Monthly Archives: March 2011

I Remember…Black Pants

Author: Elizabeth K., C’04

Back in my days at Penn, I was never a fashionista.  I shopped pretty much exclusively at the Gap and even the outfits on the mannequins there were too stylish for me.   My favorite outfit was from American Eagle – it was a khaki corduroy miniskirt with a stretchy white collared top and I wore it with platform shoes.  It was my “first day of school” outfit sophomore year and I can still remember the popular girl in my sorority complimenting me on it.  Greatest day ever!

When I was at Penn, the wardrobe staple, hands down, was a pair of black pants.  Even someone as clueless about fashion as me knew that.  These were different than black work pants, but they weren’t black jeans.  They were sort of a black stretchy material.  You paired black pants with a fancy shirt (preferably a halter top) and that was a “going out” outfit.  It was socially unacceptable for girls to wear jeans to a party.  I recently asked my fashionable twenty-year-old sister if she and her friends wore black pants to go out and she laughed at me, so obviously that trend has come and gone.

From what I can tell, the “skinny jean” is the new black pant.  These are very tight jeans that taper at the ankle.  They practically look like leggings, but shouldn’t be confused with leggings which appear to be on their way out as an acceptable fashion choice.  However, there are special leggings that look like jeans (or jeans that look like leggings, I can’t keep it all straight) that are called “jeggings.”  These leggings are still okay because of their close resemblance to the ever popular skinny jean.  Got it?  Skinny jeans are so tight that you have to wear boots over them, instead of having the pant cover your shoes.  Basically, think of Robin Hood.  Same idea.  There is no way this trend won’t look ridiculous in a few years.

To wit: Here is Robin Hood.

Stealing from the Rich...Giving to the Poor.

And here are the Robin Hood-style boots now popular on campus.

*Modern Day Robin Hood

Skinny jeans are one thing, but my favorite current trend, by far, has to be Hunter rain boots. To me, rain boots are a functional part of my wardrobe, something I wear on my 1.5 mile walk to and from work in the rain to protect my feet and clothes. To Penn girls, they are a wardrobe’s greatest staple. And, the boots have to be Hunter. Brand name only. Hunter rain boots are solid colors and pretty skinny on your calves, so you have to wear them with tights, leggings, bare legs or, of course, skinny jeans! My favorite look has to be the girls who wear short shorts or miniskirts and then have Hunter rain boots on. It doesn’t even have to be raining outside for these boots to come out.

Hunter boots

Partially sunny? Hunter rain boots. 20% chance of rain? Hunter rain boots. Flurries? Hunter rain boots. Hunter rain boots are everyone’s pair of gross sneakers that you keep around, except they are bright and shiny and $125 on Zappos. I see them everywhere. Evidence:

*Please note that it was not, in fact, raining on this day.


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At Penn, Life Sometimes Imitates…Dr. Seuss?

Author: Lisa Vaccarelli, C’02

We’ve all heard the old adage that “life imitates art.”  But this Monday, it came to life right outside my office window (click on photo to see a larger view):

That would be the members of Tabard Society dressed up like the one and only Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Remember her?

Now, the question is: what ARE they using to keep their hair up?

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The “M” Word

Author: Amy Bright Ruben, C’82

“That will be $3.25, ma’am.”

“Can I help you ma’am?”

“Civic House is over the bridge up on the left, ma’am.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Who are they all talking to?  Oh ,no! To the 21 and under set at Penn, have I transformed from a college coed to a  “ma’am” on campus?

It is a fact, yet I was so utterly oblivious. The first time it happened, I simply turned by head 180 degrees to see who the much older someone  was holding the door for this sweet polite student.  “After you, ma’am.” Yikes! It was only him and me.

But wasn’t the real me just on the train an hour ago, headed to Penn’s campus from my home in NYC, wondering if I could pass as a graduate student or maybe just maybe a PhD candidate a few more years out of school?

And yes, sure, I have been called plenty of M words, like Mrs., Mom, and probably multiple other more malicious M’s behind my back.  But wait, it doesn’t make sense. It feels like I was just living on campus not 27 years ago. And are my kids really as old as the people who call me ma’am?

So it’s official. I’m a ma’am. But I’m no longer mortified. I’ve decided to embrace the “M” word.

Now every time I walk up and down Locust Walk, I hold my head high and smile, knowing I am minutes away from being called ma’am. And when it does happen, I simply reply, “You’re welcome, sir.”

Amy and friends circa 1982

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Why I’m Not an Art Historian

Author: Aimee LaBrie

As a student in the MLA program at Penn, I’m taking a graduate pro-seminar called “Studies in World Art: Religion, Politics, and Culture.” We meet every Tuesday night from 5:30-8:10 in a small conference room in the Jaffee Building (just an aside: one thing I love about meeting there is that one of the admins keeps a full stock of candy in a bowl…It’s the honor system; you can take as many butterscotch hard candies or red licorice or pop rocks as you like. I confess that I always take more than my share). Here is the building, in case you have forgotten what it looks like. If only it were this green now.

The class is taught by Professor Larry Silver, who is a soft-spoken man with a snowy white beard and hair.  He has been everywhere and seen everything—every cathedral or architectural marvel you can name. Each week, we sit around a large conference table and he shows us slides of ornate temples in Damascus and 5th Century Buddhist sculptures in China and paintings by Giovanni Bellini, and I realize again and again the gaps in my education; how much I don’t know about the world, how much is missing in my knowledge about history. I took Advanced Placement history in high school, but honestly, all I remember from those two years is that my teacher, Mr. O’Donnell, often dressed up in costumes to illustrate a lesson. One time, he came in wearing a toga to teach us about Hannibal. The only thing I retain from that lecture is that Hannibal invaded a country while riding in on elephants (I only recall that because I love animals).  And there you have the sum total of my understanding of world history.

The Penn class is fairly class, and there are a few people who ask questions pretty much every time the teacher gives us a new piece of information. I try not to be irritated by this, but part of me (the impatient part…About 95% of me) just wants him to get on with the lecture versus learning why something is square instead of round or if it was built with toothpicks or really tiny logs. BUT! I think that also reveals my own shortcomings–I often don’t care much about the origins the work; I want the stories behind it. However, a lot of what we’re looking at is BCE (Before the Common Era. Something I learned in class!), and the creators are anonymous. So, there’s not a strong narrative thread in the class, no stories about the artist or who s/he was painting for, no drama about what happened to the piece or who owned it or how it was discovered. It’s all very factual.

On the other hand, we get to see slides of work like this:

Bodhisattva Guanyin, Ming Dynasty, (1368-1644 AD)

And this:

The Battle of the Bridge of Milvio by Piero della Francesca

I’ll never be an art historian, but I can love to sit in the dark and watch these slides flash by.

I read somewhere recently that you can create new brain cells by simply engaging your mind with new information, new knowledge, new tasks.  One more good thing bout working at Penn–it’s making me smarter.

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The Fellowship of the Burrito

A beautiful, sunny day on campus means many things, but mainly it means it’s time to forget about that Lean Cuisine you stashed in the office mini fridge freezer section you didn’t know existed until recently, and head out to one of University City’s fabulous restaurants for a lunch break!

When we’re not working hard on relating to our alumni, we’re thinking about our next meal or snack, or emergency trip to the frozen yogurt place.  Today, that lucky lunch spot was Chip0tle, and this was our journey through campus: The Fellowship of the Burrito, and the campus elves and ogres we saw along the way.

Behold, Locust Walk!

What a beautiful tree coming back from a long winter’s rest.  Welcome, floral friends!

Oooh, Volcanic Corruption!  Wonder what that’s about.  Who cares?  It’s so fun to say:

How many licks does it take to get to the center of campus?  Mmm, Tootsie Pops.  We’re hungry.  Too bad we’re not already at Chipotle.

We won’t say who, but one of us was too lazy to walk up the incline of this bridge.  So we went around it.

So many food trucks.  So much temptation.  We yearn to stop where we are and forget about the Fellowship of the Burrito.

Ooooh, look!  A flower!

Check out all these frat houses.  We’re pretty sure we’re going to be trudging uphill for the last leg of the journey.

We have arrived!  Thank goodness a delicious meal awaits us inside.

Oh no.  What a long line!  And someone’s luggage – someone traveled even farther than we did to get here!

Spotted: Clark Kent powering up on delicious Chipotle food.  I wonder if he’s going to use his post-meal strength to turn the Earth’s rotation so we go back in time and we can eat our burritos again.

Home Sweet(en) Home.

-Aimee and Leigh Ann

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Filed under Aimee L., Food Fiends, Leigh Ann P., The Sweeten Life

Alumni Programming…Family Style!

Author: Kristina Clark

I had the wonderful opportunity to staff an event at the Mask & Wig Clubhouse in Center City last week, Family Day at Mask & Wig.

There were over 122 alumni parents and children at the Clubhouse.  They enjoyed a hot dog lunch and watched a performance by Mask & Wig geared to the little ones under 12 years old.  After the performance, the kids went onto the stage to participate in a kick-line and then sang The Red and Blue, hand motions and all! As one of our alums said, “the Mask & Wig undergrads were a true credit to Penn — not only putting on a show that was both funny and appropriate, but handled themselves with maturity and grace with our kids after the show.”

I think we may have found a way to have alumni connect with Penn on a whole different level – through their children.  It was an amazing event and we held another Penn family event Friday night at the University Museum.  We have 90 people registered for 40 Winks with the Sphinx for a scavenger hunt, movie, and sleepover at the Museum!  In my next post, I’ll give you an update on that event as well.

You can see photos from this event on our Phanfare site here.

Keep checking the Penn Alumni website for more family programs.

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I Remember…Graduation 2004

Author: Elizabeth K., C’04

In 2004, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and cried for about a week straight.  I loved Penn and couldn’t believe that four years had flown by so quickly.  I was so sad to leave my best friends, my boyfriend, and the Penn community for the far off land of Los Angeles, where I was going to go to USC Law School.  Getting to hear Bono speak at graduation provided a little solace, but as people cheered and threw their hats in the air around me, I did it with tears in my eyes. Thirty minutes later, when I met up with my family I was a sobbing, blubbering, snotty mess.  My father, a 1975 alum, was also crying, which set my Mom off, then my Nana and before you know it our red puffy eyes ruined every single picture of my family with me in my cap and gown.  Thanks for the memories, Penn.

Cut to 2009.  It’s September, and I’m back at Penn, this time as a staff person.  After a brief, unhappy stint as a lawyer I decided it was time to find happiness in the very different field of higher education administration.  I loved school but after seven straight years of college and law school, I was done being a student.  So, I thought if I’m not going to be a student, why not work at a university?  Clearly, my first choice place of employment was Penn and I was so excited the day I got my job offer.  I was only nervous about two things.  First, would it make me sad and nostalgic to be back at a place I loved, but not as a student?  And, what if people mistook me for a student instead of a savvy Penn employee?

The truth is that Penn feels like a completely different place from my new perspective as an employee.  I still do a lot of the things I did as a student.  I buy my lunch from Houston Hall (better as a staff person because we get the staff punch card to earn a free meal), grab coffee from Starbucks or Cosi, eat at the Magic Carpet lunch truck, and cheer on the Hey Day parade.  But, all of these things feel new as I’m doing them in my more grown up, professional life.  I think the real difference is that at the end of the day Penn isn’t home for me anymore – home is the apartment I share with my husband that I get to go at the end of every workday.  I love that home, and my adult post-Penn life makes me very happy.  So, being here doesn’t make me miss being a student.  It makes me appreciate what I had, and the chance Penn gave me to grow and mature into who I am today.  I don’t want to go back, but I can look back with even more fondness.

And my fear about being mistaken as a student?  Completely unfounded.  First of all, I could never look as cool or stylish as the girls I see walking around campus.  I’m wearing stockings and heels, not leggings and Hunter rain boots (more on Penn styles to come in my next blog post).  Turns out, I look my age, especially when standing next to 19-year-olds.  I walk down Locust Walk and the students instinctively know not to hand fliers to me.  Sometimes I want to shout, “Come on!  I’m still cool!  I could go to your Strictly Funk dance show!”  But then my heels get stuck in one of the cracks on the Walk, I have to spend all my energy to stop myself from face planting, and my dreams of coolness evaporate.  One day someone gave me a sticker to try to get me to join their sorority.  I was elated.  It’s still on a bulletin board in my office.

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A Room with a View (of Locust Walk)

One of the best things about working for Alumni Relations at Penn is our location. Sweeten Alumni House, located at 3533 Locust Walk, sits literally at the heart of campus.  Though at times it may be distracting, we can literally see and hear just about everything that happens on Locust Walk – from the Penn Band announcing the Spring Fling concert artist with their rendition of “The Club Can’t Even Handle Me” by Flo Rider (look it up; I know I had to) to Penn students enjoying the first day of spring on a warm, sunny day on College Green.

Among all of this, it the less familiar sights and sounds that I find most fascinating.  For example, the pledges from Theos and Tabard societies fully camped out with tarps, tents and sleeping bags on College Green; the student dressed like Waldo (as in Where’s Waldo) – complete with red and white striped shirt and hat and round black glasses – hiding in the bushes outside our building; or the 24 hour stationary bike marathon for charity hosted each spring by our fraternity neighbors, complete with a pink bunny mascot and The Best of Journey on repeat.

As bizarre and entertaining as these sights and sounds may be, to me they also represent what is so fantastic about Penn.  This campus literally pulses with energy, creativity, and excitement every minute of the day, every day of the year.  And that energy is contagious – its part of what makes me excited to come to work every day and to be a part of this community.

If you don’t believe, just check out the view from my office.

Lisa V., C’02

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The Competitive Beast Within

Author: Leigh Ann Preston

The energy and competitive nature of Penn students infiltrates every aspect of campus life – from being at the top of one’s chemistry class to being in the front of the line at the salad bar at Houston Hall – and Sweeten Alumni House is no different.

We compete with ourselves for record-breaking event attendance year after year at Alumni Weekend and Homecoming.  We compete with previous years’ staff retreat committees to see who can come up with a more fun retreat theme.  We compete with peer institutions’ alumni clubs to see who has more active alumni globally.  Our staff also competes in NCAA tournament brackets, celebrity gossip leagues, and unreasonable workout challenges, but that’s another post for another time.  Even the naming of this blog became a competition for a Starbucks gift card.  Unfortunately, my suggestion, “Quake ‘n’ Bake” was not met with the enthusiasm I expected.

The latest competition of note is among each reunion class’s registration numbers in anticipation of Alumni Weekend 2011.  I so enjoy watching our attendance climb each week, seeing which class is surging ahead of the others.  In 2010, the 30th reunion set record numbers for a 30th reunion at Penn thanks to tireless publicity and teamwork, and the 5th reunion had more people than any other reunion, ever!  As of this writing, the 70th reunion has more registrants than the 15th.  The Class of 1941 is ready to go!

Below is an artist’s rendering of alumni competitiveness.


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Filed under Alumni Weekend, Fine Art, Leigh Ann P., The Sweeten Life

Why I Love the Penn Bookstore

Author: Aimee LaBrie

I am a creature of habit. Every single morning, I buy my coffee at the same place: the Penn bookstore on 36th and Walnut. It’s actually more a matter of laziness in some aspects; I arrive on campus from the 36th Street trolley stop, so I almost can’t avoid the bookstore. But I also love books, and I love that they change the displays all the time, so you there’s always something new to see, some new book I didn’t know about or a new cat calendar or a Penn t-shirt I’ve never seen before.

I like the possibility inherent in these things–maybe one day I actually will read a nonfiction book about bears (unlikely, but I like that I could). Look, look how bright and shiny it is. And they have everything. I actually bought my rain boots at the bookstore one rainy day when I was walking around in wet socks.

The other thing I like about the bookstore is the coffee staff. There’s one girl who works there and she knows that I always order a large coffee with room. Often, she sees me before I see her and the coffee is waiting for me when I arrive at the counter. They’re also generous with their coffee cards. You only need to buy 10 drinks, and you get a free one–of any kind. That means that technically, I can have a free mocha latte with a shot of vanilla every two weeks. Except that I also am a hoarder, and so I squirrel away finished coffee cards should the day arrive that I have no money at all. This same person also only ever charges me for a grande coffee. ALSO, the Starbucks coffee costs less there; I don’t know why, but it does. So, I’m saving like 14 cents a week. Hey, it adds up. And lastly, it’s the one of the few places in the world where two of my very favorite things converge: coffee and celebrity gossip. What more could you ask for?

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