Penn Compact 2020/

Increase Access: Penn Spectrum: Celebrating Diverse Alumni

Penn alumni from all walks of life returned to campus the first weekend in October for Penn Spectrum, the University's first-ever weekend-long alumni conference celebrating diversity and community.

The event, sponsored by the Office of the President and Penn Alumni Relations, focused on issues of interest to Asians, African Americans, Latinos, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Native American people.

Penn President Amy Gutmann welcomed over 450 registrants, including alumni, students, faculty and staff at one of the weekend's events held at Zellerbach Theatre.

 "Diversity and excellence go together," she said, explaining that at Penn they are an enduring pair "like canes and straw hats, and the red-and-the-blue."

During the conference alumni attended panel discussions on topics that included civil rights, diversity in higher education and community involvement.  The weekend’s events also included performances by student groups and a Saturday evening gala.

For some attendees the weekend was their first time back to campus since graduation, and many were struck by how much some things had changed and also how many things had remained the same.  Participants toured the student cultural resource centers, La Casa Latina, Greenfield Intercultural House, the LGBT Center, Makuu black student center, and the Pan Asian American Community House, many of which did not exist when many of the alumni were students.

Karen Hamilton C’87, who grew up in West Philadelphia just a few blocks away from campus, said she learned about Penn only after her parents enrolled her in a high school summer program in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. "It gave me a unique opportunity to be exposed to a place that was very close, but also seemed very far away," she said. 

Many of the Penn Spectrum participants, including Michael Lee C'02, from New York, say they feel a special sense of community as a Penn alumnus.  "Coming down here and listening to the different generations and their experiences as minorities on campus has really been eye opening," said Lee.

President Gutmann said the success of the inaugural Penn Spectrum weekend "has the makings of a great tradition.  And, we at Penn love great traditions." Organizers said they plan to hold another conference in a few years.

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Story by Jeanne Leong

Photo by Eddy Marenco