Information for Students

Student Body

We believe that teaching should not be limited to the classroom, but rather that learning also occurs on a daily basis through engagement with peers. As a result, we are committed to recruiting and supporting students from a variety of racial, ethnic, cultural, national, and socioeconomic backgrounds as well as students with various sexual orientations and gender identities. There is no “typical” SP2 student; each student brings different perspectives, experiences, and beliefs to SP2.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, members of our student body—SP2’s largest to date—came to Penn from 23 countries and 32 U.S. states. They brought with them their experiences in 95 different academic majors from 175 universities the world over, knitting together perspectives and practices gained in fields from English and Economics to Philosophy and Film, from Human Services and Humanities to Anthropology and American Studies. Over one-third of these students self-identified as students of color, and still more forged new paths in the histories of their families, as members of their first generations to attend college. SP2 is proud to encourage the pursuit of these paths for all students, regardless of personal or family financial circumstances: 88% of SP2 master’s students who requested grant assistance from the School received some aid—an investment based on our firm belief in their promise and potential as scholars and as agents of meaningful social change.

SP2 actively recruits students with diverse academic experiences. Our students earn their undergraduate—and sometimes master’s—degrees from a wide variety of institutions (including public and private Historically Black College or Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, Hispanic Serving Institutions, community colleges, and liberal arts colleges) and engage in full-time, part-time, non-degree, transfer, study abroad, and submatriculate coursework. Additionally, students major in a variety of fields at their undergraduate institutions, enabling SP2 students to offer and encounter cross-disciplinary perspectives in every class.

We welcome students of all identities and experiences to SP2 and are dedicated to reviewing all applications holistically, without merely relying on GPA or standardized test scores. The interview is a critical step in our admission process, as it allows us a better understanding of each student’s singularity and wholeness and helps students, in turn, to discover if SP2 will empower them to meet their goals. We aim to be transparent throughout the admissions process and are dedicated to sharing information with any interested students through scheduled information sessions, recruitment events, and personal pre-application appointments.

At SP2, we are dedicated to creating a supportive and responsive environment where our students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Our faculty, staff and students try to actively nurture a culture of diversity and inclusion so that students feel welcomed and respected. Our student services and support team works closely with students, and our faculty and staff are always available to provide informal support, individualized advising, and linkages to the many resources on Penn’s campus.

Extracurricular Opportunities

There are many opportunities for students to enhance their academic experience at SP2, enabling them to interact with diverse groups of peers and faculty and address issues related to diversity, inclusion, oppression, and social justice. These opportunities include, but are not limited, to participation in student government and SP2 student organizations—listed above—and representation on program governance committees.

SP2 students are also able to engage with the wider University’s diverse body of students through lectures, student groups, films, and other Penn-sponsored events. These interdisciplinary opportunities enable students to consider issues that cross disciplinary boundaries. Each of SP2’s programs is collaborative in nature, and engaging with others at the University allows students to begin to build meaningful connections with those who may be future colleagues in efforts for social justice.

Scholarship Opportunities

Fontaine Fellowships support the education of the most underrepresented groups in PhD education. In 1970, an endowment was established posthumously in honor of Dr. William Fontaine, Professor of Philosophy, the first African-American appointed to the standing faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. From its inception, the endowment, known as the “Fontaine Fellowship” has been used to advance the University’s goals related to diversity. Originally restricted to students from groups “traditionally and historically underrepresented” in higher education–specifically U.S. African American, Native American, and Hispanic students–diversity is now more broadly defined, and may include, for example, first-generation college students who are from low-income families or students whose backgrounds are most underrepresented in a specific discipline or field.

Fontaine funding, in combination with other resources, is used by the schools to recruit a diverse class of PhD students. Fontaine Fellows receive graduate financial aid that is identical to all other funded students in their respective doctoral programs. In addition, the Fontaine Society provides members with opportunities to come together throughout the year to support one another’s academic progress and enhance the University campus as a whole, through their contributions to the scholarly community.

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