Category Archives: Penn Traditions

Going Abroad at Home: Penn in Washington

By Jake Ebright, C’19

I stood around waiting and watching as the numbers on the elevator display clicked one by one closer to my floor. There were rules on Capitol Hill—you stood on the right side of escalators and walked on the left.

As for elevators, you didn’t ride the ones that were marked for members of Congress only. Or did you? Being that it was only my first day of work, I still wasn’t really sure. After all, I had seen another intern take the Members Only car earlier that morning.

I figured I’d give it a try since it didn’t seem like anyone was around—I was pondering the question of to ride or not to ride during a momentary lull between the frantic maneuvering of Congressmen and Congresswomen attempting to avoid the impending government shutdown. You see, this was back in January of 2018.


Jake in front of the White House

Anyhow, the Members Only elevator was nearing closer and closer to my floor when, *DING*, the elevator stopped and the doors slid open. Waiting in that elevator were two individuals. The first seemed to be a staffer or personal aide; the second, much to my surprise, was none other than Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.  Funny enough, the only thing going through my mind at that moment was a rather deliberate calculation of whether or not to enter the elevator. If I remember correctly, my thoughts went something like this, “Huh, Bernie Sanders…member? Yes, definitely a member, better not get on that car.” But right then, all within a second or two, Senator Sanders’ aide motioned me a welcome onto the car. That was all the invitation I needed.


Jefferson memorial during the blooming of the cherry blossoms

But this wouldn’t be a very good story if all went smoothly, now would it? Well, fortunately for story-telling purposes, it sure did not. As my left foot crossed the threshold into the elevator car, the doors began to shut. Evidently, the time I took making my decision fooled the elevator into thinking nobody was coming aboard. Perhaps the elevator was fed up with my indecision, because, when the doors began to close, they didn’t stop.

So there I am, half my body in the elevator and half my body out of it, with the doors still stubbornly trying to close around me. It was right then that I heard a familiar and gruff Brooklyn accent, evidently fed up with my indecision as well, let out in a startling grumble, “Aw cuhmon!”

After finally making it through the doors and into the car, I stood in silence, grinning. That was my first interaction with Bernie Sanders—and a memorable one at that.


Jake with Joe Biden

In all seriousness though, this past semester that I spent in D.C. through the Penn in Washington exchange program was one of the most exciting and fun experiences that I’ve ever had. One of our weekday classes was taught by the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Senate Affairs and the other was taught by the former Editor of the Washington Bureau for the New York Times. Every week different speakers sat in on our classes and talked with us. Such speakers included journalists like Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman, and Michael Schmidt, and former government officials, like Bill Burns and Jake Sullivan.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to work in the congressional office of Maryland Congressman John Delaney. As an intern there, I got to talk to constituents and go to briefings on various policy arenas including refugee policy and health care. I got to lead tours of the Capitol, too.

Words can’t describe the depth or degree of gratitude that I have for Penn and for our program director, Dr. Martinez, for affording our exchange group each and every tremendous experience that we had there. It was truly a once in a life time experience.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a small piece of advice. If you’re ever on Capitol Hill, you’d better decide quickly whether you are going to get on or stay off the elevator. And should the doors open and find you face to face with Bernie Sanders—it’d probably be better to stay off.


The women’s march from the steps of the Lincoln memorial

Jake is entering his senior year in the College where he is majoring in Economics and Public Policy. In addition to previously serving as co-chair for the Penn Traditions Committee, Jake is also a brother of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.


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Why I Love Penn Traditions

By Jade Little, C’19

Penn Traditions was the first club I joined when I got to Penn my freshman year. I stumbled across our table at the student activities fair, attracted by smiling faces and enthusiastic personalities, talking about the fun things (and cool free stuff) that comes with being a member. Three years later, I am almost done with my junior year, am currently a co-chair of Penn Traditions, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my freshman year self for stopping by that table and filling out an application.

12249578_608582702613080_7300638222130968967_nThe Penn community is like no other. It is comprised of some of the smartest, most passionate, and creative people I have ever met. It is a truly expansive community in so many ways, something that I’ve come to realize this year. I recently took a trip to Spain, where I coincidentally ran into many other Penn students. Every time I am on the metro back home in Washington D.C., I see Penn sweaters and hats on fellow travelers. I always find myself reading articles about the innovators of today’s world, only to find out that they are Penn grads. I know students who are doing everything from running their own nonprofits and startups to creating their own music and art.

Being part of Penn Traditions is my way of playing a small part in building this community that I am constantly amazed by. For those who don’t know, Penn Traditions is a three-committee club, part of the Sweeten Alumni House. The committees include Class Ambassadors, who work closely with Alumni Relations events, Penn Traditions Alumni Engagement Fund, which distributes funding to other student groups at Penn, and my personal favorite, the Traditions Committee, which plans events for the student body.

IMG_7007Our events, ranging from pop-ups on Locust Walk and finals goody bags to opportunities to meet alumni and study breaks in Sweeten, aim to encourage students to take a moment from their busy lives to spend time with other members of the Penn community (often through promises of food). I love that through this committee, I get to be part of some of the oldest traditions at Penn, such as Homecoming or Spring Fling; traditions that truly every member of the Penn community, no matter their major or future plans, can be a part of. I also love that I get to be part of creating new (and what I hope will be) lasting traditions, such as Friendsgiving, our annual Thanksgiving dinner for the Sophomore class.  I don’t expect everyone to remember each Penn Traditions study break they attend or free gift they get on Locust Walk, but I do hope that we contribute to fostering happy and fun moments amid the stress that comes with being a Penn student.


Jade is a junior in the College majoring in Economics and Health and Societies with a concentration in Healthcare Markets and Finance. She is currently serving as co-chair of the Penn Traditions committee as well as being a member of Chi Omega and Penn Society for International Development. 


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My Penn Path: An ISP Journey

By Rachel Weinstein, C’20

As someone who graduated from high school in a class of seventy, entering the community of nearly ten thousand undergraduates at Penn was certainly daunting. However, I was fortunate enough to be admitted to the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Program, which, as a student in the College, meant that I would spend my freshman year in the Integrated Studies Program (ISP). ISP is a fully immersive first year experience at Penn, in which a cohort of eighty students lives together in the Quad, takes two rigorous courses together each semester, and works to integrate the material from these two separate courses both inside and outside of the classroom. First semester, our course load consisted of Art History and Religious Studies. We spent time discussing the intersection of the two disciplines through weekly lectures, seminars, field trips, and conversations in the Quad. The courses also enabled me to explore my new home in Philadelphia, through frequent trips to the Philadelphia Art Museum and SEPTA rides to Mormon, Buddhist, and Masonic Temples. As a Cognitive Science major, I enjoyed second semester as well, in which we took Evolutionary Psychology and Philosophy.


ISP was the hallmark of my freshman year, and it shaped my path at Penn in ways that I could never have imagined. For starters, it exposed me to subject areas that I had absolutely no experience with, and it forced me to venture out of my academic comfort zone. Every day, I was having conversations that allowed me to think abstractly and forge connections between seemingly disparate (and largely new) areas of study. I was challenged, I was engaged, and I was working hard but enjoying it all. Furthermore, ISP introduced to me the idea of interdisciplinary learning, which would come to be defining of my major and minor choices. I went to a magnet science high school, where the closest that we came to interdisciplinary learning was taking biology and chemistry labs at the same time. Because of ISP, I recognized that distinct disciplines spanning the humanities and hard sciences could benefit from collaboration. Now, I am pursuing a Cognitive Science major, but with an independent concentration that I created in Neuroeconomics. I spend my days studying the intersection of neuroscience, economics, and marketing for my major, along with statistics and psychology for my minors, all with the goal of better understanding consumer behavior. ISP showed me that tackling an issue from several angles could help in developing new and innovative ideas.


It is also important to note that ISP was about so much more than academics. Through ISP, I met people from all over the world (there were 16 countries represented on my hall!) and I made some of my best friends. I explored Philadelphia, made connections with my peers and some of the most renowned professors at Penn, and I found a strong community. I really cannot imagine what my life at Penn would have been like had I not been a part of ISP!



Rachel is a sophomore in the College majoring in Cognitive Science with an individualized concentration in Neuroeconomics and minoring in Psychology and Statistics. In addition to being a Ben Franklin Scholar, she is currently serving as co-chair of the Penn Traditions committee. Rachel is also involved in College Cognoscenti, MUSE Consulting, Admissions Dean’s Advisory Board, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, Greek life, and Peer advising.


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The Penn Ten: Ten Lessons I Learned at Penn

By Samantha Grasso, C’18

Always Be Open to Meeting New People: The point of attending college is to receive an education.  I can state with confidence that I have learned a lot inside the classroom while at Penn, but my experience has been special because of the people.  There are several individuals who have transformed my college career. What is interesting though is that I did not meet them, until junior year.  Although it is important to maintain relationships, never be afraid to say “hi” to an unfamiliar face and establish a new connection.      IMG_5027

Take Advantage of Office Hours: I have always been THAT student who attends office hours and asks a lot of questions.  The secret is that professors actually enjoy this. Professors teach because they are passionate about doing so.  Attend office hours to increase your understanding of class material, but also to get to know your professors; they are people too!

Join Extracurricular Activities that Force You to Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone: I never thought I would be a member of a sorority or an improv society, but I am a member of both.  Penn has over a hundred undergraduate organizations, so become involved with at least one of them.  You can join one to expand your network or to simply have fun, but never be afraid to take the leap.  When I have deviated from my normal, I have grown the most.


Explore Philadelphia: Penn Students are fortunate because they attend school in one of America’s greatest cities.  Philadelphia has restaurants, entertainment, shopping, and more, so it is important to take advantage.  You should make an effort to go off of Penn’s campus once a week and explore the city.  Doing so will only enhance your time at Penn.

Always Make Time for the People and Things You Love: Penn is an academically rigorous institution.  While it is great to be challenged, sometimes you forget that a world exists beyond the library.  Although it is easier said than done, make time to do activities you enjoy or see people who make you happy in the midst of studying or doing work.

IMG_8834Be You: Everyone at Penn is intelligent, talented, and incredible.  It is a great feeling being a part of this dynamic student body, yet it can be overwhelming because you might start to compare yourself to others; you should never do this.  By measuring yourself against others, you lose sight of who you are.  Being who you are is what got you into Penn, so be unapologetically you each and every day.

Reach Out to Alumni: Use QuakerNet!  This resource allows you to connect with Penn Alumni.  Penn Alumni love hearing from current students, so reach out to them if you have questions about your major or career.

Become Familiar with Perspective: Every student at Penn has received a bad grade or experienced some form of rejection.  In the moment, these things can make it seem as if the sky is falling; that is never the case.  This means whenever you are overwhelmed, take a step back and reconsider the situation with a more optimistic lens.

Attend Events: It is impossible to be bored at Penn.  Every night there is some event you can attend.  Whether it be a sporting event or a performance, it is happening on Penn’s campus.

Start Each Day with a Good Mood: Ever since I was young, my dad has said, “When you wake up, you can be in a good mood or a bad mood.  Choose the good mood.”  This advice has been extremely helpful, while I have been at Penn because when I choose to start each day in a good mood, my days automatically become better.  If you begin your day with positivity, Penn cannot throw anything at you that you cannot handle.  Instead, each day at Penn becomes better than the previous one.



Samantha is a senior majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics with a concentration in Choice and Behavior. In addition to being a co-chair of the Penn Traditions committee, she also belongs to the College Dean’s Advisory Board, Seniors for The Penn Fund, Penn Improv Society, Media and Entertainment Club, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship, and Sigma Kappa Sorority.


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Penn Traditions: Celebrate, Connect, Inspire

By: Gina Sesta, GEd’18


As a graduate student who did not attend Penn as an undergrad, being selected to work with the Penn Traditions program has been the perfect introduction to the university and its long-standing history. The opportunity has provided me with experiential knowledge of the culture and traditions of Penn and the importance of each one. Managed through the Sweeten Alumni House, the Penn Traditions program is designed to build community on campus, connect students with alumni, and promote a lifelong love of Penn.

The program is segmented into three branches: the Traditions Committee, Class Ambassadors, and Penn Traditions Alumni Engagement Funds or PTAEF. My role works particularly with the Traditions Committee and the 14 students who belong to it. Together, we execute events on campus such as the student section of Quakerfest at Homecoming, Friendsgiving, No Pressure Networking, and more. We seek to engage students across every school and class to promote unity throughout the university and preserve the overall traditions of Penn.


The Penn Tradition Student Section of Quakerfest  –  Homecoming,  Fall 2017


Traditions Committee members at Friendsgiving, November 2017

Throughout the remainder of the academic year, Frankly Penn will be featuring a series of posts written by the members of Traditions Committee. Be sure to check back to learn more about the students and their experiences!

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