Following an outcry that its Fels Institute of Government was straying from its original mission, the University of Pennsylvania on Monday announced that Mayor Kenney's managing director would join the program in January.

Michael DiBerardinis, who has served as managing director since January 2016, will become a full-time professor of practice, student mentor, and bridge between the regular standing faculty and the practitioner community, the university said.

The move comes after an upheaval at Fels this year, including a change in leadership that had some alumni questioning whether the institute, which has a storied history as the trainer of many of the city's and state's public-service managers, would begin to emphasize academic theory over practice. More than 200 alumni sent a letter to the school to express their concerns.

"We strongly encourage the university to continue the Fels Institute's founding objective to combine multi-disciplinary academic rigor with the practical skills and professional opportunities needed for effective governance and problem-solving," the letter said in part.

Kenney said in a statement that students at Fels "will benefit greatly from [DiBerardinis'] wisdom and experience."

DiBerardinis has spent decades in public service. Prior to his role in Kenney's administration, he served as deputy mayor for environmental and community resources, commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation, special adviser to the Free Library of Philadelphia, and secretary of conservation and natural resources for the state.

The appointment will help "ensure that Fels continues to produce outstanding public-sector leaders," said Matt Levendusky, a political science professor who directs Fels' master's program.