Category Archives: Student Perspective

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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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21st Century Buildings: The New Faces on Penn’s Campus

By: Jorge Penado, C’19
International Relations Major
Work-Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House

Source UPenn Facilities and Real Estate Services

Perelman Center for Political Science & Economic, Source: Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services

When one thinks about Penn and the buildings that define it College Hall, built in 1871, and Fisher Fine Arts Library, built in 1890, stand out as notably beautiful staples of campus. However, one common feature that these buildings have is that they were all built before the 21st century. Now, this begs the question of what new and innovative buildings has Penn invested in the current century and how has this shaped and influenced the landscape that Penn students have become accustomed to. Some notable new additions to the family of buildings include Huntsman Hall and Perry World House, but there are still so many other interesting additions to Penn’s campus.

Within the first decade of the century, Penn had already celebrated the opening of various buildings or centers around campus. As mentioned above, Huntsman Hall has now become such a staple of Wharton, established in 1881, that it’s interesting to realize that it was opened in 2002. It is considered one of the largest new projects the university has engaged in with an estimated cost of $140 million and 300,000-square-feet. It’s red exterior and circular shape at the corner of Walnut St. and 38th St. has definitely defined the university’s landscape. In addition to Wharton, but on a smaller scale and on 37th St. and Spruce St. there lies the Platt Student Performing Arts House opened in 2006 which has become a center of the arts community at Penn. The center has six state-of-the-art rehearsal rooms, storage, and six administrative offices in the basement of Stouffer College House. While at one point it was the Stouffer Dining Hall, it now holds a much-needed expansion of space for performing arts students. The center is named after Marc Platt, a Penn alumnus who was involved in the Glee Club but is now known for producing shows like Legally Blonde and Broadway’s Wicked, gifted the university with $1 million to help the arts at Penn. Both of these buildings have been vital in centralizing two different communities and helping students improve their time at Penn.

On another hand, Penn has also invested in further expanding the campus outwards, farther from Locust, with the FMC Tower and the Pennovation Center. The FMC Tower, opened in 2016, lies on the corner of Walnut St. and the Schuylkill River and is part of a new three-building project, Cira Centre South, which is meant to host office, retail and residential spaces. The university owns the plot of land and signed a 20-year lease which allows the university to use 100,000 square-feet of office space, currently used by the Office of Investments, Development and Alumni Relations office, the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Risk Management. As an introduction of skyscrapers into University City, the FMC Tower definitely draws attention westward as the seventh tallest building in Philadelphia and viewable from anywhere on campus. On another end of campus, the new Pennovation Center was opened in 2016 south of campus and across the Schuylkill River on Grays Ferry Avenue. This building is a part of a larger campus of buildings, “The Pennovation Works,” which consists of a 23-acre property meant to provide students and faculty with offices, labs and production space. The center is meant to be a hub for the connection between intellectual and entrepreneurial projects on Penn’s campus and has hosted various startups. Both of these buildings redefine what Penn’s campus is by physically extending the area but also introducing new ways to interact with the world outside of Penn.

Then, we have two relatively new buildings with a focus on advancing academics at Penn, the Perry World House and the Singh Center for Nanotechnology. Perry World House, opened in 2016, lies on the corner of Locust Walk and 38th Street, next to Kelly Writers House, and is meant to offer an international community of students, provide space for educational public forums and host global innovation programs, fellowships, and Penn’s own think tank. As someone personally interested in this field, I’ve been able to attend events hosted by the center such as a Conversation with Madeleine Albright or an Event with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. Similarly, but in a different field, the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, opened in 2013, is a collaborative building between the College and Engineering meant to merge “traditional approaches to nanoscale development with unique state-of-the-art equipment, materials, and ideas.” Similar to Perry World House, this center is a hub for scientists and researchers meant to be leaders in the growing nanotech field. It also doesn’t hurt that the building is particularly impressive and unique as compared to other campus buildings. Both of these buildings are actively promoting advancements in their respective field by engaging with research and the world to place Penn on a track forward.

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Source: Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services

Ultimately, while Penn has a long architectural history dating back to the colonial era, we’re lucky to see the campus continue to grow. Even now, there are various projects in the works like the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics on the corner of 36th St. and Walnut St. meant to unite these two fields under one roof. The university continues to grow and as long as it promotes the values of the university and respects all of the history and communities around us, the future is welcomed with open arms at Penn.

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Vietnam on Locust: The Peace Symbol Statue & History of the Vietnam War on Penn’s Campus

By: Jorge Penado, C’19
International Relations Major
Work-Study Student, Sweeten Alumni House

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Source: The Penn Art Collection

As one takes a stroll through Penn’s campus, one can easily notice the variety of public art on display across campus. From the notable LOVE Statue to the Covenant on 39th and Locust, it’s clear that Penn has devoted time to the beautification of campus. However, we don’t always consider the context and history of some of these pieces of art as we walk hastily down Locust. In particular, one piece of art that remains almost hidden from the sight of students is Robert Engman’s 1969 Peace Symbol standing in front of Van Pelt Library. At first glance, we wonder what significance it has, but one would soon discover the piece’s history as related to the university and the Vietnam War.

But first, it would benefit us to learn a bit more from the sculptor. Robert Engman was born in Belmont, Massachusetts in 1927 to Swedish immigrants. At the young age of 15, he joined the US Navy and served in the Pacific theater of World War II. After returning to the US, he received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and later, his MFA in Painting and Sculpture from Yale University in 1955. It wouldn’t be until 1964 that he would become Penn’s Director of Graduate Studies in Sculpture and until 1974 that his now familiar piece, Triune, would be found across City Hall. However, it was in 1969 that he, alongside eight Penn students, would install the sculpture, Peace Symbol, an emblem of student protest against the University’s lack of a stance on the Vietnam War.

Now, you may ask yourself, what was the stance of the university? Well, as many college campuses had done, Penn’s students and faculty began to hold various protests against US policy in Vietnam. Efforts emerged around campus such as in April 1965 with posters urging students to join the Washington March or from April 8-15, 1967 when Vietnam Week was held on campus. On June 5, 1966, sixty-seven Penn faculty members signed a nationwide petition urging the government to stop its policy in Vietnam. Nevertheless, protests against Penn would begin as a reaction to two things: Penn’s involvement with the Dow Chemical Company, the principal supplier of napalm to the Department of Defense, and Penn’s “bacteriological warfare unit.”

On one hand, students would challenge Penn’s connection to Dow with protests held in early November 1967. At a recruitment effort with Dow and the CIA, eighty protesters would line the hallways of Cohen Hall in a sit-in meant to disrupt recruitment efforts which it eventually did. On the other hand, students once again rose to protest against allegations that the university was involved in a top-secret bacteriological warfare unit. On October 15, 1965, students would protest outside the Institute for Cooperative Research (ICR), the alleged unit, which led the university to admit it’s research in biological and chemical warfare was being done from a defensive standpoint. Protests would again emerge against ICR on October 1966 at Houston Hall, and the university would report that ICR was disbanded even if President Gaylord P. Harnwell stated it had no connection to warfare.

Ultimately, the university would still maintain their lack of a stance with regards to the war. Arguments presented at the time spoke of institutional morality and whether the university even wanted to engage with national policy. Nevertheless, even though the university never adopted an official stance, other organizations and student groups continued their efforts. Whether it was the Graduate Students Association who called for an immediate withdrawal of forces, the Vietnam Commencement in 1969 which saw students and faculty commemorate 1969 graduates who were expected to die in the war or anti-war protests at the 1972 Hey Day, it was clear that Penn’s campus was exercising their right to protest in a tumultuous time in America’s history.

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Source: University Archives Digital Image Collection

Protests would continue until the end of the war in 1975 and mark a finale to the wartime dissent on Penn’s campus. From this time, the Peace Symbol would remain in front of Van Pelt as a representation of the opposition of Penn students and faculty and a focal point for the gathering of students in protests. While the sculpture would be the site of the tragic suicide of Kathy Change, a political activist, in 1996 meant to send a message against violence, it remains as a reminder of politics on Penn’s campus. Even though its history is riddled with unrest and violence, it’s important to see it as a reminder of the necessity to respect and promote the namesake of this piece of art.

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