Category Archives: Emilie

Penn Alumni Travel: Celtic Lands

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

In May, I had the pleasure of joining a Penn Alumni Travel trip to the “Celtic Lands” with faculty host Professor Rebecca Bushnell (who wrote a lovely post about the tour here). The tour was a seven-day cruise to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Normandy, and England- the Celtic Lands. In addition to Professor Bushnell, we were fortunate to have four other wonderful lecturers aboard from Brown University, Dartmouth College, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Smithsonian Journeys.

One of the unique qualities of a Penn Alumni Travel trip is access to these world-renowned scholars. Nearly every tour we run includes a Penn faculty host who not only gives formal lectures during the course of the trip, but also participates fully in the program and is available for conversation and informal discussion throughout the journey.

On this particular cruise, there were more scholars and more lectures than even the best alumni student could keep up with! As I noted, the theme of the tour was “Celtic Lands,” and so we had a wonderful lecture “Who Were the Celts” by Dwight Young of the National Trust. Professor Bushnell continued this theme with her theater-themed lecture “Shakespeare and the Celtic Lands.”

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Rebecca speaks to lingering alumni after her talk.

Rebecca speaks to lingering alumni after her talk.

But that wasn’t the only theme explored on board our ship Le Boréal. We had several interesting lectures about transatlantic journeys from Professor Christopher Griffin of Smithsonian Journeys and, of course, there were many lectures about World War II and Operation Overlord. In addition to the scholars who joined us for the entire tour, we had two special guests at the end of the trip: D. David Eisenhower II, grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill.

Both David and Celia joined the cruise just before we reached the D-Day beaches of Normandy on June 5, one day before the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. We heard fantastic lectures from both. David presented “Operation Overlord” and Celia discussed “Memories of my Grandfather.” Both talks were full of interesting details and personal reminiscences that brought that period to life for those on board.

When we arrived in Caen, France David joined our Penn bus and spent the day pointing out significant landmarks and discussing his own lengthy research about the battle and his grandfather.

David at the Pointe du Hoc with Penn alumni and friends.

David at the Pointe du Hoc with Penn alumni and friends.

David speaks to an American soldier at Omaha Beach. Many troops were in Normandy for the 70th Anniversary commemorative ceremonies. Photo courtesy of Penn alumnus Frederick Allen, C’60.

David speaks to an American soldier at Omaha Beach. Many troops were in Normandy for the 70th Anniversary commemorative ceremonies. Photo courtesy of Penn alumnus Frederick Allen, C’60.

It was a truly special moment for everyone on board. Our hope at Penn Alumni Travel is that every tour experiences moments such as these—unique insights into a culture, a people, or a moment—that will transform the trip into more than just an itinerary.

Next year we’ll be joining David again on a Celtic Lands cruise. For more information, click here.

For information on all our 2015 tours, click here.

We hope to see you on a future Penn Alumni Travel trip!

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Penn Museum Lecture Series

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

One of my favorite things about working for Penn is the access to world-renowned scholars. At Penn Alumni Travel, we find that that is also one of our travelers’ favorite things about touring with us: access to a Penn faculty host during the trip. With over 4,400 standing and associated faculty at the school, it’s difficult to narrow down our list of travel host prospects. Luckily, there are many ways to hear from and learn about a Professor’s work and research. The Penn Museum’s annual lecture series in one such way.

Every year, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology holds a thematic lecture series that takes place every first Wednesday of the month during the academic year. This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about this lecture series (see my February 2013 post) and, over a year later, I’m still a fan. This year’s theme is “Great Voyages: Travels, Triumphs, and Tragedies.” (Last year’s theme was “Great Battles: Moments in Time that Changed History. I’m excited to find out what next year’s theme will be!)

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The lectures take place in beautiful Harrison Auditorium and span such topics as Ferdinand Magellan, the detours of Ibn Battuta, and Gilgamesh. They are an excellent opportunity to learn about something new and hear from some of our best Penn professors in the fields of archaeology, history, and classical studies.

At a Penn Museum lecture earlier this winter.

At a Penn Museum lecture earlier this winter.

There are two lectures left this year: “Searching for the Golden Fleece with Jason and the Argonauts” with Professor C. Brian Rose and “Darwin’s Beagle Voyage” with Professor Michael Weisberg. Both professors are also hosting Penn Alumni Travel trips this fall. Professor Rose is traveling with our group to Turkey and Professor Weisberg with our group to the Galapagos.

If you have some free time tonight or on June 4th, consider spending it at the Penn Museum. I think you’ll find it was worth the effort to come to campus and return home a little later than usual. And, at $5/person, these talks are a great deal.  Click here to register for either Penn Museum lecture.

 

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Penn Alumni Travel: Travel Webinars

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

Today, Penn Alumni Travel is hosting a free travel webinar on the British archipelago and Viking culture with Professor David Wallace of Penn’s English department The webinar begins at 12 p.m. EDT, and there’s still time to register- just click here.

Professor Wallace will be discussing some of the highlights of Viking exploration as well as the legacy of Viking culture in today’s society.

An example of Viking navigation.

An example of Viking navigation.

Our education and travel webinars are fantastic forums for interesting mini-lectures, lively discussion, and the chance to get your questions answered about the topic at hand. We encourage all our participants to come ready to engage with our Penn professor and other travel experts who join us on these hour-long webinars.

We have two additional travel webinars coming up this spring and summer: The Great Journey Through Europe with Professor Andre Dombrowski (May 15 at 12 p.m. EDT) and Turkey with Professor C. Brian Rose (August 27 at 12 p.m. EDT). Both webinars will explore the history and culture of the specified region and will follow with travel tips and an opportunity for Q & A. You can register for all these free webinars here.

The excavation at Troy. Professor Rose spent time digging at this location.

The excavation at Troy. Professor Rose spent time digging at this location.

If you’re itching for more than just an online travel discussion, perhaps you’re ready to join a Penn Alumni Travel trip where you can visit these sites in person while having access to a Penn faculty host’s expertise. Click here to view all our 2014 tours. And check out our site tomorrow when we reveal our 2015 schedule!

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A Marshmallow Squared Donut? Yes, Please.

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

There are many great restaurants in University City: White Dog, Distrito, POD, etc. The list is always growing, but if you’re looking for a quick and delicious breakfast or a mid-afternoon sweet stop, then the choices are quite slim. Sure, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on Walnut and 34th, and Insomnia Cookies is just across College Green, but when I’m looking for a gourmet sweet experience–a truly melt-in-your-mouth fried ring of batter–I now have a place to turn. Federal Donuts on Sansom Street between 34th and 36th streets.

Federal Donuts on Sansom Street- It's open!

Federal Donuts on Sansom Street- It’s open!

The shop opened today and, as conscientious alumni relations personnel, we felt it was our duty to try it out immediately. Now, we can personally recommend this new donut and fried chicken shop to visiting alumni.

Alumni relations staff pose with the new store front.

Alumni relations staff pose with the new store front.

Inside, the shop was busy but the wait was not long. The menu included “fancy donuts,” “hot fresh donuts,” and “fried chicken.” If you’ve never tried a hot fresh donut from Federal Donuts, I suggest you do. They fry them to order which means they come out hot, soft, and irresistible.

Federal Donuts menu.

Federal Donuts menu.

Nicole and Molly enjoy a warm donut.

Nicole and Molly enjoy a warm donut.

In the end, I decided on a Marshmallow Squared donut.

Yum!

Yum!

It was lightly fried, covered in a marshmallow glaze, and topped with actual toasted marshmallows. It also didn’t last long. Luckily, I know where to find more!

If you find yourself at Federal Donuts this year, let us know what donut is YOUR favorite. I’ll be keeping an eye on the comment section below. Happy University City eating!

 

 

 

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Penn Alumni Travel: Cuba Part 1

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

This year Penn Alumni Travel went somewhere we haven’t gone to in over a decade: Cuba. Cuba has long been off the travel menu for most United States citizens, but, in 2011, certain groups could again travel to Cuba under a specific “people-to-people” license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Penn Alumni Travel received its People to People license last summer, and immediately over 40 Penn alumni and friends signed up to join one of two Cuba departures last month.

Penn Alumni and friends on the first Cuba departure. We’re excited to visit Hemingway’s Cuban retreat.

Penn Alumni and friends on the first Cuba departure. We’re excited to visit Hemingway’s Cuban retreat.

Traveling on a People to People itinerary is a little different from your typical overseas trip. Every day must be filled with meaningful exchanges with the Cuban locals. This means most hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. are filled with visits to museums, artists’ studios, and other local places of interest. We also had lectures with historians, experts in Cuban agriculture, and representatives from the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, and even visited the Cuban Rap Agency. After a lively discussion at the rap agency, we were treated to an impromptu performance.

Conversations in a graphic art studio in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Conversations in a graphic art studio in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Here we met with the Cuban Rap Agency in Havana.

Here we met with the Cuban Rap Agency in Havana.

Luckily our alumni are used to a full schedule filled with educational offerings, and they took the busy schedule in stride. One of my favorite moments of the trip was the private classical guitar concert in the Ceramics Museum of Havana. After a tour from the museum director, we all filtered into the museum’s beautiful interior courtyard and listened while classical guitarist Luis Manuel Molina played several songs. From the first note, it was clear Molina was a world-class musician, and he was playing just for us! Truly a superb ending to a busy day.

Luis Manuel Molina plays classical guitar for Penn Alumni Travel.

Luis Manuel Molina plays classical guitar for Penn Alumni Travel.

My second favorite moment? The farewell dinner in a Havana paladar (a restaurant run out of a family home). Not only was the food delicious and the ambiance unique, but by the end of the meal song had broken out, and we ended the trip with a hearty rendition of “The Red and the Blue” and “Drink a Highball.”

I’ll leave this blog entry here. As I mentioned, we had two Cuba departures each with a faculty and a staff host, and so you can expect three more Cuba blog entries after mine. But Cuba is such a unique and interesting destination that 100 blog entries would not do it justice. Enjoy the rest of the tour!

The Quaker in Trinidad. He loved all the bold colors!

The Quaker in Trinidad. He loved all the bold colors!

[Penn Alumni Travel will be returning to Cuba in 2015. Please email Emilie C. K. LaRosa at emiliek@upenn.edu to be added to a priority reservation list.]

 

 

 

 

 

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Penn Alumni Travel Photo Contest

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

Penn Alumni Travel is hosting our 4th annual photo contest. If you’ve traveled with us in the past, you are eligible to enter a travel photo by FEBRUARY 28, 2014. Winners receive an Amazon Kindle or $300 trip credit.

Photos are judged in four categories: People, Places, Culture, and Nature. To learn more about the contest or to submit a picture, click here.

Our winners from 2013 were:

Grand Prize Winner and First Place, Places Category: “Reed House-Uros Islands,” by Amy Converse

Grand Prize Winner and First Place, Places Category: “Reed House-Uros Islands,” by Amy Converse

First Place People Category: “Father at Monastery of St. John,” by Robin Love

First Place People Category: “Father at Monastery of St. John,” by Robin Love

First Place Culture Category: “Street Musician-Havana,” by Arthur Brown

First Place Culture Category: “Street Musician-Havana,” by Arthur Brown

First Place Nature Category: “Orchids of Machu Picchu,” by Alex Converse

First Place Nature Category: “Orchids of Machu Picchu,” by Alex Converse

And this isn’t the first time we’ve posted about the photo contest. Check out our other photo contest blogs below!

Announcing the 3rd annual photo contest winners.

Announcing the 2nd annual photo contest winners.

The FIRST annual photo contest entries.

 

 

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Penn Alumni Travel Celebrates!

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

On December 11th Penn Alumni Travel celebrated another successful year of alumni tours with a staff and faculty host reception at the Sweeten Alumni House. There was much to toast. In 2013 we sent 327 alumni and friends on 28 trips to destinations across the world. Our alumni visited 5 continents and over 35 countries including: Italy, Greece, Turkey, Kenya, China, Croatia, Peru, Tahiti, Poland, and Vietnam.

A successful year of travel!

A successful year of travel!

To celebrate, we invited our faculty hosts to join the Alumni Relations staff for an afternoon of treats and hot cocoa.

Treats...

Treats…

And hot cocoa. Hot cider with cinnamon sticks was also included.

And hot cocoa. Hot cider with cinnamon sticks was also included.

It was a great opportunity to reconnect with past hosts, introduce alumni relations staff to Penn professors, and reminisce over a Penn Alumni Travel slideshow.

Penn Alumni Travel slideshow. Penn alumni took over 30 pictures with the Penn banner this year.

Penn Alumni Travel slideshow. Penn alumni took over 30 pictures with the Penn banner this year.

Happy Holidays from the Penn Alumni Travel team. We hope to see you on a future trip! And don’t forget- if you took a tour with us in 2013, enter our annual travel photo contest by February 28th for a chance at fantastic prizes. Click here for more information.

From left: Emilie LaRosa (me!), Janell Wiseley, and Alyssa D'Alconzo

From left: Emilie LaRosa (me!), Janell Wiseley, and Alyssa D’Alconzo

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Penn Alumni Travel: China 2013

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

This fall I hosted a Penn Alumni Travel trip to China. 21 Penn alumni and friends made the long trek to Beijing where we were greeted by our tour director extraordinaire, Chen. Chen would be our tour director and guide for the next 13 days, and he did an outstanding job. He managed our itinerary, provided historical and cultural tidbits, and even got us in to see giant pandas after the Chongqing Zoo had closed.

Everyone loves a good panda picture! At the Chongqing Zoo.

Everyone loves a good panda picture! At the Chongqing Zoo.

Chen with two Penn alumni (and proud Penn Parents!) in Shanghai: Daniel Behrend, WG’71 and Susan Behrend, Nu’80, GNu’86

Chen with two Penn alumni (and proud Penn Parents!) in Shanghai: Daniel Behrend, WG’71 and Susan Behrend, Nu’80, GNu’86

I had never been to China before, and, during that first shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel, I was immediately struck by two things: the seemingly endless construction and the insane traffic. Did you know that over 21 MILLION people live in Beijing? Between 2000 and 2010, the population in Beijing rose by 44%, and, judging by the amount of half-finished high rises and construction cranes in the city, it will continue to grow.  A lot. (Chen joked that the national bird of China is the crane.)

During our two weeks in China we visited the Great Wall, walked along the corridor of the Summer Palace, bumped along in rickshaws in the hutongs of Beijing, marveled at the Terra Cotta Warriors, floated down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges, ate Chongqing hotpot, and walked along the cosmopolitan Bund in Shanghai. China is so vast, so foreign, and so culturally and historically rich that it is impossible to properly chronicle this tour in just one blog. And so I won’t! Instead, find a visual synopsis of this Penn Alumni Travel trip below.

As is always the case on our educational tours, the guides were superb, the itinerary rich (and busy!), and the company engaging and fun. Thanks to all the Penn alumni and friends who made this tour so exceptional through your conversation and company. I hope we meet again. And now a visual tour with Penn Alumni Travel:

A joint dinner with the Penn Beijing Club. Some of our travelers had Penn Beijing friends who joined us that night.

A joint dinner with the Penn Beijing Club. Some of our travelers had Penn Beijing friends who joined us that night.

A visit to China is not complete without a visit to the Great Wall. The Quaker scales the wall.

A visit to China is not complete without a visit to the Great Wall. The Quaker scales the wall.

An unusually clear day in Beijing provides the perfect photo-op at the Temple of Heaven.

An unusually clear day in Beijing provides the perfect photo-op at the Temple of Heaven.

Just a small sampling of the estimated 8,000 Terra Cotta Warriors underground- each with a face uniquely his own.

Just a small sampling of the estimated 8,000 Terra Cotta Warriors underground- each with a face uniquely his own.

A visit to the medieval wall in Xian.

A visit to the medieval wall in Xian.

Unbelievably beautiful gorges on the Yangtze River.

Unbelievably beautiful gorges on the Yangtze River.

Our alumni brave the sampan for a closer look at one of the Lesser Gorges.

Our alumni brave the sampan for a closer look at one of the Lesser Gorges.

Cool cosmopolitan Shanghai. 20 years ago, these skyscrapers were nothing more than desolate swampland.

Cool cosmopolitan Shanghai. 20 years ago, these skyscrapers were nothing more than desolate swampland.

Our group at the Great Wall. What a fun bunch!

Our group at the Great Wall. What a fun bunch!

In closing, I should also mention that Penn not only has incredible resources here on campus for the study of China and the Chinese language (see the Penn Center for the Study of Contemporary China) but also recognizes the importance of on-the-ground relations with the People’s Republic of China. In fact, Wharton is moving forward with the Penn China Center in Beijing: a physical space that will allow our students and professors to build relationships with the local community, continue in-depth research, and bring together alumni, business leaders, students, and other partners. If you’re an alum looking to connect with fellow alumni in China, don’t forget we have robust alumni clubs in both Beijing and Shanghai.

If you’re interested in travel to Asia or would like more information about Penn Alumni Travel, visit our website here.

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The Faculty Award of Merit: A Call for Nominations!

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

Penn faculty are are known for their dedication to students, but many of them are equally dedicated to the Penn Alumni population–lecturing at regional clubs, presenting online webinars, or giving tours during Homecoming Weekend. To support and encourage our faculty’s work with Penn Alumni, we are excited to announce a new faculty honor: The Faculty Award of Merit presented by Penn Alumni.

The award will recognize those faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to alumni education and engagement at Penn by sharing their unique scholarship work with the alumni community. Special emphasis will be placed on faculty members who go above and beyond the call of duty by engaging alumni with the University as their intellectual home. The new Faculty Award  of Merit will be presented, for the first time, at the 2014 Penn Alumni Volunteer Leadership Retreat in February. All Penn alumni, faculty, and staff are welcome to submit a nomination before October 15, 2013 HERE.

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Other criteria for the award includes:

  1. Exceeds the expectations of their University appointment by engaging with Penn alumni through a variety of educational and enrichment programs and opportunities.
  2. Embodies the mission of Penn Alumni to inspire, develop, and maintain alumni interest in and engagement with the University by sharing his or her unique scholarship work with the alumni community.
  3. Sets a high standard for faculty outreach and engagement within the alumni community.
  4. Sustains their service to Penn Alumni for a minimum of three years. Serves as a University ambassador to the Penn alumni community.
  5. Acts as an enthusiastic partner to the Alumni Relations office in engaging the Penn alumni community through planning, marketing, and participation in alumni programs.

The awardee will receive $2,500 and a formal citation. This is a great opportunity to honor those faculty members who have made a difference in your life as a Penn alumnus and in your alumni community. So nominate a Penn professor today!

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Lunch-Time Learning

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

This fall, use your lunch break (or your coffee break) to learn something new and interesting. Penn Alumni Office Hours is offering six great webinars on topics as varied as Burma, self control, and the benefits of pet ownership from renowned Penn faculty members. The best part? They’re all free! The second best part? They’re easy to access; it’s as simple as clicking on a web link. No special software, hardware, or downloads required.

Learn more about our Office Hours online webinar series here or check out our six sessions below. Registration for all webinars is required.

Penn Professor Carol Muller

Penn Professor Carol Muller

Teaching World Music Using New Technology (October 22, 2013 at 3 p.m. EST) With Penn Professor Carol Muller. This webinar will discuss the advantages and limitations of using new technologies–specifically online learning platform for teaching about music of the worlds peoples. This will include classes for conventional Penn students and those in MOOC (massively open online courses) style. You will hear a sampling of the music that students hear in Muller’s classes, from pygmy “hoots” to Australian aboriginal chanting, and think about how new technologies are reshaping the way we access knowledge from around the world.

Lisa and George travel through Burma.

Lisa and George travel through Burma.

Explore Exotic Burma (October 23, 2013 at 3 p.m. EST)  With Lisa Niver Rajna (C’89) and her husband George Rajna, founders of We Said Go Travel. Myanmar holds a special place in the hearts of Lisa and George. They met online because Lisa told George, “The Shwedagon Pagoda is my favorite place on the planet.”  Join them for a webinar on the highlights of this unique and unspoiled land. [Penn Alumni Travel will be visiting Myanmar in November 2014. Click here for more information.]

Amazing Machu Picchu in Peru.

Amazing Machu Picchu in Peru.

The Art and Culture of Peru (October 30, 2013 at 12 p.m. EST) With Larry Silver, the Farquhar Professor of Art History. Professor Silver will discuss the arts and culture of Peru and its extraordinary monument Machu Picchu. [Penn Alumni Travel will be visiting Peru and the Amazon in 2014. Click here for more information.]

Wharton Professor Katherine Milkman

Wharton Professor Katherine Milkman

The Science of Self Control (November 6, 2013 at 12 p.m. EST) With Wharton Professor Katherine Milkman. The obesity epidemic is just one example of a major societal problem that is driven in large part by self-control failures.  Other examples include under-saving for retirement, under-utilization of preventive medical care, and under-investing in education.  This talk will provide a short overview of past research on self-control as well as findings from a new branch of psychology and economics that are being used to help policy makers and individuals reduce the incidence of self-control failures.

Could these little pups increase your life expectancy?

Could these little pups increase your life expectancy?

The Effects of Pet Ownership (Is owning a pet healthy?) (December 3, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.) With Penn Vet Professor James Serpell. More than 30 years ago, the results of a single landmark study appeared to indicate that pet owners were more likely to survive for one year following a heart attack than non-owners. In the ensuing years, continued research has elaborated and expanded upon those original findings, as well as shedding light on some possible mechanisms that could account for the salutary effects of pet ownership on people. This presentation will provide an overview of this developing field and its implications.

Vintage cars in Cuba.

Vintage cars in Cuba.

The Art and Culture of Cuba (December 4, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.) With Penn Professor Ezekiel Dixon-Roman. Professor Dixon-Roman will discuss the history, culture, and economics of the Communist-run island nation of Cuba.

To register for any of these great webinars, simply click on the webinar’s title to be directed to the free registration page.

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