Convocation 2016

At Convocation, Penn President Amy Gutmann challenged the newest members of the Penn community—the Class of 2020 and transfer students—to learn and grow by taking risks.

Gutmann encouraged the more than 2,500 students gathered on College Green to make the most of their time at Penn by choosing to experience something new.

“Choose friends, classes, clubs, and activities that complement who we are becoming rather than merely reflect who we have been,” said Gutmann. “We have to go beyond who we are now to expand our horizons and become the best we can be.”

Gutmann encouraged students to register to vote and to cast their ballot in the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 8. She championed international students to participate “fully and robustly” in campus discussions on the issues. “Your choices matter,” she said. “Your contributions count.”

Convocation is the new students’ first taste of a Penn tradition. Held on the day before the start of classes, the event on Aug. 29 also featured inspiring speeches from Provost Vincent Price and Eric Furda, the Dean of Admissions, as well as music from the Penn Band, the Glee Club, and the Penn Sirens, an all-female a capella group.  

Sophomore Lauren Donato, a transfer student from Davidson College in North Carolina, said she is eager to begin exploring all that Penn and Philadelphia have to offer. “I’m excited to be able to walk outside and see something new or meet a new person or be involved in something off campus, too.”

The Class of 2020 hails from 48 U.S. states and 81 countries.

“In high school you have to take a specific set of courses,” said freshman Camila Celi of Miami. “I’m excited to explore other options now that I have a more open curriculum.” 

“I’m looking forward to the interdisciplinary approach that Penn has to teaching,” said Jamaal Hay, an international student from Jamaica. “I want to major in electrical engineering, but that won’t stop me from taking psychology courses or economics courses or courses in neuroscience.”

The Convocation ceremony closed with the singing of “The Red and Blue” followed by a dessert reception for students at Wynn Commons.

Convocation is considered a bookend to the Penn experience. The next time the Class will march as a group is at Hey Day in their junior year. They’ll be together for a final time at Commencement in May of 2020.

  • Text by Jeanne Leong
  • Photos by Eddy Marenco
  • Video by Penn Video Network