Where the Gnomes Are


ORIENTATION | In due time, Penn’s newest group of graduate and professional students will be fretting over dissertations, dissections, and moot court. But on one late-August afternoon, they had a more pressing problem to solve: The resident gnomes at the Graduate Student Center had been stolen.

It was up to the 43 students that showed up for the GSC’s second-annual Gnome Scavenger Hunt to team up and bring back the pointy-hatted strays. In the process of searching for the creatures using a list of clues that took them from the University Museum’s Lower Egyptian Gallery to the Pottruck Fitness Center, they also got to know each other and their environs a little better.

“Penn has an amazing campus, but it’s easy to immerse yourself in graduate studies here and never see much outside of your department,” says GSC director Anita Mastroieni GGS’99. “We designed the Gnome Scavenger Hunt to provide a fun way for new graduate students to become acquainted with some of the University’s highlights.”

Paulina Diaz, a mechanical-engineering student who comes to Penn from Venezuela by way of Boston, said her husband’s son was visiting, and “when I told him I’ve got this [event] today, he was so excited to join. It’s nice and you get to meet a lot of different people.”

Another participant was Kai Xu, whoÇ after surviving his second week in medical school, “thought it would be a nice and relaxing way to spend my weekend.”

While the GSC does keep a few ceramic gnome statues around, the gnomes used for the contest are actually hand-drawn paper cutouts attached to chopsticks, Mastroieni confesses. After all, “What would we do with 90 gnomes the rest of the year?” After the gnomes were returned by each team, they were planted in the ground outside the center during the ensuing happy-hour celebration. “So when the participants leave, they can ‘steal’ some gnomes on their way out.” Reports Mastroieni: “There were no gnomes left in the yard [the next] morning.”—S.F.

© 2003 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 11/04/03

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