Category Archives: Molly Rand


Author: Molly Rand, GED’13


I recently had the amazing opportunity to serve as an Alumni Relations staff-host for the Penn Travel trip: Treasures of East Africa. During the trip, I was joined by an adventurous group of 10 alumni travelers. Together, we experienced what makes Africa, and East Africa in particular, such a unique and marvelous place.

Each day of the two-week trip was spent exploring the vast land of savannahs and diverse local cultures of Tanzania and Kenya. We captured sights and snapped photos of the incredible wildlife and surrounding landscape. We enjoyed a breathtaking sunset each evening and then awoke the next morning to catch it rise again.

Masai Mara Sunset, Kenya

Masai Mara Sunset, Kenya

Serengeti Sunrise – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti Sunrise – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania


In some way, our group became a small family over the course of the trip, traveling together to take on the next adventure: to see or taste something new, to learn the next phrase for our Swahili vocabulary, and to experience another unknown treasure of East Africa.

We endured long hours and road trips in our safari vans where the bumpy and unsteady rides, or African massage as they call it, only helped bring us closer together. Our local drivers and guides quickly became our new best friends, sharing with us their vast knowledge and passion for the beautiful place they call home.


Our safari drivers (Left to Right: Wolfgang, Wilfred, Shafino) and Safari Director, Adam, in Tanzania

Our safari drivers (Left to Right: Wolfgang, Wilfred, Shafino) and Safari Director, Adam, in Tanzania.


Our group’s first stop after crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya: Amboseli National Park

Our group’s first stop after crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya: Amboseli National Park.


Spotting a herd of elephants in front of Mt. Kiliminjaro

Spotting a herd of elephants in front of Mt. Kiliminjaro.


Room at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge, Kenya

Room at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge, Kenya


Before too long, I think we all became humbly aware of how different our daily lives were from the people we encountered. Yet despite those differences, the warm smiles and kind hearts of those who we met made us all feel right at home.

Photo from our visit to the Masai village kindergarten in Tanzania

Photo from our visit to the Masai village kindergarten in Tanzania.


The trip offered us a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in a culture we only knew from a distance before this journey began. It challenged us to abandon our own perspectives and approach each interaction with a pure sense of curiosity and appreciation for the unfamiliar. As each day passed, we gained a more distinct awareness for the little things in life that really matter.

As for the other stuff, “hakuna matata” as the locals would say.


View as we drove through Arusha and surrounding villages in Tanzania

View as we drove through Arusha and surrounding villages in Tanzania.

Traditional Masai jumping dance – a competitive jumping ritual men do to showcase their strength and agility to women in the tribe

Traditional Masai jumping dance – a competitive jumping ritual men do to showcase their strength and agility to women in the tribe.


At last, this would not be an accurate trip re-cap if I did not do my best to describe the unbelievable wildlife and conservation areas of Tanzania and Kenya. It is hard to truly comprehend how incredible it is to observe all of the animals until you are there, watching them run, eat, or sometimes even hunt, often only a mere 5 feet away. Our group was lucky to spot every single animal on the list – literally. We viewed all of the “Big 5” as well as the remaining four of the lineup to see what our guides noted as the “Big 9.” (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Rhino, Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra, and last but definitely not least, the Hippo).

At night, the lodge had security walk guests to their rooms after dinner, not because of any danger in the area caused by crime, but because of the animals nearby. At the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge in Tanzania, the hippos were notorious for coming onto the property at night. One evening, I asked a guard as he escorted me down the path, with his flashlight in hand, if the animals come up to the lodge because of all the people.

He responded very confidently, “No, no…they come close because this is their natural habitat. We are in their house.

His reaction made me realize even more the unique beauty of East Africa.


Hippo spotting in Serengeti National Park of Tanzania

Hippo spotting in Serengeti National Park of Tanzania.


Elephant crossing in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kenya

Elephant crossing in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kenya.

First lions of the trip in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

First lions of the trip in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.


A group of giraffes is called a journey – we spotted these in the Masai Mara of Kenya

A group of giraffes is called a journey – we spotted these in the Masai Mara of Kenya.


Our guides taught us that a group traveling together is called a dazzle.

Our guides taught us that a group traveling together is called a dazzle.

When someone asks me the classic post-travel question, I struggle to find an answer as to what was my favorite part of our East Africa experience. Every moment we spent in Tanzania and Kenya was memorable – whether we were observing a mother elephant protect her baby, visiting a Masai village, watching a lion hunt its prey, or having a conversation with one of our local guides.

The people of Tanzania and Kenya ask no favors of travelers except for one: “tell your friends and family about this place, let them know they should come too. And most of all, make sure to come back.

If I should ever get another opportunity to visit these countries again, I will be sure to let my new local friends know. In the meantime, make sure you add East Africa to your travel bucket list. I promise every single moment will be well worth it.

Preparing for our Penn reception at the beautiful Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge

Preparing for our Penn reception at the beautiful Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge.


Our amazing group of Penn Alumni & Friends!

Our amazing group of Penn Alumni & Friends!





Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Molly Rand, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Leading Change

Author: Molly Rand, GEd’13

Can leadership be taught? Is it natural or acquired?

Last Wednesday, during our first day of the Ivy Plus conference, attendees listened to Wharton Professor Michael Useem explore these questions and discuss the characteristics of a great leader. According to Useem, for most people, the skill of leadership is actually acquired. Useem is the William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management; Editor of the Wharton Leadership Digest; and the Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management – so he knows a thing or two about leadership.

A primary focus of the day’s lecture was about leadership during times of change. According to Useem, good leaders do the following things during these times:

  1. Honor the room
  2. Remain both optimistic and realistic about the future
  3. Maintain a team environment – “we are all in this together”

To test out the audience’s ability of putting knowledge to practice, Useem called up one fellow conference attendee from MIT to engage in a leadership role-playing exercise. Robert, shown below, did a fantastic job as he took on the role of a new CEO leading a company merger. The company that Robert was hypothetically taking over had thousands of concerned employees, all fearful of what this change meant for their future.

Throughout this exercise, Useem reiterated the importance of two key elements that any leader in this position would want to achieve with his or her new employees: “you want them to work harder, and you want them to stay.” To do so, one might revisit Useem’s three-step check list above.

I’d like to recognize Robert from MIT for giving one very convincing, and entertaining, performance!Useem with Robert - picture 1

In closing, I will leave you with a final quote from last week’s talk on Leading Change

“Many people ask: is leadership an individual or team sport? My answer is YES.” – Michael Useem

Useem - picture 2

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It’s #PennTimeToShine

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

Did You Know…that Penn’s Making History campaign celebration, Time to Shine, is tomorrow? Over 14,000 alumni, students, faculty, staff and guests will celebrate on Penn Park with headlining acts Train and John Legend, C’99. The event is free, but registration closes at noon EDT tomorrow, April 19th. Register here. The show will go on, rain or shine. Please note backpacks and umbrellas will not be allowed in Penn Park.

Read the article in The Daily Pennsylvanian today about the event.

During the event, screens around the park will showcase your Instagram photos with the #PennTimetoShine hashtag. Can’t make the event? Share your Penn Pride with us – post your photo of you and your friends or your clubs on Instagram (wearing your Penn gear) with the hashtag #PennTimetoShine and you’ll be featured during the celebration (and of course you can follow along on Instagram and twitter too).

The Regional Clubs team already got into the spirit:

Penn Alumni Regional Clubs director Tara Davies' post.

Penn Alumni Regional Clubs director Tara Davies’ post. L-R: Molly Rand, Marge Tinsley, Laura Foltman, Tara Davies, Kiera Reilly and Casey Ryan (not pictured: Denise Bowden).



Casey Ryan, C'95, post. Follow Casey on Instagram @IrishWombat

Casey Ryan, C’95, post. Follow Casey on Instagram @IrishWombat

Kiera Reilly, C'93, post. Follow Kiera on Instagram @KieraReilly

Kiera Reilly, C’93, post. Follow Kiera on Instagram @KieraReilly

Please like our photos on Instagram!

Penn Alumni (PennAlumni)

University of Pennsylvania (UofPenn)

Penn Alumni Regional Clubs team:

Tara Davies (TaraAnnDavies)

Kiera Reilly, C’93 (KieraReilly)

Casey Ryan, C’95 (IrishWombat)



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Filed under Campaign, Casey R., GAN, Kiera R., Making History, Molly Rand, Penn Clubs, Photos, Social Networking, West Coast Regional Office

What Else is Going on at Penn? Something You Should Know About…

Author: Molly Rand, GEd’13

As a follow up to my wonderful colleague Lillian’s blog post last week on “What’s Going on at Penn…and Why Do I Never Know About It?!” I thought I would share an update about another interesting Penn event that those in the community might like to know about…and the best part of the news – it hasn’t happened yet!

On Friday, April 5, Penn President Amy Gutmann and other experts will explore online learning and what it may have in store for higher education at the Silfen University Forum.

The forum will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Penn’s Irvine Auditorium, 3401 Spruce St.

Dr. Gutmann will moderate the Forum, which includes Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner; the Honorable Martha J. Kanter, U.S. Under Secretary of Education; William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland; and Daphne Koller, Stanford University professor and co-founder of the online learning platform Coursera, which has enrolled almost 2.8 million students and is adding about 70,000 new students weekly from around the world.

Web-based teaching and learning are pioneering a new model for higher education, with the capacity to give millions more people access to a top-level educational experience.

“The global economy needs an ever more highly educated work force of talented people,” Gutmann said. “And one avenue to that goal may be through massive online learning, a system in which Penn has been an early leader.  MOOCs also hold great promise for helping our faculty further improve our traditional classroom learning experience.  For example, students could learn basic concepts through online coursework, freeing faculty to spend more class time on advanced concepts and discussion.  The possibilities are boundless.”

Penn is among the inaugural cohort of universities offering free online courses through Coursera, which launched in 2012.  Penn faculty have offered 19 courses on Coursera, from a wide range of departments, including medicine, finance, design, legal studies, nursing, ethics, computer science, health policy, math, music, engineering, poetry, pharmacology, and classics, and more than 840,000 students from around the world have registered for Penn online courses since they began. Penn’s Introduction to Calculus, an online course taught by Robert Ghrist, a Penn Integrates Knowledge professor, has been recommended for credit by the American Council on Education.

The Silfen University Forum is free and attendees can register here.


The event will be held at Irving Auditorium, 3401 Spruce Street

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Penn’s Innovations in Leadership Workshop Series

Author: Molly Rand, GED’13

Sitting in class for 16 hours over the course of two days is not typically considered an ideal learning situation. The classes are long, the lectures are boring, and the group work is exhausting. Your attention span can only last for so long before you start counting down the hours on your hand – and the result of that calculation is always less than desirable. However, I know from experience that this doesn’t always have to be the case.

As a part time student in Penn’s Graduate School of Education, I enrolled in the Nonprofit Leadership Workshop series for the second consecutive spring semester to complete my elective requirements for the Higher Education Master’s program. The course, which is offered by the School of Social Policy and Practice, is compiled of 3 two-day workshops. If you do the math, the total comes out to about 38 hours in 6 days after subtracting a few hours for lunch and quick breaks. A student would actually spend close to 8 less hours in class during a full semester-long course. So why would this marathon of a course be something I choose to take not only once, but twice in the ten classes required to complete my Master’s program? There are so many reasons…

Senior Associate Director of the MS in Nonprofit Leadership Program, Eric Ashton outlines it clearly in the course syllabus. There are multiple areas within the nonprofit space that viable leaders may wish to have some level of exposure to over the course of their professional careers and career development.   As the overall course instructor, Ashton speaks more on the fact that often in our busy lives we do not get educational opportunities on a range of current or innovative topics.  This course was created and designed to allow students to select from a changing menu, subject matter that will be presented in small bite size opportunities to be exposed to current trends or topics important for strategic thinking in positions of leadership and decision making.  Each topic is presented in a seminar style workshop led by an instructor who is an expert in that area.

The School of Social Policy & Practice is located in the Caster Building. The Caster Building is where all NPLD workshops take place this semester.

The School of Social Policy & Practice is located in the Caster Building. The Caster Building is where all NPLD workshops take place this semester.

Interested in the socioeconomic development of urban areas? Let George Washington University’s Associate Professor of History Chris Klemek take you on a two-day field trip of our historical city in his workshop Philadelphia as Crucible: 400 years of crisis, leadership & change. I participated in the hands-on workshop during a weekend last April and can say that I now know the historical significance of that grid like courtyard on 2nd street between Walnut and Chestnut next to the Ritz movie theatre.  It actually has a name too!

Welcome Park

Philadelphia’s Welcome Park

Think it might be valuable to learn more about negotiation and strategic persuasion and ways to improve your own skills? Take a two-day workshop with consultants from the Center for Advanced Research (CFAR), a management consulting firm specializing in strategy and organizational development. Some of the breakout exercises in this workshop resembled what might occur during an episode of Antique Road Show while others were more geared towards students honing in on their own business negotiating skills. During an in-class persuasion exercise, I was able to persuade my classmate that an incredibly valuable book my hypothetical great aunt once owned was an original, only copy left edition worth $7,500. The information sheet that I was given about the item, which my partner was unable to see, exposed the worth of the book to be at an absolute best $1,500. When we announced to the class how much we had “sold” the book to our partner, and mine had gone for the highest amount, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. Either I am an incredibly convincing persuader or she was just a gullible classmate who didn’t really care about the value of some made up piece of literature. Either way, I learned a lot those two days.

My first of three workshops this semester just concluded this past weekend. The class was titled Social Entrepreneurship and was taught by Associate Director of Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs and Director of Wharton’s Societal Wealth Program, James Thompson. Professor Thompson’s Wharton-wit, intriguing South African accent, and Ed Harris-meets-Daniel Craig looks only add to the workshops interesting content and structure.  I never thought that when I began my graduate program, I would be discussing how to create a successful consumption chain for raising and selling chickens as an entrepreneurial venture in Zambia. In the words of Professor Thompson, “think big, start small, and change fast.” This is a concept that will stay with me forever.


Some of my classmates during the Social Entrepreneurship Workshop last week

There is no question that this course is unique. One might argue that these workshops are not directly applicable to the work I currently do in Alumni Relations. I would disagree. The way these classes encourage and challenge my way of thinking is the most valuable component of this “leadership series.” I meet people from other schools and walks of life – undergraduates, MSW students, second-year MBAs, nonprofit professionals, and professors who are absolute experts in their fields. I walk away from these two-day “crash courses” and realize how fortunate I am to be exposed to such new and exciting disciplines. I am inspired to be innovative and learn more about my own personal skills. Most importantly, I’m not ready to stop learning and these workshops allow me to continue in an unconventional and engaging way.

Being submersed in these educational environments for six full days is a brain exercise unlike any other. For those few days, I am working to be an expert on urban development, or strategic negotiation, or the necessary way of thinking to differentiate myself from competition and succeed as a social entrepreneur. For six days during the semester, I am part of an exclusive group of individuals all working together to learn something new, challenging one another along the way. This is one of the many reasons I love being a graduate student and employee at Penn.


Filed under Molly Rand, Philadelphia, Student Perspective