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 Data

Penn students spend not only their undergraduate careers but also their entire lives exposed to data in its many forms, and they need to be able to understand, use, manipulate, and draw conclusions from those data. We need to help them understand how data are created, collected, shared, accessed, visualized, monetized, leveraged, and effectively communicated. The Year of Data is an opportunity to make sure our students have the knowledge and skills they need to be successful at Penn and in life beyond. It encompasses qualitative and quantitative data, numerical data, biometric information, geospatial data, climate data, corporate profit projections, and even anecdotes, images, and stories, in such areas as:

• a field scientist taking measurements and collecting samples
• a literature student working in text analysis
• a historian mapping data from historical records
• a data scientist using big data to micro-target consumers to drive sales
• a political scientist studying how Facebook data can influence elections
• a public policy analyst using census data to measure impact in a community
• a philosopher examining the ethics of privacy in data analytics

Programming for the Year of Data 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 Data grants can be found at:

Each year, the Provost’s Academic Theme is introduced to our incoming first-year class through the Penn Reading Project. This year, the text is Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction.

Click here to read the full Almanac announcement.