Published by Penn Today
Authored by Amanda Mott
University of Pennsylvania Provost Wendell Pritchett has announced the appointments of Camille Charles and Robert Ghrist as the inaugural faculty co-directors of the Office of Penn First Plus Students.
“Camille Charles and Rob Ghrist,” Pritchett said, “are two of our foremost faculty leaders in helping our students achieve personal and academic success. They are the ideal people to launch this new office, which will provide expanded programs and support to our high-need and first-generation undergraduates. In the months ahead, they will work closely with me, Vice Provost for University Life Valerie Swain-Cade McCullum, Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein, and partners across the University to begin the vital work of this office and to conclude our national search for its inaugural executive director.”
Camille Charles, the Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences, teaches in the departments of Sociology and Africana Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences and in the Higher Education Division of the Graduate School of Education. A scholar of race, class, and urban inequality in the United States, she has focused on research about minorities in higher education, co-authoring “Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities” and “The Source of the River: The Social Origins of Freshmen at America’s Selective Colleges and Universities.” At Penn, as director of the Center for Africana Studies, she leads the Center’s intensive, week-long Summer Institute for Pre-Freshmen.
Robert Ghrist, the Andrea Mitchell University Professor, professor of mathematics in the School of Arts and Sciences, and professor of electrical and systems engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is one of 22 Penn Integrates Knowledge Professors, the group of intellectual leaders whose work brings together the perspectives of multiple disciplines. He is an award-winning researcher in applied algebraic topology and the 2015 winner of a Lindback Award, Penn’s highest cross-University honor for teaching. He has been a pioneer in teaching calculus through electronic media, and a longtime leader in the University’s Pre-Freshman Program, an academically rigorous and intensive four-week summer residential program preceding New Student Orientation.
The Office of Penn First Plus Students, established in the spring, will offer a central, supportive home at Penn where undergraduate students can form a vibrant community, learn more about resources, and connect with faculty and alumni. Its inaugural executive director and faculty co-directors—one from a humanities/social science discipline and one from a STEM discipline—will implement new programs, strengthen connections to faculty and alumni, and provide a central hub and strategic vision to sustain these efforts.