Monthly Archives: December 2018

Football, Award Ceremonies & Coming Back: Alumni Pride During Homecoming

By: Jorge Penado, C’19

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Source: Penn Alumni SmugMug

When the growing chills of late November begin to settle on campus, one of the most celebrated traditions of colleges and universities across the US arrives Homecoming. Homecoming is the tradition of welcoming back former students to celebrate their time at their universities or colleges. While the tradition has existed since the 19th century, Penn didn’t actually officially adopt Homecoming celebrations until 1984. Nowadays, as many of you, as alumni, will know, Homecoming has become one of the staple events for alumni on campus alongside Alumni Weekend in the spring. Homecoming at Penn, though a tradition shared with any other university or campus, has its own flair that is very uniquely Penn. Events like the Homecoming Game and the Penn Alumni Award Gala have become great events to showcase the dedication of alumni. So, the question is: why is Homecoming at Penn unique? And, what are events like the Homecoming Game and Penn Alumni Award Gala like?

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Source: University of Pennsylvania Digital Archives

First and foremost, it is important to consider where Homecoming at Penn started and why the story behind it is so interestingly Penn. After a chat with Director Mark Frazier Lloyd of the University Archives, I was able to hear about the history of Homecoming from a true Penn enthusiast. In its simplest form, the story of Homecoming traces back to Penn’s undeniable love and excellence in football from the 1930s to the 1950s. During this era, there was no denying that Penn was a big-time intercollegiate football power. The mere success and fame of alumni like Chuck Bednarik, or “Concrete Charlie,” who would later go on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles and help the team win the championship shows the general euphoria felt around football. All this to say that Penn had definitely built its reputation around its football excellence. While students officially began their participation in intercollegiate football in 1876, it was common for students to have played football on their own on campus and it began to make official publications as early as 1872. With this interest in mind, Penn would play their first two intercollegiate matches against Princeton and would, unfortunately, lose both games. Though the football team would lose about one half to two-thirds of their games in the beginning, the team would grow in skill through the 1880s until they got much better during the 1890s and under the coaching of George Woodruff. The rest is history! But, interestingly enough, this prowess in football would be challenged by another part of Penn’s identity that many hold dear, its status in the Ivy League.

In 1954, President Harold Stassen would sign the documents that would commit Penn to the Ivy League. In order to meet the general prestige of the Ivies, President Stassen declared that Penn would no longer give athletic scholarships because the Ivy League would not allow these scholarships to be awarded. Soon after, Penn’s football would go on to lose many of its games as the same amount of resources weren’t dedicated to football as they were before. Understandably so, this decision caused a lot of backlash with alumni who had lived through Penn’s glory days of football and were constantly drawn back to Penn’s campus by football in particular. With this backlash, alumni affairs employees would begin to lead a conscious effort in the 1950s at increasing alumni presence on campus after the dominance of football wasn’t felt as strongly. With ideas of the alumni affairs team, the event that is Homecoming eventually came to be. In essence, Penn Homecoming became a way to attract alumni back to campus in the hopes of doing it the way football did. Additionally, once Penn had lost its edge in football, there was something that alumni needed to be proud of when it came to their university. While I am still an undergraduate myself, I could only assume that, once we leave the cobblestones of Locust, alumni involvement with Penn is much different than when we’re here. For this reason, an event like Homecoming came about to draw people back and also provide something to be proud of as Penn would grow in status and achievement through the years and up until now.

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Source: Penn Alumni Smug Mug

With this history of Penn’s Homecoming in mind, we can take a look at Homecoming in 2018 and how certain events continue the spirit of the initial versions of this celebration. In particular, one event that I’d like to shine a light on is the Alumni Award of Merit Gala. On November 9, the University honored the work of six distinguished alumni in a variety of fields. Fortunately, I was able to attend and see the recognition of these individuals while chatting with other alumni that came to this event. With regards to the six, the variety of fields is apparent as there was an award-winning, best-selling crime novelist, an entrepreneur who launched a website called myfirstpaycheck.com to help young professionals and many other professions. Alumni from classes of ‘65, ‘76, ‘78, ‘81 and ‘06 were recognized for their individual achievements. What united all of these alumni, however, was the fact that they have all been constantly involved with Penn whether that’s participating on a Board of Trustees or leading various projects as directors. Throughout the ceremony where each one of them was recognized, I could feel the pride that they felt for Penn come through in their speeches. This pride exists so strongly that generations of these alumni and their families have been involved with the university. Being able to witness all of these alumni and even talk to others who weren’t being recognized as an extremely interesting and inspiring night for me. After this event, that pride that Lloyd spoke about in our chat really came through as all the alumni were jubilant to be back on campus. With props rightfully due to the Alumni Relations office, it is undeniable that the pride that was once sought after the loss of football is definitely still thriving through events like this at Homecoming.

Hopefully, this quick overview of Homecoming and the tangible pride that alumni have when relating to the university allows everyone to consider their own time at Penn. Though many who graduate from Penn go on to do amazing things in the world, alumni affairs will always welcome alumni from far and near to celebrate and have some pride about the university. As Mark Frazier Lloyd said, “Homecoming has risen to today’s wonderful compilation of events from this deep feeling of losing contact with many thousands of alumni because big-time football was gone.” Luckily, Homecoming is only getting better and will be here for years beyond us.

 

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Innovation & Leadership: Penn Alumni on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List

By: Jorge Penado, C’19

Every year, the American business magazine, Forbes, publishes the 30 Under 30  list of over 600 business and industry figures that have become influential to some degree in their respective industries and are under the age of 30. They select 30 individuals for 20 different categories that range from industries like Hollywood & Entertainment, Venture Capital, Manufacturing & Industry, Law & Policy and many other categories. The list itself was started in 2011 and has grown through the years with 2016 seeing over 15,000 nominations. The list has even spread around the world with regional versions of the list in Asia, Africa and Europe. With it’s growing popularity, it is interesting to see the presence of Penn alumni on these lists, and this year’s list has seen one of the highest rates of Penn alumni.

As The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote on November 20, 25 graduates, including a current Ph.D. candidate, have been selected for the lists. This is the fourth highest number of honorees from a university on the list. The three other schools ahead of Penn include Stanford University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With over 15,000 nominations but only 600 slots to fill, the process is definitely rigorous as only 4% of those nominated are selected for the ultimate list. With regards to which industry Penn alumni are participating in most, Finance leads the way with 5 honorees in this category and Social Entrepreneurship follows with 3 honorees. As the DP article states, most honorees are from the Wharton School with 13 honorees followed by the College with 9. Though all of this information is truly interesting to get an overview, it’s just as fascinating to look at some of the work these alumni are doing in their respective fields.

 

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Source: Welligence Energy Analytics Twitter Account

One of the many honorees in this years list includes Seth Neel. Neel is one of the 30 honorees in the Energy sector who are recognized for “fueling a more sustainable future.” Neel is a current fourth year Ph.D. candidate in Statistics at the Wharton School, meaning that he’s the only current Penn attendee on the list. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Math from Harvard University in 2015. His research as a doctoral student in Wharton is focused on two general themes: the fairness in machine learning and the study of fundamental problems in differential privacy. He has published 11 different scholarly articles in the field and has spoken at various events. His participation in the field has even taken him to start his own company, Welligence, an independent oil and gas analytics firm focused on the Latin America upstream sector. Neel’s participation in the field is only growing and his recognignition in this year’s Forbes’ 30 Under 30 is greatly earned.

 

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Source: Amazon.com

Another Penn alumni who was selected as an honoree is Emerson Brooking. Brooking is one of 30 honorees in the Law & Policy sector who are recognized for “fighting for your rights Andrew’s better governments.” Brooking received his Bachelor of Arts in 2011 from the College with a major in Political Science and Classical Studies. While on campus, he was involved in clubs like Big Brother Big Sisters and the Penn Political Review. His participation on this year’s list is due largely to his debut book, Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media. The book made the New York Time’s New & Noteworthy List, Amazon’s Best Seller List and was named Amazon’s Best Book of the Month. Besides these considerable achievements, the book has been featured on NPR, PBS, The New York Times, Time, Popular Science, Rolling Stone, Politico, Foreign Affairs and many more. The book was even praised as being “a magical combination of history, technology and early warning wrapped in a compelling narrative of how today’s information space can threaten the truth, our polity and our security,”  by former Director of the CIA and NSA, General Michael Hayden. With all of these accolades under his belt, Brooking has become an expert in the field of cyber warfare.

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Source: The Atlantic

The final Penn alumni selected as an honoree that this post will cover is Anna Wan. Wan is one of the 30 honorees in the Consumer Technology sector who are recognized for “seizing the moment of a personalized digital revolution.” Wan received her Bachelor of Science in Economics in 2012 from the Wharton School with a major in Operation & Information Management and Finance. During her time at Penn, she was notably involved in the Chi Omega Sorority. Her recognition on the list this year stems generally from her participation as a general manager of $2 billion Bird, a company dedicated to bringing scooters to cities east of the Mississippi River. Her position in this company has been a gradual growth as she has additionally worked at other companies like Ofo and AirBnB. While at Ofo, she notably managed over 20 teams and launched/ managed seven markets, which included the largest US market. At AirBnB, she supported executives with “strategic analysis and reporting” and worked “with Product Growth teams… to identify customer acquisition projects with greatest impact and ROI.” With all of this experience, her current position really goes to show her excellence in the field.

While there are 23 other Penn alumni who made the list and are pursuing equally wonderful endeavors in their respective fields, these three are just a quick example of the varying work that these alumni are engaging in and being recognized for. At a university like Penn, we’re lucky to have many great alumni, and this years Forbes’ 30 under 30 only shows a glimpse into the amazing things Penn alumni are doing around the world and in every field imaginable.

 

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