Responding to COVID-19: Spring 2022

Dear Weitzman students and colleagues:

Although many of us are anxiously counting the days until 2021, there is much to be grateful for this year, much to hold onto, and much to be accomplished in the year ahead. In the first category, I want to thank you for your continued partnership in making the Weitzman School a beacon of creativity and criticality, both at Penn and beyond.

Despite the ongoing changes to our daily routines as we all do our part to limit COVID’s spread, this semester has been singularly productive across the School. We renewed our commitment to social justice with a series of new initiatives that call on us all to be vigilant and constructive, including establishing the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites led by Associate Professor Randy Mason. We also welcomed the first class of students to pursue the new Master of Science in Design: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, the latest addition to our post-professional degree programs, and presented our most extensive series of public lectures yet, featuring many perspectives that have often been sidelined. 

These accomplishments would not have been possible without the hard work, resilience, and resourcefulness of our students, faculty, and staff. I am particularly grateful to our Information Technology and Operations and Planning staff, who have enabled us not only to continue teaching, learning, making, and convening throughout the summer and fall, but also to enhance our facilities in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Faculty Milestones

As you have heard me say often, the Weitzman faculty is an exceptional community of scholar-activist-mentors, and the spring semester brings several new faces to our Zoom rooms, while others have new roles:

Nick Pevzner will begin in his role as assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture. 

Ferda Kolatan will begin in his role as an associate professor on tenure track in the Department of Architecture.   

Laia Mogas-Soldevila officially joins the standing faculty in the Department of Architecture as an assistant professor.

Ernesto Pujol begins his engagement with MFA students as the 2020-2021 Keith L. and Katherine S. Sachs Visiting Professor of Fine Arts.

Building on the Penn Planning Equity Initiative and related work, Lance Freeman, professor in the urban planning program at Columbia, begins his term as the provost’s distinguished visiting faculty fellow in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

Brent Leggs, executive director at the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, joins the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites as a senior advisor and adjunct associate professor. 

Update on Tuition and PhD Stipend 

In other good news, I am pleased to announce that, in light of this year’s extraordinary circumstances, we have made the decision not to increase tuition for the spring 2021 semester for master’s students. While the Weitzman School’s operating and fixed costs have remained relatively constant during the pandemic—due to major investments in software, PPE, and physical plant changes—we recognize the significant financial hardships experienced by many students in our community. Although the decision to hold tuition flat (at the 2019-2020 Academic Year rate) applies only to Weitzman master’s students, we were extremely pleased to learn of the University’s decision to offer Penn PhD students a President’s Supplementary Stipend of $1,200 this academic year ($600 per semester) to recognize the additional expenses and research challenges caused by COVID-19. It is important to note that the University is responsible for determining PhD tuition and the General Fee, which will increase in the spring term.

I hope your Winter Break is restful and restorative, and that you’re able to spend time with friends and family in new and creative ways while staying safe. I also hope that you will join the chairs, Mark Alan Hughes, and me for the Spring Welcome Back Event, “Navigating Change: From COVID-19 to Climate,” on Tuesday, January 19, at 4:00pm.  I look forward to “seeing” you then.


Fritz Steiner
Dean and Paley Professor