Student Spotlight with Peter McGuckin

Peter McGuckin

Lauren Summers

AIM HIGH … FLY-FIGHT-WIN: Rising junior Peter McGuckin, 20, is almost the textbook definition of a military brat. He was born in the Netherlands, where his parents met; his father was stationed in Europe as a member of the U.S. Air Force. The family moved to Delaware, Hawaii, Virginia, Belgium, Washington, D.C., and the state of Washington, all before McGuckin was in fifth grade. He grew up in Washington state.

AGE OF REASON: A double major, McGuckin is studying both materials science and engineering and intellectual history. He says a high school teacher unleashed his passion for European history. “I’m interested in the Enlightenment, but I’ve always liked math and science, and the idea of pursuing a degree with a tangible benefit,” he says. “Penn allowed me to take credits in intellectual history so I can study a subject I’m interested in without jumping through a lot of hoops.”

BALANCING ACT: McGuckin is part of the stage crew for Penn’s Mask and Wig Club, America’s oldest all-male collegiate musical comedy troupe. He is the tour director for the troupe’s forthcoming West Coast performances over the 2014 spring break. “It’s intense trying to balance everything,” he says. “Mask and Wig is easily my largest time commitment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Preparing for this past spring’s show required three consecutive 17-hour days.

NON SIBI SED PATRIAE: After graduating from Penn, McGuckin will sign up for a five-year commitment to the U.S. Navy. He is considering studying nuclear engineering and envisions being a submarine officer. “I’ll learn the ins and outs of nuclear reactors during an 18-month course of study,” he says. “I’m really interested in nuclear energy as an alternative energy source. It has huge potential.” Since his freshman year, McGuckin has been a member of the Naval ROTC.

NOT SELF BUT COUNTRY: “I’m joining the military at a time of so much international political unrest, so much uncertainty about what the future holds, and I think everyone going into it knows that and is a little nervous,” he says. “You do it because you feel you’re part of something larger than yourself, so you feel good about the decision. The military is teaching me responsibility and organization skills, and it instills a sense of duty.”

TEAM PENN: McGuckin’s latest challenge is planning a week-and-a-half of events for 2,500 freshmen for this fall’s New Student Orientation. “It could be daunting, but I’m going to learn development, teamwork, and managerial skills,” he says. “All my leadership roles have really made me more objective and able to examine things critically. I’ve become very aware of considering everyone’s points of view and the differences in people’s needs. I think that sense of objectivity tends to get lost in today’s polarized society.”

WORK HARD, PLAY HARD: McGuckin says he treasures the diverse Penn community and the strong work ethic of his fellow classmates. “I live in an apartment with roommates from different backgrounds—Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, and Pakistani,” he says. “I love the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality here. When you need to buckle down, everyone around you is committed. It’s good to have an intellectual mentality, but people know how to have fun, too.”

Originally published on June 20, 2013