Author: Wanchee Wang, C’83
My recent visit to Penn’s campus was on a beautiful, early spring day. The lovely weather brought the students outside in full force and they thronged Locust Walk. Tables were set up along on the Walk and students were loudly hawking tickets to dances, shows, and other campus happenings. The atmosphere felt festive. Maybe it was the bright sunshine but the buildings seemed spiffier than I remembered. The student tour guide took us into Huntsman Hall, the new (at least to me, I associate Wharton undergraduate with Dietrich Hall) home of the Wharton undergraduate school.
It wasn’t until later that I realized its benefactor, Jon M. Huntsman, was the father of the former Republican presidential candidate and ambassador to China, Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. The building inside is gorgeous, with polished wood interiors and state-of-the-art teaching equipment. The place hummed with energy; as our tour group passed through the lobby, I could see students engaged in earnest discussion, meeting in the small conference rooms, or just studying.
At the admissions information session, I found out about some new things on the academic menu. An interdisciplinary approach to academics is encouraged so students can take classes in any of the four schools, regardless of which school they are enrolled in. There are more opportunities than in my day to pursue dual degrees such as international studies and business, management and technology, nursing and health care management, life sciences and management, computers and cognitive science. This interdisciplinary approach makes a lot of sense in today’s rapidly changing economy. There are some new majors, like criminology (which used to be part of the sociology department) and computational neuroscience. Even with changes, some things remain: unusual majors that I remember from thirty years ago, like history and sociology of science, or biological basis of behavior, are still offered.
It is a university that has gotten better with time and a part of me wishes that I could go to Penn again.