Penn goes global at Dubai summit

Text by Tim Hyland

Some of the world’s leading minds in business, academia, medicine and technology gathered in Dubai early last month for the first-ever Summit on the Global Agenda.

Among them were several faculty from Penn—as well as President Amy Gutmann. And the Penn faculty involved in the event have returned with glowing reviews of what the Summit did for them—and what Penn’s participation could do for the University’s worldwide reputation.

“From the point of view of raising the profile of the institution, in high-profile context, President Gutmann was extremely wise [to have Penn involved],” says Christopher B. Murray, a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor who holds appointments in both the School of Arts and Sciences and in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “This really was something that helps to promote Penn’s presence in the global arena and will really help us to absorb these global themes and translate them into our day-to-day work here on campus.”

Adds Harvey Rubin, a professor at the School of Medicine and director of Penn’s Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response: “The same conversations that we’ve had at Penn about inclusiveness, awareness, multidisciplinary approaches to problems, global engagement—basically the Penn Compact—those are the main themes that came out in Dubai.”

The Summit is a project of the World Economic Forum. It attracted 700 of the world’s most innovative thinkers to take part in 60 different councils that addressed a variety of global issues, such as climate change, the world financial crisis and the perils of religious extremism. Each council will eventually publish a report on its finding. The councils were arranged by expertise and discipline and met individually to start, but then linked up with other councils to create what the Forum hopes will become a “problem-solving network.” Murray believes that goal might be achieved.

Murray says the Summit provided a rare opportunity for scholars to meet with industry leaders and even health officials who may be interested in his work. “It was a very intriguing thing for me to learn about and meet people who are dealing with issues such as gerontology and degeneration, and find out how nanoscience can actually help,” Murray says.

Adds Michael Useem, director of Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management who sat on a council on mitigating natural disasters: “This was not a group of shrinking violets. ... [It] was one of the most interesting groupings of people I’ve ever had the chance to encounter.”

For more information about the Summit, including council reports, visit

Originally published Dec. 4, 2008.

Originally published on .