Learning About Leadership

December 1, 2013

"A student can be a leader in every circumstance,” says John J. DiIulio, Jr., the Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society. Thanks to the recently expanded Fox Fellowship program, 100 students every year will have the opportunity to prove that point.

The Fox Fellowships are a key component of the Fox Leadership Program, a program that offers a combination of coursework, advising, events, and service experiences that engage thousands of Penn students each year in its “study and serve” mission. Robert A. Fox, C’52, and Penny Grossman Fox, ED’53, established the program in 1999 and permanently endowed it in 2007.

“Penn students are gifted intellectually, hard-working, and extremely talented. The Fox Leadership Program helps them develop and package those skills so they can assume leadership roles in their personal and professional lives,” says DiIulio.

The program’s executive director, Joseph Tierney, adds, “We develop leaders in all fields. We work with students to identify and develop their particular talents.”

The Fox Fellowships provide students with support to engage in service internships in a variety of settings, including both summer and year-round internships. In addition, alumni fellowships are available to provide support for recent graduates to engage with the program for a year or more.

The latest gift of $5 million from Robert and Penny Fox has doubled the number of fully funded fellowships. Twenty of these will be dedicated to opportunities in the nation’s capital, while another 10 fellows will work on a new initiative—the Penn Program for Opinion Research and Election Studies, headed by John Lapinski, Associate Professor of Political Science and the elections unit director for NBC News.

Students say Fox Fellowships provide them with extraordinary preparation to be leaders at Penn, in their careers, and in their communities.

Thanks to the Fox Fellowship program, Kristina Pelekoudas, C’15, of Irvine, California, spent the past summer at the Brookings Institution, working on a project to achieve universal healthcare coverage in Nigeria and another researching girls’ education in developing countries. She credits the Fox Program with playing “a central and transforming role in my Penn experience.”


With the New Orleans Superdome behind them, from left, Fox Fellows Maggie Tishman, C’10; Erica Halpern, C’10; and Judith Kim, C’09; Joseph P. Tierney, Executive Director, Fox Leadership Program; Gordon Wadge, CEO, YMCA of Greater New Orleans; and Fox Fellows Christi Julian, C’09; and Lany Villalobos, C’09. A new gift from program founders Bob and Penny Fox will allow more Penn students to take advantage of Fox leadership opportunities.

College junior Mikal Davis-West of Newark, New Jersey, spent his summer in New York City at the National Urban League, working with directors to arrange national conferences and making connections with organizations across the country. “It was a growing experience,” he says. “I felt like they were grooming me to do so much more. I can’t express how grateful I am for the fellowship.”

Sophie Harris, C’12, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is working for Providence Community Housing in New Orleans, which is responsible for bringing home 20,000 victims of Katrina. “I’ve stepped into one of the most culturally rich communities in the country, facing some of the toughest urban challenges,” she says. “Through this fellowship, I’m benefitting from a network of mentors and friends, who have welcomed me to New Orleans and integrated me in to the work they are doing to improve it.”

The Foxes’ latest gift, which brings their total support of the program to more than $28 million, also established four new scholarships in Penn Arts and Sciences for students from the Philadelphia area with high financial need. The recipients will be known as Frederic Fox scholars, honoring Robert Fox’s father, and will be involved in the Fox Leadership Program throughout their time at Penn.

“Bob and Penny Fox have a tremendous passion for giving Penn undergraduates unique opportunities to explore both service and leadership,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “We are so very grateful to Bob and Penny for their vision and their continued generosity, which will benefit students for generations to come.”