Division of the Vice Provost for Student Engagement

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Meet the VPSE Central Office

Dr. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum

CV – Dr. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum Vita, VPSE 2021(1)

Dr. Valarie Ena Swain-Cade McCoullum, a native Philadelphian who is a public school graduate of the Julia Reynolds Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School and the Philadelphia High School for Girls, and the first Black female President of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, has served at the University of Pennsylvania for over four decades and currently holds the position of Vice Provost for Student Engagement.  On behalf of the President, Provost, and Deans, Dr. Cade oversees the work of the University’s pipeline initiatives, more than 150 programs that are designed at all levels of education for groups under-represented in U.S. higher education baccalaureate, graduate, and professional programs, disciplines, and industries with the aim to recruit, enroll, retain, and support underserved community members’ capacity to both persist and thrive—academically, socially, and emotionally—in their chosen disciplines and professions.

With the rank of Provost’s Distinguished Senior Scholar, Dr. Cade is also a faculty member in Penn’s world-class Graduate School of Education, ranked the premier college of education in the United States, where she is an expert in leadership resilience through crisis trauma-informed pedagogy and practice.

Dr. Cade served for 25 years as Vice Provost for University Life, Penn’s chief student affairs officer responsible to the President and Provost for the executive leadership of departments, offices, and services charged with the provision of academic support, wellness, co-curricular, intervention, developmental, cultural, and engagement programs for 24,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at the University of Pennsylvania.  In this capacity, she had administrative oversight for over 400 staff and 28 departments with annual division operating and associated budgets of over $55 million.

Dr. Cade completed her baccalaureate degree at Penn State University’s University Park campus, and her graduate and post-doctoral studies at Temple University, Penn’s Wharton School, and Harvard University.  Dr. Cade is also the mother of two Penn alumni from Penn’s School of Medicine and Penn’s Graduate Program in Mechanical Engineering.

In addition, Dr. Cade chaired the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Education Team of the School District of Philadelphia and was a member of the House of Representatives Legislative Black Caucus Advisory Committee on Higher Education. She has been honored, among other prestigious national, state, and local awards, by the University of Pennsylvania for her service distinction and by the City of Philadelphia City Council for her

passionate dedication to educational equity and access.  Some of her additional awards include:

  • University of Pennsylvania Dr. Helen O. Dickens Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Distinguished Daughter of the Philadelphia High School for Girls
  • Pennsylvania State University College of Liberal Arts Centennial Fellow
  • 50th Anniversary Distinguished Service Award:  Delta Sigma Theta Epsilon Gamma

Dr. Cade is the author of five books:  two volumes focused on the access and retention of socioeconomically-disadvantaged students and three, additional—highly regarded- works celebrating emerging visual artists in the City of Philadelphia.  A highly-regarded painter and photographer, Dr. Cade specializes in still and portrait photographic media and arts media, often employing collage and print techniques, including charcoal, acrylics, and watercolors.

Dann Truitt, MA.

As Chief of Staff, he serves as a senior advisor to the Vice Provost in effective divisional decision-making and execution of strategic initiatives as well as oversees the workflow of the Student Engagement office and administration, including communications and website management.

Pamela Edwards

As Executive Director of VPSE, on behalf of the Vice Provost, Pam will work with senior faculty and executive leaders across all twelve of Penn’s Schools, Penn undergraduate, graduate, and professional student leaders, and other senior University and external partners, locally and globally, to markedly increase access, participation, engagement, and outcomes of students from cohort groups under-represented in postsecondary, graduate, and professional education. Pam will also provide administrative oversight for all Penn TRIO programs (including the Educational Talent Search Program, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science, and Veterans Upward Bound), the grant-funded Penn Knowledge is Power Program (PennKIPP), and the Provost’s Summer Mentorship Program, among other responsibilities that will strengthen existing services and connections with Penn faculty, students, and alumni. 

Pat Ravenell

Pat Ravenell is a native Philadelphian who has worked at Penn since 1973 in various positions, including over 25 years in the Division of University Life (VPUL) where she held the position of Chief of Staff and HR Liaison for VPUL. Pat earned her B.A. in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Penn.  Most notably, Pat has also served as the administrative coordinator for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF) since its inception in 1988. She often describes her involvement with the MMUF program as being one of the most rewarding aspects of her career at Penn.  She is thrilled at the success of the program which, to date, has thirty-five Penn fellows who have successfully completed PhD programs along with many still in the pipeline.  Pat retired from her full-time position in VPUL in 2018 but returned to continue to serve as the administrative coordinator of MMUF in the Division of Student Engagement on a part-time basis.