With Eyes Wide Open

Author: Lisa Vaccarelli, C’02, GED’10

Recently, I had the good fortune to take a tour of Penn’s campus with two lovely alumnae who had not been back to campus in over ten years.  As someone who has come to work right in the heart of campus five days a week for the past seven years, you’d think I would be an ideal candidate to lead this tour.  But as I thought more about it leading up to the alumnae’s visit, I realized that while I live and breathe Penn nearly every day, I rarely experience it as a visitor.  Instead, I run from one building to the next, one meeting to the next, with my head down, rarely slowing my pace or deviating from my normally prescribed routes.

And so I picked up the phone and called a friend and colleague from Facilities and Real Estate Services.  Surely, she would have some tips for my tour, perhaps even a few fact sheets I could look over in advance.  Instead, she put me in touch with Mark Kocent, Principle Planner in the University Architect’s Office.  Over the past ten years, Mark has had a hand in nearly every capital project – new buildings, renovations, and more – that have taken place on Penn’s campus.  As luck would have it, Mark’s was free yesterday morning and graciously agreed to join us for the tour.

It was a truly beautiful day – sunny and mild.  Beginning at the Sweeten Alumni House, we walked east to the soon-to-be opened Shoemaker Green outside the Palestra.  We stopped into the Weiss Pavilion to admire the Education Commons and Fox Fitness Center – both with beautiful views of Shoemaker Green and the city skyline.  From there, we walked over to Penn Park, admiring the tennis courts and softball field.  All along the way, Mark shared tidbits about the planning and construction of each site, as well as future development plans.  As we made our way back into the heart of campus, we visited the beautifully renovated – and LEED certified – Music Building, which juxtaposes the old and new in an incredibly seamless way.  Finally, we stopped into Fisher-Bennett Hall, where our alumnae took many classes as students.

Thanks to Mark, our alumnae – and I – walked away inspired by Penn’s beauty and growth.  Moreover, I am now determined to make the time to explore new corners of campus going forward; to pick up my head and deviate from my normal route every once in a while; and to truly appreciate this magnificent space in which I work and live.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumnni Education, Campus Life, Lisa V.

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