Monthly Archives: August 2011

Campus Art

Author: Lisa Vaccarelli, C’02

One of the great things about working on a vibrant university campus like Penn is the never-ending flow of exhibits, performances and cultural events.  Yes, despite being one of the world’s most renowned research institutions, Penn also holds its own when it comes to the arts.  I say all of this not as an art aficionado – or even an art history minor – but as someone who most frequently enters into cultural experiences by accident.  And THIS is why Penn is so great – for those of us who might not seek out these experiences on our own, there is always a new exhibit or performance to stumble upon here on campus.

For example, last week, I navigated to the Penn homepage only to find the following photo:

Needless to say, this visual image was enough to distract me from whatever work-related online destination I was heading toward.  I needed to learn more about this photo, which I quickly discovered is part of an upcoming exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art, entitled Blowing On A Hairy Shoulder: Grief Hunters.  Grief – as in, my boyfriend just dumped me so why not go sit on the beach with an umbrella and wait for a thunderstorm?  I told you – I’m no expert.  According to the ICA’s website, this exhibition presents work by twenty artists from Israel, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Britain, and America that examines the relationships between originality and origin. Through video, photography, drawing, and sculpture these works take the challenges of “originality”—invention, innovation, novelty—to extremes, while making the term “origin” (genesis, precedent, historical debt, pre-historic territory) a subject.

This is all way over my head – but it’s intriguing enough to make me want to spend a lunch hour exploring the exhibit this fall.  Plus, I’m dying to know what’s going on with this guy.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Lisa V., The Arts, The Arts at Penn

Penn Alumni Helping Our Neighbors, One Breakfast Sandwich (and Green Bell Pepper) at a Time

Author: Stephanie Y., C08

Last Monday, I had the privilege of bringing a group of ten Penn Alumni Club of Philadelphia members to volunteer at MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance) to help prepare meals for their clients. Each month, MANNA prepares and home-delivers more than 70,000 nutritious meals to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. MANNA’s small professional staff and 1,500 dedicated volunteers deliver medically appropriate nutrition to their clients – 3 meals a day, 7 days a week – at no charge. The MANNA group volunteer coordinator scheduled us for 5:00-8:00PM, but I told him it was likely our group would arrive closer to 5:30PM since our volunteers would be coming straight from work. However, at 5:00PM, the large majority of our group was already in the kitchen, hands washed, aprons and hairnets on, and ready to chop! Now that’s Penn initiative and dedication!

Photos courtesty of Melody Kramer, C'06

Our group was split into two: meat and non-meat. The meat group put together Canadian bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches conveyor belt style. The non-meat group chopped green bell peppers for two hours. Which group would have you chosen? I was in the breakfast sandwich group, even though I would choose to eat a bell pepper over a breakfast sandwich any day. Non-vegetarian veggie lovers unite! Anyway, back to the breakfast sandwich conveyor belt. The first person in line made the breakfast sandwich: one piece of Canadian bacon and one egg patty in between two pieces of bread. The second person put the breakfast sandwich into a Ziploc bag and sealed the bag. The last person placed a sticker on the bag. The sticker said something like “Canadian bacon and egg sandwich” – makes sense. We had both sides of the table putting together and packaging the breakfast sandwiches, and we ended up with hundreds of breakfast sandwiches ready to deliver! We ran out of Canadian bacon for the last two breakfast sandwiches, so those labels read “Egg sandwich” with the “Canadian bacon and” part crossed out. I hope the two clients who receive those sandwiches are not terribly disappointed.

Photos courtesty of Melody Kramer, C'06

After the breakfast sandwiches, the meat group did a variety of tasks. First, we packaged dinner rolls (two per Ziploc bag). Then, we opened grocery bags and stuffed them inside each other for the next day’s delivery (you know how grocery bags are tough to open when they’re brand new and stuck together? That’s why we opened them, so the next day’s volunteers would have an easier time organizing the delivery bags). Last, we opened packaged stuffing and poured the stuffing into cardboard boxes and the seasonings into plastic containers.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, Penn Clubs, Philadelphia, Stephanie Y., Volunteering

Weathering the Storm

Author: Aimee LaBrie

Well, that was a close one. At least, it certainly felt like it, especially if you spent any time watching the developing news stories, which warned of record-breaking winds, rain, flooding, trees through windows, dogs on rooftops, little old ladies flying by in their rocking chairs ala The Wizard of Oz.

At Penn, however, cooler heads prevailed. We were given regular updates on the status of the storm, on the availability of SEPTA and regional rails, and emails with documents attached detailing the best preparedness measures for hurricane-type weather conditions. In addition, the Penn homepage created a link to the most up-to-the-minute information about the hurricane. So,  even as I was receiving frantic emails from my mother (who lives in Florida and has actually witnessed serious  hurricane devastation) advising me to fill my bathtub with water, demand sand bags from  emergency services, and raid the local grocery store for 3 weeks of food and water, I was comforted by the constant and measured stream of useful information Penn provided during this stressful time.

And we made it through without too many casualties, except for the fallen tree branch outside of College Hall, which is currently being cleaned up in preparation for all of the students, new and seasoned, who will be returning to Penn’s campus very soon.

(Photos courtesy of Nicole Maloy, W’95)

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Filed under Aimee L., Campus Life, Nicole M.

The Penn Fund Honor Roll Is Live!

Author: Kelly Graf

Today, The Penn Fund is proud to announce the posting of the fiscal year 2011 Class Honor Rolls.

These listings honor those who have made a commitment to the advancement of the University of Pennsylvania with a gift to The Penn Fund as well as gifts to other areas of the University during fiscal year 2011 (July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011). Following the University’s mission of sustainability, the honor rolls are posted only online in order to save paper and printing resources. We hope you will enjoy finding your name and those of your classmates and friends.

Thank you to all of you who made your annual gift this year in support of Penn and its students! Your generosity at any level is already making a difference on campus and in the lives of Penn students.

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Filed under Kelly G., The Penn Fund

The Secret Life of a Penn PhD Student

Author: Elise Betz

I have had the privilege and horror of getting an intimate look inside the life of a Penn PhD student. It is nothing like the leisurely, fun life of a Penn undergrad. There is no Spring Fling, Hey Day or happy hours at Smoke’s.  It consumes you pretty much 24 hours a day for 4, 5, 6, sometimes even 7 years. From my perspective, this is how I have interpreted the experience:  Penn does an excellent job of wooing you into the program because our PhD students are the best and brightest in the world and we are competing with some pretty serious schools.

The students come to Penn to work closely with a faculty member who is world-class in their field.  It’s all sunshine and roses until classes begin, then the reality hits – it’s just not possible to read eleven scholarly books every week or write a research proposal in one semester. The class, entitled “Research Methods,” can bring even the most scholarly scholars to tears. More tears and several classes later, it’s time for the Qualifying Exams. These tests determine whether you can continue in the program or get dropped to go back to the real world in shame. Three full days of writing on topics that you can only try to predict.

This preparation period is when you go “underground” and hunker down with towers of books, articles, charts, notes, videos, gallons of coffee and a variety of sweet and savory snacks. There is a table in the library that is yours – because you are there 14 hours a day.

The PhD students will tell you that the day they begin Qualifying Exams, is the smartest day of their life – they will never be that smart again.   Then there is the dissertation – PhD insiders call it a “journal article on steroids.”Days are spent trolling coffee shops for peaceful places and productive nooks. Oh, and by the way, Penn PhD students are teaching classes too.  I am astounded and amazed by the self-discipline of these brilliant creatures.

PhD students are told there is an easy time management formula you can follow, which varies somewhat by institution and discipline, but proves fairly accurate across the board. It typically looks something like this: you should be spending 75% of your time and effort on research, 50% on teaching, and 40% on classes. The bad news, of course, is that the math doesn’t add up. That becomes the biggest problem – time.

I am in awe of the Penn Ph D students. They are creative, driven, and fun. They are also the future leaders of academia.  I will end with what I have learned NOT to ask PhD students:

  1. How’s the dissertation going?
  2. When do you plan to get real job?
  3. Of what practical importance is your research?
  4. Have you published yet?
  5. So, does this mean you won’t be a “real” doctor?
  6. When do you finish?


Filed under Academics, Elise B.

Anniversary Spotlight: Penn’s Asian Alumni Network Turns Ten

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, SP2’10

The University of Pennsylvania’s Asian Alumni Network (UPAAN) will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this upcoming school year. Founded in 2001, UPAAN was created to develop and maintain an international network of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) alumni, support the academic and career development of API students and to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information between API alumni and API students at Penn.

Commemoration of this anniversary will begin this Homecoming Weekend, and will feature an exciting lineup of events including UPAAN’s Seventh Annual Mentoring Exchange, a special networking happy hour, a presentation  from the winner of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Wee,k and a 10th Anniversary reception all on Saturday, November 5, 2011.

Laura Lin (ENG’02), Vice President of UPAAN, said, “UPAAN is pleased to honor this special anniversary with a celebration of the strength of our API alumni community over the last 10 years. We are looking forward to developing an even stronger community and network for over the next ten years!”

Another reason this Homecoming Weekend will be extra special for UPAAN is because Calvin Chen (C’97, W’97) President of UPAAN, will be presented with the distinguished Young Alumni Award at the77th Annual Alumni Award of Merit Gala on Friday night, November 4, 2011. Calvin, who has been involved with UPAAN since the beginning, expressed his enthusiasm for the events, “I am honored to be the recipient of the Young Alumni Award, especially during a weekend that is so special to UPAAN. I hope that all alumni will come out to celebrate.”

Be sure to register for Homecoming Weekend featuring arts & culture, Nov. 4-6, and join us to honor a decade of excellence from the Asian Alumni Network. It will be a great opportunity to connect with other alumni, mentor current students while celebrating this wonderful milestone!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Cecilia R., Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Multicultural Outreach

Free Movies at Penn

Author: Dan Bernick, SAS’14

With my internship over I returned home to Minnesota for a month of rest and relaxation – err, I mean to find a cure for cancer and start two businesses like us Quakers are apt to do!

When I am home, I love watching movies with my mom.  This is not as lame as it sounds; we see “cool” movies like Planet of the Apes, The Debt, and anything with spies.  Whenever I see previews for movies that do not come out until school starts, I worry I will never see them.  But then I remember that SPEC has me covered.

The Social Planning and Events Commission (SPEC), one of my favorite branches of Penn Student Government, has a Film Society.  This is code for free movies students see before movie is in theaters.  It is the perfect excuse to skip studying and hang out with friends for a night, or take someone on an (inexpensive) date.  It is always fun to watch movies with friends because you generate a ton of jokes to be repeated ad infinitum for weeks. I can’t wait to get back to campus in just a few short weeks and start planning my social calendar.

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Filed under Daniel B., Student Perspective