Author: Patrick Bredehoft
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.