Monthly Archives: January 2013

Penn Men’s Basketball Reaches 1,700 Wins

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

Penn beat NJIT 54-53 on Thursday night. This was no ordinary win. This was the 1,700th win for the program. The Quakers are the 11th NCAA Division I program to achieve the milestone. You can read more about Penn Men’s Basketball milestone wins here.

The Palestra

The Palestra

The win was especially timely because it occurred on January 17th, 2013, Ben Franklin’s 307th birthday. Happy birthday, Ben!

Even "Ben on the Bench" is celebrating.

Even “Ben on the Bench” is celebrating.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Athletics, Campus Life, Penn Basketball, Stephanie Y.

University Closed for MLK Day

Author: Aimee LaBrie

In celebration of the holiday, I invite you to enjoy these photos from last week’s lecture with alumnus John Legend who delivered the 12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture in Social Justice to a full house at Irvine Auditorium. The lecture was part of Penn’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium for Social Change.

All photos by Steve Mincola.

All photos by Steve Mincola.


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Sunshine Returns to Locust Walk

Autor: Kelly Porter

If you are wondering what that warm glow is between buildings and through the trees, don’t be alarmed, the sun has finally returned! It has been missing for about a week now, but it is back just in time for the long weekend. Enjoy!

Collge Green

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Filed under Campus Life, Kelly P., Photos

The Graduate Student Center

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd‘13

After taking five years off between undergrad and grad school, I imagined it would take me a while to readjust to being a student again.  I also imagined I’d spend a lot of time in the library.  The first of these expectations was true: it took me half of fall semester to get used to managing classes, papers, reading, and work again.  But surprisingly, the second was not.  Although I do go to the library sometimes when I study on campus, more often I tend to go to the Graduate Student Center (GSC).

For those of you who may not be familiar with the GSC, it opened in 2001 and is located between 36th and 37th Streets on Locust Walk.  It has a large common room with tables, couches, computers, a café that has great lunch deals, and free coffee and tea all day (if you bring your own cup).  There are a lot of programs for students—foreign language chats, teaching workshops, and other activities.  And there are also cute gnomes scattered throughout the building, sure to brighten anyone’s day.

The GSC has a great community atmosphere.  I almost always see someone I know when I stop by for lunch or to read.  The GSC is also a unifying space for grad students.  There are twelve different graduate and professional schools at Penn, and the GSC is a place where students from all schools can come, like me, to study, eat, or take a break between classes.


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Filed under GSE, Rebecca E., Student Perspective

Student to Alumnae: An Student Interview with Dr. Heidi Cohen, C’83, PAR’13

Author: Deirdre Bullard, C’14

Despite the thousands of alumni carrying the name of our proud alma mater, it really is a small world.

I say this after meeting Dr. Heidi Cohen (C’83, PAR’13, B.A. Biology with a concentration in microbiology), who returned to Penn recently to visit her son, Harrison Lieberfarb (C’13). But Dr. Cohen, a pre-med graduate of the college in 1983 and now a successful Assistant Medical Director of pediatric emergency medicine at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, FL, came not only for a family visit. She attended her son’s class (led by Dr. Helen Davies, Professor of Microbiology), to give a lecture on malaria.

What makes the world so intimate is  that Dr. Cohen took this same class as an undergraduate student in the 80’s with the same professor. Furthermore, the course influenced a large amount of Dr. Cohen’s professional experiences both in medical school and afterwards. Below, you will see what I mean after reading our interview.


Pictured from left to right: Harrison Lieberfarb, C’13, Dr. Helen Davies, Professor of Microbiology at University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Heidi Cohen, C’83, PAR ’13.

How did you join Helen Davies’ class?

A friend recommended that I take this class, which is a Benjamin Franklin Seminar. I had to get permission from Dr. Davies to join it because it was reserved for juniors and seniors. Our main project was a presentation on an infectious disease. My infectious disease for study was HIV. We had no access to computers like students to today, so I had to go the library and just research everything about HIV; everything about its symptoms. As an undergrad, I learned quickly how to synthesize this information and organize it. This influenced my later work greatly.

The way I presented the material also had a huge affect on my work methods today. Because we had no Powerpoint, I just had to get up in front of a class and talk. Now I teach and lecture in universities and at conferences.

What was it like to move from the instruction of a classroom to real-life practice of medicine?

Working in the ER puts you first in line to witness some historical outbreaks, like HIV. Even when working in emergency rooms after graduating, I saw this—it was the disease—all the time. Back then in the 80’s, there were no antivirals, no medicines, and nobody really knew what kind of disease it was—HIV was a death sentence.  It was depressing. Today, I couldn’t even tell you where the HIV positive children in the ER are. It’s been fascinating to move from seeing it in tons of children all the time, to never seeing it again.  In my residency, our emphasis was not on reading. We were told we would learn about medicine by seeing it. I own it now because I did it.

I chose a program where I had to make decisions quickly. I’m good with observing, making diagnoses, and dealing with anxious parents. At work I have five minutes to observe a patient, establish trust with them, order whatever they need, and convince them that the treatment is appropriate or alleviating. When you know your style, you learn about how you learn, and that can be very beneficial when you have to think on your feet.

What kinds of activities at Penn helped you prepared for your career?

I started research at the medical school as a sophomore. I knocked from door to door of various professors to see if any were hiring, even though I had only taken Intro to Biology at this point. Dr. Akira Kaji eventually hired me. In his lab I learned how to pipette, sterile plates, and map E.Coli. The work was published in well-known magazines like Science and Nature. I spent three years and every summer doing this work, along with working at CHOP. I also volunteered with high risk OBGYN organization. While other students were out there partying, I was helping deliver babies. Other times, I would work with rehabilitation patients, and we would do great things with them. We would walk the patients, in their wheelchairs, to Hutchinson’s gym, change them into bathing suits, and swim for therapy. It was a great experience.

Outside of Penn, such as at a public health clinic in Long Island, I was a translator. They needed someone to translate between Spanish and English. I offered to do this work if they let me cycle through their clinic. Altogether, when I started medical school I was in great shape, because I had all of this experience and exposure.

What kinds of cases do you see in the emergency room today?

The most frequent cases I see are common conditions—things like asthma and trauma, mostly from tourists. Most people come into the ER because they overreact to things that can be addressed by a visit to a general practitioner. I’d say about 80 percent of the cases I see should go to a regular office. Still, you never know what will walk in the door. I’ve seen some of the most unusual cases, like Addison’s disease. I once had a mother bring her young daughter in. She was scrawny, pale, and obviously very sick. The mother was mostly worried about a rash, but I noticed right away her gigantic lymph nodes. It took 20 minutes for us to confirm some suspicions. She had lymphoma.

Has being a female practitioner affected your career or work place?

I find it harder for women because we have to balance our families and children with our work. I had three children to take care of w. Working in the ER is exhausting, and you really learn to cope with the stress both from that environment and that constant balancing. But I never tolerated that I was weaker or inferior because I was a woman. That attitude, along with raising my children, really gave me better training as a pediatrician.

How does this job affect your family life?

As I said earlier, some things never leave you. My children, for example, do not go to carnivals since I dealt with an outbreak of an STD at one in New York. But my children have a unique perspective on what’s important. I try to remember that what’s important for me can be very different from them. They might be preoccupied with getting an A on their papers, or making it to practice on time, while I am dealing with all kinds of emergencies during work. But overall, they’ve heard a lot of different stories from me, so they know how to prioritize things.

My daughter, though, was Pre-Med at Georgetown for about 15 minutes. When asked why, she replied, “I will never leave the library.” And it’s true; if I could relive my experience at Penn, I would still study medicine, but I would spend less time in the library, and more time having fun.

You certainly see a lot of fascinating but disturbing things in your work. How do you handle emotional distress?

If I don’t get upset, then I know I have a problem; you should feel that way in this job, or you shouldn’t be working. I have to do my job, but I have to remember the emotional side when telling someone about their injuries and sickness, or telling a mother that her child just died. Would you want a doctor who wasn’t empathetic?

Any special messages for the classmates from 1983?

I am very excited to return for reunion to see what my old friends have done in the last 30 years since we graduated! As medicine has evolved so have we as providers, wives, husbands and parents. As my son Harrison will be graduating it will be like reliving my own graduation experience. I think his participation in Mask and Wig has brought my family closer to Penn as we have gotten to know the company, hosted them in our home for two tours and have seen countless productions.  Coming back for reunion will bring me full circle and enhance my memories of Penn both from the class of 1983 and from Harrison’s class of 2013.

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Filed under Alumni Profile, Deirdre B., Student Perspective

Sketches of Spain – Penn Alumni Travel 2012

Author: Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Associate Professor of American Art, Faculty Host

It was a rainy day in October when our airplane touched down at Aeroport del Prat on the outskirts of Barcelona.  From the first moments in the baggage claim, when our Penn Alumni Travel luggage straps identified me and my husband John as fellow voyagers on the Sketches of Spain, 2012, we were surrounded by new friends from the family of Penn alums – friends that I have come to know and appreciate during the past four years that I have been accompanying these trips as a faculty host.  Our choice to travel off of the standard itinerary meant that we were not met at the airport by the tour director, Nani Gonzalo-Vargas, but thankfully, those magical luggage straps meant that we soon connected with another Penn couple in the same situation and were able to share a cab together into Barcelona.

Our new friends were on their third or fourth alumni trip and, like us, were traveling independently so that they could add a few extra days on at the end and visit a few cities that were not on the itinerary.  As the four of us discovered toward the end of the trip, and the gathering force of Hurricane Sandy began to threaten our easy return to the East Coast of the United States, this was both a good and a bad decision to have made.  But more on that later.

The Group at the Cathedral of Barcelona in the Medieval Quarter

The Group at the Cathedral of Barcelona in the Medieval Quarter. View all my pictures here.

Once at the Hotel Cristal, we met up with Nani, the tour director, and the other members of the group.  We were sharing the trip with members of the Rutgers and University of Maryland alumni associations, several of whom had made couples or family trips by bringing friends or siblings. After a day of recovery spent strolling the shopping districts of the nearby Rambla and eating marvelous food at La Boqueria, the largest and most dazzling of the many markets that characterize the sophisticated culinary world of the Catalunya region that Barcelona dominates, we adjusted to the time difference and were ready for the delightful and educational tours that make Penn Alumni Travel so special.

Our local tour guide in Barcelona was Santi, short for Santiago, a specialist in the rich architectural heritage of the city. We traveled with him by bus to the Olympic Park, the waterfront Athlete’s Village, and the absolutely stunning Cathedral of the Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell, both designed by the renowned art nouveau architect Antonio Gaudí.  At the Park Guell we learned about the innovative techniques of glass and ceramic mosaic used by Gaudí and his workmen.  While there I was able to talk our whole group into posing for a picture!  Say, “Queso!”

The Group at Park Guell

The Group at Park Guell.

Later that day, Santi guided us through the complex architectural program of the Sagrada Familia, a vast and breath-taking cathedral that was begun over one hundred years ago and is still under construction. While waiting for our entry time to be called, we were fortunate to see the building of a human castle, a community activity in which groups of Catalans compete to see who can successfully build and deconstruct the tallest human tower!  This was a really a remarkable undertaking to witness, and I enjoyed seeing the little children, whose job it is to stand steady atop the shoulders of their older compatriots, prepare themselves by strapping on protective head gear and wrapping their waists in the characteristic scarves that are used as grappling tools when climbing atop the stacked bodies!

Here is a link to the video of the Castle Competition.

Our last night in Barcelona we had a beautiful and exceptionally tasty group dinner across the street from another Gaudí building, Casa Battló on the fashionable Passeig de Gràcia.  That night the elegant art nouveau building was the site of an elaborate series of digital video projections that caused the façade of the structure to appear to come to life!  The narrative of the projection involved the animation of the dragon motif that Gaudí integrated into the building’s program, an homage to Barcelona’s patron saint George, who is known for his heroic feat of slaying a dragon.  It was remarkable to witness this contemporary artistic transformation of a cultural landmark into an evening’s entertainment for both residents of the dynamic city and tourists alike.

Here is a link to the video of the Casa Battlo animation.

Casa Battlo during the day

Casa Battlo during the day.

The following day, we departed Barcelona and Catalunya for the north of Spain and our visit to the Basque Country.  After a short plane ride we found ourselves in the charming seaside town of San Sebastián.  That day, we had (hands down) the best group meal of the trip at an unassuming little pintxos bar in that city’s old quarter.  Pintxos are small bites of food, similar to tapas, that are typically served on little wooden skewers that pierce their centers, thereby giving them their common name (pintxo being Basque for spike).  Over the course of two hours, we feasted on succulent lamb, incredibly fresh seafood harvested from the region’s cold Atlantic waters, and fragrant cheeses made in the grassy hillsides to the east, washing it all down with bottomless glasses of refreshing local wines.

Pintxos in San Sebastian

Pintxos in San Sebastian.

After lunch, the group dispersed, and my husband and I chose to stroll through the city and enjoy the vibrant street life, watching Basque families chatting with their friends and neighbors as their children played in the numerous squares and parks that characterize this close-knit community of about 200,000.  That night we learned a great deal more about the region and its remarkable history from a local specialist who told us about the history of the Basque language (one of the oldest and most unique in Europe) and the difficulties that this culturally and linguistically distinct group of people have historically had with their ambitious neighbors.  It was especially affecting to learn of the fascist persecution of the Basque when during the 1930s General Franco attempted to dominate them through a program of genocidal bombing.  Following the lecture we were joined for dinner by a dozen English-speaking residents of San Sebastián who ranged in age from about 15 to 50.  This was a real treat as it allowed members of our group to better understand the cultural differences and similarities between not only the Basque and other Spaniards, but with ourselves as well. Zorragarri! (“Wonderful” in Basque).

While in San Sebastián and the Basque Country, we also visited the Guggenheim Museum in the industrial hub of Bilbao and the small city of Pamplona.  Certainly, the works of modern and contemporary art that were on view in Frank Gehry’s masterpiece of museum design were impressive, but I was most charmed by the narrow medieval streets of Pamplona. Best known to Americans as the site of the Festival of San Fermín and the running of the bulls through the streets to the arena, Pamplona is also a stop on the Camino de Santiago, which runs across the north of Spain to the pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela.  While strolling the streets here we encountered many pilgrims with their heavy rucksacks and walking sticks, all walking toward their final goal of reaching the resting place of the bones of Saint James.  That afternoon we had lunch at the Café Iruña, a favorite restaurant for the author Ernest Hemingway, who first made the city known to Americans in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.  With its tin ceiling and brocade wall paper, the Iruña is an incredible time capsule back to the 1920s and the days when bullfighting was a bit nearer to the heart and soul of Spanish culture.

The Guggenheim, Bilbao

The Guggenheim, Bilbao

City Hall in Pamplona

City Hall in Pamplona

We departed the Basque Country by bus, stopping briefly in Burgos, where we toured the great Gothic Cathedral that is the resting place of the medieval warrior El Cid and his wife Doña Jimena.  At the end of the day we arrived in the Spanish capital of Madrid and checked into the Hotel Wellington, a truly gracious English hotel where many of us were given unbelievably large junior suites!  What a treat and what a nice way to close out our travels through Spain: in its largest and most impressive city.  Here we see a group of Quakers posing before the famous sculpture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza!

Quakers with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Madrid

Quakers with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Madrid.

While in Madrid, our tour director Nani served as our local guide and gave us both a highly informative lecture on modern Spain as well as an absolutely stunning tour of the treasures of that country’s most important museum, the Prado.  As a professional art historian, I often find typical docent tours in museums to be a little less than stimulating as many of them choose to focus on the biography of the artist or the story that is depicted in the painting. Because this information often mirrors the didactic materials that are found on the wall labels, I don’t usually find that such tours give me much new information.  But Nani’s tour was a real stand out in that she really encouraged the members of our group to look closely at the paintings and appreciate the skill and technique of each of the artists.  She also placed each of the works in a historical context of their own and in relation to each other, Spanish art history, and Western art history as a whole.  It was really marvelous and I learned so much!  Brava y muchas gracias, Nani!

The view of Toledo.

The view of Toledo.

The second to last day on the itinerary found us in nearby Toledo, where we visited the Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter.  For many members of the group (including myself), who come from Jewish backgrounds, this was one of the most spiritually affecting parts of the trip as we walked narrow medieval streets and toured the old Sinagoga del  Transito, where our Sephardic ancestors had not lived and worshipped openly since the Inquisition.  Founded in 1356 and used as a temple for less than two hundred years, this remarkable building bears the visual confluences of the region with both Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions as well as a massive Mudéjar paneled ceiling.

As our trip came to a close, many of us began to worry about making a safe return to United States as the international news was now dominated by reports of the gathering force of Hurricane Sandy, which was due to make landfall on Tuesday – the very day on which my own flight was booked to return to Philadelphia!  The majority of the group was able to return home on Sunday as planned, but those of us who had made other arrangements were a bit more up in the air (so to speak) with our travel plans.  Thankfully, the folks at Penn Alumni Travel and Alumni Holidays International worked around the clock to make sure that everyone who needed to be was rebooked and felt comfortable with their new itineraries.  It was really comforting to know that we were not alone in making our new arrangements and that we had professional travel specialists on our side – a very different feeling than working with the interchangeable and often harried airline representatives on one’s own!

A night view of the Alhambra in Granada.

A night view of the Alhambra in Granada.

Because my planned flight on Tuesday was no longer an option, I was rebooked for Friday morning.  This was a change in plans for which I found no sympathy from friends or colleagues!  Being “stuck” in Madrid due to inclement weather is very different on the scale of travel inconveniences than being stranded in Charlotte or some other domestic location!  Needless to say, my husband and I took advantage of this extra time in Spain and visited a few other cities that had not been on the tour.  Purchasing a special SpainPass rail ticket, we went south to the Andalusia region of Spain, traveling first to the breath-taking Alhambra in Granada, then to the gorgeous city of Seville (known for its vibrant night life and flamenco culture), before ending up on the whitewashed streets of Cordoba, where we toured the Great Mosque and visited the once-forgotten, pre-expulsion synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter.  This final encounter with the architectural remnants of Sephardic culture in Spain was emotionally overwhelming for me: being both a cathartic and an inspiring way to close out my adventure in Spain.  My mother’s family is of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic origins, but we know far more about our ancestors who came from Central and Eastern Europe than we do those who once lived on the Iberian Peninsula.  Seeing these once vibrant spaces with their moorish-inflected Mujédar architecture gave me fresh insight into that past and sparked new interest in trying to recover this important part of who I am and where my people come from.

The interior of the synagogue in Cordoba.

The interior of the synagogue in Cordoba.

When I was finally able to return to the United States, I spent several days dealing with downed trees on our property and rescheduling missed appointments.  Ultimately, however, I was thankful for the extra days in Spain the storm had given me and for another fantastic trip with Penn Alumni Travel!

[Interested in traveling with fellow Penn alumni? Visit our website to learn more about our program and to browse upcoming trips. You can view all of Gwendolyn’s pictures here].

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Filed under Faculty perspective, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Philly Arts and Culture Check List

Author: Lillian Gardiner, GEd’11

Since I moved to Philly two years ago, I’ve frequently found myself thinking: “I want to do that!” in reference to some cool Philly thing. But until recently, all I had to show for my enthusiasm was a night at Eastern State Penitentiary’s “Terror Behind the Walls”—which I attended for a work event.

Working at Penn, I find myself confronted often with a myriad of activities, both in and around Philadelphia. Having a job in West Philly near the trolley and El lines makes getting to these events that much easier.

I decided to make a list of these “cool things” and check them off one by one. So, I did what any Type A personality would do when setting out to achieve a goal, I created an Excel spreadsheet. Now, all of the fun places to visit are nicely laid out in columns, along with web links, price of attendance, status updates, and a rating of my level of interest in said fun thing.

The Morris Arboretum’s Summer Palace Credit: M. McClellan for GPTMC.

Many of these events have a Penn connection, such as the Morris Arboretum and the Mural Arts Tour, but others are off campus. So far, I’ve gone to the new Barnes (free because of the Free First Sunday program), toured the “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” at the Constitution Center (with discounted tickets as advertised through Uwishunu), and attended a Sixers game, followed by a beverage at Xfinity Live (biggest TV screen ever).

Up next, part two of the discounted tickets will be the Titanic Exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Then, a trip over to the Please Touch Museum, primarily because it’s housed in Memorial Hall, a remaining structure from the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World’s Fair in the United States.

Image from upcoming exhibition at ICA, White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart.

Image from upcoming exhibition at ICA, White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart.

Also on the list are the Aquarium, the Kimmel Center, the ICA, and the Penn Museum. I also hope to make it to a free student rehearsal at the Curtis Institute and take a free class at Fleisher Art. Along with my cultural pursuits, I plan to include some less highbrow outings to Silk City Diner, Barcade, the Union Transfer. And maybe, if I get lucky, an Eagles game.

Feel free to post your suggestions as I’m sure there’s a lot I still don’t know about this awesome city both on and off campus!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Lillian G., The Arts, The Arts at Penn