Category Archives: Lisa Ellen Niver

What can you do with a Women’s Studies Degree?

By: Lisa Ellen Niver, C’89

“I am a travel hack,” I thought to myself during a Branded Content workshop in November 2015. I was listening to esteemed speakers and judging myself against everyone in the room. “They are real journalists,” was the chant in my head. “They went to “J” (Journalism) school and work for real papers. I would never get the jobs they are talking about.”

Later in the day, there was a travel speaker who discussed income, exposure, and experiences. Sometimes he was paid $1 or $2 a word and sometimes he just wanted to take the trip. In 2016, I was invited on a two-week luxury trip to Italy. Maybe I could pick my self-esteem up off the floor. I was making progress on my website, We Said Go Travel, and had just been hired for my first Instagram take-over, something most people in the room were shocked to learn was an actual job.

During that same year, I attended six different conferences to learn about writing, social media, and destinations. I was willing to soak up any advice and take any suggestion. I worked with a media coach and made a sizzle reel. I focused on asking for help. I used my University of Pennsylvania network and dedicated full days to my work, starting early every day and working late into the night. An editor told me, “Just be undeniably good. Whatever you do, do your best and eventually, people will notice.”

This advice was echoed at the Penn Women’s LA Career Networking Event 2017, “Women in Entertainment.” The entertainment industry panel included Meredith Stiehm (C’90), Alison Hoffman, Veena Sud, Allison Schroeder and Jennifer Gwartz (C’90). Moderator Fielding Edlow’s (C’95) questions made for a phenomenal event and included how to approach a mentor, what would you tell your 22-year-old self, how to deal with sexism and how to get an agent.


Penn Women in Entertainment

Penn “Women in Entertainment” Event 2017

This incredible award-winning panel included the screenwriter for Hidden Figures and the creator of Cold Case and Homeland. What did all of these women have to say? “Be kind to yourself. Don’t give up. Create a network. Add value. Know that you will get there.” I sat up in my chair and thought this is what I do. I am working hard every day. Maybe someday I will get to sit in a chair on a panel like this and say, “I actually did it.”

Jennifer Gwartz (C’90) told us: “There is no wrong path. There are no wrong jobs. No wrong experiences. Everything you do will enrich your storytelling. Have experiences, relationships and remember to be kind to yourself. Most of all, have fun.” I have not always believed in myself or that I would ever get anywhere, but I have kept going.

Listening to Allison Schroeder talk about a year where 44 pitches were rejected but then she went on to write Mean Girls 2 and Hidden Figures and be nominated for an Academy Award was inspiring. All of the women spoke about rejection, the need for a thick skin and perseverance.

The Penn motto, “Inveniemus viam aut faciemus—“We will find a way or we shall make one,” has been a mantra for me since my years at Penn. While I was a student, I co-founded a magazine and was active in student organizations. There were paths that seemed to be dead-ends but somehow I persisted. At Penn and after, I was often asked to defend my choice of a Women’s Studies Major. “What can you do with that?” was usually the question. My answer? “The goal of a liberal arts education is not to memorize facts but to find solutions to problems that do not yet exist. This interdisciplinary major is teaching me to think.” My coursework led me to USCF Medical school, but I chose to leave and teach science instead. After working for years in education and earning a Masters Degree, I spent seven years traveling the seven seas by ship as I worked for three cruises lines.

Traveling to nearly 100 countries, I have seen history come to life in the pyramids, Angkor Wat and Guadalcanal. In March 2017, I reached one million views on Roku, Amazon, and YouTube. In April 2017, I was named Adventure Correspondent on The Jet Set TV talk show. In May 2017, I was named a finalist in two categories for the Southern California Journalism Awards. I was invited to be a Facebook Live host for USA Today 10Best. In June 2017, I received an award from the Los Angeles Press Club, along with Andrea Mitchell (C’67), who received The Joseph M. Quinn Award for Lifetime Achievement. In November 2017 and February 2018, I had my first two travel segments on KTLA TV.


Lisa Niver Andrea Mitchell

Lisa Niver, C’90 and Andrea Mitchell, C’67



Adventure correspondent TheJetSET TV

Lisa Niver, Adventure Correspondent, The Jet Set TV

During the Penn networking event, Allison Hoffman from Starz told us, “Careers are not linear.” I know for certain my path has been circular and full of stops and round-a-bouts. I realized I had closed the door on medicine and teaching but had found a window into the wild west world of media. I am a travel journalist and an explorer.

I realized what you can do with a Women’s Studies Degree from Penn: anything you can dream!
Lisa Niver (C’89), founder of We Said Go Travel, walked in graduation for her 25th reunion in 2014 with her college roommate. She has contributed to Frankly Penn, Wharton Magazine and created events for PennClubLA and is planning with her classmates for her 30-year reunion in 2019. Find more of her adventures at We Said Go Travel.


Leave a comment

Filed under Lisa Ellen Niver, Lisa Niver

Cheering for Women’s Basketball at the Big Dance in LA

By Kiera Reilly, C’93

It started with a direct message on twitter on Monday afternoon, March 13th.’s Big 5 Basketball reporter (and Penn and DP alumnus) Jonathan Tannenwald, sent me a message, “Get to the women’s selection show asap. That’s all I can say for now.”

What was he talking about? A quick search on the internet, and I soon knew – the Penn Women’s Basketball team was headed to Los Angeles for the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament!

Penn was seeded 12th in the Bridgeport (Connecticut) Regional and was set to play fifth-seeded Texas A&M in the first round at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, March 18.

The next morning, I connected with my classmate Mitchell Kraus, C’93, and we simultaneously purchased our tickets for the game in the Penn section from Penn athletics. We were going to cheer for the Quakers at the Big Dance in Los Angeles!

Let's Go Quakers!

Let’s Go Quakers! Photo credit Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00

I posted on my Facebook page about the game, and in our class Facebook group, and soon another classmate, Jodilynn Baird Styner, W’93, had purchased game tickets as well.

On the day of the game, Penn Athletics hosted a pre-game reception, and I was happy to see fellow fans Jordan Rockwell, C’00, and his wife Julie, and Harry Rosenberg, W’79, and his wife Laurie Sayet. After toasting Penn and the Quakers, we walked over to Pauley Pavilion for the start of the game.

Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, home of the first round of the women's NCAA basketball tournament in 2017

Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, photo credit Vicky Sin, C’00

NCAA Women's Basketball tournament first round t-shirts on sale at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion

NCAA tournament t-shirts on sale, photo credit Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00

Jordan and I were excited to see the display at Pauley with the four teams competing in the first round there – and posed by the Penn Athletics logo.

Penn Athletics logo at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion for the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament

Jordan Rockwell, C’00, and I pose by the Penn logo on display at Pauley Pavilion

And then we bumped into the Quaker!

Kiera Reilly and Jordan Rockwell pose with the Penn Athletics mascot the Quaker at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion

The Quaker is in Los Angeles!

We were excited to see that the Penn Band and Penn Cheer made the trip to Los Angeles too.

Penn Band and Cheerleaders at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

Penn Band and Cheerleaders, photo credit Vicky Sin, C’00

Penn warms up before the game, photo credit JodiLynne Bayrd Steiner, W'93

Penn warms up before the game, photo credit JodiLynne Bayrd Steiner, W’93

Soon, the players were being announced and the game was underway.

Penn Women's Basketball team at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion for round one of the NCAA tournament

The Penn Women’s Basketball team huddles, photo credit Laurie Sayet

And what a game it was. For three quarters, Penn dominated the game. And then Texas A&M turned things around with just over eight minutes left to play and won the game 63-61. For a complete re-cap of the game, you can read more from Penn Athletics.

Penn cheerleaders during a break in the game

Penn cheerleaders during a break in the game, photo credit Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00

Penn Band plays at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion

The Penn Band sounded awesome! Photo credit Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00

Penn Women's Basketball huddles during NCAA Women's Basketball tournament round 1 game

Penn huddles during the game, photo credit Vicky Sin, C’00

While the Quakers lost, we were thrilled to watch them play in Los Angeles. This was Penn’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, and this year was a successful season. The team won the inaugural Ivy League Tournament with a win over Princeton, and won the Ivy League regular season title with a 13-1 record and were 22-7 overall. Junior Michelle Nwokedi was named the Ivy League Player of the Year.

Here are some photos and thoughts from fellow Quaker fans at the game. Let’s give a big Hurrah, Hurrah to the Women’s Basketball team! #FightonPenn

“We all wish the game would have ended differently, but it was still a lot of fun to see the team play — not to mention the Quaker and the band! Especially for those of us who can’t get back to Philadelphia very often, it was an exciting opportunity for us to show our Penn pride here at home.”  ~Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00
“Well although the team lost, the band sounded great and is still undefeated.”
~Mitchell Kraus, C’93

“I loved seeing the Penn Women’s Basketball team at the NCAA game at Pauley Pavilion. Having grown up in Los Angeles, it was a special treat to hear, “The Red and the Blue,” and watch the Penn Band in my hometown. I felt proud to be in the stands with my Penn t-shirt on cheering! Go Quakers!”  ~Lisa Niver, C’89

“I am very proud of our team for their achievements! The players are amazing. I’d gone to two NCAA games with the Penn Band for the men’s team in 1999 and 2000 but this is the first women’s post-season game I’ve attended. So it was really fun for me personally to get back in the “crazy fan” mode. The band sounded awesome as always! Special shout-out to Greer for fearlessly herding a plane load of college kids across the country and back.” ~ Vicky Sin, C’00

“It was wonderful to rekindle the Penn spirit and sing all the great Penn songs!” ~JodiLynne Bayrd Steiner, W’93


“In spite of the loss, Saturday was so fun! I got more fired up as the game went on! No matter where we are, as long as there are at least two Quaker fans in the seats, it feels like a million!”

~Jordan Rockwell, C’00

Penn Band at UCLA Pauley Pavilion during NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

The Penn Band remains undefeated!

Mitchell Kraus, C'93, with his son, and I pose with Penn Band Director Greer Cheeseman, EAS'79

Mitchell Kraus, C’93, with his son, and I pose with Penn Band Director Greer Cheeseman, EAS’79

Lisa Niver, C'89, with the Quaker at Pauley Pavilion UCLA for NCAA Women's Basketball tournament

Everyone wants a photo with the Quaker! Here he poses with Lisa Niver, C’89

Penn Alumni Kiera Reilly and Lisa Niver at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

I love that Lisa is wearing a very limited edition I ❤ LA Penn t-shirt!

Everyone wanted a picture with the Quaker! Here I am with Penn Club LA's Aileen Level, C'99, GED'00

Everyone wanted a picture with the Quaker! Here I am with Penn Club LA’s Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00

Penn section at the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament at UCLA Penn vs Texas A&M

I walked around after half-time and took this photo of the Penn section

Game action, photo credit Aileen Level, C'99, GED'00

Game action, photo credit Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00

Penn Women's Basketball bench during the game, photo credit Kiera Reilly, C'93

Penn Women’s Basketball bench during the game, photo credit Kiera Reilly, C’93

Penn Cheerleaders photo by Kiera Reilly

Penn Cheerleaders rally the Penn fans

Penn Cheerleaders and the Quaker sit in front of the Penn Band during the game, photo credit Aileen Level, C'99, GED'00

Penn Cheerleaders and the Quaker sit in front of the Penn Band during the game, photo credit Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00

Ivy League Champions Penn Women's Basketball! photo by Kiera Reilly

Ivy League Champions Penn Women’s Basketball!






Leave a comment

Filed under Athletics, Kiera R., Lisa Ellen Niver, Los Angeles, Penn Athletics, Penn Basketball, Photos

My 25 Year Penn Reunion: Living an “As Is” life in a world that only wants “So Perfect!”

Author:  Lisa Ellen Niver, C’89

Wandering on Madison Ave in Manhattan last week, I noticed paparazzi everywhere. After asking, a woman told us, with tears in her eyes, that JLo was eating lunch. I would have missed her. She did not look “So Perfect” but she is stunning. As I left New York City for Philadelphia for my twenty-five year college reunion, I have been thinking about what have I done and what do I want for the next twenty-five years!

In a life filled with product placement where JLo is lifting her Coca-Cola glass so many times per hour on American Idol, our lives have been given a structure that we might not purchase if it were not so insidious.

In As Is by Rachel Michael Arends, the story is told through several narrators and Arends is able to share deep perspectives about how people with different lifestyles lock themselves into their own cage about money, sexuality, and professions of what they think that want and should own and should do.

Through Arends’ intriguing characters, we are able to wonder and wander. Is it a good choice to be an artist? Is it okay to defer your dream to care for your father? Most of the interactions and characters would have accepted the decisions of their friend or family member if they had only been told. Fear made nearly every character in this book withhold their personal truth.

Hiding themselves made them seem like a cheap imitation of what they could have brought to the table. Choosing to be courageous and wish for what they really wanted and reach out to receive it often only comes after tragedy and hardship but hopefully Rachel Michael Arends’ novel gives you the hope to share your story and live a life painted fully without regrets.

Early in the novel, Gwendolyn says: “On television it can look glamorous, and perhaps some people would love this lifestyle. But I don’t,” I wondered what didn’t she like? And who was she really?

Wandering the parade and picnic at the University of Pennsylvania, I thought what would life be like if we did not pretend. Gwendolyn believes that Armand “actually enjoys being So Perfect all the time,” it gave me pause to think about who do I know who resembles that remark and do they feel like Gwendolyn that “it just seems wrong, incongruous, and unnatural,” and more of a cage than a life.

There were many buttons to wear at Reunion: “I met my wife at Penn,” “<3 Penn,” and “Don’t worry, I don’t remember you either!” Maybe several alums felt like Gwendolyn: “I find it scary and unnerving when strangers approach me as if we’re old friends. I don’t like to worry about what I wear, if my hair and makeup look good enough (according to Armand they never do), what I say, or how I say it. I prefer to stay at home behind our high fences, inside our security system.”

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey


She has been told by Trey, her producer, “I’m lucky to have this job, that anyone in her right mind would want it.” At an Ivy League institution, in marriage or in many other settings, we are sold that line about being lucky. I went to medical school because I was smart in science. Like Gwendolyn I felt, “I don’t want to let anyone down…[but] I’m beginning to fear that I’ll be trapped in this mansion forever.” We sometimes become embroiled in a labyrinth or career and we seem to be stuck. Breaking out of the mold and consciously taking a different path can be a struggle but isn’t the freedom, to be who we really are, worth it?

When we become lost from our selves, we often need someone like Gwendolyn’s sister, Megan, to ask us: “What’s your plan? Are you going back there?” We all want to have someone in our life that we can tell as Gwendolyn does, “You’re like an island of sanity in the craziest day I’ve ever had.” It is possible we have those people already if we would only be honest with them about how we feel and what we need. Most of us keep our wounds and concerns a secret only sharing what we think looks “So Perfect” to the constant measuring up on Instagram and Pinterest.

When one character with a cane walks on a floor above Gwendolyn with a sliding sound, she muses, “It’s strange to think of carrying your damage on the outside where everyone can see it.” What if we shared our fears and foibles on Facebook and not just our fairytales that come true? Carrie, a character who is a fan of Gwendolyn on television but becomes a true friend in the story, shares, “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of this year is that life is one big surprise after another, and maybe I should loosen up and try my best to roll with it.” As I walked the parade on Saturday standing in between the two wonderful women who were my college roommates, I realized that I am so lucky in both an “as is” and “so perfect” way to have walked this road surrounded by people who know what I look life in real life and want to be friends anyway! Whether there are tears of joy or sadness, they have always run to my side, whenever I am ready to share this rollercoaster of life.

Arends’ character, Armand, realizes that “As Is,” could be his “motto for acceptance. Not an excuse to settle necessarily, but a reminder that at a certain point, you just need to say, OK, enough is enough! I’m sick of chasing the dream of perfection and that’s not a failure.”

Gwendolyn does believe in fate, as she says, “You have to. I just saw a falling star out the window and I wished for you. When I looked up, there you were!” In some ways like the movies, we want to say, “I wished for you” and for the person to appear. What if you are really wishing for yourself to stand up, take up space and live your dreams? I wish for you that you are inspired to pause and think about your own parade and find a path that leads you to yourself and the fulfillment of your best dreams.

w/Barbara Yorke

w/Barbara Yorke

About the Author: Lisa Ellen Niver (CAS 1989) was honored to walk in graduation on May 19, 2014 with her classmates from twenty-five years ago! Learn more about her journeys at and

Leave a comment

Filed under 25th Reunion, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Commencement, Lisa Ellen Niver, Memories of Penn, Penn Alumni Travel, Penn Park, Reunions, Traditions

Filming Puerto Rico with #RBQuests

By: Lisa Ellen Niver

Recently my friend, David, told me, “Walk through the open doors.” It reminded me of the inspiration from the gate at the University of Pennsylvania: We will find a way or we will make one.

I spent last week in Puerto Rico filming with Richard Bangs and White Nile Media in conjunction with Orbtiz and the Puerto Rican Tourism Board. I enjoyed everything from kayaking at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar to meeting golf greats and brothers, Jesus and Chi Chi Rodriguez as well as taming the “Beast,” which is the name of the highest zipline on the planet at Toro Verde.

chi chi golf st regis

Everyday had a highlight of a different kind as meeting people and hearing their stories was incredible. I loved working on the different video segments as we searched to elucidate adventure, family and LGBT travel. Meeting recently or nearly married couples for our romance segment was sweet and diving to 94 feet with sharks and eels was unforgettable.

richard juan lisa interview

Traveling has always been a part of my life. It was a treat to be part of this team and I cannot wait to see the ten video segments unfold in the hands of a professional editor. I plan to share them all with you as soon as possible and am so excited to see how they all turn out.

sunset dry forest puerto rico

I learned at the University of Pennsylvania that I could make things happen from founding a magazine for the College of Arts and Sciences with a few friends to doing medical research. I created a thesis that brought together ideas from several departments and figured out that even on sunny days in February a California girl needs a coat in Philadelphia. All of my experiences have shown me that when the door opens, you should walk through to the other side.

Thank you for all your support of my site, WeSaidGoTravel, my YouTube channel that just went over 190,000 views and this next journey. More details on my #RBQuests adventures, see the posts from last week: Old San Juan, Livin’ La Vida Loca, Meeting Sports Giants, and Adventures in Western Puerto Rico. Coming soon is the Go Pro underwater dive video as well as Go Pro video from the BEAST!

See more from Puerto Rico on our #RBQuests Tagboard at

toro verde lisa
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar2
Sunrise Wyndham Grand Rio Mar
Ramon Lisa Agua de coamo
Ramon Hooping Agua de coamo
Lisa and Juan Mr Gay World
Jose Enrique
Frank Ed dive boat Copamarina
Edward Copamarina
didrik richard dry forest

Comments Off on Filming Puerto Rico with #RBQuests

Filed under Lisa Ellen Niver, Travel

“We will find a way or we will make one!”

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, C’89

Do you ever wonder how you will make your dreams come true? I find inspiration from the gate at the University: We will find a way or we will make one. In December 2012 on the beach in India, I said I think we should have a contest on our website, We Said Go Travel. George said, “Great! Let’s start in January and end on February 14.” Immediately I had several objections. I could not possibly be ready so fast to run a writing contest.
We were in Konark, India at the Sand Art Festival near the UNESCO Sun Temple. I was musing that 30 years ago when the festival began, someone probably said: “Sand Art Festival! You must be nuts!” But here we were, thirty years later and it was a large festival with many international sand artists!

In January 2014, we began our fourth travel-writing contest. (Travel Writing Contest:

Over the course of 2013, over five hundred writers from over fifty countries entered our contest. It was truly fantastic! I love all the stories and getting to email with people from all over our planet. We hope you will choose to join us by sharing a story or reading one from someone else! We did our first live announcement of the winners for our contest on google hangout on air.

WSGT gratitude 2013 google hangout (2)

Watch the hangout:

See the winners:

We had some technical issues and had to link one judge in by skype but it worked. We found a way to make it work! I learned many life lessons at the University of Pennsylvania but the message from the gate always rings in my head: “We will find a way or we will make one!”

I remember the contest really took off when I wrote to our friend, Richard Bangs from the PBS Travel Show, “Adventure with Purpose,” who offered to be a judge.  Sometimes all you need to do is offer to participate: by joining in a contest, being the judge or simply showing up. I was honored in October 2013 to share our travel knowledge in a webinar for the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Travel. George and I talked about our journey for 27 days in Myanmar (Burma). We were invited to participate and we said YES!

I hope that you make your resolutions for 2014 come true by taking a first step! I would love to hear about your progress.




Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Profile, Guest blogger, Lisa Ellen Niver, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Traveling in Sin: A True Tale of Transformation through Love and Travel

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver,  CAS’89

Next May, it will be my turn to celebrate 25 years since I graduated from Penn. I am still close with many of my friends from Ware College House. I count on them for so many things. I remember our days in the Quad especially during Hurricane Gloria. I had never been in a hurricane. I learned so many lessons in and out of the classroom. In part, it was my education at Penn that challenged me to take risks, and gave me the interest in journey to other countries.

I have truly taken the Penn motto “we will find a way or we will make one” to heart. After George found me online in 2007, we chose to quit our jobs and meander around Asia for a year from 2008-2009. During that time, I lost over fifty pounds, we got engaged underwater,  and we learned how to be a team.  When we returned home, we wrote a book together.  Last week,  I am happy to say that we published that book, Traveling in Sin.

The book is available on Amazon and was recently mentioned in Westside Today. In the article, Sommer said, that the book…”is a love story and travel memoir rolled in to a single, enjoyable book.” That love story started with my friends and experiences at Penn, where I was encouraged to pursue my curiosity to make discoveries around the globe.

You can learn more about the book and about our life together in the slideshow below.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Lisa Ellen Niver

Penn Quakers Pounce and Reality TV Saves Lives

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, CAS’89

Studying at the University of Pennsylvania, I learned fast and worked hard. As my studies focused on science and liberal arts, I never took a class in finance even though The Wharton School is renowned the world over for business. While watching Shark Tank on television, I feel that I am finally getting an education in economics.

Several of my favorite things (University of Pennsylvania and Shark Tank) came together when Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda appeared on Shark Tank to seek funding for their app, VerbalizeIt.

These Wharton School Grads bonded over their travel disasters and decided to make a difference. They have taken a lesson from Ben Franklin who said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Their medium for communication is a translation platform that “promotes cultural exploration and global trade while also creating employment opportunities for the vast network of multilingual individuals across the world.”

After Frankel was sick in China and unable to get medicine due to the significant language barrier, he knew travelers needed help. Together with Sarda, he created a reasonable priced service staffed with real people and crowdsourced for translation services. This multilingual platform not only provides assistance to individuals but now is also a full service translation solution for global businesses to communicate with international customers. VerbalizeIt can assist companies that want a fully multilingual call center or to translate a fifty page PowerPoint presentation. They can assist with translating video into multiple languages. They are ready to help any company be truly global!

As the planet continues to feel smaller due to globalization and increased access to travel opportunities, we have greater opportunities for misunderstanding. Frankel and Sarda survived their misfortunes and in creating VerbalizeIt are helping others enjoy their travels more and create connections through understanding. With their partnership with Rosetta Stone, they are raising money for Children International. It is possible to make money, do good and make a difference.

Frankel told me that being on Shark Tank “was a good experience as it forces you to answer questions and build your business in a way that you have to do anyway.” His advice to fellow Wharton students reminded me of the books, The Lean Start-Up and Running Lean. “Don’t test ideas in a vacuum. Don’t be afraid to put your idea out there and see what happens. Make sure what you are building is viable by making a Minimal viable product and get data from customers.”

Talking to Frankel, I realized how much he learned at the Wharton School of Business and how much he has to offer the world. I love that nearly twenty-five years after my own graduation from the University of Pennsylvania I am still learning from fellow Penn students and even from reality television!


Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Lisa Ellen Niver, Wharton

A Lifetime of Learning

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, CAS ’89

berger.rI did not realize when I picked Penn (after being admitted early decision in December 1984), that class would still be in session in 2013 while traveling on a local bus in Nepal! During this trip, I read Contagious, Why Things Catch On, because as a traveler, teacher, and writer it sounded extremely compelling. I too wanted to learn how to “create contagious content!”

As Wharton marketing professor, Jonah Berger, explains in the book, “putting up a Facebook page or tweeting doesn’t mean anyone will notice or spread the word. 50% of YouTube videos have fewer than five hundred views. Only one-third of 1 percent get more than 1 million.” We actually have several videos over five hundred views and our We Said Go Travel YouTube channel, so that was good to learn. It is incredible to me that while on sabbatical in Asia, I can study with the award-winning Wharton “Iron Prof” and learn exactly the lessons I need next for my personal and professional life!

I also recently read  Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. Chip Heath was Berger’s graduate school mentor and while that book was helpful–Contagious’ “six key STEPPS” gave me new tools to propel my professional site to higher numbers and more views by using “the six principles of contagiousness: products or ideas that contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valued and wrapped into Stories.”

As a writer, the final emphasis on stories is of particular interest to me. Berger says: “Stories are an important source of cultural learning that help us make sense of the world. Information travels under the guise of what seems like idle chatter.” I hope that sharing our journeys will inspire others and soon be more and more contagious encouraging all to participate in our global community of travelers and writers.

I recommend getting a copy of Professor Berger’s book so you can “build a Social currency-laden, Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable Trojan Horse, but don’t forget to hide your message inside. Make sure your desired information is so embedded into the plot that people cannot tell the story without it.”

Reading this book, I realized that our recent Inspiration Travel Writing Contest had so much traction as we used triggers (the contest ended on Valentine’s Day), emotions, and financial incentives. I will put my learning to work and hope that our Independence Travel Writing Contest (running from May 11 to July 4, no entry fee, and an even more valuable prizes).

Thank you to the Penn community for my past and continuing education! It is phenomenal that nearly twenty-five years after graduation I can still learn from Penn Profs and in a new digital way. As our Penn motto states, “We will find a way or we will make one.” Thank you, Professor Berger, for new tools for building a contagious community.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Lisa Ellen Niver

This Time of Year

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, C’89

This time of year in 1984, I was accepted via early decision into the University of Pennsylvania. My acceptance was binding, and I would be leaving for a campus I had never seen. My father and I had visited quite a few universities on the East Coast on a Spring break trip from Los Angeles, and I disliked most of the places we saw. None of them seemed to be the right fit.

As a Penn alumnus from the 1960’s, my dad remembered the Penn campus as a city school. When I started looking at colleges, he did not think it would be the right place for me and so we didn’t schedule it on our campus tour.  But then, my parents were on the East Coast visiting friends and they suggested that Penn had changed significantly over the years. After that, my dad said, “For all the reasons you did not like those other schools, you will like Penn.” I trusted his opinion and took the leap to apply early. Just a few short months later, I got my acceptance letter. I remember feeling so amazed and excited.

I had nearly the same feeling after graduation when I opened the big envelope from Penn inviting me to join the University community, and then again, when I learned I would have an article published in National Geographic magazine.  As a reader and a traveler, I have always loved the magazine with the golden yellow square and now in a small way, I am a part of it. I believe that my experience at Penn helped to shape my adventurous side. From coming to campus sight unseen as a freshman and then having such a great four year experience both in and outside of the classroom, Penn taught me that taking risks could lead to unbelievable, life-changing discoveries, such as those I made in writing the article.   I hope you enjoy reading  about the Royal Cremation in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The crowd at the cremation ceremony.

Travel writer Lisa Ellen Niver (Penn 1989) is spending the year in Southeast Asia with her husband (both of whom are members of the Traveler’s Century Club). Follow her adventures on their blog,, and on Twitter @wesaidgotravel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Lisa Ellen Niver

Giving Back What Started at Penn

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, CAS’89

As a Penn Quaker, I feel a special kinship for Benjamin Franklin. I am impressed by all he did for our country in so many different realms. He was a true renaissance man who needs to be remembered especially with the elections looming so closely. Here is one of my favorite quotes by him: “Hide not your talents, they were made for use. What’s a sundial in the shade?” -Benjamin Franklin

On the web site Beyond the Quote,  they state: “Your extraordinary abilities allow you to stand out among the crowd and should be demonstrated often. The special talents you possess may be helpful not only to yourself, but for others as well. When you have a talent you have a greater purpose to show the world and help to improve it.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to share some of my own personal abilities by being featured on the nationally syndicated television show, Career Day. Now in its third season, the show has brought on over two hundred people to share their careers with students and adults who may be interested in pursuing a similar line of work. I am the first teacher ever be selected and my students got to participate as well. In January 2012, two film crews spent the day with me and my 4th and 5th grade students. The show aired on September 29, 2012 (Episode 302).

Here I am on the set, working on a fun experiment with some of my students.

I loved when the narrator said, “Grab your test tubes & beakers! This week on Career Day we’re DISSECTING a career that will really SPARK your interest… teaching elementary school SCIENCE!”

Here I am behind the scenes of filming. Please note: I am wearing my Penn blue!

Enjoy some moments in the science lab. I hope it is as inspiring to you as it was an honor for me to be chosen to share my much loved job with others. Truly, my career path began at Penn, and I’m so happy to continue sharing my work and life adventures with all of you.


Filed under Alumni Perspective, Lisa Ellen Niver