Category Archives: Patrick B.

Londontown

By: Rachel S. C’16

I never thought I would study abroad. I’m a transfer, so my time at Penn is already shorter than most, but as an International Relations major, I felt obligated to apply for an abroad program. I filled out the application very last minute, and was both excited and anxious when I found out I was accepted– now I had a big decision to make.

The great thing about Penn is that there are so many opportunities and activities going on at any time, but that also makes it easy to feel like you’re missing out on something. I considered the opportunity cost of going abroad– all the meetings and classes and late nights with friends I would miss– the financial costs, the academic planning and maneuvering I’d have to do, and I still had almost no idea if I was going the day before the deadline to respond.

My decision came down to a conversation I had with a fellow transfer. I explained to her my concerns and worries and excitement and fears about going to London, while she patiently nodded and listened. At the end of my long, long rambling, she gave me simple, clear advice: “Why are you worrying? You know what you want, and you should go with that.”

She was right. Penn is great because of all the opportunities it offers, and going abroad is one of them. I forgot that in the pull of Penn’s campus that I’d always wanted to study at one of the world’s oldest universities in a city rich with history and food and culture that I’ve always loved. Next semester in London, I’ll try to remember that advice: you know what you want– why aren’t you going for it?

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A Long-Expected Party

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

 

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

~Benjamin Franklin

Today, the Interview Program staff is preparing for a party.  Or rather, 52 parties.  Between April 3rd and 27th, alumni from around the world will be hosting local events to welcome the newest cohort of admitted students to Penn.  These events are sponsored by generous Penn alumni from dozens of interview committees (from Phoenix to Pakistan), and while each event will undoubtedly have a slightly different flavor, the common celebration of a Penn education is sure to be a constant.

We’re also doing our part to ensure that each admitted student event is stocked with red-and-blue party supplies, by shipping boxes of Penn-themed gear to more than 15 states and 20 countries.  So, if you happen to hear a chorus of “Hurrah, hurrah, Pennsylvania” coming from somewhere in your town during the month of April, don’t be surprised.  In fact, we’d encourage you to join in the celebration, and to help us welcome Penn’s Class of 2018 to the four incredible years that lie ahead!

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Filed under Interview Program, Patrick B., Sweeten Alumni House, Uncategorized, Volunteering

New Growth

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

To have dragons one must have change; that is the first principle of dragon lore.

~Loren Eiseley

Penn’s campus (and West Philly in general) has been awash with change lately.  This weekend, the winter’s endless snowstorms gave way to a flood of sunshine, and alongside the swollen banks of the Schuylkill, the renewed clamor of construction projects was suddenly everywhere.  And it’s not just the ever-growing River Walk—the Cira South building is slowly rising over Chestnut Street, and across Penn Park, Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine is getting a brand new student facility.

Closer to campus, other construction projects abound.  The wholly-renovated ARCH building is gorgeous, and almost as beautiful as the removal of the ARCH construction boardwalks that forced pedestrians onto one another’s heels as they tried to cut through campus at 36th Street for the past several months.  Hill Field has vanished behind the high construction fences that don’t yet offer a peek at the development of Penn’s newest residential house for undergrads.  Plans are in the works on the Perry World House for international initiatives, alongside a host of other projects that promise a long summer of construction cacophony.

As for the dragons, we’ll have to wait and see—fresh snow is predicted for tomorrow…

Here Be Dragons

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Snow Dazes

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

 

When it snows, you have two choices: shovel, or make angles.  

~Author Unknown (so it might have been Benjamin Franklin)

Yesterday, all of those desperate calls to 898-MELT finally paid off: the university was closed due to unprecedented weather woes, this time from a foot of snow brought forth by winter storm Janus.

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Janus, the two-faced Roman god, was believed to preside over transitions: the beginnings and the ends of conflicts, births and deaths, past and future—his domain is any gate or doorway leading to an unforeseen route.  Since January 1st, this Penn traveler has already journeyed along plenty of new roads: I’ve already flown more than 35,000 miles in 2014, across the country and around the world, and most of it was to celebrate and promote the university.  Traveling with the Dean of Admissions and the AVP of Alumni Relations, we celebrated historic levels of interest from prospective students, alongside phenomenal engagement from alumni across Asia.  When one is sitting on a different airplane each day, finding the time to make (or keep) a New Year’s resolution seems almost beside the point.

This Janus-sponsored snow day is therefore a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect on the year that has passed, as well as the one to come.  Penn has much to be proud of, but there is also much more to be done.  How can we offer interviews all of these incredible new applicants to the university?  Is there some way we can get an army of sentient robots to help?  And why don’t meteorologists get a score based on the accuracy of their past weather predictions?

Ben did once comment that, “Some are weather-wise, some are otherwise.”  Here’s wishing for much wisdom and success in the New Year, and the occasional snow day to help us all ponder the open roads ahead.

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Great Outcomes

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

Well done is better than well said.

~Ben Franklin

As we look to the winter months ahead, I’d like to to acknowledge the extraordinary achievements of our alumni interviewers around the world.  In Early Decision this year, Penn admitted the most accomplished cohort of applicants in the school’s history.   Our alumni interviewers helped to make that possible.  In the span of just a few short weeks in November, Penn alumni interviewed more than 5600 Early Decision and QuestBridge applicants, covering all 50 US States and 78 countries on six continents.  The total interview coverage for Early Decision applicants was a tremendous 97%, compared with about 81% the year before.

Of course, there are many interviews still to come.  Penn’s Regular Decision applicant pool will likely include more than 25,000 students from over 140 countries, and our extraordinary alumni will work to reach as many of these students as possible throughout January and February.  We are enormously proud of the way our past Penn students contribute to future classes at the university, and we’re optimistic that this will continue to be a record-breaking year!

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Interview Program, Patrick B., Uncategorized, Volunteering

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

Visits should be short, like a winter’s day.

~Ben Franklin

Without more than a whisper of warning, winter has come on quickly in Philadelphia.  The leaves put on an electric firework show for more weeks than we probably deserved this fall, soaking campus in hues of red, orange, and yellow from Homecoming through… well, yesterday, really.

Just like that, the leaves are down.  As students pack their bags for Thanksgiving break and pack their brains for midterms when then return, the trees are suddenly bare, leaving the ground momentarily reminiscent of a grand autumn.  And as the skies thicken into gray clouds and each new raindrop flirts with the possibility of flaking into snow, a chill hangs everywhere.  Even the squirrels seem restless.  The grass is bathed in gold for now, but for how long?

Of course, for those of us on campus, these are merely the harbingers of another season coming on in Philadelphia.  As we watch the students bustle out our windows and squint our eyes to imagine the first snowflakes sticking to College Green, it’s somehow reassuring to know that along with shorter days, winter is on the way.

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Dylan-ology 101

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.

~Bob Dylan

Before I came to Penn, I was an English teacher.  And while I loved working for Admissions (and now for Alumni Relations), there are days when I really miss teaching.

Luckily, Penn has provided a great solution.  Each year, I’m involved with two events at the Kelly Writers House that allow me not only the opportunity to re-connect with teaching, but also to explore a topic that I find endlessly interesting: the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

One of those events happened yesterday, when Al Filreis, Penn’s Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (and one of the founders of the Writers House) invited me to co-host a lunch where were discussed Blonde on Blonde with a group of fellow Dylan fan(atic)s.  This lunch is an annual event, and each year we consider another Dylan album during that discussion.  The guests range from current students to current grandparents, from complete novices to Dylan idolaters, and highlights a score of professions and passions—but everyone gets to participate in the conversation.

The other way the Kelly Writers House supports my educational enthusiasms is by allowing me to lead an online book group each year.  This April, I’ll be facilitating a 10-day discussion on Dylan’s album Blood on the Tracks, which is certainly one of my favorites.

It’s an incredible feature of Penn that such opportunities are available not only to our students, but to the many staff members who work for the institution in one capacity or another.  Whether they attend a speaker series, take classes with world-class professors, work toward a new degree, or simply spend a few hours getting Tangled Up in Blue, one special aspect of Penn is that there’s always more to learn here.

 

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Spectral Analysis

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

“The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.” —W. Somerset Maugham

This past weekend highlighted some great examples of the astonishing variety of communities and opportunities to be found on Penn’s campus. With the second Penn Spectrum conference to be held in Philadelphia, we welcomed multiple generations of diverse alumni back to campus for a weekend of impassioned discussions and warm reunions.  Whether the alumni were sharing academic research, personal anecdotes, or salsa moves, the spirit of collaboration was palpable.

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On Saturday afternoon, College Green was also abuzz with students celebrating Skimmerfest, a campus-wide party that includes great musical acts, food trucks, a 40-foot climbing wall, and a giant inflatable football player (perhaps an omen for the game to come?).  Students flooded the center of campus, enjoying the perfect weather and time spent with one another.

Just a few blocks away, a makeshift city was being assembled on Hill Field, with the following invitation to the campus community:

 What is the best way to teach students about what it’s like to live in informal settlements – which will be home to over half of the world’s population within the next two decades? Create an opportunity for them to build and inhabit a makeshift ‘city’ using cardboard and other simple materials right in the University of Pennsylvania’s backyard.  On Friday, Sept. 20th  and Saturday, Sept. 21st, students from the School of Design will re-create the best conditions possible of a hypothetical informal settlement – the fastest growing type of habitation in the world.

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Alumni reuniting, students celebrating, and global realities made into local experience: just your typical weekend, Penn!

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With Great Anticip…

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

For the better part of the last two years, I’ve garnered concerned looks whenever I start to talk excitedly about a floating boardwalk on the Schuylkill.

“There are great plans underway!” I exclaim to anyone who will listen.  “Someday, we’ll be able to walk from the South Street Bridge all the way up to Walnut Street, on a boardwalk perched above the river!”  As is often the fate of prognosticators and sooth-sayers, my promises for a brighter future have been met with fear, suspicion, and uncertainty, particularly if I make these statements to utter strangers whizzing by on their bikes.

Actually, I do not make such proclamations vocally, but I am irrationally excited about the Schuylkill River Trail extension currently under construction. The trail now ends just below Walnut Street, with a convenient overpass to access the nearby park: bikers are forced to end their ride in an abrupt cul-de-sac, while runners find themselves veering off of the river’s bank and filing back onto Center City streets. For those of us who live south of South Street, it’s tempting to wish that the trail would extend just a little further, although it’s also easy to understand why it doesn’t. At that point on the trail, the river bank narrows sharply as a more industrial set of buildings encroach, meaning that the only path along the river would quickly land you in the river.

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That’s why this most recent construction project is such a thrill: they’re putting the Schuylkill Trail directly over the river. The boardwalk won’t float, but it will perch on pylons a few feet above the water, extending evening walks by another half mile, tempting fishermen into deeper waters, and royally freaking out my scaredy-cat of a dog, who has to be coaxed across even the sturdiest of bridges.

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Here is Lilli, unresistingly being used as a pillow by the cat, Mac.

Over the past few months, every addition that has been made to this multi-stage construction project has led to some new thrill/temptation for me to shout:

    • Wow, the pipe they’re using for that concrete pillar is HUGE!!
    • Hey, the ramp is almost done!
    • OH, MY GOSH, HOLY COW, THEY HAVE THAT CONSTRUCTION CRANE FLOATING ON A BARGE!!!!

So far, I have continued to restrain myself, but I don’t know how much more I can take.

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I love to walk in Philadelphia. You can get nearly anywhere in this city if you’re willing to put in a half hour at a steady pace. I like that if you own a car here, you rarely need to use it.  I also appreciate that the Philadelphia “Powers that Be” seem to nurture these pedestrian impulses.  Only recently did I discover that you can walk (or bike) essentially uninterrupted from Center City to Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River Trail, and that when completed, this trail will extend almost 130 miles, from Philly to Pottsville, from the University of Pennsylvania’s campus all the way to the Appalachian Trail.

I think Ben Franklin would be proud of the face that part of his legacy was a footpath with the power to lead people out into Penn’s Woods, following the banks of a river that he hoped would one day become easier to navigate.

In Dutch, Schuylkill means “hidden river,” and, while I certainly advocate for keeping rivers wild and free, I think Ben had this one right: the Schuylkill is a river that should be easy to navigate, and easy for people to enjoy.

And with every passing day, the trail gets a little closer…

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Penn Around the World

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

It’s amazing to think that just a week ago, Penn took the Time to Shine tour on the road, hosting its first off-campus event at the Ritz-Carleton in Hong Kong on Tuesday, May 21. The evening was a great success: in addition to hosting alumni from the past six decades, we welcomed Class of 2013 graduates, current students, recently admitted members of Penn’s Class of 2017, deans, faculty members, parents, friends, and Penn staff, all to celebrate the tremendous achievements of this campaign, and of the university.

In all, more than 250 people attended, including a large gathering for President Gutmann’s Time to Shine presentation, followed by a reception for Penn community members representing several generations and a host of countries across Asia and around the world.

I spoke with committed representatives from Penn’s regional clubs and with members of the Alumni Interview Program, with alumni who hadn’t been back to campus in years and with students who had flown directly to Hong Kong from Philadelphia, with global industrial leaders and with NGO interns.  But for everyone present, the groundswell of Penn pride was overwhelming: to a person, each guest was glad of their affiliation to the University of Pennsylvania.  From the April 19th campus events at the beginning of the campaign’s conclusion to the countless beaming smiles halfway around the world, there is a powerful sense of how much Penn has accomplished, as well as a palpable eagerness for what lies ahead.  The campaign conclusion events will continue, and if you have the chance, I’d strongly encourage you to attend one in your area; it’s a thrilling time to belong to Penn.

Below are just a few pictures, but you can view the whole photo album here.

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Campaign, Patrick B., Penn Clubs