Category Archives: Alumni Perspective

Penn Club of San Diego Goes South of the Border for Street Eats

By B. Bea Rajsombath, C’99, club president

There are a lot of great things about living in sunny San Diego, including over 70 miles of beautiful coastline, the nice Mediterranean climate, pockets of diverse neighborhoods with their own vibe, mountains or beaches within miles of each other, great restaurants and bars, its proximity to Tijuana, and so much more.

The Penn Club of San Diego works on creating events and activities that feature the neighborhood gems and life in San Diego; events any of our alumni can appreciate, whether they recently moved here or are returning natives.

In November 2013, the Club joined Turista Libre for a wine tour in Valle de Guadalupe. Based on that successful and fun adventure, we had requests to organize another event south of the border. As Turista Libre (TL) focuses on organizing tours highlighting the local aspects of Tijuana and surrounding areas, we worked with them to deliver another event for our alumni. Passports in hand on March 22, Penn alumni and friends met up with TL at San Ysidro, the last US stop before reaching Mexico, about 15 miles south of San Diego. We were joined by a few other TL guests to walk across the border to board a small school bus operated by TL to start our adventure tour: TJ Street Eats.

Penn Alumni and friends

Penn Alumni and friends

We started our day with a birria taco from a busy food truck stationed on a non-descript street by a Staples. It was simple, yet bursting with flavor. A cheese quesadilla was offered to our vegetarian guests. The tacos were so delicious most of us wanted more, but we were advised by TL to limit ourselves to the one because we had a number of stops to make. A few of us couldn’t hold out though and had to try a second taco.

A birria taco

A birria taco

Our second stop was at Kokopelli’s food truck, for black Harder ceviche de lenguado tostada. Our vegetarian guests feasted on grilled Portobello mushroom tacos. At this point, more guests were losing their willpower to hold off on just one item and explored some other offerings from Kokopelli’s. A few also ventured to try a seemingly, innocent pink-colored salsa…and suffered through the burning from a habanero-beet mixture. TL also offered up some Tecate beer for refreshments before we headed to our third stop.

A tostada

A tostada

Before we reached Tio Pepe, a wonderful bottle of tequila was shared. Some of us are still searching for the bottle on this side of the border. Tio Pepe is a neighborhood gem with plastic tables and chairs, friendly staff and a bustling lunch crowd. I would love to go back…if I can find my way there! Here, we sat down to enjoy Guadalajara-style torta ahogadas, a few rounds of Corona and some ventured off to order additional tacos. I don’t know where they found room.

Torta Ahogada

Torta Ahogada

After indulging ourselves, we still had two more stops! The next was at Tepoznieves, an artisan ice cream parlor with more than 100 flavors. Unfortunately, I was too busy sampling the flavors and enjoying my selection of three small scoops to capture any photos to share. On the way to our last stop, another bottle of tequila was brought you to be shared. Finally, we made it to Baja Craft Beers for a sampling of house brews. We essentially had the place to ourselves so early in the afternoon. The brewery had great space and a long list of local and international beers available.

Baja Craft Brewery

Baja Craft Brewery

Alas, our great little adventure came to an end by 5pm and TL returned us to the border to make our way back across to the US. We definitely enjoyed our TJ Street Eats tour and working with Turista Libre again. We already have requests to repeat both the wine tour and the TJ Street eats.

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

These are just a few of the activities and events the Penn Club of San Diego organizes for local alumni in the greater San Diego area. If you are interested in learning about these and other events, please contact us via email, join our email listserv, like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

Our next event is a yPenn Happy Hour on July 10th. We hope to see you there!

 

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, Food Fiends, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos

Seattle Alumni Put on Aprons for an Evening to Help Alleviate Poverty

By: Haley Shapley, C’06

Thanks to a little help from the Penn Club of Seattle, at least one person will be able to transition from the streets to a job in the hospitality industry.

It was all part of Guest Chef Night at FareStart, a culinary job training and placement program for homeless individuals in Seattle. Since 1992, FareStart has provided opportunities for nearly 7,000 people to transform their lives, while also serving more than 6 million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children.

The tables are set for FareStart's Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

The tables are set for FareStart’s Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

Each Thursday evening, prominent guest chefs come to work with the students as part of their 16-week food-service program. The three-course meal is served by volunteers, which is where Penn alumni came in.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening's menu.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening’s menu.

Although none in the group had any restaurant experience to speak of, on April 24 we got a crash course in the art of serving, learning the importance of checking back within two bites, refilling waters regularly (and not touching the rim of the glass!), and how to properly carry a tray. Chef Sam Hassan of Maple Falls Cafe provided a tasting of the Mandioca Frita, NW by SE Pasta, and Mango Raspberry Cobbler beforehand so that we’d be able to answer questions about the ingredients when guests inquired (Just what is yuca? Ask us; we know!).

The featured servers tonight - the Penn Club of Seattle!

The featured servers tonight – the Penn Club of Seattle!

Penn Alumni getting trained

Penn Alumni getting trained

Six hours, countless pitchers of water, and a few cramped fingers later, we’d served 169 diners, raising a total of $7,116 for FareStart’s training programs, including donations of $181 and tips of $1,327. All in all, it’s more than enough to give one student safe housing, the full 16-week culinary program, and comprehensive wrap-around services.

It's a full house.

It’s a full house.

The program has a 90 percent job placement rate within three months for students after graduation, and each Guest Chef Night includes a graduation ceremony with those who’ve completed the 16-week program successfully. On our night, we watched two grads get ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, including Tina, who didn’t miss a single day. “It’s made me stay focused instead of every day wondering what’s going to happen,” she said.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Bob, who moved to Seattle in July with a big plan that fell apart, was equally grateful. “I thank this program; it really rescued me,” he said. “I learned a lot and I appreciate it. This program is ingenious to solve the problem of homelessness and poverty.”

Bellies full of delectable ingredients like shaved Parmigiano, smoked fish, and Chantilly cream, we scattered into the night back to our respective homes — energized by the experience and humbled by the fact that we made a contribution, however small, to the students being able to have homes to return to as well.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos, Volunteering

70 Years Since Graduating and He’s Still Got the “Hurrah!” for Penn

By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly

I always tell people that Commencement Day at Penn is the happiest day on campus, and this year, on May 19 as Penn celebrated its 258th Commencement, was no exception. In Alumni Relations, we help with the alumni processional portion of the event – alumni from every undergraduate class at Penn carry flags from their graduating year and march into Franklin Field after the graduates.

We arrive early in the morning, so we can “get robed” in our caps and gowns, and then wait for the alumni to arrive. The alumni robing is near the academic processional staging area, and I happened to be looking at President Gutmann and commencement speaker John Legend’s, C’99, chairs when the University Mace was delivered. Leslie Kruhly, the Secretary of the University, leads the academic procession carrying the mace.

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The staging area for the academic procession. The University’s mace was just delivered.

Me and my colleague Casey Ryan, C'95. We lead the alumni procession down Locust Walk and into Franklin Field.

My colleague Casey Ryan, C’95, and I are robed and ready to go. We led the alumni procession down Locust Walk and into Franklin Field.

After everyone is robed, we wait a bit before we get the cue to begin. Here everyone is lined up waiting for the academic procession to pass.

The alumni procession waiting for the academic procession.

The alumni procession waiting for the academic procession.

 

Then we march down Locust Walk to the front of the Sweeten Alumni House. It was a beautiful day and everyone on campus was lining the walk cheering and clapping for the alumni.

Alumni flag bearers line Locust Walk to congratulate the newest Penn Alumni!

Alumni flag bearers line Locust Walk to congratulate the newest Penn Alumni!

The alumni flag bearers then line Locust Walk and wait for the graduates. The graduates march down Locust Walk through our line of alumni flags, and the alumni cheer, clap and congratulate the newest members of Penn Alumni.

Some graduates casually walk by, others pose for pictures with their friends, or their parents and family try to capture a candid moment of them walking to graduate. And in the midst of the several thousand graduates passing us by, at the front of the alumni flag line, was Harry Gross, W’44. Harry graduated in 1944, that’s seventy years ago for those of you having a bit of trouble with the math. He wore a fun Red and Blue hat, and as he sat in his chair holding the Class of 1944 flag, he was arguably the most popular man on Locust Walk. Yes, everyone wanted to wave to President Gutmann and take a selfie with John Legend, but Harry was the star.

Graduates thanked him for coming. They shook his hand, they said wow. And when they said congratulations, Harry simply replied, “Congratulations to YOU!” And then he told them that they’d be in his same spot in seventy years!

Me and Harry

Posing with Harry

Congratulations to Penn’s Class of 2014! We’ll see you in 2084 (and we hope every year in between).

Hurrah, Hurrah, for the Red and the Blue!

Commencement from the alumni flag bearer's view.

Commencement from the alumni flag bearer’s view.

Here’s Harry leading the alumni processional into Franklin Field.

Watch videos of President Gutmann’s commencement speech and John Legend’s address here (and also photos of the day).

See all the Penn Commencement tweets #PennGrad.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Class of 1993, Commencement, Kiera R., Notable Alumni, Photos

My 25 Year Penn Reunion: Living an “As Is” life in a world that only wants “So Perfect!”

Author:  Lisa Niver Rajna, C’89

Wandering on Madison Ave in Manhattan last week, I noticed paparazzi everywhere. After asking, a woman told us, with tears in her eyes, that JLo was eating lunch. I would have missed her. She did not look “So Perfect” but she is stunning. As I left New York City for Philadelphia for my twenty-five year college reunion, I have been thinking about what have I done and what do I want for the next twenty-five years!

In a life filled with product placement where JLo is lifting her Coca-Cola glass so many times per hour on American Idol, our lives have been given a structure that we might not purchase if it were not so insidious.

In As Is by Rachel Michael Arends, the story is told through several narrators and Arends is able to share deep perspectives about how people with different lifestyles lock themselves into their own cage about money, sexuality, and professions of what they think that want and should own and should do.

Through Arends’ intriguing characters, we are able to wonder and wander. Is it a good choice to be an artist? Is it okay to defer your dream to care for your father? Most of the interactions and characters would have accepted the decisions of their friend or family member if they had only been told. Fear made nearly every character in this book withhold their personal truth.

Hiding themselves made them seem like a cheap imitation of what they could have brought to the table. Choosing to be courageous and wish for what they really wanted and reach out to receive it often only comes after tragedy and hardship but hopefully Rachel Michael Arends’ novel gives you the hope to share your story and live a life painted fully without regrets.

Early in the novel, Gwendolyn says: “On television it can look glamorous, and perhaps some people would love this lifestyle. But I don’t,” I wondered what didn’t she like? And who was she really?

Wandering the parade and picnic at the University of Pennsylvania, I thought what would life be like if we did not pretend. Gwendolyn believes that Armand “actually enjoys being So Perfect all the time,” it gave me pause to think about who do I know who resembles that remark and do they feel like Gwendolyn that “it just seems wrong, incongruous, and unnatural,” and more of a cage than a life.

There were many buttons to wear at Reunion: “I met my wife at Penn,” “<3 Penn,” and “Don’t worry, I don’t remember you either!” Maybe several alums felt like Gwendolyn: “I find it scary and unnerving when strangers approach me as if we’re old friends. I don’t like to worry about what I wear, if my hair and makeup look good enough (according to Armand they never do), what I say, or how I say it. I prefer to stay at home behind our high fences, inside our security system.”

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

 

She has been told by Trey, her producer, “I’m lucky to have this job, that anyone in her right mind would want it.” At an Ivy League institution, in marriage or in many other settings, we are sold that line about being lucky. I went to medical school because I was smart in science. Like Gwendolyn I felt, “I don’t want to let anyone down…[but] I’m beginning to fear that I’ll be trapped in this mansion forever.” We sometimes become embroiled in a labyrinth or career and we seem to be stuck. Breaking out of the mold and consciously taking a different path can be a struggle but isn’t the freedom, to be who we really are, worth it?

When we become lost from our selves, we often need someone like Gwendolyn’s sister, Megan, to ask us: “What’s your plan? Are you going back there?” We all want to have someone in our life that we can tell as Gwendolyn does, “You’re like an island of sanity in the craziest day I’ve ever had.” It is possible we have those people already if we would only be honest with them about how we feel and what we need. Most of us keep our wounds and concerns a secret only sharing what we think looks “So Perfect” to the constant measuring up on Instagram and Pinterest.

When one character with a cane walks on a floor above Gwendolyn with a sliding sound, she muses, “It’s strange to think of carrying your damage on the outside where everyone can see it.” What if we shared our fears and foibles on Facebook and not just our fairytales that come true? Carrie, a character who is a fan of Gwendolyn on television but becomes a true friend in the story, shares, “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of this year is that life is one big surprise after another, and maybe I should loosen up and try my best to roll with it.” As I walked the parade on Saturday standing in between the two wonderful women who were my college roommates, I realized that I am so lucky in both an “as is” and “so perfect” way to have walked this road surrounded by people who know what I look life in real life and want to be friends anyway! Whether there are tears of joy or sadness, they have always run to my side, whenever I am ready to share this rollercoaster of life.

Arends’ character, Armand, realizes that “As Is,” could be his “motto for acceptance. Not an excuse to settle necessarily, but a reminder that at a certain point, you just need to say, OK, enough is enough! I’m sick of chasing the dream of perfection and that’s not a failure.”

Gwendolyn does believe in fate, as she says, “You have to. I just saw a falling star out the window and I wished for you. When I looked up, there you were!” In some ways like the movies, we want to say, “I wished for you” and for the person to appear. What if you are really wishing for yourself to stand up, take up space and live your dreams? I wish for you that you are inspired to pause and think about your own parade and find a path that leads you to yourself and the fulfillment of your best dreams.

w/Barbara Yorke

w/Barbara Yorke

About the Author: Lisa Niver Rajna (CAS 1989) was honored to walk in graduation on May 19, 2014 with her classmates from twenty-five years ago! Learn more about her journeys at WeSaidGoTravel.com and ScienceisntScary.net.

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Filed under 25th Reunion, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Commencement, Lisa N.R., Memories of Penn, Penn Alumni Travel, Penn Park, Reunions, Traditions

I’m Interviewing Because…

Author: Liz PinnieLiz Blog

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Interview Program, Liz P., Volunteering

Penn Traditions: The Good, The Bad, and THE RED & THE BLUE!

Author: Nicole Svonavec GEd ‘09

Every college student takes part in traditions on their campus as part of a unifying undergraduate experience.  I’ve attended and worked at several colleges so far, and Penn’s traditions stand out for their uniqueness, mass appeal, and staying power.  Experiences like Hey Day, Spring Fling, and taking a photo with your boo at the LOVE statue, have stood the test of time.  Creative Class Boards, Penn Traditions students, and other student leaders are forming new traditions (shout out to Holifest!) every year.

On the other hand, some traditions have faded into history.  And let’s be real, I’m feeling okay about that.  While I love reminiscing with our Old Guard alumni about retired traditions from their Penn days, I see a few good reasons to keep these in the archives:

“The Bowl Fight”

Although these strapping young lads look quite happy in the photo (from 1905), The Bowl Fight stands as one of Penn’s most historic, but also most sketchy traditions.  I’m not sure which one of these students was elected to be shoved INSIDE that bowl by his peers, but I would cry seeing our fabulous freshmen and sophomore duking-it-out on College Green in present-day.  Final verdict: This tradition is one of Penn’s best (craziest) stories, but a happily retired one.

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

“The Poster Fight”

(Note how many of these old traditions include the word “fight.”  Thankfully the advent of Pottruck Gymnasium seems to have given students a more productive outlet for their pent-up energy).  1905 was a busy year for traditions, and The Poster Fight stands as another fine example of class rivalries at their best/most intense.  The poster below (located in Sweeten Alumni House – come visit!) shows how “no blow was too low” when asserting your eminence over other classes.  Hopefully they all hugged it out at the end of the day.

poster fight3

“Kissing the Boot”
Everyone loves a good freshman rite-of-passage, but the 1940s-50s tradition of kissing Ben Franklin’s boot outside of Weightman Hall strikes me as a bit unsanitary.  Good thing freshman carried this out in early fall, because kissing a metal boot in the winter seems like it could cause the same nightmare as getting your tongue stuck to the flagpole in elementary school (Note: this did NOT happen to me, whew).

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

The Penn Traditions program is currently working on a new event (to launch in fall 2014) aiming to teach current students about some of these hilarious/spirited/dangerous traditions of the past.  If you took part in a really fun tradition on campus during your time at Penn, email svonavec@upenn.edu so we can include it in our event!

*Thanks to the Penn Archives and Under the Button for inspiring this post!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Historical, Memories of Penn, Nicole S., Traditions, Uncategorized, yPenn

A Palestra Proposal

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

The Penn Band always knows how to keep things interesting at The Palestra. On Saturday, Penn Men’s Basketball fans witnessed a Penn Band marriage proposal during a media timeout. Hurrah for Penn love, and congratulations to the newly engaged couple!

A Penn Band proposal at The Palestra on Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Penn Band proposal at The Palestra on Saturday, March 1, 2014

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Athletics, Campus Life, Events, Penn Basketball, Philadelphia, Stephanie Y., Uncategorized, Volunteering

Come back to campus this May 16 – 19, 2014

Author: Kelly O’Connor

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Come back to campus this May 16 – 19, 2014 to catch up with friends and celebrate all things Penn!

Registration opens Monday, March 3rd.

Check the Alumni Weekend website for event details and updates.

New for 2014 – The Parade of Classes and Alumni Picnic will be held at Penn Park!

blogPennParkblogGUIDE_parademap

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Filed under 20th Reunion, 5th Reunion, Alumni Benefits, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Class of 1993, Class of 1995, Commencement, Events, Family Programming, Kelly P., Memories of Penn, Reunions, Uncategorized

The Fine ’09 Gets Creative for Their 5th Reunion

Author: Nicole Svonavec GEd ‘09

NicoleSblog

This May, members of the Class of 2009 will reunite to celebrate their 5th Reunion.  They’ve chosen the theme BYO9 in honor of the Philly BYO restaurant culture.   The planning committee is encouraging fellow 09ers to BYO (bring your own) memories, stories, and updates, but of course, we’ll already have the wine.  Check out their awesome to-do list below to see how they’re gearing up to return to campus and P-A-R-T-Y!

NicoleSfranklypenn09

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Memories of Penn, Nicole S., Philadelphia

Penn Alumni Club Joins Alumni Band for a Memorable Ben’s Birthday Bash

By Robin Tauber Plonsker, C’86

On January 25th, the Penn Alumni Club of Westchester & Rockland Counties teamed up with The Velcrows band, which counts 3 Penn alumni among its members, for food, drinks and rock ‘n roll in celebration of Ben Franklin’s 308th birthday.

The Velcrows

The Velcrows, featuring Randi Nielsen, W’84, (vocals), Mike Rosenman, C’76, (drums), and Rob Birkenholz, ME’82, (guitar)

I met Randi Neilsen, W’84, at Homecoming this past fall and learned that she and her husband, Robert Birkenholz, ME’82, as well as alum Mike Rosenman, C’76, have a band and perform at venues in Westchester. Randi and Rob met and formed a band while they were students at Penn. Happily, the couple and the band are still together. We thought it would be fun to tie a Club event into one of their gigs. It turned out the timing was perfect for Ben’s Birthday Bash, our annual event celebrating Ben Franklin’s birthday.

Combining our event with The Velcrows’ performance was a hit. We started the evening with food, drinks, and conversation, sang happy birthday to Ben, and then rocked to great tunes sung by Randi and Rob backed up by their awesome band. A great time was had by all!

A Happy Penn Crowd

An excited Penn crowd, celebrating Ben with the Velcrows

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Ben Franklin, Ben's Birthday Bash, Guest blogger