Monthly Archives: February 2013

Locust Walk Talk: Houston and the Behind the Scenes of How We Travel

Author: Casey Ryan, C’95

Traffic was horrible from the airport, the I-610 loop was under construction and it was going to take longer than the 29 minutes that the web predicted it would take for us to get from the airport to our hotel.  I took advantage of the time with Rob to discuss the plan for event.

The event was going to be in the home of a Penn alumnus.  The timing of the event was 7:00pm to 9:00pm.  In my introduction, I’ll mention your time at Cornell, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, Caltech, and the University of Arizona since Penn alumni like to know where their professors when to school. It would be no problem for me to take you into town in order to meet up with an old friend.

The view of Houston from Westheimer Road.

The view of Houston from Westheimer Road.

We’re only four years apart in age, so we also chatted about the similarities and differences between our Ivy League educations. We dove into our motivations for choosing the schools that we did.  We concluded that our two almae matres offered many of the same opportunities which were set against the most opposite of backdrops.


Earlier, I recognized Rob and tried to get his attention before boarding the plane. However, the procedure was a little hectic and I lost my chance.  Luckily, when we landed, I was able to get off the plane quickly enough to wait for him and introduce myself.

“Excuse me.  Professor Kurzban?”  I asked.


“Hello, I’m Casey Ryan from Alumni Relations.”

“Oh, great. You’re going to be taking me to tonight’s event?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Good. Oh, by the way, just call me Rob” he said and after a beat, “And how did you know who I was?”

“I Googled you. Your vitae had your picture attached.”

Over 45 Penn Alumni listening to Rob.

Over 45 Penn Alumni listening to Rob.

We have a hectic job of coordinating travel plans, hotel rooms, and taxis for our professors.  While we cultivate a great rapport with faculty via e-mail, we sometimes don’t get the opportunity to meet them in person until we both arrive at the airport even though we all work on the same campus.

The minor awkward moment of finally meeting Rob, in this case, quickly melted away into a conversation that ranged from our high school and college experiences to the culture of Washington D.C. these days, to his area of expertise (evolutionary psychiatry), to cities that he visits often for potential future events with our clubs. We had over an hour in the car and miles of access road closures to get acquainted before arriving at our hotel.

Rob wrapping up, revisiting his Walt Whitman quote.

Rob wrapping up, revisiting his Walt Whitman quote.

At our appointed time, we headed over to the Greater Uptown house to help set up. Our hosts Wayne and Therese warmly invited us in as Berkely, the Club President, and Stephanie, a Club Board Member, were placing the finishing touches–including name tags and a thoughtful “Welcome to Texas” goodie bag.  We tested the setup of the room for good acoustics and found power sources for the laptop and projector.  When we finished getting everything ready for the event, we clinked wine classes in another quick toast to the fine state of Texas.  By 6:50 PM, Penn Alumni had arrived and were mingling – all obviously excited for Rob’s talk about the research in his book, Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind.

Rob started his chat with a quote from Walt Whitman to illustrate the point of his discussion. “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”  To compliment Rob’s talk, I started tweeting @CaseyJamesR.

CaseyJamesR: Kurzban in #Houston discusses evolutionary psychology with @Pennalumni

CaseyJamesR: “Evolution is a very competitive process,” Rob Kurzban in #Houston with @Pennalumni

CaseyJamesR: “Self-esteem is not a major predictor or cause of almost anything'” Kurzban in #Houston with @Pennalumni

Alumni mingling and chatting about the presentation.

Alumni mingling and chatting about the presentation.

Unfortunately, I was only able to post three tweets during the night since other event duties kept me busy throughout his lecture. However, I was able to glean what evolutionary psychology posits: our mind has many different modules, specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection.  The metaphor Rob used to explain modularity was that our mind is similar to a smart phone in that it has many apps that work to process numerous and unrelated tasks (n.b. Rob  clearly stated that he wasn’t saying that the mind is just like a smart phone, but the comparison helps to convey the variety of functions represented in a collection of individual modules).

These modules focus on many different aspects of our social lives, such as finding a mate, evaluating self-preservation and making moral assessments. Usually they work together seamlessly. However, there are times that modules produce contradictory beliefs. This contradiction leads to an outcome that would be hypocritical.

Rob was able to share many colorful examples of the contradictory results, ranging from minor outcomes like not looking both ways to cross the street to scandals that have rocked many political careers.  In the end, the alumni of Houston were engaged with Rob’s work and the Q&A session extended for over an hour.  At  the conclusion of the event, we thanked the Penn Club of Houston and the Greens for their Texas-sized hospitality.

And of course, no trip to Texas would be quite complete with the requisite bar-be-que!

And of course, no trip to Texas would be quite complete with the requisite bar-be-que!


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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Casey R., Locust Walk Talk


Author: Patrick Bredehoft

BenFranklinBench_000We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

~Benjamin Franklin

I’d like to continue reflecting on some of the many reasons why people get involved in the Penn Alumni Interview Program.  With over 600 interview committees around the world, there’s no shortage of different motivations for people to join, but in each case, the opportunity to create a microcosm of the Penn community in some far-off place looms large.

To be sure, the Penn community is diverse: the Penn undergraduate population alone includes students from all fifty U.S. states, and more than 100 countries around the world.  Those students come to Penn as teenagers with unique backgrounds, opinions, and preconceptions, but they all leave with an essential commonality: they are all Penn alumni.  What’s astonishing is that this identity endures—it becomes an aspect of self, and that connection has the power to trump other aspects of one’s identity.  Whether you move to a new city, a new state, or a new country, the odds are good that there will be at least a handful of hopeful area students applying to Penn each year, and where there are Penn applicants, there’s also an opportunity to join an Alumni Interview Committee in that region. The Penn connection allows an alumnus to become an ambassador in any new place, and to meet other Penn graduates who likewise carry the banner of their educational experience with them wherever they go.

One challenge of being a Penn alumnus is that there are aspects of the university experience that are difficult to replicate after you leave campus.  Outside of the United Nations, it’s difficult to imagine finding a similarly diverse community outside of Penn—particularly one where an individual will almost inevitably encounter so many different people in the course of a single day (through classes, activities, meals, and residential life).  Alumni who join the Interview Program become a part of a community that is both local and global.  In meeting with prospective students, they’re also creating connections between past and future members of the university community.  So, while it’s probably sentimental to claim that the Penn community transcends space and time, it’s also accurate—serving as an Alumni Interviewer provides opportunities for our graduates to hang together.


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Filed under Alumni Benefits, Interview Program, Patrick B.

Celebrating Feb Club – 20 Years Later with Penn 1993

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

As Penn’s Class of 1993 gears up for our 20th reunion in May (that’s right, we graduated last century), we’re re-connecting with each other and making plans to reunite on campus via Email, Facebook and Twitter, things that didn’t exist when we were students! Our class Facebook page sees the most interaction, as classmates post stories and memories from our time on campus:

Princeton at Penn Men’s Basketball – now this is what my friend Chris Lehmann called “Pandemonium at the Palestra”

Penn Six singing “It Ain’t Easy Being Conrad Bain” from their 1993 album “Jacket Off” album. Jason Downie, C’93 – lead singer, Ed Matz, C’93 – lyrics

Brian Keys leading Penn Football past Lafayette – one of our first Penn football games!

“The Simpson’s” writer Matt Selman, C’93, sneaking Penn into an episode.

A recent story in The DP* highlighted the Feb Club, a tradition that our class started, thanks to our then-class president Michael “Scoops” Rosenband, C’93. Scoops sent along a page from the Friars directory highlighting his – and our class’ – contribution to fun times in February.

Class President Michael "Scoops" Rosenband credited with bringing Feb Club to our class in the Friars directory.

Class President Michael “Scoops” Rosenband credited with bringing Feb Club to our class in the Friars directory.

Alyssa Newman, C’93,  shared this photo of the Feb Club t-shirt – the rules were that if you attended 10 out of the 11 events, you received a Feb Club t-shirt (this year’s seniors are offering an event each day). Back in the day, a free t-shirt was nothing to scoff at, nor was an excuse to go out and have fun with classmates during dreary February.

The back of the original Feb Club - a tradition started by the Class of 1993!

The back of the original Feb Club t-shirt – a tradition started by the Class of 1993!

If you can’t see, here’s the list of activities:

Feb 1 – Cavanaugh’s

Feb 3 – Metropolis

Feb 7 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at the Eric 3

Feb 9 – Smoke’s

Feb 12 – Penn Basketball vs. Columbia

Feb 16 – Cavanaugh’s

Feb 18 – Chasers

Feb 20 – Boccie

Feb 23 – Murph’s

Feb 25 – Ice Skating at the Class of 1923 Rink

Feb 28 – Smoke’s

My personal favorites were watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and ice skating at the Class of 1923 Ice Rink – something I had never done before.

Julie Berliner Bell, C’93, saved her Feb Club shirt too – it’s part of a quilt of other favorite t-shirts.

 Feb Club quiltFeb Club pillow

Our class is looking forward to May when we’ll reconnect, remember and reminisce about the fun times we had while students at Penn. We have a great group of classmates helping to plan our reunion and raise funds for Dear Old Penn – see our class reunion page for the full list.

If you’re a member of our class, be sure to join our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

If you’re planning to attend the reunion, be sure to add your name to the hundreds of classmates already listed on our “We’re coming!” page by emailing reunion co-chairs Lisa Nass Grabelle, C’93, L’96, or Chrissy Bass Hofbeck, C’93.

And, don’t forget to contribute to our Class Gift! We’re hoping to increase the number of participants that donate to Penn – please make your gift today!

Hurrah, Hurrah,

Penn Class of 1993!

We can’t wait to see you back on campus in May!

*The DP states the tradition started in 1997 in this article, and was recently re-instituted in 2004. We respectfully beg to differ with their account.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Weekend, Class of 1993, Historical, Kiera R., Memories of Penn, Penn Basketball, Photos, Reunions, Social Networking, The Penn Fund, Traditions

Winter Branches

Author/Photographer: Sabrina Shyn, C’13

I spent some time today, on this blustery Monday, to walk around campus and capture a few photos of the winter branches. Enjoy!






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Penn Serves LA: Finding our Inner Artists at Inner-City Arts

Inner City photo 1 v2

More than 70 local Penn alumni and family members turned out in force on the last Saturday in January to work alongside the children of Commonwealth Avenue Elementary School at Penn Serves LA’s third “sold out” community service event. Volunteers and children were asked to make their own shadow puppets and perform in a show featuring storytelling and world music. Famous children stories from around the world were acted out by the participants. Using black paper cardstock paper, tissue paper, and bamboo rods, volunteers were taught the ancient art form of shadow puppets. The first use of shadow puppets were believed to have been 2,000 years ago in China to entertain the Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty.

The event was held at Inner-City Arts, a nonprofit art center located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Inner-City Arts helps underserved children and teens engage in a process of self-discovery through art. The center serves at-risk youth from all over Los Angeles to give the opportunity for arts education both in their schools and at the center.

The award-winning contemporary building, designed by Michael Maltzan and Nancy Goslee Power, provides an inviting, open, and free environment for safe exploration, creativity, designing, growing and learning.

Inner-City Arts Campus in Downtown Los Angeles

Inner-City Arts Campus in Downtown Los Angeles

“We are so thrilled to expose Penn alumni to Inner-City Arts,” shares Denise Winner, W’83, one of Penn Serves LA directors. “For future events we would love to get more alumni to nominate their favorite nonprofits who could use a group of dedicated volunteers for a day event.”

“We founded this group to give our time to needy communities and to expose them to the talent that Penn alumni can offer their organizations. Serving together as alumni is just an added plus,” shares Leanne Huebner, another Penn Serves LA director. “Our hope is that some participants volunteer more often with the selected nonprofits if they so desire.”

Penn Serves LA’s fourth event, on Saturday, March 9th, is already SOLD OUT. The group is volunteering to renovate a home for a family in need through Habitat for Humanity. The event is being co-sponsored by the Southern California Regional Advisory Board (SCRAB), Wharton Club of Southern California, and PennClubLA.

Children enjoy the excitement of their work displayed.

Children enjoy the excitement of their work displayed.

Families, Children and Alumni show off their puppets.

Families, Children and Alumni show off their puppets.

Are you active in community service? Want to get your favorite nonprofit involved? If you have a nonprofit in mind for a future Penn Serves LA event, let us know. Our initiative provides alumni with the unique opportunity to showcase their favorite charitable organization. Send us an email at with your name and Penn affiliation, the organization you would like us to serve, why you got involved and how Penn Serves might help.

 Penn Serves LA is an initiative to encourage Penn alumni, parents and family across all schools and all years to come together and serve those in need through established nonprofits working in underserved communities. Children and spouses of alumni and parents of current students are also invited to participate (please check age requirements). Penn Serves LA is regularly scheduling service events throughout the year. You can read about our first event at Turning Point Shelter in Santa Monica, and our second event at the Midnight Mission. Penn Serves LA is working in partnership with PennClubLA, Wharton Club of Southern California, and SCRAB.


Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Clubs, Events, GAN, Guest blogger, Los Angeles, Penn Clubs, Penn Serves LA, Photos, Volunteering, West Coast Regional Office

Sunset on College Green

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

I’ll admit it.  I’m a sucker for beautiful landscapes, elegant architecture, and dramatic lighting.  As the days have gradually been getting longer, I’ve been walking home from class while the sun sets over campus.  I love seeing College Hall and Fisher Fine Arts Library tinted orange in the setting sun.  Here are a couple pictures for you to enjoy.

2013-02-18 17 16 17

2013-02-18 17 16 28

Spring may still feel a long way off, but as each day grows a little longer, I feel my spirits rise with the anticipation of warmer weather coming soon.

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Filed under Academics, Campus Life, GSE, Rebecca E.

Explore the World in Your Own Backyard

Author: Emilie Kretschmar

This month, there are few alumni tours with Penn Alumni Travel. Our season really gets going again in the spring and so, during this lull of actual travel, I thought I would poke around campus to discover how I could accomplish some virtual travel and, perhaps, be inspired to pull together some future Penn Alumni Travel itineraries.

The first place to come to mind was the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (or the Penn Museum). The museum is a great resource for Penn alumni and Philadelphians alike. Anyone can visit the museum and PENNCard holders (Penn faculty, students, and staff) get in free.  The museum is dedicated to the understanding of cultural diversity and the exploration of humankind’s history. A visit to the Penn Museum allows you to explore artifacts from the ancient Mediterranean World, Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, South and East Asia, and Mesoamerica, as well as materials from the native peoples of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania.

The Penn Museum's Warden Garden

The Penn Museum’s Warden Garden

In addition to its world-renowned collections, the museum also hosts numerous programs including its annual lecture series. This year the theme is Great Battles: Moments in Time that Changed History. As the museum’s site rightly points out, not all battles were fought on the battlefield. This series of nine lectures (one per month, from October 2012 to June 2013) explores wars that not only redrew borders and toppled rulers, but also changed laws, history, and the course of human thought.


The next lecture (March 6, 2013 at 6 p.m.) discusses an actual battle–the ancient mountain fortification of Masada. Jodi Magness, who co-directed the 1995 excavation at Masada, will explore the archaeological and literary evidence surrounding the great 1st-century Roman siege that ended with the mass-suicide of Jewish rebels.

View of Masada

View of Masada

The series switches gears in April with a discussion on the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. This “battle” wasn’t fought for territory or titles, but rather for the right to teach evolution in schools. The trial was a landmark American legal case accusing high school science teacher John Scopes of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act which made it unlawful to teach evolution. Interestingly, the Scopes trial was as much about spectacle as it was about the clash of science and religion. Among those in attendance was a chimpanzee movie performer named Joe Mendi.

Joe Mendi, the chimp actor

Joe Mendi, the chimp actor

To find out more about the Penn Museum’s lecture series or to register for one of the talks, click here. I look forward to learning more about Masada and the John Scopes Monkey Trial myself. Perhaps the Masada lecture will inspire another Penn Alumni Travel trip to Israel. Stay tuned to find out!

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Filed under Alumnni Education, Emilie, Penn Museum, Uncategorized

Road Trip to Penn @Harvard/Dartmouth Weekend

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

One of my favorite things about winter is going on road trips to attend Penn Men’s Basketball away games. This past weekend we braved the after-effects of Winter Storm Nemo and drove up to Harvard and Dartmouth to support the Quakers. While the two gyms were underwhelming (no one in the Ivy League can begin to compete with The Palestra), it was an amazing weekend full of basketball and quality time with fellow Penn alumni.

Penn (A) to Harvard (B) to Dartmouth (C)

Penn (A) to Harvard (B) to Dartmouth (C)

Day 1: Penn vs. Harvard

: Walking along the (frozen) Charles River to meet fellow Penn alumni in Harvard Square for a pre-game reception hosted by Penn Athletics.

: Walking along the (frozen) Charles River to meet fellow Penn alumni in Harvard Square for a pre-game reception hosted by Penn Athletics.

So much snow! Harvard Square in the distance.

So much snow! Harvard Square in the distance.

The Penn Men’s Basketball team during a time out at Harvard.

The Penn Men’s Basketball team during a time out at Harvard.

Day 2: Penn vs. Dartmouth

Snowy Dartmouth.

Snowy Dartmouth.

Cute shops and restaurants on Main Street, Hanover.

Cute shops and restaurants on Main Street, Hanover.

Molly’s Restaurant and Bar on Main Street rocked the Ivy League décor. Go Penn!

Molly’s Restaurant and Bar on Main Street rocked the Ivy League décor. Go Penn!

The Penn Men’s Basketball team during pre-game warm-up. Note the largest Ivy League banner we have ever seen.

The Penn Men’s Basketball team during pre-game warm-up. Note the largest Ivy League banner we have ever seen.

The Penn Men’s Basketball team during pre-game warm-up. Note the largest Ivy League banner we have ever seen.

It’s game time at Dartmouth. Go Quakers!

The team battled through to the end to beat Dartmouth 67-57.

The team battled through to the end to beat Dartmouth 67-57.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Athletics, Stephanie Y.

Happened at Penn

Author: Aimee LaBrie

Last week, one of my favorite writers visited Penn’s campus. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink (2005),  and Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), gave a stimulating lecture on his latest book at the Penn Museum. His appearance was in connection with the Integrated Studies Program, which is studying the question of “thinking” this semester as part of Penn’s “Year of Proof” academic theme for 2012-13; the Ben Franklin Scholars; and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

If you missed it, don’t fret. You can view his lecture in full here. Can’t get enough? Check out his 2009 appearance at a Penn Alumni event regarding “Why Some Succeed and Others Fail.”

You can also read or download a podcast of Gladwell’s 2011 interview by Peter Cappelli in Knowledge@Wharton.

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Filed under Academics, Aimee L., Campus Life

High Jump Wars: The Empire Strikes My Lower Back

Author: Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

A year ago, I decided to try high jumping again after a 17 year break. I may be crazy, but I’m no fool – I spent a month beforehand doing extra conditioning. High jumping is not something you inflict on your body without some kind of prep. I did jogging, strengthening, and lots of stretching. And still, after my one high jump practice, I spent three full days walking like a penguin. A very sad, uncomfortable penguin with lower back issues.

The plus side: My body remembered much about the high jump. The rhythm of my run was still there. The actual takeoff required more strength, which could be obtained with additional training.

The minus side: Oh, my legs. Oh, my back. Oh, my abs. Oh, my feet. Oh, my goodness.

Post practice ice on the ankles. Just like old times.

Post practice ice on the ankles. Just like old times.

I wanted to give it another go, but my body first needed to recover. Beyond that, I knew it needed much more conditioning before I could even think about jumping again. With that obstacle in place, and the semester getting busier, the idea became more and more distant. Until now, a year later. I remembered how much I enjoyed that practice, which had been quite promising despite the aftermath. I loved meeting the jumpers on the team, including Kristen Judge, C’12, with whom I now share the outdoor record (Annie Holland is coming for both of us – she is currently jumping 5’ 7” and is only a sophomore). I smiled at the idea of competing one more time, with friends and family to cheer me on at my first track meet in close to two decades.

With Kristen Judge, C’12, my co-outdoor record holder in Women’s High Jump at Penn.

With Kristen Judge, C’12, my co-outdoor record holder in Women’s High Jump at Penn.

But first things first. Whatever shape I am in, it isn’t good enough for high jumping. I knew that I would have to start building habits that would bring me closer to real preparedness. First, running. If I could do that consistently, then I would add strengthening to the mix. All along the way, there would be serious stretching. When all three of those were up to my own satisfaction, then and only then would I be ready to find some way to actually practice jumping again. Finally, once I could regularly get myself over a good height in practice, cleanly, I would register for a local meet in the Master’s division.

In January, I started running a mile in the mornings, and did it consistently. For context, keep in mind that I was (am?) a high jumper. I used to run from my mark to the bar, take off, land on a soft mat, and voila. To me, a mile is long distance. The distance runners fascinated me – I’d say, “You can run 3.1 miles, without stopping once! Just completing that impresses me, but you also do it fast!” They would reply, “You can jump over my head! With no assistance! How is that humanly possible?” The entire team was one big mutual admiration society.

Penn Women’s Varsity Track & Field Mutual Admiration Society - the Juniors, Spring 1990.

Penn Women’s Varsity Track & Field Mutual Admiration Society – the Juniors, Spring 1994.

So, I was doing well with my little mile runs, but winter 2013 threw two hurdles my way: snow and ice. Not running on those, no sir. To slip and break myself would fall well outside of my detailed conditioning plan. But I didn’t want to lose the progress I had already made. What were my options? I remembered a conversation between two guys I know (one of whom I profiled in January) regarding their fitness program, which includes jumping rope. Eureka! It’s far more boring to hop in one spot than to run outdoors, but it’s great cardio, it’s a fast warm up, and it’s better than nothing. Side benefit – post-running or jumping rope, my long stretching sessions have already brought results. Might I stretch with a goal in mind? Dare I dream of getting back into a split? I haven’t done one since my high school dance team days, but why not try? Just for kicks, let’s add that to the list. I’ll try not to hurt myself.

So, fellow alumni, *if* my preparation continues to go according to plan, I hereby aim to accomplish the following in 2013 before the end of the outdoor season this summer:

1)      Compete at a meet in the Master’s High Jump. Maybe I’ll put red and blue on one shoe to honor my Penn days, and white and gold on the other for my high school. (Go Bison!)

2)      Get into a split for the first time since 1991.

Let’s see how I do. Will you be rooting for me?

(Read Part I, High Jump Wars: A New Hope)

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Memories of Penn, Nicole M.