Category Archives: Cecilia R.

Penn Alumna, Fatimah Muhammad (C’06), Runs for Pennsylvania State Representative!

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, SPP’10

It is always great to see fellow Penn alumni doing great things around the world. I was especially pleased to discover that a Quaker was running for office right in Penn’s backyard!

Fatimah Muhammad, a 2006 College graduate and former associate director of Penn’s Greenfield Intercultural Center, is running for state representative of the 188th District — an area that circles almost all of University City. She is running against the 27-year incumbent James Roebuck, Jr. in the April Democratic primaries, who has held the 188th Legislative District seat for almost as long as she’s been alive.*

Fatimah grew up in Plainfield, N.J. and has lived in the Clark Park area for about 10 years. She graduated summa cum laude from Penn with a degree in sociology in 2006.

She hopes to capture the seat and bring a fresh perspective to the state house. She spoke to the Daily Pennsylvanian as well as myself and shared some of her thoughts about this campaign:

What are your goals and vision? It’s time to be able to let fresh ideas, new perspectives come to the table. I am young, with fresh ideas, and I’m a woman. There is a time for change, and the time is now.  I’m especially passionate about education. I have been an educator and community organizer and I understand their importance.  If the district’s children are properly educated, jobs and safer streets will follow.  These three items are my top priorities for the district.

What makes you so passionate about education? As a youngster, I knew I wanted to have a life that would provide opportunities.  I was homeless at the early age of 8 and my single mom worked hard to make life better for us.  I worked hard in school to accomplish my goals and dreams.  What might be different about my story is that from the beginning, I knew I wanted to use what I learned to help other children, families and my community.  I wanted to use my diverse background and training to build bridges out of poverty to an economically-, artistically- and culturally-rich life for others and myself.  My training at Penn has been integral to this process. I have been fortunate and blessed to share what I have learned to help others in Ghana and India; I have taken the West Philadelphia story on the international stage with President Bill Clinton to fight for human rights.  I have stayed in my community to make a difference and I am ready to take it to the next level as State Representative.

How did your experience as a Penn undergraduate and with the GIC lead you to run for office? Well, I’ve always been a bridge builder. As a student at Penn, I got a taste for coalition building; I got a taste for what it means to do things on a large scale. We were some of the students who pushed for the cultural diversity requirement in the curriculum in the College, pushed for additional recruitment for minority students and faculty. But we were also really big about having powerful conversations about people coming together. Then, in my role as associate director [of GIC], I got to support students in co-curricular programs, I advised student organizations and I got an opportunity to teach as well, which is terrific. My time at Penn has been pivotal and I am proud to bring these experiences to the table.

Way to go Fatimah! You make Penn proud! If you’d like to learn more about Fatimah’s campaign, please visit her site.

*Please note: some of this information was gathered from the March 14, 2012 issue of the DP. Full article can be viewed here.



Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Profile, Cecilia R.

Penn Year in Review

Top 11 Moments for Diversity at PENN in 2011

-Cecilia Ramirez C’05 SPP ’10

This has been a big year for diversity and multiculturalism at Penn. In honor of the New Year that is upon us, I decided to do a little “Year in Review ” of my own.

Here are eleven of my preferred moments of 2011 at Penn:

#11.  La Casa Latina Receives Biggest Donation- La Casa Latina: The Center for Hispanic Excellence receives a $20,000 donation. This was a big deal this year because this became the center’s largest donation in history. The generous contribution was made my alumna, Ruth Colp-Haber, C’81, WG’85, and will help strengthen student programming, and hopefully provide more events featuring delicious Latin food!  🙂

Denzel Washington at Penn's Commencement 2011

#10.  Denzel Washington Comes to Penn- So maybe this didn’t do anything for multiculturalism at Penn per se, but I sure was excited to see one of my favorite actors be selected as Penn’s Commencement speaker- Denzel Washington- a talented, inspirational, and accomplished actor and philanthropist, who happens to be a black man- bonus!

UPAAN Celebrates a Decade

#9.  Asian Alumni Network Celebrates a Decade- The University of Pennsylvania Asian Alumni Network (UPAAN) celebrated its tenth anniversary this past Homecoming. The celebration featured their 7th annual mentoring exchange and a delicious luncheon that welcomed student, alumni, staff, and faculty from across the years.

#8.  Makuu (Also) Celebrates a Decade – Makuu Black Cultural Center, one of my favorite places on campus, also celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011. Their elegant evening celebration featured speakers, performances, and remarks from Dr. Amy Gutmann.

#7.  The ARCH Receives $15M- The Arts, Research and Culture House (ARCH), home to the Asian, Black, and Latino cultural resource centers on campus, received its largest donation in history as well- 15 million buckaroos! The donation will be used to renovate the entire building, providing the cultural resource centers with state-of-the-art offices and upgraded meeting space- and an elevator! Yup, an elevator 🙂 Renovations begin in the summer of 2012.

#6.  LGBT Colors Project Launches- The first issue of LGBT Colors Project, Penn’s first student publication targeting queer students of color, was launched at Penn in December. The ground-breaking magazine publishes articles, essays, poems, fiction, and interviews to provide visibility and support to the diverse and talented queer student community at Penn. Awesome!

#5.  Two Students of Color Win Marshall Scholarships- Kristin Hall W’ 11 C’11 and G.J. Melendez-Torres NU’11 W’11 were each awarded the prestigious scholarship to study at the world-renown University of Oxford in the UK. What a fantastic accomplishment!

#4.  Penn Spectrum hits the road! In 2010, Penn hosted its first alumni conference focusing on the Asian, Black, Latino, LGBT and Native alumni populations—Penn Spectrum. This successful conference took to the road last spring, starting in the Big Apple, then DC, and Atlanta; next stops include Miami, LA and Puerto Rico! Hundreds of diverse alumni from across the nation are coming out in support of this traveling series. Looks like the Spectrum Conference of 2013 at Penn will be even bigger!

#3.  Penn Unites Against Racism- More than 200 students and faculty, including Amy Gutmann, united against racism in a silent circle outside of College Hall this spring. The “We Belong” protest was in response to a DP article written about one man’s experiences with racism on campus. The sobering accounts called anti-racism allies to action and led to a victorious display of solidarity and advocacy at Penn.

#2.  Homecoming Toasts to 40Years of Black History- The Center for Africana Studies (CFAS) – originally Afro-American Studies and the University’s first program dedicated to studies of the African diaspora- celebrated its 40th anniversary during Homecoming! CFAS had a jam-packed day of events that honored this milestone in Black History at Penn and attracted hundreds of alumni to join the celebration. Cheers!

#1.  Faculty Diversity Plan Unveiled- Penn released a $100-million Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence this summer to diversify the university’s faculty. A few weeks ago, this historic plan also received $2M for the Presidential Term Professorships, an integral part of the plan that will support up to ten professorships.  This was a huge step for diversity at Penn and definitely my #1 moment at Penn in 2011!

What do you think of the top 11 moments? What was your favorite moment of 2011?

Can’t wait to see what 2012 holds for Penn.


Leave a comment

Filed under Cecilia R., Commencement, Events, Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Memories of Penn, Multicultural Outreach, Review, Uncategorized

The Frankly Pennies

Author: Leigh Ann P.

Surely you all read my previous post about party culture at the Sweeten House.  If not, I’ll wait. 

Finished?  I’m sure you were wildly entertained!  Did you leave a comment?

Last week our fearless Frankly Penn blog founder, Aimee LaBrie, hosted a fabulous soiree (can it be a soiree if it’s at 4 PM?) honoring all of us blog contributors – both of the frequent kind and of the once-in-a-lifetime kind.  Aimee created awards for each and every blogger and presented them at the event along with personalized gifts.  Everyone is so excited about their awards, and a few people around Sweeten have displayed them proudly in their workspaces.

Nicole is so excited about her award, she has it displayed right beneath her office nameplate!


Can you spot Lynn’s award among all of her daughter’s artwork?

Lisa V. doesn’t ever want to spin her chair around and NOT see her Frankly Penny.

Mine is covering up my William + Kate tea towel.  Am I finally tired of them?

Jason’s only regret is that the certificate is too small for the frame he had picked out for it. 

Hoopes’s award is displayed proudly on his credenza, along with his blogger pride pencil!  No wonder he’s proud: who else has an award featuring a cat climbing a ladder?

This is the best award Cecilia has ever received!

Have you ever received an award for anything?  Let us know in the comments!  If you want to be awarded next year with a Frankly Penny, you could be!  All you have to do is contribute to the Frankly Penn blog.  Contact Aimee LaBrie at for more information.

1 Comment

Filed under Aimee L., Awards, Cecilia R., Hoopes W., Jason S., Leigh Ann P., Lisa Marie Patzer, Lisa V., Lynn Carroll, Mari M., Nicole M., Photos, The Sweeten Life

Penn Honors Lenape Land of New Penn Park

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, SP2’10

If you haven’t heard, Penn has been working on a beautiful new 24-acre park on the east side of campus and the official grand opening is scheduled to take place from Sept. 15-17, 2011. There is an amazing celebratory line-up for this big occasion including live music, free food and refreshments, field activities (including human foosball) and even fireworks! If you haven’t been back to Penn in a while, you will definitely be blown away by this.

During Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture at Penn (when we will crush Princeton,) you can also attend a special pre-game tribute ceremony to commemorate the land upon which this new park was built- land home to the Lenape people of our region. Both Penn and Princeton reside on Lenape soil, so we will pay tribute to the ancestors who cradled both of the schools that will be present for the Homecoming Football game. The Association of Native Alumni and Natives at Penn will be hosting this historic event and all are welcome to attend.

Penn Park stretches along 31st Street from Walnut Street to South Street and includes 12 tennis courts, a multi-purpose stadium for 400 spectators, 520 trees, a softball stadium and a multi-level elevated walk. The new space actually increases Penn’s green space by 20%!

Penn Park Event Rundown

  • Grand Opening Picnic: Thursday, September 15, 2011 (5:00 pm to 7:30 pm)
  • Field Day: Saturday, September 17, 2011 (4:00 pm to 6:00 pm)
  • Lenape Land Pre-Game Land Tribute: Saturday, November 5, 2011 (10:00am to 11:00am)

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Cecilia R., Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Penn Park, Philadelphia

Anniversary Spotlight: Penn’s Asian Alumni Network Turns Ten

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, SP2’10

The University of Pennsylvania’s Asian Alumni Network (UPAAN) will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this upcoming school year. Founded in 2001, UPAAN was created to develop and maintain an international network of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) alumni, support the academic and career development of API students and to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information between API alumni and API students at Penn.

Commemoration of this anniversary will begin this Homecoming Weekend, and will feature an exciting lineup of events including UPAAN’s Seventh Annual Mentoring Exchange, a special networking happy hour, a presentation  from the winner of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Wee,k and a 10th Anniversary reception all on Saturday, November 5, 2011.

Laura Lin (ENG’02), Vice President of UPAAN, said, “UPAAN is pleased to honor this special anniversary with a celebration of the strength of our API alumni community over the last 10 years. We are looking forward to developing an even stronger community and network for over the next ten years!”

Another reason this Homecoming Weekend will be extra special for UPAAN is because Calvin Chen (C’97, W’97) President of UPAAN, will be presented with the distinguished Young Alumni Award at the77th Annual Alumni Award of Merit Gala on Friday night, November 4, 2011. Calvin, who has been involved with UPAAN since the beginning, expressed his enthusiasm for the events, “I am honored to be the recipient of the Young Alumni Award, especially during a weekend that is so special to UPAAN. I hope that all alumni will come out to celebrate.”

Be sure to register for Homecoming Weekend featuring arts & culture, Nov. 4-6, and join us to honor a decade of excellence from the Asian Alumni Network. It will be a great opportunity to connect with other alumni, mentor current students while celebrating this wonderful milestone!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Cecilia R., Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Multicultural Outreach

La Casa Latina Receives Largest Donation in History

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, SP2’10

If you graduated before 1998, you may not be familiar with La Casa Latina: The Center for Hispanic Excellence, the University of Pennsylvania’s only cultural resource center focused on Latino students and interests. To many Latino Penn alumni, however, we remember La Casa Latina fondly; a source of food, a group of shoulders to cry on, a great spot for naps, a team of life coaches, a designated homework (and procrastination) hub and, of course, a home away from home while at Penn. Being one of these former (and current) residents of this special casita, I was especially delighted to hear that an alumna recognized the vital importance of this center and made a generous donation. The Association of Latino Alumni will be featuring this story in its upcoming newsletter but I wanted to give you a sneak peak at the big news here:

Johnny Irizarry, Director of La Casa Latina

This past spring, The Center for Hispanic Excellence received a gift commitment of $20,000, its largest donation in history! Ruth Colp-Haber C’81, WG’85 (pictured below) is the generous donor and decided to contribute because of her strong connection to the Latino community and after an inspiring visit to La Casa.  Ruth explains her motivation:

I feel forever indebted to Penn for many reasons but perhaps the most important was mastering Spanish after studying abroad in Seville, Spain during my junior year.  These language skills enabled my husband and I to go to Colombia, South America to adopt our daughter, Carly.  Everyone in Colombia was impressed with my Spanish banter and my desire to raise a bilingual daughter.  Both Carly and I are now fluent Spanish speakers.

Ruth Colp-Haber, C’81, WG’85 and her family

I love the Spanish language, culture and people and wanted to do something to help promote these causes at Penn while also assisting deserving students.  Thus, a gift to La Casa Latina seemed very worthwhile.  Now that my daughter is 14 years old, I look forward with excitement to the possibility of her attending Penn and spending time with the wonderful students at La Casa Latina.

Johnny Irizarry, the Director of La Casa Latina expresses his excitement over this announcement, “The students, staff and advisory board members of La Casa Latina are extremely honored by the generous investment made by Ms. Ruth Colp-Haber in support of our programs and services. It is inspiring to receive such a donation from a Penn Alumna. It affirms the value of our role in furthering the University’s commitment to diversity.”

This is truly a historic donation and it cannot stop there! I hope Ruth’s generosity will inspire even more people to give towards such a remarkable place like La Casa.

Congratulations, La Casa Latina!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Cecilia R., Multicultural Outreach

Homecoming 2011: Penn to Celebrate 40 Years of Black History at Penn

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, Sp2’10

John Wideman, C’63, Hon’86, first director of the Afro-American Studies Program. October 24, 1968

In 1971, the University of Pennsylvania welcomed its first academic program focused on studies of the African diaspora, the Afro-American Studies program. The program was led by its first director, John Wideman (C’63 Hon’86), a member in the English Department and the second black tenured faculty member in Penn’s history. Dr. Wideman, tasked with a difficult challenge, laid the foundation to successfully develop a much-needed academic program without any trained faculty members and few available courses.

Forty years later, the program, now known as the Center for Africana Studies (CFAS- through a merger with the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture), has flourished tremendously and now boasts over 50 affiliated faculty members and over 80 courses offerings for undergraduate and graduate students. CFAS also sponsors several co-curricular programs including: the Artist- and Scholar-in-Residence Programs, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in Social Justice, The Africana Media Project, The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Memorial Lecture, The annual Race and Sports program, and Brave Testimony: A Celebration of Poetry of the African Diaspora.

Africana Studies Summer Institute for Pre-Freshmen, 1994

Dr. Camille Z. Charles is the current Director of The Center for Africana Studies, the Chair of Penn’s Faculty Senate, Professor of Sociology and Education and the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in Social Sciences. When speaking of this historic milestone, Dr. Charles explains, “These anniversaries are truly milestones in Penn’s history. I am proud to help ensure that a once overlooked field of study has remained an integral part of the academy for forty years and continues to shape the educational experiences of all Penn students.”

This fall, the University will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Afro-American Studies at Penn and the 25th anniversary of the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute for Pre-Freshmen, the first and, to date, only summer program of its kind and in the Ivy League.

On November 5, 2011 (Save the Date!) during Homecoming Weekend , the Black Alumni Society will join the Center for Africana Studies in a day-long series of programs and events in celebration of this milestone and in honor of Black History at Penn. The program series will include a brunch featuring the Black Alumni Society’s annual Honoring Leaving Legends program, a faculty and alumni panel, a reunion for past Summer Institute alumni and Afro-American or Africana Studies majors and minors as well as other exciting events and special guests. All alumni are invited to attend any of these historic events. For details, to RSVP, and to get involved please visit: The Center for Africana Studies Homepage or contact Michelle Houston at:

Happy birthday, Africana Studies!

Leave a comment

Filed under Academics, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Cecilia R., Historical, Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Multicultural Outreach

Penn’s Multicultural Greek Alumni Weekend

Author: Cecilia D. Ramirez, C’05, SPP’10

Penn Relays 2011 Yardfest Crowd

Before I ever even knew what life at Penn was like, I knew what Relays Weekend was all about.  One of my first weekend visits to Penn as a high school senior occurred during Penn Relays, one of the biggest track meets in the country, and it ranks among the greatest weekends of my college career! It wasn’t just the thousands of people who literally come from around the world- displaying patriotic and collegiate pride- to watch the races that made this event so anticipated. Rather, for hundreds of people, this weekend was and remains highly- anticipated because of the Multicultural Greek events that take place.

Multicultural Alumni

Each year,  Penn’s Black Alumni Society (BAS) capitalizes on Relays weekend and the return of hundreds of Black alumni with their annual “Pass the Baton” Brunch. This year, BAS joined forces with the Association of Latino Alumni (ALA), and together, they held the first collaborative alumni event during Relays weekend. With nearly 100 people in attendance, attendees enjoyed a delicious buffet featuring salmon cakes, eggs, cheese grits, sausage, bacon, and vegetable quiche (yum!) and ALA & BAS successfully ushered in the homecoming of many Multicultural Greeks and Alumni.

Alumni Across the Years

 The Greek Side of Relays Weekend

For over twenty years, members of historically-Black, Latino, and Multicultural Greek organizations have been associated with Penn Relays weekend. Every Saturday of Relays Weekend, Penn’s Multicultural Greek Council (MGC- back in the day, known as the Big-C) hosts a “Yardfest” in the Wynn Commons area where Greeks from across generations and states lead chants, synchronized choreographed musical “party walks” or “strolls,” setup display tables, and sometimes even sell food or drinks.

Members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Strolling Photo Taken by: Joanna Plazas

One of the biggest events of the weekend, however, has to be the Annual Step Show, a long tradition in the Greek world where representatives of historically-Black and, since the mid-70’s, historically-Latino, as well as multicultural fraternities and sororities, get together in teams to  compete against each other.  Finally, the jam-packed weekend is also known for some of the best parties of the year.

This past Saturday night was no different with the “ice cold” brothers, as they are commonly known, of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. hosting the official step show after party, The Ice Age. Some, eh… more seasoned Greeks also attended one of the many Relays-themed parties around the city including the Heineken-sponsored Green Room party at the exclusive Vault Ultra Lounge. While I couldn’t partake in nighttime activities since I was heading to bed early for the Broad Street Run the following morning, it was great to see so many alumni and other guests dressed to the nines on their way to the Greek side of Relays’ activities.

Members of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. Photo Taken By: Joanna Plazas


Stepping is a percussive performance in which the entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of claps, stomps, and chants. Like several aspects of Multicultural Greek culture, stepping is typically done with precise synchronized movement and in formations that resemble a military assemblage.

Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Stepping

These multifaceted pieces are usually intermixed with references to historical Greek facts, traditional chants and songs, and humorous skits sometimes alluding to fun rivals between groups; usually all following a theme. This year, for example, members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. presented an impressive piece following the classic Dr. Seuss story, Cat in the Hat, which they creatively renamed, Kappa in the Hat. In this performance, each of the team members sported a red “Thing” t-shirt with different numbers staying true to the original storyline. They even coupled their step with a pre-recorded humorous video of “the Kappa in the Hat” instructing their movements.

Multicultural Greek Show Crowd

May 13-16: Alumni Weekend, Round II

As I gear up for yet another weekend dedicated to alumni, I am motivated in knowing that last weekend was such a smash. The Black and Latino Alumni Associations will not be taking a break as they, along with the Asian, LGBT, and Native Alumni Associations have big plans to capitalize on even more multicultural alumni that return for Penn’s official Alumni Weekend, chock-full of great events celebrating diversity. Even though it can get pretty hectic, this spring, I especially love being a Penn alumna, Alumni Relations staff member, and multicultural Greek! I hope to see you all there…


Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Cecilia R., Memories of Penn, Multicultural Outreach

The Excelano Project is Real Cool

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, SPP’10

This past Saturday night, I had the pleasure of attending Penn’s very own Excelano Project Spring 2011 Show, We Real Cool, in commemoration of their ten-year anniversary. The Excelano Project (EP) is the university’s first and only spoken word student group. A mixed audience of students, alumni and staff members devoted our Saturday nights to a celebration of the single most inspirational poetry that Penn has ever seen.

A compilation of joint poems, emotional ballads, melodic free verses, passionate odes and powerful couplets, appropriately entitled, Short Poems, filled the stage as the EP’s all-star student cast graced the stage for a nearly-two hour show. EP’s founder and award-winning actor, poet and playwright, Carlos Andres Gomez C’03, was among the many alumni present for this milestone performance. The coffered domed ceiling could barely contain the cheers, applause and event-appropriate ::snaps:: from the crowd. Nearly all of the Penn Museum’s Harrison Auditorium 780 seats were taken as we watched on with frequent guttural affirmations and sighs of amazement of the magic on stage. The artists included students from all years, including EP’s only senior, Justin Ching C’11. Ching closed his final show with a surprise collaboration with Penn Masala, Penn’s nationally-recognized Hindi a cappella student group.

I decided to attend this year’s anniversary show on a nostalgic whim and I was absolutely blown away. The level of skill, maturity, lyrical prowess and sheer brilliance that I was privileged enough to witness was truly moving. I was an undergraduate when EP was formed and I had not attended a show since then. I have fond memories of its awe-inspiring first shows and of my secret wishes for the courage and talent to emulate my talented peers. Ten years later, I found myself with similar sentiments and feelings of admiration; EP is unquestionably more than cool, it’s real cool.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cecilia R., Events, The Arts at Penn