SAS Dean’s Blog


Dennis DeTurck

Dennis DeTurck

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor and Professor of Mathematics

The past week has been a busy one in the College! For our underclassmen, it has been a week of midterms, papers, and advance registration for Fall classes. Meanwhile, graduation day is looming over the horizon for our seniors as they complete and present capstone projects and theses and begin to reflect on the four years they have been with us at Penn. For me, one of the real joys of being Dean of the College is having the opportunity to join with groups of students throughout the School of Arts and Sciences in these reflections and celebrations of their academic accomplishments.

For example, the Classical Studies Department held its Senior Colloquium in a new format: Before the Colloquium, each of the twenty-eight seniors submitted a sample of their work to the faculty—something they were particularly proud of, such as a senior honors thesis or a paper or project from a class. Rather than having the students present their work at the Colloquium, the faculty prepared and gave summaries of the work for the assembled group, and then asked follow-up questions to the student authors. The session showcased the remarkable variety and scope of classical studies—from modern retellings of classic tales and myths to historical accounts to analysis of ancient science and scientific analysis of archaeological finds—and it demonstrated the students’ command of their discipline and ability to build on what they had done and explain its value and relevance. Besides being a celebration of the accomplishments of this year’s senior classics majors, the event and the work surrounding it is a new part of the department’s ongoing effort to assess learning outcomes in the major.

A few days later I attended the Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF). At this event more than eighty sophomores, juniors and seniors, mostly from the College (but a few Engineers and Nursing students), displayed the results of research as impressive for its diversity as for its depth: politics, economics, and history (Russian voting patterns, changing international financial institutions, Israeli-Palestinian activism), health and society (public health in colonial Senegal, mentoring in academic medicine), arts and literature (dementia and the art of painting, film without sound, Japanese art heroes), and of course science and medicine (protein interactions, algorithmic diet planning, carbon nanotubes). Some of these research projects will be on display on the College Green at CollegeFest on April 19.

The day after that I had the pleasure of participating in the 10th annual Academically-Based Community Service Summit sponsored by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Here, our students presented results of their research and service work in ABCS courses, which spanned new tutoring and student academic support projects in science, math, and literacy at West Philadelphia schools; environmental projects such as harnessing stormwater in public farms; and health civic development initiatives in the local community.

There will be many more events like these in the coming weeks, and the energy levels on campus will only continue to rise as freshmen, sophomores and juniors head into summer, and our seniors move on to their lives after Penn. I'm looking forward to sharing with them these final weeks of what has been another annus mirabilis at Penn.