Re: What is the importance of diversity in higher education?

Dr. Amy Gutmann became the eighth president of the University of Pennsylvania on July 1, 2004.  In her inaugural address, Gutmann launched the Penn Compact, her vision for making Penn a global leader in teaching, research, and professional practice, as well as a dynamic agent of social, economic, and civic progress.  The Compact focuses on increasing access for the most talented students regardless of socioeconomic background, recruiting and retaining eminent faculty who integrate knowledge across multiple disciplines, and making Penn a more powerful transformational force locally, nationally, and around the globe.  In October 2007, Gutmann officially launched “Making History: The Campaign for Penn,” a five-year, $3.5 billion fundraising effort to support the University’s priorities of expanding undergraduate, graduate, and financial aid, strengthening faculty endowment, and creating the optimal environment for teaching, research, and student living.  “Making History” is by far the largest fundraising effort in Penn’s history.

Gutmann serves on the Board of Directors of the Carnegie Corporation and the Vanguard Corporation, and on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center.  In 2005, she was appointed to the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, a committee that advises the FBI on national security issues relating to academia.  Gutmann is a member of the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF), which convenes at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and is a member of the Asia Society’s Task Force on U.S. policy toward India.   She also is among the leaders of a select group of presidents of research universities throughout the world who advise the U.N. Secretary General on a range of global issues, including academic freedom, mass migration, international development, and the social responsibilities of universities.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Amy Gutmann: Diversity in itself, I think, is not valuable. I like to point out that there’s no particular reason for somebody to have admitted me to a college because I happen to be left-handed and have blond hair and blue eyes, and that could add to the diversity at some colleges. The importance of diversity is to the extent that there are aspects of people’s backgrounds – whether it be racial or socio-economic, and aspects of people’s perspectives on life . . . so religious diversity – that add to the educational enterprise. So if I go to school and I’m surrounded by people who are like me, I’m going to learn less than if I’m surrounded by people who challenge me intellectually, who come from backgrounds that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to actually know firsthand. That’s gonna make a huge difference in my education. Now when I say that, I have to say that I’ve experienced it as well. My education has been as rich as it has as much by the people I’ve come in contact with who have come from worlds that are so foreign to my own as it is by the wonderful teachers that I’ve had. And my own education . . . The reason my father was such an inspiration to me is he was so different from everyone else . . . than every other adult I had ever met in rural New York.

Recorded on: 7/3/07

 


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