González-Bailón Named 2020-21 Penn Fellow

The program provides leadership development to outstanding, midcareer Penn faculty members.

By Ashton Yount

University of Pennsylvania Provost Wendell Pritchett and Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen announced last month that Professor Sandra González-Bailón is among the 2020-21 cohort of Penn Fellows.

The Penn Fellows program provides leadership development to outstanding, midcareer Penn faculty members, selected from a pool of excellent candidates nominated by Penn’s deans, department chairs, and Faculty Senate leaders. Begun in 2009, the program is designed to provide this small group of developing campus leaders with an opportunity to build University-wide networks, think strategically about higher education, and learn more about Penn and its programs by interacting with members of the University’s executive team.

Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon
Sandra González-Bailón

“Higher education plays a key civic and democratic role,” says González-Bailón. Given the big societal challenges we face today, this role has become ever more salient and relevant. I am excited to be part of the Penn Fellows program and be able to engage in campus-wide discussions about how to confront those challenges — and reimagine higher education to support innovation and change.”

González-Bailón analyzes the sometimes productive and sometimes problematic ways in which big data/data science and the functionality of various network structures are mobilized to solve vexing problems, emphasizing the inextricable links between data science and social science and between computer code and cultural practice.

Her book, Decoding the Social World (MIT Press, 2017), explains how data science and the analysis of networks help us solve the puzzle of unintended consequences — or why our intentional actions often trigger outcomes that we did not intend or even envision. The key to the puzzle, the book argues, is to integrate different levels of analysis in our theories of social change, something we can do now because of new data and computational tools.

Previous Penn Fellows include secondary faculty member Ezekiel Dixon-Román in 2017, former faculty member Marwan M. Kraidy in 2011, and Dean John L. Jackson, Jr. in 2009.