Category Archives: Liz P.

Interviewing Virtually for Penn

Author: Liz Pinnie

Here in the Interview Program Office, we think it is crucial for all prospective Penn students to meet with one of the university’s most enthusiastic representatives: a former Penn student.  This is especially critical for our international applicants who may have never had the opportunity to speak with someone who is or has been affiliated with Penn.  However, as large as the University is, we can’t always guarantee that there will be Penn Graduates in all of the areas applicants are applying from.

The Question: How to reach exceptional students from unique areas of the world?

The Answer: Virtual Interviewing Committees

Virtual Committees, new to Penn as of this year, are dedicated to offering interviews to Penn applicants from areas where there are fewer Penn alumni to meet in-person, and where we can connect these students to alumni via Skype or phone in order to help Penn achieve its goal of 100% interview coverage for all applicants. Thus far, these virtual committees have interviewed over a hundred applicants from areas without local committee representation.

Because of interest from alumni looking to support their home country, our office has recently added four exciting new international virtual committees: Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.  For the first time ever, applicants from countries like Cote D’Ivoire, Japan, Mexico, Romania, Cameroon, Germany, Cyprus, Antarctica* , Barbados, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Paraguay, Finland, Oman, Croatia, are given the chance to speak with a representative of Penn.

If you are reading this and are a Virtual Interviewer, 1. Thank you!  And 2. Let us know how it is going for you- we’d love to hear your stories.

If you are not yet an interviewer and would like to get involved or simply learn more about the program, please visit our website, or contact us directly at

*Just kidding.  We have yet to reach any prospective Penn-guins.  If you’re aware of any, let us know.

*Just kidding. We have yet to reach any prospective Penn-guins. If you’re aware of any, let us know.


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The Red & Blue

Author: Liz Pinnie

I’m not a particularly big fan of khakis.  It might have to do with the fact that from the ages of seven to seventeen my only “casual wear” pants were khakis.  Yes, I dressed like a mom.  No, it did not help my social status.  When I (read: my friends) finally forced myself to put on a pair of jeans in an attempt at social rectification, I discovered that jeans were 1. not nearly as tragically uncomfortable as previously assumed and 2. The Best Thing Ever.  Since these discoveries, I have been a practicing Non-Khaki-Wearer.

However, Penn’s Homecoming Weekend featuring arts & culture might just change all of this.

With Homecoming on the horizon, I can’t help but get a little Penn-giddy.  I’m excited for the heart thumping beats of the Penn Band, the shouts of the cheerleaders, and the vibrant crowds of alumni and their families. At the risk of sounding a bit shallow, I’m also terribly excited for the outfits.  At every Penn event I’ve attended, I’ve become more and more impressed with the massively creative Red & Blue wardrobes that our alumni pull out.

As someone who loves colors, looking up Locust Walk and seeing the rich reds and bright blues, the boaters, the madras, all surrounded by the yellows from the leaves on the trees, is a real treat.  However, it isn’t just my love of outfits, or color, or fashion blogs that makes this vision so enjoyable to me.  Rather it’s what these sometimes over the top outfits mean: our Penn Alumni are proud of Penn, and they want to show their pride in any and all ways possible.

So I’ve decided that this is my year to join in.  After work today, I’m headed on a quest for the most ridiculously vibrant red or blue pants to couple with a nice Penn rugby, which I plan on topping off with a classic Penn scarf.  Too much?  Never!  When there’s Penn Pride, you might as well show it.

Hope to see you all this weekend, for some serious Red & Blue.

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Athletics, Campus Life, Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Liz P.

Beat the Heat, Sweeten Edition

Author: Liz Pinnie

It’s summer in Philly, which means two things: 1. that Rita’s Water Ice consumption is up, and 2. that it is HOT as a just-baked biscuit in here!

In honor of this, I have asked my lovely co-workers to share some tips with myself (and thus all of you) about how they beat the heat during the work week**.

Ms. Marla Brown is full of great ideas (she’s an island fan, so she has lots of experience with 90 + temperatures) which include, but are not limited to, drinking lots of water, wearing natural fibers, focusing on cool thoughts- and using her vacation days, of course.

Janell has her fans set up to the perfect angle for maximum all day breeze blowing.  She also finds that nagging Liz (me) about the second floor temperatures is fun, and makes her feel in some small way, a little cooler.

One co-worker who shall remain nameless finds that the best thing you can do to beat the heat in the office is to wear next to nothing.  What can I say?  Sweeten is a fairly liberal place.

On the other side of the second floor, Kelly says “I would make frequent trips to Kiwi, but since I’ve been healthy for two days, I can’t.   So instead I go home and water my flowers and my feet”.  What a brilliant alternative, Kelly!

Members of the third floor find that a visit to me on the first floor does the trick, as it is a veritable tundra down here (ah, the joys of historic buildings).

And what do I do, you might ask?  I’m a big fan of sticking my head in the freezer for a few minutes.  I also find that if I eat something really hot and spicy for lunch, when I’m done the whole world feels a little cooler.

So there you have it, folks: Sweeten’s top survival tips for staying cool during the work week while stuck in the city heat.  Now go get some Rita’s (you know you want to).

**If any of you have been on the second and third floor of Sweeten, you’ll understand the irony.

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Filed under Liz P., The Sweeten Life, Uncategorized, View from Sweeten

Tweetin’ Sweeten

Author: Liz Pinnie

Many of us spend our days sitting at a desk in front of the computer.  If you’re like me, every once in a while, you need to re-charge your batteries.  To do this, I often look on the Internet to get re-inspired; if you do the same, you know that there is no shortage of inspiration on the web!

One of my favorite things to do is check out the people I follow on Twitter.  There is nothing like 140 characters worth of silly/helpful/interesting to get me revved up and ready to put my nose to the grindstone.  Because of this interest, I recently started tweeting for our Alumni Twitter handle, which has been a fun challenge.  Because I have a weird love for categories, we decided that my Tweets should follow a set of hashtags for the week.

They are as follows:

#MuseumMondays          Highlights of the many fantastic exhibits happening at the museums around Penn’s campus.

#TriviaTuesday                Tidbits of trivia about both Penn and the Alumni office.

#WestPhillyWednesday  News about what’s going on in our amazing and vibrant neighborhood.

#ThrowbackThursday       Archived photos from vintage Penn- there are some awesome shots!

#WeekendRoundup           Our favorites for what’s happening both at Penn and in Philly for the weekend.

So, if you find yourself needing to press the refresh button at work, or are just looking for some interesting information about Penn or Philly, check us out on Twitter @Pennalumni or @yPennalumni!

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Filed under Liz P., Social Networking

First Timer

by Liz Pinnie

This past Alumni Weekend was a time of firsts for me.  It was the first time I actually listened to the words of “The Red and The Blue”, the first time I saw the Alumni Parade, the first time I spoke to Ben Franklin, the first time I experienced the joy of the food selection in the reunion tents and the agony of my feet at the end of a 14 hour day.

Great Display of Penn Spirit at Alumni Weekend 2012

Great Display of Penn Spirit at Alumni Weekend 2012

I heard Kweder for the first (and second, and third, and fourth time), experienced a yPenn Highball (total blast), and ate multiple Insomnia Cookies after hours (thank you, Class of ’97 for your excellent party food choices).  However, my favorite first was being able to walk in the 2012 Commencement.
(Click here to see the University Flickr Photo Album)

When I signed up to “work” Commencement, I expected to chit chat with alums, help them put their caps on, and then sit patiently through too much pomp and circumstance.  I had it all wrong.  Yes- I did chit chat with alums, and yes, I did help them into their cap and gowns.  However, after doing this I looked around the room I was in and realized that I was surrounded by General Petraeus, Andrea Mitchell, Anna Deavere Smith, President Amy Gutmann, and the brilliant faculty of Penn.  As if hob-nobbing with that crowd wasn’t enough, after a brief breakfast, I trailed alumni downstairs in order to walk in Commencement.  “Walk in Commencement” doesn’t really do this justice:  I didn’t just walk.  I processed.  In full on cap and gown. Into Franklin Field.  In front of a thousands of parents in the stands, and a ton of students coating the field.  Carrying a very official looking flag.

As I entered the stadium, the roar of the crowd crashed into me; parents waved from the stands, students tried to high five me, and for a second as I walked up the central aisle, I’m pretty sure my face (expression was probably a cross between surprise and rapture) made it up onto the mega TV. screens that flanked the stage.

I felt way more important than I am, and like a total rock star.

As if this wasn’t enough, I was then ushered into fantastic front row seats to experience the beautiful 2012 Commencement ceremony, which included an inspiring talk by Geoffrey Canada.

The crazy thing is that if you are a Penn Alumni, you too can have this experience.  It’s like a two hour full body and mind revitalization; cheering fans, official regalia that makes you look very smart, great seats, rousing speakers- working and participating in Commencement is the bee’s knees.  So next year, if you’re looking to be inspired, or have always wanted to be on a megatron, let us know.  We’ll slap a cap on your head, a flag in your hands, and send you off into the cheering crowds for a day you won’t soon forget.

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Filed under Alumni Weekend, Commencement, Liz P., Photos, Reunions, Videos, View from Sweeten

Get Ready…

Author: Liz Pinnie

Step onto campus this week, and you will feel a frenetic energy in the air.  The reasons are four-fold (is that even a phrase?  No?  Well, at Penn it should be, because that’s what’s happening).

Fold 1: Exam Week

That’s right.  It’s Exam Week for all underclassmen.  My stomach is tying in knots just thinking about this.  At Penn, the students typically look like a million bucks.  Seriously- I consistently feel like I’m in a catalogue shoot for Collegiate Fun Magazine (this actually does not exist, but should).  However, during this week, I learned that Penn students actually are regular college kids: sweatpants, mussed hair, glasses akimbo, patches of dried mustard on their cheeks, etc.  On the one hand, I’m really happy to know this. On the other hand, I feel for you guys; stay strong, keep fighting the good fight, and when in doubt, go for a Red Eye at Starbucks!  Frenetic Energy Level (FEL, on a scale of 1-10): 9.5

Fold 2: Last Week of College for Class of 2012

OMG.  Last. Week. Of. College. Ever.  Some of you probably just want to get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of here, some of you wish it could go on forever.  I will tell you this: if you are in group one, congratulations.  College is done, and if you ever start to feel nostalgic, just come back to your reunion!  If you are in group two, don’t even worry about it. You are allowed to behave like you are still in college for at least the next three years.  When you hit twenty-six, you should probably stop re-living the glory days.  Until then, grab your bros, don your Red & Blue, and have fun continuing to live the dream minus the homework. Frenetic Energy Level: 5 .  VOT (Verge of Tears) Level: 11.6

Fold 3: Commencement Prep

The parents are coming!  The parents are coming!  Much like the Redcoats of yore, parents are on their way to take over campus- and are probably also wearing inordinate amounts of red. Flowers are being planted, chairs are being set up, lampposts painted, and across campus students are “cleaning up” (read: shoving things under beds).  FEL: 8.2

Fold 4: Alumni Weekend in 2 Days

WHOA.  That’s kind of all I have to say.  Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of the storm (yes, I am the one who answers the phone calls in the office), maybe it’s because we have over 2,000 people pre-registered for the weekend, maybe it’s because I drank too much coffee- whatever it is, it’s straight up nutty.  FEL: 15.4 

Despite the craziness, people seem to be pumped: to see classmates, to finish exams, to get free T-shirts, to see the fruition of the events they’ve been planning on for months, to get a diploma. The Frenetic Energy Levels are high, but this I can tell you: come Friday, it’s all going to be worth it, because this Commencement/Alumni Weekend is going to be great! 

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Commencement, Liz P.

Teach Me How To Dougie

Author: Liz Pinnie

Yesterday I scurried through my Sweeten closing tasks (close windows, turn lights off, give self a pat on the back) in an effort to leave a few minutes early.  Why the hustle?  Because I wanted tickets to see First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden who are speaking at Penn today!  Now, there are a lot of fantastic things happening on Penn’s campus, and I recently haven’t been making the time to attend them because 1. I just moved into a new place and 2. I just moved into a new place.  However, for Michelle (am I allowed to call her that?  I feel like she’d be cool with a first name basis thing?), I am throwing caution (and laundry) to the wind and heading out to see her speak.  The reasons are two-fold.


To me, Michelle Obama is a fantastic role model for the modern woman.  She is an intelligent, strong, and graceful woman, and I am delighted that she is representing our nation as First Lady.  Additionally, that lady can move!  Please see below video:


I am thrilled about the initiative that Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are at Penn to present.  Both women have made a commitment to support our troops and their families through “Joining Forces”.  Joining Forces works to provide much needed support to the men, women, and families who make sacrifices every day in service to our country.  Today Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden come to Penn to speak about one of the initiatives of Joining Forces, which is a focus on education and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.  According to White House data, PTSD and TBI affect approximately one in six of our veterans.  Though they are life altering disorders, they often go undiagnosed or untreated.  Today in a presentation in conjunction with Penn Nursing, First Lady Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will “announce a major initiative by more than 150 of America’s leading nursing organizations and more than 450 nursing schools in 50 states and territories to ensure our nation’s nurses are prepared to help meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families”.

I cannot wait to hear about this initiative, and to see a truly inspiring woman speak.

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Filed under Campus Life, Events, Historical, Liz P., Uncategorized, Video, Videos

The Secret Lives of Sweeten Staff, Part I

Author: Liz Pinnie

In my short time here at Sweeten, I have come to see the skill and passion with which my colleagues do their jobs.  However, one of my favorite aspects of said colleagues (beyond the fact that they bring in chocolate for everyone to share) is learning about the many fascinating things they do when they leave our doors.  As I began research for this article I realized that there was too much information for just one blog post, so today we’ll focus on half of our impressive third floor in Part One of… The Secret Lives of Sweeten Staff.

First off, we have our multi-talented Director of Multi-Cultural Outreach, Nicole Maloy.  A few years ago, she happened to walk by a Shotokan Karate Dojo, went inside, and discovered a new passion.  Nicole says that Karate has increased her awareness and has taught her how “to relax and focus completely- both mentally and physically- on one thing at one moment in time.”  Today, Nicole is a black belt in Karate, and though she knows she can crush any opponent, Nicole appreciates that Shotokan teaches one to end a conflict rather than start one.  Beyond her Shotokan black belt, Nicole is also a fantastic high jumper and a champion salsa dancer- but more on that later!

Love our Twitter feed? Use our website?  If so, you have Sweeten’s own Internet guru, Lisa Marie Patzer, to thank.  As Assistant Director of Communications at Sweeten, Lisa Marie is constantly keeping us up-to-date with the ever changing technology of the web and social media.  This interest continues and expands once she leaves work.  As a new media artist, Lisa Marie spends time and her artistic talents looking at the effects of new media in our world and how it relates to the human experience.  In this capacity, she enjoys “exploring the political, social and interpersonal implications of new media technologies.”  Lisa Marie’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and can next be seen in the collaborative piece she is creating for her MFA from Temple in Film and Media Arts, where she “investigates the performance of identity in online and off-line social communities.”

Another treasure tucked away on the third floor is the quiet and unassuming Jason Strohl.  By day, Jason is our Assistant Director of Communications, and my personal food truck knowledge source.  By night, he takes to the stage as bassist of Wigwam’s, one of Philly’s favorite post-punk bands.  If you go to check out his band at one of the local venues you might not recognize Sweeten’s very own Clark Kent; Jason is far too active onstage to wear his glasses.  When Jason’s not performing or working, you can find him in the back bays of New Jersey, where he likes to sit for hours drinking soda and fishing for bass.  In fact, he typically arranges an annual Fishing Derby (which sounds like just about the best way to spend a spring Sunday).  If you’re in the fishing mood, make sure you pick up a bag of Sea Life Gummies for your trip (a Strohl good luck charm) and if you’re in the mood for post punk, check out Wigwam’s at Johnny Brenda’s on April 6.

Impressed?  You should be!  And guess what- I’m not even half way through our staff.  Among others, we’ve still got a hidden DJ, two published authors, a marathoner, two bridal show models, a civil engineer, and a cheerleader to go!  Can you guess who’s who?!   Stay tuned for next month’s Part Two of…..The Secret Lives of Sweeten Staff [insert dramatic music here].


Filed under Jason S., Lisa Marie Patzer, Liz P., Multicultural Outreach, Nicole M., Notable Alumni, The Sweeten Life

How to Blow Out a Candle with Your Mind

Author: Liz Pinnie

I’d like you to take a moment and look closely at the above photo.  Closer.  Good.  Your eyes are going to immediately lock in on the graduates.  You’re wondering to yourself, “Self, what am I supposed to be seeing here?  That Penn grads have fantastically soft hair?  That the man in the background with the red jacket is actually Dana Carvey?” No, and sorry, no.  I actually would like you to check out the top right corner of the photo, in the Google search box.  Yep- the search box that reads: “How to blow out a candle with mind.”

This, my friends, is a screen shot of my computer at work.  However, the little gem in the corner was not a product of my curious mind, but rather that of one of our work study students.  You see, the front desk is to be covered at all times, and since I am convinced that I have a mild form of restless leg syndrome (and also like to take a break for lunch), I am lucky enough to have work study students who can cover for me.

Because I’m new, my interaction with, and knowledge about, Penn students is pretty much limited to the unique bunch of work study students that we have in the office.  In an homage to the Communications Department at Penn and their article on The Penn Quaker,  lets call these students Puce, Lavender, Ecru, Apricot, Ochre, and Azure.**

Puce is known for his impressive silver polishing talent and for drinking a weird “blue drink” that he finds somewhere on campus (which makes me nervous for his health).  Lavender always has a bonkers healthy lunch creations (can you say carrot pie?) and keeps us informed on sweet new movies.  Azure is the keeper of the yearbooks and our master scanner.  Ecru loves passing along stories of crazy sorority antics and is pretty consistently reading something in Spanish.  Apricot has a thing for all items pink and is forever bouncing in or out of the office listening to one of her ten thousand songs on her I-Pod.  Ochre is our resident historian/creator of traditions.  He is also able to answer all of our burning questions about milk production and what probiotic yogurt actually is (note: it’s as healthy as it sounds).

Between the six of them, the front desk is always covered, the Franklin Building is always informed, and the office staff is always kept up to speed on what’s cool on the college scene these days (ugh.  I just felt very un-cool writing that sentence.  I’m embarrassed).

Regardless of my coolness or un-coolness, the point is this: our work study students are stellar.  They are also “Quirky” with a capital “Q.”  As evidenced by the photo above, I never know what I will find when I return to my desk.  Traditional reminders of their presence are problem sets left on the computer and half eaten boxes of French fries in the trash can.  However, there are the special days when I return to find essays in German, a thorough examination of the Ben Franklin statue being completed, or Google searches for “how handkerchiefs became tissues.”

And let me tell you this— in a word that can sometimes get dull, I treasure these odd and open displays of curiosity and vigor from our fantastic students.  So, Puce, Lavender, Ecru, Apricot, Ochre, and Azure: thanks for everything you do, and keep that little bit of curiosity spliced with crazy coming because it makes my day.

**The color assigned to each student has nothing to do with the actual student.  For example, Lavender does not have a penchant for herbal flowers and tea, and Ochre is not dull.


Filed under Liz P., Student Perspective

From the Hill to the Hub

Author: Liz Pinnie

This weekend, my grandfather took the train from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to spend time with my family. Saturday’s agenda included a trip to Penn. As we meandered through campus, I peppered my grandfather with historical facts, updates on exciting research happening at Penn, stories about student life, and tales of the Ben Franklin statues. As we reached the car, he remarked in his deep baritone, “Why Elizabeth, it seems like you really like the place.”

Now, I should be honest.  Penn is not my Alma Mater (gasp!).  I attended a teeny, tiny Hamilton College atop a hill in Upstate New York. The entire population of the school was smaller than the freshman class at Penn.  The nearest Starbucks was forty minutes away. The average temperature in January was ten degrees. There were two dining halls on campus and two bars in town. There was no graduate school (or schools for that matter), no Ben Franklin statues, no coffee shops in the library.  If you wanted a hoagie, you had to go to Subway- which is tragic.

Hamilton's skyline at dusk

However, for all of the obvious differences between petite and rural Hamilton and grand and urban Penn, I’ve learned that these schools share some essential similarities. Both value unique experiences, a diversified education, pushing ones boundaries and learning from the people- and world- around you.*

It turns out that my grandfather is right. Whether consciously or unconsciously, in the three short months I have worked at Penn, I have become a champion of it. Every morning when I walk to work, I marvel at the gorgeous buildings, and the relative peace and quiet of this city school. In the office, I love hearing the stories of the interesting alumni I meet and reading articles about the fascinating research and projects Penn students and faculty are involved in. I can’t wait to check out the sports scores, try out new lunch spots, and send out Tweets about weekend events for alumni. Though my love for Hamilton’s Buff & Blue will never die, it seems that it might have to scoot over a bit for Penn’s Red & Blue.

My new, favorite statue

*We also share perhaps equally quirky mascots. While Penn cheers for the Quakers, Hamilton rallies around the Continental, a revolutionary soldier.  Like I said, “quirky.” 

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Filed under Campus Life, Liz P.