Penn’s academic theme years aim to provide a shared intellectual experience for the entire Penn community, with programming that is developed both centrally and in individual Schools and centers.

This year, the Provost’s Academic Theme is the Year of Why. 

The concept of asking “why?” is key to advancing knowledge; philosophers and thinkers build on historic foundations as they move forward with new discoveries. We often associate inquiry with technology and scientific advancements, yet it exists in every aspect of our intellectual culture. Above all, asking “why?” is a central aspect of Penn’s history and identity: founded by Benjamin Franklin, one of history’s great thinkers, Penn was designed from the outset to be different from other schools of its day by inviting examination and discussion across disciplines.

Programming for the Year of Why will be encouraged across all Penn’s schools and centers. We offer funding beginning July 1 to support theme year programs for the following year, and we invite current students, faculty, and staff to design collaborative program opportunities across our campus and community. More information about applying for Year of Why grants can be found at:

Each year, the Provost’s Academic Theme is introduced to our incoming freshmen class through the Penn Reading Project. This year, the text is Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

Click here to read the full Almanac announcement.