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Penn Club of Chicago Quizzo: The Reign Continues: September 16, 2014

Author: Eric Wu, W’04

Following the tradition of hosting 1st September events throughout the country, The Penn Club of Chicago descended upon the Lakeview neighborhood to popular bar Mad River for a night of intellectual challenge, beers, and wings. Coincidentally, Mad River also happens to be the only known official Philadelphia Eagle bar in the city, a rare occurrence in Chicago Bear country.

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With great marketing support from Laura Foltman, from the Alumni Relations Office, and our club president Michal Clements, we were able to make this the largest attended Quizzo event for the Chicago club, possibly turning this for one night into Smokey Joes Midwest

36 alumni and 6 guests split into 5-6 separate mixed teams. In all Penn brought 40+ people to a bar on top of their normal crowd. We had a mix of everyone from recent undergraduate grads to recently minted Wharton MBAs.  Among those in attendance were incoming Penn Club of Chicago president, Peter Exley (GAR 1990), Sarah Doherty (SEAS’10 and VP of Young Alumni and yPenn chair), as well as founder/proprietor of new Chicago based craft brewery Moody Tongue Brewing, Jeremy Cohn (W’09).

Mad River is known for its eclectic and wide ranging mix of topics from general pop culture questions to world history, and is a very popular destination among the Chicago trivia scene. Among the answers asked which team Penn answered were correctly naming the famous video game series Castlevania, or identifying the football team of Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan, and identifying the Jim Carrey movie where this written quote appeared from (Liar Liar), or naming the band who sang this song (Semisonic). Going into the final question, 3 of the Penn teams were in the top 5.

Sarah provided an impromptu raffle of the Penn swag graciously provided by the alumni office. She also boldly predicted in an email earlier that week that Penn would come out on top of trivia. With all the recent Penn accolades including Best College Nationwide , Number 1 Party School , it only seemed logical that that Quaker domination continued. Her premonition proved true. Team Penn brought that swagger into the final question with the top Penn team going all-in the final question. Game set match. Victory! The bar manager came over to let us know that we had unseated a team that had won 4 of the last 5 trivia nights. Could this be the beginning of a new dynasty?ChicagoQuizzo3 ChicagoQuizzo4 ChicagoQuizzo5 ChicagoQuizzo6

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One Book, One University

By Michelle Falkoff, CAS ’95

Last week, a group of Penn alumni who live in Chicago got together to talk about the Penn Reading Project book selection, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman. The book is an exploration of the ways that miscommunication between doctors, patients, and their families can affect healing, and it raised fascinating questions about the ways that cultural perspectives of rank and authority can (but don’t have to) complicate the doctor/patient/family relationships. The book group was the Penn Club of Chicago’s first in a series of events themed around Penn’s Year of Health.

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Since many of the members of the group hadn’t met before the discussion, we started by introducing ourselves and giving some background into our relationships to Penn and Chicago. While this served as a lovely icebreaker, it also provided some initial context for how we all came to the book itself: some, like our discussion leader, Dave Pacifico CAS’03, had extensive knowledge of the subject matter through study of anthropology; others, like our host, Saul Rosenberg, C’61 and one of the Penn parents, Rose Hilmara (mother of a current Penn sophomore) had a lifetime of professional experience with medicine and pharmacology that gave some perspective on the medical issues the book raised. And many of us, myself included, brought just our personal experience with the medical profession and our opinions about the way American cultural norms affected our reading experience.

Our conversation was rich and varied, starting with our initial impressions of the events the book related and moving on to more complex exploration of the relationship between the body and the soul. We agreed up front that there were several basic communications that led to the medical tragedy on which the book focuses.

First, there was the basic issue of linguistic translation, which affected all aspects of patient care—in the absence of effective literal translation, doctors had trouble getting complicated concepts across to the patient’s parents, and the parents had difficulty explaining what they did and didn’t understand. Second, though no less important, was the issue of cultural translation. The patient’s parents didn’t trust the doctors because they didn’t perceive the doctors to be acting in the patient’s best interest, and the doctors weren’t (at least initially) interested in making the family understand why what they were asking was so important.

The issue of how best to medicate the patient implicated both types of miscommunication: the parents didn’t understand what the doctors asked of them in terms of things like dosage, but they also didn’t trust that the doctors were medicating the patient correctly, and so they’d adjust the dosages themselves if they perceived a particular drug to be working, or not working, which was a significant factor in the eventual tragedy on which the book focuses.

We found that, in our experience, these types of literal and cultural miscommunication aren’t limited to circumstances in which there are language and cultural barriers. Medical language has become so specialized that it’s often difficult for lay people to understand what doctors tell them without additional research; insurance has made negotiating the medical landscape byzantine and intimidating. Culturally, we tend to put medical professionals on pedestals, but the Internet has served a democratizing function in its provision of access to medical knowledge to lay people, even as it’s provided additional opportunities for confusion and hypochondria. This meant that, for us, the book proved helpful beyond its basic narrative; we weren’t surprised to learn that it had been required reading at Penn’s nursing school several years ago, and we agreed that it would make for useful reading for all medical professionals.

One of the most fascinating topics for us was the way the book described the benefit of integrating non-Western healing methods into the patient care experience. We talked about ongoing research into the effect of spiritual practices on healing and the ways in which the union of the two approaches has often proved successful in increasing rates of healing, no matter the perspective of the patient. While there was some spirited debate about this topic in particular, we agreed that the progress the doctors had made in the community the book described was very encouraging.

Overall, the discussion of the book itself was very enjoyable, and it was also exciting to feel like we were experiencing something similar to that of the first-year Penn students—it was a nice way to stay connected to our college experience, no matter how far away it was. With the help of our Regional Alumni Director Laura Foltman and the support of the University, Penn Club of Chicago President Michal Clements did a wonderful job organizing, so if other alumni groups are interested in doing this for next year’s book, they will be happy to serve as resources.

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(Editorial Note: Michelle Falkoff’s forthcoming book: Playlist for the Dead, is eagerly anticipated by the Penn Club of Chicago book group. This young adult book will be released Jan. 2015)

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Penn Serves LA Strikes Again; This Time With Paint

By Leanne Huebner, W’90

Over thirty Penn Alumni and their children joined together for a fun beautification project for El Nido Family Centers in Mission Hills.  We were thrilled that Elizabeth Fields, Julie Gutowski and Kiera Reilly from the Penn Western Regional Office joined us. And we welcomed special guests in town from campus Penn Professor David Grossman, Ph.D., Director, Civic House and Civic Scholars Program, and Katie McCarthy from the Penn Development Office, both lending their painting skills for good.

All in all, the team completed the center’s foyer, a key event room, as well as a hallway in bright white.  The highlight for many participants was contributing to a full wall-sized canvas mural alongside the Pacoima mural artist.  Volunteers brought together her vision for a grand-scale masterpiece to add cheer and interest in the center’s main lobby area.

Stuart Berton, El Nido Board President and Wharton ’61 graduate, thanked the team and provided a great overview of the important work of El Nido, a nonprofit that has served Los Angeles for 89 years.  Each year, the centers reach over 11,000 Los Angelenos  through its community outreach, early education and teen pregnancy initiatives, and gang-prevention programming.  While many individuals come to the center, El Nido social workers are also in the field meeting individuals and assessing families in their homes and schools.

Penn Serves LA's Jane Gutman with El Nido's Stuart Berton

Penn Serves LA’s Jane Gutman with El Nido’s Stuart Berton

A few highlights of their work were shared.  For instance, their GRYD program for gang-prevention has experienced success rates of up to 98% working with at-risk youth.  Their teen pregnancy recidivism rate is 80% lower than the national average, with only 4% of teenage mothers they serve having a second child before they turn twenty years old.

Penn Serves LA's Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

Penn Serves LA’s Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

“We are excited to help El Nido with such a great, enthusiastic group of volunteers,” shares Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, one of the Penn Serves LA Directors and coordinator of this event.  “And to have David and Katie here from Penn lending a hand makes our day of brightening the facility with fresh paint all the better.”

View all the photos from the day here.

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The next Penn Serves’ event will be Saturday, August 9th from 9 a.m. to noon and you can reserve your spot here.  Penn will be serving LA Waterkeepers in an effort to help identify the impact of debris on our area’s water supply.  “It’s a great opportunity for your science-minded side as we will be surveying and collecting valuable data,” shares Christine Belgrad, W’87, PAR’15, PAR’17, event coordinator.
Many of the past Penn Serves sell out, so please reserve your spot quickly.

Read about our past events:

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

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William Penn, Up Close and Personal

by Nicole Svonavec, GEd ‘09

Yesterday we took a post-work adventure to City Hall to see Philadelphia from the 42-story observation deck. Although Penn’s campus was obstructed by the Center City skyline, we got a great view of the William Penn statue atop City Hall (it’s HUGE)! Here are some photos from our day:

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Join the Penn Club of DC for the Citi Tennis Event

By: Jerry Donahoe, GCP’85

While many in Washington, DC may prefer to head out of town at midsummer, I find myself staying put and enjoying the professional tennis that comes to town at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center and Fitzgerald Stadium. The Citi Open, formerly the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, is integral part of the DC sports scene. And thanks to the Penn Club of DC, Penn alum have enjoyed a “Penn Night” at the tournament each and every summer for 20 years. Why do I like to take part in this event? Simply put, the Citi Open experience is a tennisWonderland. When not in your seat watching great tennis with Penn friends, you can stroll among the festival grounds to visit the sponsor tents, spot the tennis stars (and perhaps get their autographs), check out tennis merchandise, enter free raffles, and take advantage of numerous food and drink options (including access to the air-conditioned Courtside Club – only with the Penn Club ticket). Holding true to the Tennis Center founders’ wishes, a portion of the proceeds from the Citi Open benefits the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF). The WTEF seeks to improve the life prospects for underprivileged children of Washington, DC. Through its education and athletic programs, tens of thousands of DC’s at-risk children have been nurtured through the support of WTEF’s caring patrons, staff and volunteers. I look forward to this year’s gathering of Penn alum and friends at the Citi Open on Friday evening, August 1st. For more information, see http://pennclubofdc.com/events/upcoming/

 

Penn Club of DC City Tennis Event

Penn Club of DC – Citi Tennis Event

 

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Amazon River Expedition

Author: Anthony DeCurtis, Distinguished Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program & Contributing Editor for Rolling Stone

I’m not a specialist on South America to any degree whatsoever, so I was surprised – and delighted! — to be invited to be a faculty host on a Penn Alumni cruise along the Peruvian Amazon. I’m a distinguished lecturer in the creative writing program at Penn and my writing for Rolling Stone (where I’m a contributing editor) over the years about the likes of the Rolling Stones, U2 and Billy Joel has made me no stranger to wild life, though not the sort I was likely to find in one of the world’s most remote jungles. The advantage of my non-expert status, however, was that I fully shared the sense of wonder and adventure that characterized the redoubtable Penn alums on board. As soon as everyone understood that such questions as “How deep is the Amazon in this inlet?” were better addressed to our fearless and profoundly knowledgeable guides, Robinson and Juan Carlos, than to me, we all settled in to our journey and had an unforgettable time.

So what exactly was I doing on the La Amatista, the beautifully appointed small expedition river vessel that was our home on the Amazon? February 2014, the month of our cruise, marked the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles in the United States, so one of my lectures focused on that peerless band and the ongoing impact and significance of its music. A second lecture recounted the equally long and riotous career of the Beatles’ great rivals, the Rolling Stones. Of course, this being a Penn cruise, the alums aboard requested a third lecture about writing strategies, which I was happy to provide – and I got a few tips myself! On the evening after my Beatles talk in the afternoon, our guides and other crew members performed a selection of Beatles classics on the top deck to a wildly appreciative audience. Any footage or photos that might conceivably emerge of me singing “A Hard Day’s Night” and “From Me to You” while holding a glass of tequila have been fabricated, I swear!

But before all of that transpired, we first flew into Lima on a Friday and stayed at the Casa Andina Private Collection, a superb hotel. After breakfast there on Saturday morning, we toured Lima’s colonial section, including Casa Aliaga, which was built in 1535 by a family who came to Peru with the Spanish conquistador Pizarro. That setting prompted a discussion with our local guide about the complexities of honoring the country’s colonial past. The Convent and Museum of St. Francisco, meanwhile, included a stroll through the site’s catacombs, which are filled with the bones of tens of thousands of local residents.

The following day we flew to Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, which can only be reached by airplane or boat. Iquitos grew enormously during the rubber boom in Peru a century ago, and the downtown area features a two-story building that was used as a warehouse by Carlos Fermin Fitzcarrald, the rubber baron who is the subject of German director Werner Herzog’s gripping 1982 film, Fitzcarraldo. On Monday we visited the thriving Belen market, which, among its many herbs, foods and native wares included aphrodisiacs that tempted some of the more daring members of the Penn crowd. On the bus ride afterwards to Nauta, where we would board La Amatista, we stopped to visit a manatee rescue center, one of the many sites attempting to preserve the hugely important ecosystem of the Amazon. We were able to feed some of the manatees, which was fun and quite moving.

Once we boarded La Amatista later that Monday, it seemed as if our journey had finally begun, despite all that we’d seen and done already. Each of the next four days we rose early and set out in two small skiffs that each held about twelve of us. Juan Carlos and Robinson were compelling guides – smart, funny, insightful and deeply appreciative of all the glories the Amazon contains. They spoke excellent English and shared personal stories of their upbringing with us in casual presentations during dinner on the ship – one of the absolute highlights of the trip. They taught us how to fish for red-bellied piranha – okay, they fished and aided us in the illusion that we were fishing, gently helping us to reel in our catch – and pointed out the endless appearances of squirrel monkeys, toucans, vultures and macaws. One lazy afternoon a group of pink river dolphins frolicked near our skiffs, and an ordinary day suddenly turned magical. Every sunrise and sunset was just breathtaking, the sky seeming the only possible sight that could draw your attention away from the magnificent river and trees.

The residents, called riberenos [Please note: tilde over the n], of the many villages we visited were uniformly friendly and welcoming. We would hike through the jungle and then sit with them to hear their stories and purchase their strikingly colorful goods. In one village a female shaman spoke to us about the mystical and medicinal qualities of many of the plants in the region. She then performed a cleansing ritual, which was riveting.

By the time we reversed our trip – back to Nauta, then Iquitos, on to Lima, and then, finally, home – we had received an invaluable education in one of our planet’s ecological treasures. As I’m sure you know, the Amazon is under siege by the demands of our modern world. Our last night on La Amatista was the occasion of a spirited discussion about the future of the rainforest and of the Earth itself. Problems abound, of course, but the conversation was inspiring, a vivid reminder that we are all custodians of the world’s treasures, whether we are at home in our houses and apartments or sailing on a river that runs deep into the very heart of our entire human history. The connections felt palpable, and still do.

 

Amazon Group

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Spend Summer on “The Porch”

By: Brian A.

Things are happening down at the Porch at 30th Street Station all summer long!  I wanted to highlight Free Mini Golf every day in June right out front of the station: http://universitycity.org/events/free-mini-golf-porch

Also, the Porch is host to many gourmet food trucks in the month of June:   http://universitycity.org/events/gourmet-food-trucks-porch-11

I thought both of these items were nice to share with alumni and Penn employees alike who are looking to try something different on their lunch break.

theporch

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