Category Archives: Mari M.

A Thousand Thanks, and Farewell to Penn!

Author: Mari Meyer, GED ’12

WE DID IT!!!  We graduated! We rented our gowns (and returned our gowns); we collected our “diplomas” and strutted our stuff down Locust Walk. All I can say is, it feels SO GOOD!

Of course I couldn’t have made it to this point in one piece without the incredible support and love from family, friends, faculty and the one of a kind colleagues I’ve met here at Sweeten Alumni House. I will sincerely miss you all, but now that I’m an alumna, you’re stuck with me for good!

My big brother helping me with my hood.

My internal monologue: “Don’t trip. Don’t trip. Don’t trip…”

Diplomas in hand…

My dad was so proud and he wanted to make sure everyone knew it. Yep, that was me at age 4.

The most memorable walk of my life.

The after-party.

The after party! (caption: “The after party!”


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Filed under Academics, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Commencement, Mari M.

The Making of the Class of 1962 50th Reunion Yearbook

Author: Mari L. Meyer, GSE ’12

If you are one of the lucky members of the Class of 1962, you probably already have something to say about the 50th Reunion Yearbook* creation project that began back in early 2012.

Though the end result will be nothing short of a masterpiece of grand proportion, the journey to get here has been no piece of cake! The amount of work that has gone into this project from day one could not have been accomplished without the direction and perseverance of our visionaries, Class of ’62 Yearbook Co-Editors, Burt Follman and Sheila Gunther, our fearless, in-office Leader Lisbeth Willis, our graphic design guru Kelly Porter, and our “I don’t sleep, eat, or breathe until this book gets made”-work study student, Deirdre Bullard.

It’s been weeks since Deirdre slept last…We’ve begun to worry about her sanity!

Some of you may already know that I, Mari, was the frontline, down-in-the-trenches gal for this extraordinary undertaking for the Class of ’62er’s upcoming 50th reunion. That is to say, I was responsible for “technical assistance.” While I am by no means a technical wiz, I certainly was computer-savvy enough to help some folks create yearbook pages…Or was I? Each classmate was asked to work on a ½ page submission for their yearbook using an online site. The hope was that the final product for each page would look something like this:

Wishful thinking, Mari!

If I could have recorded my phone conversations with the amazing classmates of 1962, you would hear a beautiful symphony of groans, grunts, moans and chuckles—a sonata of sighs, or an opus of “Oy Vey, Mari!”—so to speak.  Fortunately, those ’62ers have got the stubborn perseverance, good humor, and incredible intellect to stick it out in these moments of despair—saving this grad-school damsel from technological burnout through their moving life stories, photos of their beautiful families, and wonderful wishes for my own success as a soon-to-be Penn alumna.

The 1962 Yearbook project proved to be an unpaved and unexpected adventure, but at least we were in it together!  I can say confidently that this book will find a permanent place on my own coffee table immediately upon its release this May!

In the meantime, I wish the Class of 1962 nothing but the very best, and will be celebrating their 50th reunion during my own graduation weekend. It is an honor to become a part of the Penn family, and this class was certainly the most colorful and memorable part of my induction!

 *To order a Class of 1962 50th Reunion Class Yearbook, please call Mari Meyer or Dee Dee Bullard at 215-898-8209. You will also be able to purchase them at the reunion during Alumni Weekend, May 11 – 14, 2012.

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Mari M., Reunions, Student Perspective

Life After the Third Degree

Author: Mari Meyer, GSE, C’12

Just six months ago, I was writing about my strategic, if not artistic, return to studenthood. I have to admit, being a graduate student has had its perks: my family and friends foot the bill for brunches and lunches out of unadulterated pity; I can use my studies as an excuse to procrastinate in all other aspects of my life (i.e. vegetable eating, room cleaning, hair washing, etc.); I am assumed to be smarter and, in general, more important in the world despite my affinity for tabloid magazines, scrapbook making, and the unofficial, anthropological study of college kids.

Sorority pledges I spied on the Quad this week. Hard not to notice them!

My program at the Graduate School of Education lasts for only one year. That is to say: one academic year. Meaning, of course, two semesters. Which really means: a measly nine months. And I graduate in less than two! You may wonder, “How does one become a Master of anything in nine months?”

The answer is simple:  I take five classes each semester—with some of the most intelligent and accomplished professors and colleagues I’ve ever met—while working 20 hours a week at Sweeten Alumni House (and worrying about the project I oversee here an extra 10 hours on top of that).  When I’m not in class, or at the office, I am meeting with fellow grad students for group assignments that can span weeks, and because we all have schedules like this, our meetings do not even begin some evenings until 10 PM.  Of course, I spend most of my time reading, and writing papers, and reading some more. It is highly possible that I have read more in this program thus far than I did throughout four years of college. But I’m not talking about just any reading; I’m talking about the kind of reading that requires re-reading, often. The kind of reading that needs to be chewed like steak, that needs to be tasted and digested and metabolized —the kind of reading that you need to work through sentence by sentence, often with dictionary in hand.  I have never in my life felt more moved by and thus exhausted by what I’ve immersed myself in on paper. Oh, yes, and then the rest of the time I have to sleep, exercise, eat, and occasionally call my parents to thank them for giving me life

Thanks, Mom!

The real answer to the question, though, is that I don’t think one can become a true Master of anything in nine months. I often wonder if it is possible to become a Master of anything in an entire lifetime! But rather than thinking of this as a depressing concept, I find it incredibly exciting.  You know that feeling of letdown after a great vacation? You know the one, when everything you wanted to see you saw, everything you wanted to do you did, and then some.  The question of, “now what?” always creeps in, and you fall into that anticlimactic slump that leaves you right back where you started.  To become a Master implies a sort of end point, a kind of completion of a journey that in reality is, or at least ought to be, endless.

Who would have known that ten years later I’d be graduating with a third degree?

Though I have learned a tremendous amount—an infinite amount really—about the field within which I hope to find employment and the topics for which I am most passionate and committed personally, I am so thankful to know that I cannot know it all.  It is a relief, at least to me, that there will always be more to explore: more answers to find, more challenged to take on, and more paths to navigate without certainty of where they may lead.

My adventure working at an elephant refuge in Thailand in 2007.

Having said this, I am now back on the job market. And I am no fool. Being privileged enough to receive a Master of Science in Education from Penn will provide me with more opportunities that I could have ever imagined. It also instills in me a deep sense of gratitude and a responsibility for using this privilege and the learning that has come from it wisely, conscientiously, and justly. Will I feel like I have mastered my field by this coming May when I throw my hat in the air? Probably not—and maybe that’s just the hopeful “I’m a lifelong learner!” geek in me. And though there’s always a Ph.D, or an Ed.D, or some other buffet of degrees to dabble in if I start to get hungry for academia again—I have to admit, at least for now, that there’s nothing I look forward to more than reading mindless magazines and glitterizing unfinished scrapbooks all summer long instead!

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5 Easy Ways to Stay Happy, Healthy, and Warm at Penn this Winter

Author:  Mari Meyer, GSE ’12

The holiday break is over, and if yours was anything like mine, your pores are still oozing with the smell of oil and onion from your mom’s famous latkes:

My mom always says that a little blood, sweat and tears make the difference between a good latke and a great latke.


The post-holiday and new year months are always the hardest. Despite all of your resolutions and plans for staying active; despite the surplus of new gloves and socks and all those cute recycled gift bags that just beg to be made into a scrapbook collage of holiday memory cheer; despite all of your best efforts to reboot your routine and productivity now that the smorgasbord of family gatherings and dessert buffets have quieted down: the chance that you will still want to revert into winter hibernation mode and “power off” for the next three months is almost inevitable.

The family couch after one of my mom’s famous holiday meals.

But we’re on a college campus—one of the greatest in the world, no less—and in the spirit of studenthood I commit this year to dragging myself out of my post-holiday slump and radiator-overheated bear cave to take advantage of the infinite opportunities, activities, and events happening at Penn even in the dreariest of winter months.

With that in mind, here is a list of the top 5 ways to have a happy, healthy, and warm winter at Penn this year.

  1. Aqua Zumba classes at the Penn Rec Center. Who said you have to be in Boca Raton for some good, ol’ fashioned water aerobics? Check out all of Pottruck’s other body-heating offerings by clicking here!
  2. Seeing RUBBERBANDance Group unite hip hop and ballet at Annenberg this weekend, or at least one of the many phenomenal performances and concerts happening weekly throughout the year.
  3. Becoming more mindful through meditation and other community health programming at the Penn Program for Mindfulness.
  4. De-stressing through the “Stitch Therapy” group at the Penn Women’s Center (open to all).  Sure, I don’t know how to knit, crochet, or sew, but nonetheless, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people.
  5. Get involved in a writing group at the Kelly Writer’s House. Also, did you know that they offer an online book club for Penn alumni and their families?

So much to choose from, and you may not even have to leave your house for it!


Filed under Mari M., Student Perspective

Holiday Spirit at Sweeten

Author: Mari Meyer, GSE , C’12

As my first semester as a graduate student at Penn winds down, I recall fondly the days that my brain felt like THIS, instead of like THIS.

Fortunately, campus is glowing with festive holiday cheer, and all of the wonderful people here at Sweeten make this extra tough time as a student feel just as lovely as ever.  Not to mention that they do a really good job of feeding us student staff (as you’ll see below). Here is just a quick sampling of the festive holiday spirit that’s alive and well throughout Sweeten.

Ben and wreath welcome visitors as they walk through the door.

Holiday treats appear on the second floor as if by magic, fattening us up like geese.


Chrysanthemum + Piano = Joy

Popcorn Tin! As usual, the caramel and cheese-flavored pieces disappeared first.

Mini tree decorated with Rubik's cube.

From all of us at the Sweeten Alumni House, have a happy, healthy holiday season.  See you in 2012!

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Filed under Mari M., Student Perspective

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.

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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

Midwestern charm meets the Ben Franklin Bridge: A Chicago Girl in Philly

Author: Mari Meyer, GSE,C’12

I love Philadelphia: the trolleys, the cheesesteaks, the tree-lined, cobblestone blocks and multicolored row homes—it is a one of a kind city and, without a doubt, one of the best places to live in the world.  But wherever I happen to live, I’ve generally found that my itch to explore has got nothing on my love for my hometown, Chicago.

It didn’t help that on my very first week here, I made the tragic mistake (which I now consider to be a significant rite of passage for any new driver in the Philadelphia area) of losing my way on these ravenous East Coast highways, ultimately finding myself on the Ben Franklin Bridge’s “Four Lanes to New Jersey,” without so much as a clue as to how I got there, where I was going, or how I might get back. Not to mention not realizing that they make you pay $5 just to essentially turn around.  Not the most heartfelt welcome, Philly, thanks!

That said, there’s something about this time of year here that has captured my heart.  There’s an old saying that Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction season.  Though summertime in Chicago is very clearly the reason why people stay through its unforgiving winters, I’ve never quite seen autumn really last long enough to enjoy it—it’s sunset-tinted leaves, it’s cool, dry air and never-ending sunny Saturdays at the farmers’ market—until coming to Penn.

I am also not the first to feel compelled to gush about Philadelphia’s food trucks, the art, the BYOB restaurants, the live music, the block parties, the bike lanes, the big city feel with the real community heart.  The locals are warm, the rent is cheap, and a whole new neighborhood to explore is only ever a short walk away. Even on campus, you can’t help but feel alive as you make your way down Locust Walk at lunchtime—the calls for participation, for activism, for learning, for joining in, for petitioning, for dancing, for debating—it sends a buzz through me every time I venture across campus.  That’s when I’m most aware of  how lucky we all are to be here as students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members at this moment in time.  For anyone who watched the cheerleaders and pep band break it down on College Green during Quaker Fest at Homecoming Weekend, you have to admit that you couldn’t deny the energy surging through your body!

Still, there will always be things to miss about my Midwestern Mecca: deep-dish pizza, Lake Shore Drive when the sailboats are out, ordering a “pop” without the risk of being persecuted for the use of regional language, the “el” during express hours, Chinatown at Hanukkah, chairs in the street to mark your parking territory, garlic naan on Devon, the skyline at sunset, free comedy and BYOB improv, Wicker Park’s six corners on a Saturday night, Michigan Avenue when the Christmas lights go up, and access to killer Mexican food on at least every block til at least 3 AM, and then again for breakfast.

But for now, I am forever grateful to be here in West Philadelphia, walking to and from my classes, my neighbors saying “good morning” and “good evening” in each direction.  Philly is a gem of a place to call home, and my time at Penn is a gift.  Now, if I could only figure out a way to stay off these treacherous roads…


Filed under Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Mari M., Philadelphia, Student Perspective

Dressing up…or…Down…this Halloween

Author: Mari Meyer, GSE ’12

Jack-o-lanterns are out, the air smells like autumn, and campus is electrically buzzing with talk about Halloween.  It’s hard not to hear every other student gushing about costume parties and plans as they sip on their hot cider and pumpkin lattes. 

It has not been surprising to me that, in the classroom, I am blown away by Penn students’ intelligence, creativity, and cutthroat ambition.  While I expect no less from them when it comes to preparing their costumes, I know that when it comes to Halloween on a college campus, all bets are off. 

Thankfully, we’ve made it almost a year without the need for fishnets and mouse ears—we’ve revived our senses and reminded ourselves that cold weather requires covering up and that costume parties are not synonymous with re-enacting the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.  But as my first Philadelphia Halloween draws nearer, it is hard not to wonder what this year will bring in the fascinating evolution of masquerade. 

For a holiday where, as kids, we disguised ourselves in big costumes and heavy face paint in the hopes of collecting the most candy while going door-to-door, we have certainly got a pretty interesting case of folktale-misinterpretation on our hands.  As “Sexy Dorothy” once said as she shivered in not much more than her sparkly red heels and frilly mini-petticoat, “we are definitely not in Kansas any more.”

For the purpose of this blog post, I will call this phenomenon the “Panda Effect,” the process by which someone’s first costume idea is slowly transformed into its most minimalist state.  Take my fabulous roommate, for example, who has changed her costume plans at least seven times over the course of the last few weeks.  Until yesterday, when she changed her mind altogether and decided to go as Frieda Kahlo, she planned to be a Panda.  But not just any Panda, a Sexy Panda.  First of all, my roommate is a very beautiful woman, so anything she wears will have the capacity to be seen as such, even if she doesn’t intend on it being so.  Having said that, her version of panda involved short shorts and nothing more but a small patch of fake fur covering her belly.  Of course there would be ears: it’s all about the ears when it comes to costumes.  How else would we really get what someone is going for without them? 

Somehow this:

The Inspiration

Turns into this:

The Final Product

While many people choose the “less is more” look, here is one example of a different kind of costume evolution, as experienced by my very dear friend as we’ve grown older (and perhaps wiser?).

Here is an early rendition, my friend as a sexy fish.

Sexy Goldfish

Last year, she decided it would be more fun and much warmer to lose the fish fins and go full-out zombie. Not exactly the hottest choice, unless you like blood and gore.

Huddled in a corner, looking for brains

I cannot—or rather, should not—judge this culture, nor can I claim to have never skimped down for the sake of the season (I went as Snooki from the Jersey Shore last year, after all).

There was that one year that I wanted to make a political statement about the sexification of Halloween culture and went as an “Off-duty Playboy Bunny.”  I spent most of the night having to explain exactly what I was and why, and kept thinking: Wow, I should have just worn the bunny ears and been done with it!

But here’s the thing: Halloween is so loved because it gives us one day a year to rid ourselves of inhibition and rules and dress however we want.  At the very least, it gives us an opportunity to be creative with our identities, and has a built in  excuse to eat the candy that we’re too embarrassed to buy in bulk any other time of the year.

House slippers are way more comfortable than heels

So whether you’re going “spooky” or “sexy” this year, have a happy, safe Halloween, Penn!

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Survival Tactics for Student-hood: 101

Author:  Mari Meyer, GSE, C’12

They say that becoming a student again is no different than riding a bike—sure, it may take some oversized training wheels, an industrial strength helmet, perhaps a pair of skinned knees or two and a bruised ego here and there—but as a new student at the Graduate School of Education and the Graduate Assistant here at the Office of Alumni Relations, I can officially concur that student-hood, whether you once loved it or simply survived it, sticks to your bones and stays with you for life.

Me in my undergrad years, circa 2006

Little did I know that I'd be back for more education...

I have been noticing the remnants of my own student identity creeping up on me in these first few weeks of the school year.  Though I expected early on that I would inevitably return to my tortuous and deeply unhealthy on-again/off-again relationship with the caffeinated lifestyle—I never would have imagined that I so quickly would re-learn the primal, survival skills of the student in her natural habitat.

So many, many choices

Anthropologically speaking, the student must evolve and adapt to her environment, first and foremost based on physical need.  Like many other graduate students, I have found that my basic physical need revolves completely around: ( 1). shelter (though this is generally the least important as there are libraries to sleep in), (2). food (or some variance thereof) and (3). cold, hard cash—which for most of us has been generated by what will ultimately become our endless collection of student debt.  But that’s another conversation.

Where I spend much of my time

It wasn’t until a recent trip to the Fresh Grocer Salad Bar that I wholeheartedly understood my own behavior as a return to familiar student territory.  While my fellow patrons loaded their disposable containers with greens and meats and cheeses and dressings by the ladleful, I was strategically mapping out the efficiency and worth of my mid-day meal.  Which vegetables carry the highest count of vitamins and fiber?  What is the ratio of caloric content and filling fixings to their weight on a pay scale—the final determinant of the cost of my meal? Why waste my money on thickly sliced cucumber rounds when those heavy medallions would far outweigh three times their nutritional value in feather-light spinach leaves? And so it begins.  It’s not enough that I will accept—rather, seek out—as many opportunities to eat for free as possible (even four years out of undergrad, that is one habit that will never cease to improve my quality of life), I now have revitalized my innate instinct to analytically assess every morsel and meal in terms of its satiety versus monetary turnover.

I also forgot what garbage day was like around a college campus

It is no different, say, for those of us who have also returned to the art of the coin-operated Laundromat experience after living in a home with washer and dryer—in the apartment itself!  I fondly remember the days when Chicago, my hometown, switched from quarter-collecting parking meters to giant boxes accepting cash, coins, and plastic of any kind.  People were furious about the prices, but oh, how luxurious it felt to free myself of loose change, that dirty, clinking pocket confetti.  What a pleasure to never worry about where and how I would find quarters in exchange for a dollar bill, which I so rarely had in the first place.  And here I am, a graduate student in West Philly buying extra socks and underwear in a concerted effort to prolong the need to gather my most valuable coins by the roll and exchange them for clean clothes—after hours (what, it doesn’t take you this long?) of sorting, and stuffing and piling and folding and transferring back into dressers and onto hangers—just to wear and make dirty all over again. Who has the time (or quarters?!) for this arduous nonsense?

I neither defend nor encourage this behavior, yet I must admit to feeling a certain rush of adrenaline each time I swipe that highlighter across the page, a kind of innate thrill as I fill up one more free cup of coffee here in the Office of Alumni Relations (whose inhabitants do nothing but enable this jitter-inducing addiction), and an emphatic joyfulness when I’ve finished ALL of my homework and made it into bed prior to 1 AM.  Sure, my new roommates write their names on their food to distinguish it from one another’s—I mean, really, would we not know that the uncooked chicken breast cutlet in the half-sealed plastic bag wasn’t ours?—and sure, I just added the Student Loan distributors to my “Favorites” list on my phone.  But let’s be clear here, student-hood is a privilege and pleasure.  When else in life will my sole purpose and hardest job require me to simply learn more? I can only hope that, even in my most sleep-deprived moments of despair—with my overabundance of unwashed socks and my sad looking salad platter—I can find humor amidst the panic and gratitude for getting through it best I can.

Another reason to return to learning, etched in stone

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