Category Archives: Daniel B.


Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

In middle school, I played Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof. (Suffice it to say my acting career began and ended that year).

Tevy’s whole life was tradition, from the work he did to the ways his daughters were married. The play is about adapting these traditions in light of changing circumstances.

Penn is full of tradition and traditions. Fling has been around for 40 years, as has the Undergraduate Assembly (our 41st term started last night!).

There are some traditions at Penn that have disappeared. The tradition of the Rowbottom has not been seen (or heard) for years, and the Bowl Fight is long gone.

Some have been transformed. SkimmerFest is a result of Callow Day becoming Skimmer becoming Fling and then being brought back as Skimmer and then joining with SPEC’s Fall Fest to become Skimmerfest. The toast toss at Franklin Field has also evolved over the years.

This past weekend, Penn began a new tradition: Penn Holi, a celebration of spring. For some, the idea of a new tradition is oxymoronic. But Penn students understand new traditions are born all the time out of enthusiasm for the school, and that we should welcome novel ideas even as we carry forward the events of yesteryear.


Photo credit: Penn Class Boards

Photo Credit: Penn Class Boards

Traditions are part and parcel of a Penn education. And whether they are generations old or brand new, they bring our community closer together.

As I reflect on my last three years and prepare for Hey Day (another great Penn traditions), I am humbled to be part of something much bigger than myself…to be part of Penn Traditions.


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Filed under Campus Life, Daniel B., Student Perspective, Traditions, Uncategorized

326,952 Thank You Notes

Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

Penn made history. Five years and $4,302,890,707 later, Penn has accomplished and surpassed the Making History Campaign goals. Faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and Penn family and friends are rightly overjoyed by our collective accomplishment.

But what does the Campaign mean for students?

In a word, everything.


$366.3 million was raised for undergraduate financial aid. That means more of my friends can take advantage of a Penn education for years to come. It means Penn will continue attracting the best and brightest students in the world, no matter their background.

$752.7 million was raised for buildings and facilities. This money goes to create new collaborative spaces for students, like the Education Commons; it goes towards improving dining and living facilities, so students can make Penn their home; and it goes towards building the world class facilities where students are learning and building and curing and discovering the future.

In total 326, 952 donors gave to Penn. That means my friends and I are graduating into a great big Penn family – thousands of individuals we can turn to for advice, support, friendship, (and a job!).

Ben Franklin would be proud.

Penn President Amy Gutmann wrote, “At Penn, we know that history does not just happen; it is made.” Well, we made it. Now, It’s Time to Shine.

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Filed under Campaign, Daniel B., Student Perspective, The Penn Fund

The Nuts and Bolts of Public Policy

Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

As I began thinking about graduation next year (fingers crossed!), I realized how glad I was to have chosen Penn.  Every school in the country can teach from a textbook. But at Penn, there are opportunities to apply what you learn in the classroom to the real world.

Take the Fels Public Policy Challenge.  Teams of students from all twelve schools at Penn must find a feasible solution to a public policy problem that plagues Philadelphia.

Public Policy Logo

The first part of the Challenge requires teams to come up with an idea.  On my team, Kayla thought of a text-message reminder system for mental health patients.  This way, mental health patients will remember to attend their doctor appointments and are more likely to benefit from treatment.  We called ourselves re:Mind.

The second part of the Challenge is where the rubber meets the road. My team has reached out far and wide to administrators and community members, doctors and professors, to understand how health care works in Philadelphia.  Asking the question, “How do we get from idea to reality?” is what separates the Fels Public Policy Challenge from a normal classroom assignment.

Finally, we have to sell our idea.  We have worked with professional lobbyists and public speaking coaches to refine our presentation.  If you want to see it, or any of the other finalists, come to the Public Policy Challenge Finals on Sunday, February 24.  You can RSVP here.

felsPhoto Credit: Fels


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Fels: Make a House a Home

Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

In December, I was invited to attend the 2012 Fels Institute of Government holiday party.  The turnout was unbelievable – close to 300 registered guests (not including those, like me, who forget to register…oops!).  I was amazed by how many people attended and how they all seemed to know each other.  It is a small school, but a big family.

The Fels Institute of Government is Penn’s graduate school for public policy and public management.  The school itself is inside a small mansion.  But the school is much more than a house.  It is a home.

As an undergraduate, I am privileged to have the opportunity to take courses at Fels.  The graduate students all have diverse experiences in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and they bring their knowledge to bear in the classroom.  However, I do not feel out of place, because the students are so welcoming.

In fact, it’s normal for classmates to meet in the house on a Saturday morning – outside of class – to collaborate on a project.   It is expected they use the kitchen to cook and store snacks, and they all have coffee mugs on the counter for morning classes.  Last semester, while taking a few courses at Fels, I spent more time there than in my dorm.

The relationships one develops, the experiences and the memories are part and parcel of a Penn education.  The small Fels house kitty-corner from Philly Diner (RIP) is a huge part of that, and is my home away from home.

Photo Credit: Fels (Holiday Party)

Photo Credit: Fels (Holiday Party)

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Filed under Campus Life, Daniel B., Events, Student Perspective

The Civic War

Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” began Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In it, Lincoln spoke of the never-ending duty citizens have to strengthen our democracy. That civil war has found new life in the civic war being waged on Penn’s campus.

Enter the War Room.

This year, I had the privilege of being a volunteer for Penn Leads the Vote, a student-led, non-partisan voter mobilization organization at Penn. For months, Penn Leads the Vote helped students register to vote and encouraged all students – regardless of party – to cast a ballot.  On Tuesday, all of those efforts culminated in one final push.

More than two-dozen students spent the entire day of the election in Fox Leadership Hall; calling students and asking them if they voted. If a student had not yet voted, we made sure they knew where their polling location was. We fielded questions from confused voters, and worked to ensure every Penn student had an opportunity to have their voice heard.

Photo Credit: Ari Cohen’s Facebook page

Food was everywhere on the table, phones were out, computers were charging, the group leader was shouting names from the projector at the front of the room, and students were making calls over all the noise. It was a gory battle, but Penn won the Civic War–more than 3,500 students turned out to vote on Penn’s campus.  You can read more about it in the DP here.

Unlike some people who grew tired of the rhetoric, I cannot wait until the next election. Though I will have graduated from Penn by then, my experience with this organization has inspired me to remain an active and engaged citizen.

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Filed under Academics, Campus Life, Daniel B., Student Perspective

Welcome Back

Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

When the first textbook arrives in the mail, I know school is starting (and I groan). When Quakers head en masse to the football field, I know school is starting.  And when I see my friends back from summer break, I know school is starting.

But my school year does not officially begin until President Gutmann says so.

Every year, President Gutmann hosts a welcome back picnic for the sophomores and juniors. It is a great opportunity for all of us to catch up and see friends we may not have run into yet. The Class Board is always excited to see us, and President Gutmann gives us advice to make the most of our junior year.

Most importantly for a student on a budget – free food!

This year, it was better than ever with a “back-to-grade-school” theme.  Students could pack their own lunch bag full of PB&J sandwiches (crust removed!), a Mott’s apple juice box, and vegetable dippers. And, as usual, students collected Penn gear in the form of a red Penn Traditions shirt (bringing my number of Penn t-shirts to 8,665,932,441).

The only problem is my teachers. I tell them time and again I cannot do homework until school “officially” begins, but they don’t believe me…

Me with Penn President Amy Gutmann and Class Board 2014 President, Spencer Penn.
Credit: President’s Media


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Filed under Academics, Daniel B., Student Perspective


Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

College students get hungry.  We eat often and at odd hours of the day.  Fortunately, Penn makes eating on campus both healthy and delicious.

To wit: the new 1920 Commons.

The dining hall is my favorite place to eat, because it is easy to pick what I want and is also a great place to meet friends. The top floor is a dining hall, and, this summer, they spruced the space up even more with brighter colors and comfier chairs.  The middle floor feels like a different building entirely; full of open spaces for congregating and eating.  The Gourmet Grocer has organic selections, and Fresh on the Walk offers make-your-own food for the health-conscious student. New this year, the Global Fusion and a pizza pie shop serves affordable, fresh, and delicious options for students.

The bottom floor is a scene out of a movie.  The largest Starbucks in University City – and it’s open until 2:00 AM for is night owls – is a great place to meet up or do homework.  Student groups can also reserve rooms, and the lounge area features a glass fireplace perfect for cold winter nights. The patio outside – complete with seating and a grill, and wired for student groups to perform live music – is the ideal location for a Red and Blue Barbecue!

It’s (ful)filling to be back at Penn. Quakers, eat your heart out!

UA members and the Penn Dining Team with Penn President, Amy Gutmann.
(Credit: Penn Hospitality Services)

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Filed under Daniel B., Food Fiends, Student Perspective

Winter Break: Not for the Faint of Heart

Author: Dan Bernick, SAS ’14

Winter break is supposed to be relaxing.  Time off from school and away from campus; time spent with family and friends at your home; time for vacation or movies or shopping.  Winter break is supposed to be relaxing, but then again, I’m a Penn student.

Winter break is for cleaning out your email.  My inbox gets especially full during finals because I “never have time” to actually read and sort email.  Worse yet, it takes a long time to respond to them (sorry if I have not gotten back to you yet).  Once the inbox is clean, it’s worth taking a look at all the folders and label systems I have, deleting useless ones, and creating new ones for next semester.

Winter break is for filling out applications.  Programs and clubs and positions all have applications due the first few weeks in January.  The good student has been working diligently all semester on these.  But I tell myself all semester that I will have tons of time over winter break to work on them.  It means writing essays (uh-oh, writer’s block), getting letters of recommendation (sorry I forgot to mention its due in a week – thanks!), and trying to make yourself look good on paper (as long as I don’t attach a photo I should be okay).

Winter break is for preparing for next semester.  Classes need to be dropped and changed and dropped again, and I need to quadruple check that all of my courses fulfill at least six different requirements each.  This meticulous search of PenninTouch is not for the faint of heart.  Then I need to work on housing, textbooks, and, of course, finding a summer internship.  Done well, preparation makes the next few months smooth sailing.

But, like I said, I’m a Penn student.  I make my to-do list and hide it in a drawer until the last few days of break.  Then (hopefully, fingers crossed, I promise I’ll be better next break), I will take out the list and start getting things done.

Winter break is for relaxing, and. for better or for worse, that is exactly what I have been doing.

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Filed under Daniel B., Student Perspective

State of the (Union?) School

Author: Dan Bernick, SAS ‘14

“Madame Speaker!  The President of the United States.”

The State of the Union address always begins this way, followed by the President’s report on the state of our union.

Penn had its own version this week.

State of the School (SOTS) is an opportunity for the six branches of Penn Student Government to discuss what they accomplished over the past year and what their plans are.

This year’s theme was “Moving Forward.”  As a member of the Undergraduate Assembly, I interacted with people who may (or may not have) voted for me and got to hear what new projects they needed me to “move forward.”

The event was held at the Penn Museum and students wore business casual.  Admissions Dean Eric Furda spoke and we listened to presenters from each branch.  But the best part – as always – was the food.  Students mingled while eating a tantalizing array of appetizers including lobster bites, vegetable pizza, pita with hummus, and mini burgers.

Photo Courtesy of the DP, 11/29/11

I am glad that, unlike in the real world, student government can all agree on one thing – how to have a good time!

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Filed under Daniel B., Penn Museum, Student Perspective

Penn vs. Yale – The Trials of a Quaker Fan

Author: Dan Bernick, SAS ’14

It was all over.

The Quakers were down ten points going into the fourth quarter. Our dreams at an Ivy League title three-peat were evaporating. What was a Quaker fan to do?

The truth is, I doubted.  Yale was tough and Penn had been lucky the past few weeks.  I felt bad for my doubt.  But the sinking feeling we would lose was hard to shake.

By the third quarter, I reversed course.  Instead of feeling guilty, I distanced myself from the team.  I withdrew from my fanaticism.  If we lost, it would be “their” loss.  Right?

But when the Quakers jumped from 10 to 23, I knew what I should have been doing since the game started.  Fight.  It’s my job to be with the team – my team – in good times and bad, and to yell just as loudly when we’re behind.

Photo Courtesy of the DP

The great irony that is the fighting Quakers came roaring back. 27 points in the fourth quarter, bringing the final score Penn 37 – Yale 25. That’s 18 Ivy League games in a row for you statisticians, or just plain awesome for you college students.

Ivy League Champions – Here We Come!

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Filed under Daniel B., Student Perspective