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A Certain Loyalty
Fond memories and advice from a new alumna.
By Randi Feigenbaum
"I now pronounce you seniors!" Judith Rodin, CW'66, president of the University, declared above the roar of the Class of 1998 gathered in front of College Hall. Standing on the edge of the Hey Day crowd, I turned to a friend and asked, "So, what does that make us?"
So, I suppose now is a time for reminiscing, for recalling all the good and not so good times I have had throughout my four years at Ben Franklin's esteemed university. People say they feel a certain loyalty to Penn that other schools' graduates don't seem to have, and I think I know what they mean. Walking down Locust Walk on a beautiful spring day and looking up at College Hall, or down at the Button, makes me remember why I came to Penn in the first place -- and why I will always have a special affinity for the school.
Perhaps it's the traditions and history. Perhaps it's the diverse options Penn offers -- and that list grows every year. Or perhaps it's my own personal experience, filled with late nights in a windowless office at the Daily Pennsylvanian, Friday nights at Penn Hillel, football games, trips into Center City or Manayunk, waiting all night for basketball tickets, Spring Fling block parties, Hey Day and ... oh yes ... courses and professors as well.
The academic experience at Penn has been a virtual grab bag of opportunities. Never have I had such an appreciation for music history as when Gary Tomlinson taught it. Never did I learn so much about the American South as when Drew Faust lectured about it. And never was I as enthralled by American literature as when Gregg Camfield spent his last teaching experience at Penn immersing us in it. I'll never forget sitting spellbound in a room of 150 people as Annenberg School Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson spoke of political communication -- just hours after she had appeared on CNN or CBS as a presidential election commentator. And I'll always remember the seminars guided by English Professor Al Filreis, who makes himself known as "Al" to everyone he meets and forces everyone in the courses he teaches to take a side on issues discussed in class. Some classes were not nearly as good as these, but that simply makes the good ones seem better.
In the midst of those reminders of "Dear Old Penn," I hope to be moving forward, as I begin a career in journalism with ... a summer internship. I only hope I'm not putting off unemployment until the fall, and I will continue to go through the difficult process known as a job search -- a process begun last fall. The field is tough, the pay is poor, and the hours are anything but normal. Yet, journalism is what I love -- and it's the career to which my Penn experience has led me.
Always one to present both sides of an issue, I hesitate before leaving this column space filled only with nice words about the University. More than two years ago, President Rodin unveiled her 21st Century Plan for the Undergraduate Experience, telling the world that her focus would be on undergraduate education. Now, however, her plans seem to focus more on spicing up the retail near campus and building new dorms. Don't get me wrong: these are not bad goals. They're great, but that just might not be the direction in which we should be going right now. Let's worry about the academic departments with no permanent, well-deserved space before building a new hotel. Let's worry about tenuring the right professors and improving inadequate departments before trying to close down 36th Street. The administration, faculty, and others associated with Penn must put the students first in everything done here -- before the city of Philadelphia, before the Trustees, and even before the alumni. As an alum myself, I will be much fonder of Penn if they do.
RANDI FEIGENBAUM, C'97, is a political science and English major and former assistant managing editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Copyright 1997 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 6/17/97