Tag Archives: Alumni Perspective

A Place You Love

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, C’89

When I became a student at Penn, my parents recommended that I take classes from many departments. “Don’t specialize too early,” they said. I am glad I listened, because many of the classes I took led me to new ideas, new friends, and new places as I studied Hebrew while at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I graduated with a major and two minors and learned so many interesting things. In addition, I am still in contact with incredible people that I met from many of my diverse studies.

When I left Penn in 1989, I traveled to San Francisco to study medicine at UCSF, but life had other plans for me. I realizing I wanted to teach and received my Masters in Education at SFSU. After teaching for several years, I traveled for seven years on cruise ships and then returned to teaching again. Now, I am traveling full time again on my second sabbatical year in Asia.

During all of my travels and teaching, I have always written in a journal and written letters but now I also write articles that get published. 2012 has been the year of media for me with an appearance on national television, a photo shoot for a national magazine, and a recent article in National Geographic! I loved it when my bio named me as a “travel writer.”

So many people have asked me how to get started with a website or writing, and because of this, my husband and I decided to create a contest for writers all over the world. To that end, we are sponsoring a travel writing contest–no cost to enter, and we’re offering cash prizes as well as a raffle with travel literature from incredible published authors. Our theme is Inspiration: A Place You Love. Let us share your stories with our growing Global Village.

I hope all of your dreams and goals come true in 2013! Start working toward them today by joining our contest—send your article to us by February 14! All the details are available here.


Maybe this will inspire you to start writing?



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The Secret Lives of Penn Alumni: Learning about Passions, Hobbies, and Extracurricular Activities

Author: Michal Clements, W’84

Many in my class have mentioned that they are celebrating their 50th birthdays this year. This milestone birthday inspires me to wonder more about this the untold stories and the “Secret Lives of Penn Alumni.” I’ve noticed that commonly adults will ask about each others work lives (and for some this may be the same as their other interests), but the more interesting question might be their passions, hobbies, and adult “extracurriculars.”

In looking up the Merriam-Webster definition of extracurricular, I see that while the first definition is “pursued in addition to the normal course of study”, the second definition is more relevant: “Outside the normal routine, especially that provided by a job or marriage”.  It’s interesting to think how much attention these passion point activities receive in high school and college, and how they seemingly subside during the young adult years (i.e., twenty and thirty year old age range), and then resume in later years.

This line of consideration was stimulated for me by learning about the “secret life” of another Chicago area Penn alumni recently. As background, our family has been spending a lot of time the past few years attending high school theater performances, as our oldest child, Chris Porzenheim, has chosen to make drama his extracurricular passion. Because of this, we’ve chatted a bit more with the other parents whose children are also performing. It turns out that our Chris frequently performs with Mitchell Stone. And, that Mitchell is the son of Matt Stone (CAS’84, W’84). But I still didn’t know about the fact that Matt is an accomplished singer, until I asked for his help to update class notes. From this, I learned that Matt is a singer/songwriter, and his debut CD, Nothing to Hide, can be found at CDBaby.com and on iTunes.

Another example is that Bart Miltenberger, who I know through his “day job” at Penn Alumni, is a professional musician and trumpet player. As summarized by Tim Hyland, music is a huge part of Bart’s life, and is well integrated with his professional life at Penn and personal life as a father of three.

Personally, I’ve spent five years co-writing a book about moms from a customer segmentation and insights perspective. Completing this work has encouraged me to do more writing than my normal business job entails (Powerpoint is not prose). Now, I’m excited to report that the book Tuning into Mom: Understanding America’s Most Powerful Consumer was released on October 15, 2011 and this is causing me to learn about giving inspirational speeches to audiences. Too late, I also realized that an acting class could have been helpful, and got a crash course in media training. For those who are interested, more information on the book can be found at www.tuningintomom.com and the book can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com and Wal-Mart.com.

I think it would be very interesting to learn more about the passions, hobbies and adult extracurriculars of my fellow Penn alumni. And to encourage one another! In today’s socially networked world with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more, we are not required to be physically together or voice to voice to share this information. While long form essays/blogs may not be the best mechanism, it’s a start.  It would be great to connect with Penn alums who have a shared extracurricular interest area.


My Family on a Bike Trip this Fall.

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