The Campaign for Penn GSE: Creating Opportunity at Penn GSE and Beyond

October 22, 2020
A logo made of dark blue, light blue, and bright red blocks appears against an ivory background. The logo reads, “Extraordinary Impact: The Campaign for Penn GSE."

by Karen Doss Bowman

The Extraordinary Impact Campaign, a $75 million initiative within the University-wide Power of Penn Campaign, represents the largest fundraising effort in Penn GSE’s history. Through the generosity of donors, Extraordinary Impact is fueling the work of Penn GSE faculty, staff, and students as they create opportunity through education. This support, spanning the areas below, allows the School to improve learning outcomes locally, nationally, and globally to shape the next century of education.

Facilities and Technology

CONCEPTUAL DESIGN IMAGE courtesy of Ann Beha Architects. The images shown here are of a conceptual nature, illustrating the intended massing of potential additions and proposed scope of interior work. The final design of the addition and interior renovations will continue to develop and advance in future months in accordance with the program requirements and budget targets.

Generous new gifts have contributed to a total of $11.5 million raised for Penn GSE’s state-of-the-art building expansion, adding momentum to the School’s first building project in more than half a century. The transformational project is designed to provide a much-needed hub for Penn GSE, which boasts the second-largest student body among Penn’s graduate and professional schools. Many new gifts and commitments are propelling the project forward so that the majority of the School’s more than 1,600 students can convene at a central location with flexible, technologically advanced learning spaces.

 “The enhanced facility will create an interdisciplinary hub for educators,” says Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman. “Future early childhood and K–12 educators, researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs, chief learning officers, and others will learn side by side.” The expansion will merge the 3700 Walnut Street building with nearby Stiteler Hall and include the addition of a large new entrance lobby; plentiful student spaces, lounges, and study areas; and a two-story adjoining building with classrooms and an innovation lab. Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, a $5 million match is available to double the impact of a new $5 million gift to the project and will provide a prominent naming opportunity at the intersection of 37th and Walnut Streets at a key entry point of Penn’s campus.

Scholarship and Fellowship

Headshot of Rebecca Baelen
Rebecca Baelen

Gifts totaling $6.6 million for financial aid are bolstering Penn GSE’s ability to attract exceptionally talented and dedicated students across programs. By lessening the burden of tuition payments, scholarships and fellowships allow students to focus on their academic and professional pursuits. Rebecca Baelen, an Education Policy Ph.D. student, received the Lee and George Doty Endowed Fellowship. For her dissertation, Baelen has conducted a study of the School’s three teacher education programs, developing an intervention to promote teachers’ well-being.

 “I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to study at Penn GSE,” says Baelen. “I have transformed as a scholar, teacher, and colleague.”

Headshot of Heather Hairston
Heather Hairston

Heather Hairston, an Ed.D. student in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership, received the Glosserman Family Urban Education Scholarship. A former Mary Jane Patterson Fellow in the District of Columbia Public Schools, Hairston is focused on advocating for educational reform. She was drawn to Penn GSE’s research focus, rigorous programs, and overall reputation.

 “The cost of education can take a toll on students’ families and work-life balance,” Hairston says. “I am so grateful and thankful that the generosity of donors has provided me and other students with an invaluable opportunity—a chance to further our education.”


Headshot of Dr. Yasmin Kafai
Dr. Yasmin Kafai (Photo by Greg Benson Photography)

With $5.8 million raised, including four new endowed professorships, support for faculty ensures that Penn GSE can attract and retain scholars of the highest caliber. Dr. Yasmin Kafai, a world-renowned learning scientist, is the inaugural Lori and Michael Milken President’s Distinguished Professor in Education. A pioneer of online tools and communities to promote coding, crafting, and creativity, as well as diversity in the field of technology, Kafai empowers students in grades K–16 through her groundbreaking work. Teachers across the country have a powerful new tool for engaging students in coding thanks to the unit in electronic textiles that Kafai created for the Exploring Computer Science curriculum. Through the unit, students create stuffed animals, wristbands, hats, laptop sleeves, and other accessories, embedding them with LED lights that glow through circuitry and computer programming.

 “Creating is a very powerful way of learning because it helps you to externalize your thinking,” says Kafai, who co-developed the popular programming tool Scratch, through which millions of children create and share digital games. “You create something that is shareable and visible. Your teacher and peers can interact with it, and this gives rise to great conversations.”

 Programs and Research

Two high school students in a classroom look ahead and smile.
Photo by Greg Benson Photography

Gifts and grants totaling $9 million for programs and $55 million for research are advancing Penn GSE’s role as a pioneer in innovation and a force for change in education. Support for the School’s teacher education programs is driving innovative coursework and fieldwork for the School’s Urban Teacher Apprenticeship program and enabling Penn GSE to incorporate best practices, such as student-centered and project-based learning, into teacher preparation. Gifts to the Office of School and Community Engagement are bolstering Penn GSE’s work with The School District of Philadelphia, a national model of partnership between a university and an urban district, across more than four hundred programs in over 230 schools.

 Support for the School’s hub for innovation, Catalyst @ Penn GSE, is fueling initiatives to spark change in education—from problem-solving partnerships with schools, to certificate programs and webinars that advance practitioners’ skills, to programs that bring together leaders in education, business, entrepreneurship, and technology to envision education’s future. Catalyst’s efforts include new projects in mental health and leadership, funded by The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation, to help K–12 educators and leaders across the country navigate the complexity of the 2020-2021 academic year. (See the Fall 2020 feature “Education in Times of Change: Penn GSE Provides Leadership and Partnership for an Unprecedented Era” to learn more about the new projects.)

The Penn GSE Annual Fund

Headshot of Patricia Grant
Patricia Grant, GED’01, GRD’04

Gifts to the Penn GSE Annual Fund, which total $2.3 million, are crucial for supporting faculty, staff, and students, as well as funding new opportunities and initiatives. Patricia Grant, GED’01, GRD’04, senior associate dean for the undergraduate program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, gives to the Penn GSE Annual Fund out of gratitude for the financial support she received to earn her master’s and doctoral degrees.

 Before enrolling at Penn GSE, Dr. Grant worked for several years in admissions and student services at Cornell University, her alma mater, and Binghamton University. She paused the career she loved to advance her skills and explore directions for the future.

“Because Penn GSE had the resources to support my studies, I’ll be forever grateful,” Grant says. “And when you’re given a gift, it’s important to pay it forward to support others.” She credits her Penn GSE courses, interactions with faculty and peers, and work with the School’s executive programs, with preparing her for higher education leadership. In addition to giving regularly to the Annual Fund, Grant has donated to the Dean’s Discretionary Fund in support of diversity initiatives.

“It’s important to me to invest in diversity—whether through supporting candidates to attend a school like Penn GSE or helping facilitate dialogues,” Grant says. “Our world needs a variety of talents and backgrounds to bring forward innovation and collaboration, and education is a core underpinning of that process.”

To learn more about the Extraordinary Impact Campaign, or to contribute, visit or contact us at 215.573.6623 or

This article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine.