn Admissions.
Asked about devoting so much time and energy to these international volunteer roles, he says that “my volunteer work at Penn has offered some of the most rewarding experiences of my life … The better question is how could I not help our students and alumni connect or re-connect with Penn? It has been a great honor.”
Benjamin Hardy Nu’13 W’13 already had a glittering resume when he arrived at Penn. On top of his academic achievements, he’d won a national public-speaking competition in his native Australia and raised $20,000 for charity as prefect of his Sydney school. He could have easily continued his education there, but instead he moved to Philadelphia and enrolled in Penn’s Nursing and Healthcare Management Program, which grants dual degrees from Wharton and the School of Nursing.
“One of my high-school teachers was a Yale alum,” Hardy says. “It was through him that I even heard of the opportunity to come to America [for college]. He instilled in me this childish dream to study abroad. I didn’t know what to expect or where it would take me or whether it was even possible for me because I wasn’t from a well-off background, but I had this dream of coming to America for university.”
Hardy applied to several American colleges in his senior year of high school. He visited Penn shortly after receiving his acceptance letter and found “something I thought only existed in fairytales, really,” he says. “Even though the college atmosphere was quite intimidating to me, at the same time everything felt so close and welcoming. I loved what I saw.”
He’s not the only one. As far back as 1908, Old Penn — as the Gazette was then known — boasted of the University’s students: “their homes encircle the globe.” Today, 15 percent of undergraduates come to Penn from outside the US, as do 27 percent of graduate and professional students. Those numbers comprise one of the largest international-student populations in the Ivy League, according to Gayle Christensen, executive director for global initiatives.
The University’s strategy for global engagement lays out a goal of attracting “the best and brightest international students and better integrat[ing] their diverse perspectives.” One way that’s happened—and will continue to happen—is through the Penn World Scholars Program, which launched in 2006.
There are currently 41 undergraduate students in the program, including Hardy. They’re selected based on their academic and leadership achievements, their financial need, and their career goals, and they receive substantial aid packages—“the best possible financial aid that the institution can provide,” Christensen says—which encourages them to leave their home countries and pursue a Penn education.
They come to the University from Swaziland, Kenya, Cyprus, Jordan, Lithuania, Brazil—and Australia. Some are debate and public-speaking champions. Some are accomplished volunteers, musicians, athletes, writers. As the program lays out in its mission statement, Penn World Scholars aims to “enhance the Penn community by welcoming the most outstanding students from diverse cultural backgrounds and regions of the world and fostering their growth as the leaders of the future.”
Now a few weeks shy of graduation, Hardy is planning a career in healthcare administration. While he’d like to run a hospital someday, he’ll start out as a healthcare consultant in Boston Consulting Group’s Summit, New Jersey, office. He’s been impressed by Penn’s robust international-student population, but he’d like to see the numbers keep growing.
“Unfortunately, I think a lot of international students may not know about the educational opportunities that exist here in the States,” he says. “They just go to university in their home city and call it a day. I think it’s really important to assemble a population of students who have had different experiences and really have a lot to offer. I have a lot of friends from Penn who are now going back to their home cities and rebuilding the infrastructure. That’s something they wouldn’t have been able to do if they hadn’t come here.”
Welcoming international students to campus is equally important for the Americans at Penn, Christensen says. “When we look at what our strategic plan is trying to do, we really want to bring the world to Penn,” she adds. “By having such a diverse and large group of international students, we’re able to make Penn a global experience for all of our students.”