Hot time, summer on campus

While the volatile weather—balmy one day, frigid the next—may have you wondering if winter is really behind us and if summer will ever make an appearance, there’s one person on campus who never doubts its arrival. You could even say that Valerie Ross, director of Summer Sessions, is the reason summer even happens at Penn.

Ever since Ross’s arrival four years ago, summers here have been teeming with activity. “I don’t want to say there were tumbleweeds going down the Walk, but it was a very, very quiet place,” said Ross. “In fact, most campuses in the summer are quiet but ours just buzzes.”

These days there’s so much to do during the 12 weeks that make up Summer Sessions I and II that it’s hard freeing up space in your calendar. Browse ahead for some of the season’s highlights, which are open to the entire Penn community.

An old favorite

The ever-popular Moonlight Movie Series makes a welcomed return. Pack a picnic and spread your blanket on the grass for a night of free movie watching under the stars. Ross described the 16 mm films that are projected onto the white walls of the Free Library at 40th Street Field and orchestrated by Jay Schwartz of Secret Cinema as “interesting and stimulating in some strange way.” Films shown in the past have included “The Blob” and “Tarzan’s New York Adventure.” The gala night will showcase a silent film and accompanying pianist.

“ It’s really like going to a drive-in,” said Ross. “The feeling of being outside communally watching a movie—the wind in your hair, the smell of the grass, children running around in the front.”

Movies, which are shown every Thursday night for the entire 12 weeks and usually come with free popcorn, cue up when the sun goes down.

Get physical

If it’s the sun you’re seeking, pack your sandals and sun block for a day at the beach in nearby New Jersey. You’ll have two opportunities—June 7 and July 13—to bury your toes in the sandy beaches of Ocean City and Wildwood, respectively.

Not ready to flaunt the winter flab? What better way to get in shape than hiking in the Poconos? If you really want to burn some calories, sign up for a game of paintball on May 31 or July 5. Those who already spend enough of their time running around on land can choose to float or raft their way down the Lehigh River instead.

Rediscover the city

Stay tuned to the Summer Life at Penn schedule for a chance to get an unusual view of the city from atop the roof of the Freshgrocer. Here a transportation aficionado will point out just how extensive Philadelphia’s trolley system is. From there, you’ll go beneath ground for a 4-hour journey through the region using “rail, trolley and every which way,” said Ross. “One of the things that’s fun is the travel experience, whether it’s taking a bus or taking the trolley, and negotiating these things in a big group.”

If spending time out of the sun is what the doctor recommends, then take advantage of “Shop ’til You Drop” events at two well-known regional institutions, Franklin Mills Mall on May 24 and King of Prussia on July 6. Franklin Mills features dozens of name-brand products at discount prices for the seasoned shopper. Ross reported that the King of Prussia event has been a popular choice for visiting faculty and students, who are looking for the complete tourist experience.

Meet the neighbors

Kick back with the Penn summer community at what Ross promises to be two knock-out barbecues during Summer Sessions I and II. You can expect phenomenal music (the women’s bluegrass group She Haw have appeared in the past) and perhaps even an event featuring past 60-Second Series lecturers, said Ross.

“ During the summer, we want the personality to be a little different, which is to say, This is summer and we’re having fun.”

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Originally published on May 15, 2003