The Penn Ten: Ten Lessons I Learned At Penn

By: Jorge Penado, C’19
International Relations Major
Work-Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House

 

  1. Aimlessly Walk Around Penn’s Campus: After years of our hard work of trying to get here, we can sometimes fail to live in the moment and soak in everything that Penn’s campus offers. We have the great fortune of attending a school that’s been around for nearly two hundred years that the nooks and crannies of this school are endless. Some of my best times were spent randomly walking around campus, initially to find that perfect study spot which I also recommend. But, walking around campus can come with various fun and exciting discoveries. Whether it’s the gargoyles perched on the Quad’s exterior or the graduate carousels in Fisher Fine Arts, there’s so much to find on this campus that it’s accumulated over years. Basically, what this lesson boils down to is that everyone should take a moment and realize that there’s so much around us that one can’t help but marvel at.
    Jorge 1
  2. Take Your Free Time Out of Left Field: While this may seem like a setup for a baseball reference, it’s actually much more the slang version. Many times, Penn students think that our extracurriculars have to strictly do with our studies or future career aspirations. But, sometimes you just want to do something you never could have imagined. If for some reason I traveled back in time to tell my high school senior self that I would be playing drums and making student short films as a kid interested in politics, I would have thought he was crazy. But, four years later, I’m glad I did those things because, one, they were beyond fun and, two, the stories and experiences are priceless. How else would I have known the commitment of a drum injury?
  3. Go Beyond Your Usual SEPTA Stops: The first part of this lesson is basically to use SEPTA. Maybe because I’m from the South where we don’t really have fully-developed subway systems, I fell in love with SEPTA, but in all honesty, you can’t experience Philly without it. It’s the veins of the city. Going beyond 40th westbound or 2nd eastbound was one of the coolest experiences that I’ve had because it felt like I wasn’t stuck in the “Penn Bubble.” Philly has so much to offer in every corner of the city whether it’s locally-owned restaurants in South Philly or the Ritz Theaters in Old City. As students in this city, we should do our part to explore beyond the main attractions, not to say that those aren’t amazing parts of Philly.

  4. Learn That Van Pelt Has The Extent of Human Knowledge: Alright, this might be a slight exaggeration, but the sentiment still remains. For some odd reason, I didn’t start using the library regularly until my Junior year, and boy was I missing out. Have you ever just walked through the aisles of Van Pelt? They have so much there to fill your time. From original Arabic manuscripts from the early Islamic periods to books on the role of satellite telecommunications during the Cold War, the diversity and extent of books in the library can sometimes become lost in the stress of our work. But, through my years, I’ve grown to appreciate the library for all its varied and helpful sources, and I encourage everyone to either begin to vehemently use those books or at least take a walk through the aisles to see what the production of academia around the world has produced.

    Jorge 2

  5. Find Those People You Can Talk To: While everyone says this, I can’t emphasize how important it is to make friends who you can trust and enjoy being around. One of my favorite parts of college has been getting to meet people from around the world and from such diverse sets of backgrounds. Before Penn, I was surrounded by people from my community who were largely similar. College gave me the opportunity to meet people from so many countries and learn about them. College also gave me the opportunity to get to know people more than I’ve ever gotten to know anyone. After living around them and going to classes with them, it’s inevitable that you’ll get to know people in ways you possibly never expected. I think that this is one of the best things about Penn and will remain one of the best for years after I graduate from school.

  6. Engage With The World Around You: Okay, I might be biased with this one because I’m an International Relations major, but I definitely think that my time at Penn allowed me to learn more about everything that’s happening around me. College is one of the first times when people are forced to talk about their thoughts and opinions on the world. By the world, I mean everything from complicated US politics to the historic movements in countries like Algeria and Sudan. The beauty of this is that everyone has thoughts on these issues, not just those studying them, and can hopefully teach you something new. I’ve had some of the best conversations about world affairs with computer science majors and gene editing with criminology majors. College is the time to learn about your place in the world. Read the newspaper. Have a conversation. Know what’s happening around you as a global citizen.
    Jorge 3
  7. Take The Time To Learn About Yourself: Your first thought may be, “What do you mean? I know who I am. I’m [insert name].” But, in the same vein as the previous lesson, I think college is the time to seriously learn about yourself. For many people, it’s the first time they’re not living at home and for many, it’s the first time moving far away. Four years ago, I moved over 1,550 miles and learned about myself in ways I could have never imagined. On an academic level, what kind of studier am I? What have been my favorite classes? Why? On a personal level, what kind of friend am I? How do I manage my time? What kind of things do I eat when no one’s telling me to eat healthily? So many things to learn about yourself with only four short years.

  8. Indulge In The Unusual & Particular: After seven lessons, it’s surprising how little I’ve spoken about academics. It’s what we’re here for in the first place! Though I came in knowing my general interests, I had absolutely no clue what subject matters I enjoyed the most. After spending my first two years taking intro courses and reading as much as I could, I began to realize that academia is filled with a bunch of people with specific interests that seem almost too narrow. But, the great thing about college is that nothing is too narrow to study. Everything that could possibly be studied has and will, so if there’s something that you enjoy, no matter how specific it seems, there’s room for it. As we try to balance majors for our long term goals with these interests, I definitely think there’s a way to do both, especially in these short years.

  9. Know That Everyone Is Just As Lost: When I first got to Penn, I can’t say that I wasn’t intimidated by the school and the people. In the beginning, I felt confused in every class, like an impostor in every seminar and beyond stressed for every test. On top of all of this, I thought I was the only one struggling. But, one of the most valuable things that I’ve learned at Penn is that everyone’s struggling in their own way. If Penn is a breeze for anyone, then more power to them, but I quickly realized that almost everyone questions whether they’re good enough. But, I learned that everyone has a place at Penn and that we should talk about it all. Penn became more enjoyable when I could speak to my friends about how stressful times can get. All of this is a normal part of college, and we shouldn’t fear being the only one going through it.
    Jorge 4
  10. Be Aware That Penn Was Made For You To Succeed: After all of these lessons, the one thing that I leave Penn knowing, and hope that every student can learn, is that Penn is made for the students. Though it may not feel like it when classes are stressful or you’re the first in your family to go to college, there are always people interested in seeing you succeed. Whether it’s the cultural houses, your major department or even just your peers, there’s a place for everyone and resources for anyone who asks for them. There’s money to fund your summer experiences. There are advisors to help you through your major. I know I have benefited significantly from being at Penn because I’ve always known there’s at least one person on my team. With this in mind, these four years at Penn can be much more endearing and fulfilling.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Jorge Penado, C’19, Memories of Penn, Sweeten Alumni House, Top Ten

Blue Skies for Penn Women in Tech: TCPW Career Networking Event at Headspace

By Michal Clements, W’84, WG’89

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Moderator: Denise Winner, W’83, PAR’21. Panelists: Rebecka “Becky” Zavaleta, C’13; Lilian Haney, C’06; and Bhavini Soneji, VP Engineering, Headspace.

Fifty Penn alumni and guests enjoyed the “Blue Skies Women in Tech” 2019 LA Women’s Career Networking event. The program included speed networking, guided meditation, and the Women in Tech career panel. This was the second year in a row the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women and Penn Club LA held the event at Headspace in Santa Monica.

TCPW member Denise Winner W’83, PAR’21, President & CEO of Winner Squared moderated the panel. I learned from this that Denise has been focused on AI since the late 1980s.

Women in Tech 2019 Panelists were Penn Club LA board member Rebecka “Becky” Zavaleta C’13, Product Manager, Data Sciences, ZEFR; Penn Alumni Lilian Haney C’06, Director of Communications, AirMap;  and Bhavini Soneji, VP Engineering, Headspace.

Others who made the event happen were TCPW’s Carolyn Enenstein, Denise Winner, and Michal Clements, Wharton Club of So Cal leaders Elizabeth Kopple and Anissa Finerman, Penn Club of LA board member Amanda Rykoff, and Penn Alumni Relations Christa Lembach and Terri Welsh.

Topics discussed were pivoting to the tech sector, staying current with the latest developments, big data, AI, human in the loop. Career advice included:

  • Stay flexible – don’t necessarily have one “big” mentor, instead many people who help
  • Mentally push through when faced with a challenge, whether it’s a project challenge or trying a new activity that will help with career and work
  • Don’t limit yourself
  • Leverage the power of the customer when pushing back from product management to engineering

This evening was hosted by Headspace who also provided delicious food and beverages.   Thank you to all!

 

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Penn Serves LA Joins Santa Monica Homeless Count

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

Penn Serves Homeless 1.2019 photo 4

Penn Serves LA Volunteers gather in Santa Monica at midnight in January 2019 to help count the homeless.

“California has a quarter of the nation’s homeless.”  This was one of the many stunning facts about homelessness that twenty plus Penn volunteers learned during a chilly evening in January when we gathered at 10:30 pm at a church in Santa Monica before heading out to “count” the homeless.

Our Penn Serves LA group was part of a phalanx of thousands of volunteers who were deployed across Los Angeles over three evenings in late January to count the homeless, which would then determine how resources will be distributed and to measure how local and state governments are doing in their efforts to manage this exploding challenge.  Between 2016-17, homelessness surged by 26% in Los Angeles County to a devastating 55,000 people.  In 2018 there were 957 unsheltered people in Santa Monica, up 4% from the prior year.

Penn Serves Homeless 1.2019 photo 2

Penn Serves LA Volunteers waiting for instructions to help count the homeless in Santa Monica

In 2017 LA County voted in a quarter-cent tax through Measure H, which will raise $355 million a year over a decade to help with outreach, shelters, and housing.  The “crisis on the streets” is immensely complicated: mental, health issues, high rents, lagging wages, etc., etc.  As Martin Luther King said, “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

For the Santa Monica Homeless Count, we were divided into sixty-odd teams of four people, and each team was given a precise map of an area where we were to walk and make note of people sleeping on the streets or in cars.  Prior to heading out, at a time chosen because homeless people are usually settled by midnight and thus we could get the most accurate count, we received training about how to identify homeless individuals and encampments.

Over fifty people representing the police, mental health professionals and elected officials were there to support the volunteers.  Terry O’Day, the Mayor of Santa Monica, explained how Santa Monica cares for its homeless with a continuum of services aimed at addressing the problem and preventing its expansion. Each speaker was moving and inspiring, and all shared in expressing that it will only be through collective efforts that homelessness can be eradicated.

The rallying cry was, “Volunteer, Donate and Advocate” to solve the problem.  Imagine if each of us either gave an hour a week of our time, gave $5 a week of our money or wrote a letter every week to a politician what might be accomplished.

And with that, we hit the streets with our teammates.  It was very cold and very dark, but of course, we were only out on the streets for an hour or two…imagine!

You can read the results of the 2019 Santa Monica Homeless Count here and see a video about this year’s count here (we saw a few of our Penn Serves volunteers have cameos in the video).

Upcoming Events

About Penn Serves LA

PennServesLA logo

Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.

Since our founding in 2012, we have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy a fun experience with fellow alumni.

Join Us

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents, and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Michelle Wattana, C’09 | Denise Winner, W’83, PAR’21

Read about our previous events:

 

 

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Filed under Jane G., Los Angeles, Penn Club of LA, Penn Serves, Volunteering

Fireside Chat on Algorithms and Machine Intelligence in Silicon Beach

By Michal Clements, W’84, WG’89


Conversational Context

On April 4, 2019, forty Penn alumni, family, friends and work colleagues came together In the offices of Silicon beach based content targeting firm Zefr to gain insight into machine learning and algorithms. The fireside chat featured Wharton Professor Kartik Hosanagar, author of the just-released  “A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms are Shaping Our Lives and How We can Stay in Control” and was moderated by Bing Chen C’09.

The evening began with welcomes from Penn Club of Los Angeles President, Omid Shokoufandeh W’09 and host Zefr’s Product Manager Data Science Rebecka Zavaleta, C’13.

Frankly Penn Kartik Photo #1

Attendees included Penn alumni and local colleagues who currently work directly in machine learning and artificial intelligence as well as alumni of all ages who were interested to learn more about these topics, including a Penn graduate from the class of 1957 and 1969.

Frankly Penn Kartik Photo #2

Topics Explored

  • The trend is towards reinforcement learning where the AI creates its own data vs. supervised learning where a training data set is used
  • We all have subconscious biases and algorithms learn from data based on human decisions, therefore the algorithms develop and reflect those biases
  • There are many examples of algorithm failures, whether the algorithms are ruled based (i.e., from the programmer) or reinforcement learning based
  • While diversity in the team developing algorithms is desirable, many AI teams are quite small in size (i.e., with three or four people), and it’s not realistic to have all diversity represented within them (even if the talent pool were a perfect reflection of diversity)
  • Case example: Amazon discovered that their resume screening algorithm had a gender bias which reflected the gender bias in the underlying data. While “almost no one” is testing for bias, Amazon was and moved to correct this issue
  • Case example: a Microsoft chatbot named XiaoIce “works” with forty million followers in China (a place where there are many rules on what to not say in social media), while a similar Microsoft chatbot named Tay failed spectacularly in the US. This example is explored in the book’s opening
  • Humorous case example of gaming the system: given our notorious LA traffic, and widespread use of Waze and Google Maps, one audience member regularly reports (falsely) slowdowns in his local neighborhood to prevent traffic from being routed through the area, thereby creating congestion

Predictions (some already in existence)

  • Machines will be able to detect emotions and use that information
  • Expect an exponential increase in capabilities from AI in our lifetime. Examples on the near term and current horizons are driverless cars and smart cities (at the combination of AI and IOT)
  • We have and will have AI that is creative (e.g., art, music)

Ideas to Address the Biases and Navigate an Algorithmic World

  • In the book, Prof. Hosanagar presents “A Bill of Rights” to address some of the dangers and challenges around algorithms. Some of the solutions include:
    • Transparency, particularly in socially critical settings
    • Human in the Loop
    • Auditing the algorithm

All of us are impacted daily by algorithms, and I hope our Penn alumni who are lifelong learners will educate themselves, and will also have the opportunity to see and hear from Professor Hosanagar on this topic.

 

 

 

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Ira Israel, C’88, Shares How to Cultivate Authentic Relationships with Los Angeles area Penn alumni and guests

By Michal Clements, W’84, WG’89

On January 29, 2019, over a hundred Penn alumni and guests gathered at General Assembly in Santa Monica to experience Ira Israel’s, C’88, signature presentation on “How to Cultivate Authentic Relationships.”

Ira Israel Frankly Penn

 

Ira is the author of , “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening,” and also the creator of the best-selling “A Beginner’s Guide to Happiness,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation,” “Mindfulness for Anxiety,” and “Mindfulness for Depression” video series.  The book is currently rated five stars on Amazon and is highly recommended.

Ira Israel 2

During the evening, Ira first engaged the audience with thought-provoking content including video clips and visuals. Ira broke the crowd into pairs, assigned interactive exercises, and gave us the chance to apply the concepts presented. This allowed each audience member to go a step beyond simply listening to the presentation, and to apply specific practices designed to bring more happiness and loving relationships into their lives.

 

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#BeWellPenn95: Social Wellness, an introduction

by Casey Ryan, C’95

95 sign

As Jordana Horn Gordon, Nicole Maloy and I have shared before, Penn has launched an initiative called Wellness at Penn.

This program affirms wellness as a core priority and necessary driver of life on campus. It offers opportunities to reflect and engage on issues of wellness, stress, mental health, resilience, happiness, personal and academic goals, and the meaning of success. And it defines wellness as an ongoing holistic process with multiple dimensions.

As alumni, we are still members of the Penn community where we live in Philadelphia or Perth and everywhere in between. Jordana, Nicole and I are encouraging you, our fellow classmates, in the ramp-up year to our 25th reunion to take some time to #BeWellPenn95 and work on some of the wellness dimensions.

While the three of us have picked one each of the eight tenets, we encourage you to follow us for tips about improving your mental/emotional, physical and social wellness as well as adding any pillars to your wellness routine.

As the same proclaimed social butterfly, I am planning to provide ideas and tips for improving one’s social wellness.

First, what is social wellness?

Social Wellness refers to one’s ability to interact with people around them. It involves using good communications skills, having meaningful relationships, respecting yourself and others, and creating a support system that includes family members and friends.

In this particular blog article, I am not going to overwhelm you with several tips; I will give you just one meaningful one as we are preparing for our reunion in 2020.

Catch up with an old friend from Penn.

We live in a busy world and some of us have jobs that take us to the far-flung corners of the earth and others of us have responsibilities that require our attention from when the alarm goes off to when our heads hit pillows. We do have technological escapes like Facebook and Instagram that do give us a tenuous feeling of connectedness. In the meantime, let’s try to improve our in-person relationships. Evaluate your core network. If you have Penn peers in that group, congrats! If not, think about a classmate whom you’d like to hear from. Either way, make some time to connect.

The interaction doesn’t have to be long. Now, I’m a dyed in the wool extrovert and I can spend hours with a friend moving among busy locales – hopping from coffee to lunch to a happy hour – chatting all the time. Not everyone has the inclination to do that or the time. So the opposite social appointment would be to commit to a fifteen-minute chat on the phone to check in and catch up.

Here are a few rules of thumb. Regardless of where you fall on the extrovert-introvert spectrum, know your limitations and mutually set expectations. Before making a commitment, be sure that you can realistically meet that expectation, taking into account everything from travel time and prior commitments to health and self-care.

Start with a fifteen-minute call with Penn friend. Send him or her an e-mail (feel free to look up your friend on Quakernet, https://quakernet.alumni.upenn.edu), or a Facebook message. Make arrangements to chat within ten days of your contact. Commit to the call. If you feel comfortable, post on our Reunion Facebook that you caught up with an old friend afterward and share your experience.

Looking toward the future, I know that a lot of social wellness activities can be tied into the other pillars of wellness, for example, finding a workout partner combines social with physical, while joining a book club can combinate social with mental/emotional. Don’t be surprised if future tips combine more than one tenet.

Like all of the wellnesses, cultivating social wellness is an ongoing process that requires attention throughout our entire life.  So, we’re here for you and feel free to interact with the class page on Facebook, as well as you can connect with me personally on Instagram and Twitter at @IrishWombat.  

#BeWellPenn95,

Casey Ryan, C’95

casey ryan

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Casey R., Class of 1995, Uncategorized

A Toast to Dear Old Penn: The Toast Throwing Tradition at Football Games

By Jorge Penado, C’19
Penn Alumni Relations Work Study Student

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Source: Penn Archives 1999

With traditions at universities around the nation being a staple of that institution’s student culture, it is undeniable that students at Penn have developed their own, cherished traditions throughout the year. Whether it’s something like Hey Day during Junior Year or the Econ Scream during Freshman year, Penn students have engaged in these traditions with the fervor that school spirit usually evokes. Though most traditions are relatively normal in the pantheon of university traditions, one of them might cause a non-Penn individual to double take: toast throwing at football games. As a tradition that roughly started in the 1970s, it has since become one of the staple events that every Penn student should participate in at least once throughout their time at the university.

First and foremost, it is important to ask a very basic question: What exactly is toast throwing? While every Penn student has at least heard of the tradition whether they’ve participated or not, it helps to establish exactly what toast throwing entails. As mentioned earlier, the tradition is known to have started in the 1970s during a time when alcohol was prohibited from Franklin Field where all football games are held. This ban on alcohol would actually interfere with another common tradition at football games where audience members would drink alcohol at the end of the third quarter when the Penn Band would play, “Drink a highball.” In this song created by G.B. Brigham, the song would close with the following lyrics, “Drink a highball and be jolly. Here’s a toast to dear old Penn!” After the final line, everyone in the audience would drink the alcohol as a “toast” for Penn. Nonetheless, the ban would prevent people from toasting with alcohol and would leave room for the new tradition to be launched by Greer Cheeseman and his friends.

Cheeseman, as the current director of the Penn Band, an employee for the University, and local Penn aficionado, retells the story of how a “toast to dear old Penn,” became a literal piece of toast “to dear old Penn.” Though the details of the tradition remain slightly vague, Cheeseman does remember where the idea originally came from Rocky Horror Picture. After some of Cheeseman and some of his fraternity brothers attended a showing of Rocky Horror, they were intrigued by the interactive nature of the show, particularly the part where the audience throws toast at the screen after the character, Frank, proposes a toast. Interestingly enough, the two held so many parallels that Cheeseman and his friends eventually got the brilliant idea to translate that at an actual football game. After some time, toast throwing would eventually catch on and spread quickly as most every Penn student now knows exactly what toast throwing at football games means.

When considering the position of toast throwing in the grander scheme of Penn school spirit, it’s clear that it definitely holds a special place in the school’s history. Cheeseman recounts how football games at the time were huge events that everybody attended to create that sense of pride in the school. It also didn’t hurt that Penn’s football team was particularly good and attracted their fair share of people. When asked how it feels to be a part of such a noteworthy tradition at Penn, Cheeseman explains that, while he’s not exactly sure how he feels, he does acknowledge that it’s rather “neat” to be a part of Penn’s history. Though football games don’t receive the same audiences now as they did back in the day, it’s indisputable that toast throwing will remain a part of the experience at football games. With students dividing their time between academics, social lives, and many other things, it’s difficult to attend every football game and participate all the time. Nonetheless, we can rest assured that the tradition won’t be dying out anytime soon as long as groups like the Penn Band, that go to most sports games, keep the tradition alive and others continue to distribute toast at every game at Franklin Field.

After almost fifty years of the tradition was introduced, toast throwing continues to excite people who are first experiencing the wave of toast fly above them for about 15 to 30 seconds at the end of the third quarter. With fans customizing their toast with a letter “P” and stockpiling stacks of toast, it definitely still evokes a sense of school spirit through such a unique tradition. Lucky enough, the toast-eating Zamboni-machine helps with the immense cleanup.

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Image: Homecoming 2018
Back row left to right –  Jason Feldman, ENG02; Kushol Gupta, C’93, BGS’03, Lisa Shapiro (Bardfeld), C’93; Greer Cheeseman, EE’77
Second Row left to right – Kelly (Naeun) Ha, C’16; Marianne Brogdale (Alves*), C’93; Richard DiNapoli, C’19; Robin Coyne, NU’12, GNU’15
Third Row left to right – Lauren Mendoza, C’15; Zabryna Atkinson-Diaz, C’19, GR’20; Jenna Harowitz, C’18
All former and current Penn Band Drum Majors
*Marianne Brogdale (Alves) was the first female Drum Major in Penn Band history.
Source: Source: Kushol Gupta, C’97, GR’03

 

Image: Toast Toss at 2018 Penn vs Bucknell Game
Source: Kushol Gupta, C’97, GR’03

Special thanks to Kushol Gupta, C’97, GR’03, for his consultation and partnership on this article. 

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Profile, Campus Life, Jorge Penado, C’19, Penn football, Student Perspective, Traditions