Penn Without Borders

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Both our cover story, “Going Global,” and President Gutmann’s “From College Hall” column focus on global engagement—one of the central goals of the Penn Compact and a continuing strategic priority as the University moves forward from its Making History campaign. Some of our other feature articles also take place largely outside the US, so there’s a strong international component in this issue.

In her column, President Gutmann makes the case that the University’s goals of global engagement and interdisciplinary research and teaching are inextricably bound together, since bringing to bear the best minds and insights from multiple perspectives is the only hope for arriving at effective solutions for complex real-world problems.

“Going Global,” by frequent contributor and Gazette blogger Molly Petrilla C’06, lays out the details of the University’s recently released five-year plan to extend its global reach. This effort is being led by PIK Professor Ezekiel Emanuel, who, along with positions in Wharton and the medical school, was appointed to the newly created post of vice provost for global initiatives when he came to Penn in 2011.

One of the first tasks of Emanuel’s office was to get a handle on what Penn faculty, students, and alumni were already doing abroad. (The answer? A lot.) They also created a very handy website ( to make that information available. Forging connections with alumni living and working internationally is a key part of the plan, with great promise for enhancing faculty research and student opportunities in the various countries.

In “Seeds of a Quiet Revolution,” Nathaniel Popkin C’91 GCP’95 recounts the genesis and ongoing development of a rural education effort in Nicaragua with a host of University connections. Duilio W’70 and Ernesto C’05 Baltodano, members of a multi-generational Penn family, wanted to improve the schooling available to workers at their coffee plantations and eventually create a national model for education in their country, and enlisted GSE senior lecturer Sharon Ravitch GrEd’00 and doctoral candidate Matthew Tarditi GEd’10 GrEd’14 in the effort.

What sets their program, Semillas Digitales (Digital Seeds), apart from many aid efforts is an emphasis on involving the people affected by it at every step of the way. While the program includes a technology component—children are being provided with laptops—the main focus is on teacher education and training.

“On a Roll,” by Kathryn Levy Feldman LPS’09, catches up with Samuel Reeves W’05, the president of Humanistic Robotics, Inc., whose goal, ever since he was a student in Wharton Professor Ian Macmillan’s class in social entrepreneurship, has been to create a “business that would save the world”—and turn a profit. We wrote about Reeves in 2005, when he and his business partner Josh Koplin won the $5,000 PennVention Prize that year for their idea for a better, cheaper roller-technology for landmine clearing.

In the years since, the company has become a recognized leader in the field, winning a series of government contracts and working in countries including Afghanistan, Croatia, Thailand, Bosnia, Cambodia, and South Sudan. It has also, as Reeves notes, managed to make money.

Our other features don’t fit the theme quite as well, but the adventures of Michael Burke W’39 (“The Spy Who Owned the Yankees”) included a fair amount of globe-trotting (including parachuting into Nazi-occupied France). “Practically Subversive” deals mostly with Showtime CEO Matt Blank W’72’s professional journey, but it does describe his experiences, while working for HBO in its early days, of traveling to small cities and towns across the country to “flip the switch” turning on the cable channel for the first time—which certainly sounds like a different world.

—John Prendergast C’80

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