Stories of Diversity at Penn

The following stories are from our diverse Penn community. 

Lisa Bellini

Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs and Resident Affairs and Professor of Medicine Penn Medicine

In order to attain excellence in one’s area of expertise, one must appreciate the value and impact of diversity. Each of us represents a small piece of the world’s tapestry.  Excellence demands that broad input is solicited and appreciated with an emphasis on inclusion. We are only as good as we are diverse.

Robert Carpick

Professor and Chair, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics

School of Engineering and Applied Science

As an engineering scientist, I want to make sure we recruit from the full pool of talent. Stereotyping, a lack of role models, chilly climates, and discrimination can all combine to turn people away.  For example, women are no less capable than men as scientists and engineers, yet far fewer women choose science and engineering careers. The problem is societal, starting early in the education system, but we can do our part to rectify it. That means being aggressive about recruitment, and making sure the climate is welcoming at all levels.  Being openly gay, I’ve personally experienced discrimination and harassment. Science and engineering can do better by doing what’s right.

Gilbert F. Casellas, Esq.  L’77

University of Pennsylvania’s Board of Trustees
Chair, Trustees’ Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity

We simply cannot become or remain an eminent, world-class institution and pursue knowledge beyond traditional boundaries unless we expand beyond traditional boundaries of perspectives, thought, and experience to embrace difference and seek inclusion.

Claire Jasmine Din

Director of Computing, Penn Chemistry

As an employee, Penn alumna, and member of the LGBT community for over 20 years, I value the diversity that this world-class institution offers. Penn is like a second home to me and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to Penn's mission, to add to my life skills via the tuition benefit, and to see the evolution of Penn's medical insurance plan for LGBT employees.

Johnny Irizarry

Director, La Casa Latina: Center for Hispanic Excellence

As an educator, administrator, citizen and family member, social diversity has been a personally lived experience that has challenged me to live my life intentionally aware of how my behaviors and choices affect social, cultural and racial diversity. The greatest of our academic and technological advancements will be rendered insufficient if we do not also purposely invest in the development of our richly diverse collective human capital.

More Stories About Penn

Go to Multimedia to hear stories about diversity and inclusion from the Penn community.

Visit Video Page

Michelle Leong

SEAS’13, Electrical Engineering and Economics Double Major
Engineering & Applied Science

Being able to learn and work in an environment as diverse as Penn creates richer experiences. There’s so much to learn from even just one person. Through my activities and friendships on campus, I’ve been able to meet a variety of students, faculty, and staff and learn so much from each of them. Every person has his or her own story that’s shaped his or her decisions and perspectives. I think it’s important to make the effort to put yourself out there and listen to these experiences.

Emilio Parrado

Associate Professor of Sociology
School of Arts & Sciences

I value diversity because it brings different perspectives to academia. I use my experiences as an immigrant from Latin America – and my ability to reach and communicate with Latinos – to understand the Latino population and provide a different perspective from the one typically assumed. I focus on the impact of migration, both within and across countries, as a significant life-course event, with diverse implications for migrants and their families, as well as for the areas and countries involved.

Brian Peterson

Director, Makuu Black Cultural Center

An institution’s commitment to diversity symbolizes its appreciation and its vision for true democratic participation. With rich cultural resources like the Makuu Black Cultural Center, Penn is realizing this commitment.


Melanie Philip C’12

Health & Societies Major, College of Arts & Sciences

College is not only about academic progress but also personal growth. I strongly believe that students grow the most from working, learning, and living with students of different backgrounds. Diversity of opinions and ideas is critical. Having the opportunity to work alongside motivated students who are passionate about a variety of issues has truly shaped my outlook. My peers simultaneously challenge and motivate me to step outside of my comfort zone and become acquainted with that which is unfamiliar.

Susan Ross

Professor of Microbiology, Associate Dean for Graduate Education and
Director of Biomedical Graduate Studies
Perelman School of Medicine

In Biomedical Graduate Studies, we have a responsibility to train students from underrepresented backgrounds to be the future research leaders of both academia and industry. There has been a major effort to increase the diversity of the population in biomedical graduate programs, but the percentage of students in these programs still does not reflect the US population.  By actively recruiting these candidates, we have doubled the percentage of underrepresented students entering Penn’s BGS PhD programs in the past decade.

Nancy Tkacs

Assistant Dean for Diversity and Cultural Affairs and Associate Professor
School of Nursing Science
Chair, University Council Committee on Diversity and Equity

Health disparities are inextricably linked to disparities in education and economic status. The more Penn can increase opportunity and access to all persons, the greater our contribution will be to improving the nation’s health by reducing the growing gap between “haves” and “have-nots.”