Weaving an Ever Stronger
Penn Family Fabric

Alumni programming offers connections
on campus, on the road, and online.

Jan|Feb 2012 Contents
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By Amy Gutmann | It was just like an average day at Penn, but the food was better.

Eager pupils packed a room to hear and learn from Penn’s most eminent and dynamic teacher-scholars. Brows furrowed, pens scratched on paper as notes were jotted down, hands went up, and the tremendous energy in the room was unmistakable …

Only this was at Cipriani in Manhattan, and the students were more than 400 Penn alumni and friends at the kick-off event for the 2011-2012 season of Engaging Minds.

Zeke Emanuel, the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives; Barbara Mellers, the I. George Heyman University Professor; Philip Tetlock, Leonore Annenberg University Professor; and Joseph Turow C’72 ASC’73 Gr’76, the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication, wowed their audience with new insights on how our online lives are increasingly commoditized, shared an insider’s perspective on ways to control healthcare costs, and explored our confidence in making decisions. As I got caught up in the interactive lectures and intriguing Q&A, I realized that this is the off-campus Penn experience at its very best: feeding the minds and imaginations of our alumni and friends by reuniting them with our greatest resource—our extraordinary Penn faculty—all the while proving that a Penn education really does last a lifetime.

And this dynamic meeting of the minds is just one of many engagement opportunities for Penn alumni and friends that have found their genesis in our groundbreaking Making History campaign.

At a University where eminent faculty and incredibly talented students are working side-by-side to tear down disciplinary boundaries and address society’s most challenging questions, Making History is helping to increase Penn’s already impressive momentum on its path to preeminence. In the fall, we celebrated the biggest campaign milestone yet—meeting the $3.5 billion goal of Making History more than a year ahead of schedule. This accomplishment is the cumulative success of an admirably passionate and surpassingly generous Penn alumni family, including well over 208,000 individual donors to the campaign to date! That number alone is a staggering testament to the heart and commitment of our alumni and friends.  

But the Making History campaign is about much more than philanthropy to advance Penn’s highest priorities. While I am proud of the record support we have raised to expand student aid, recruit the world’s best faculty, and construct stunningly beautiful, modern teaching and research facilities, Making History from its very beginning has also been about creating new opportunities to connect and engage Penn’s alumni and friends with each other and with current life at the University. And with the tireless devotion of Penn Alumni President Lee Spelman Doty W’76; the Alumni Trustees; the Penn Alumni Board of Directors; and Penn’s many Class, Club and Diversity Alliance leaders, we’ve been hard at work building a more tightly knit alumni network here in Philadelphia, across the nation, and around the world.

If you took the opportunity to visit campus for Homecoming 2011, you were part of a record-breaking number of participants who were treated not only to the traditional Homecoming trappings of fall foliage and football, but who also experienced the full measure of arts and culture opportunities at Penn. In the course of one weekend, alumni and their families could sample student and alumni films and an alumni arts fair on College Green; pop into the Platt Performing Arts House, one of the centers of campus life; and enjoy live musical performances, including a celebration of 150 years with the Glee Club and a master class in traditional Indian dance. Penn saw a 20.6 percent increase in alumni attendees this fall in response to a Homecoming weekend that also included an abundance of receptions, symposia, late-night parties, and the ever-popular Taste of Penn.

Our Homecoming weekend is but one example of the extraordinary enthusiasm that Penn alumni and friends have for our University. The wave of proud Penn alums who returned to campus for Alumni Weekend in May topped 8,700 participants, an all-time high, with individual school reunion attendance and reunion volunteer numbers at record levels.

Over the past six years, the number of active Penn alumni clubs has doubled to 120 (in more than 50 countries and counting!). In another exciting trend that bodes well for Penn’s future, young alumni activity has skyrocketed, leaping nearly 65 percent in the past two years alone—due in no small part to “yPenn,” a new series of programming that sparks young Penn alumni activity around the world with everything from dance parties to volunteer get-togethers.

Our Engaging Minds—and other new initiatives—are designed to take Penn “on the road” to share knowledge and forge new collaborations with alumni and friends in every corner of the globe. These events highlight how Making History has opened new doors and helped enrich and enliven connections with Penn. There is simply no better way to understand the ever-increasing strength of the Penn faculty than to experience firsthand their innovative teaching and research programs at an Engaging Minds event. By popular demand, this wonderful program has toured the globe—including stops in Shanghai, Beijing, London, New York, and San Francisco—giving alums the world over a chance to experience Penn again.

And with our new “PennToYou” program, alumni in even more cities will be able to hear from a dean of one of Penn’s 12 schools along with a panel of select faculty. In November, the inaugural program—“Advertising in the New Media Age”—featured Annenberg School for Communication Dean Michael Delli Carpini C’75 G’75 and his Annenberg colleague Joseph Turow in Washington, and attracted a crowd of more than 250 alumni and friends. Keep an eye out for more details about the next stop in the PennToYou tour: Chicago in Spring 2012.

Since diversity and eminence go hand in hand, we also continue to foster fresh ways to bring diverse alums together to build new strength out of our differences. Penn Spectrum, the University’s first alumni conference devoted to matters of diversity, community, and engagement, made its historic debut in October 2010. All alumni were welcome, and programming focused on topics of interest to Asian, Black, Latino, Native American, and LGBT communities. The achievement of this wonderful event was twofold: diverse alumni had a new opportunity to connect with one another and with students, faculty, and staff; and alums rediscovered Penn and all the ways they could reengage with the University. With such success, it’s no wonder that Penn Spectrum has hit the road as well. Events in New York, Washington, and Atlanta have featured topics ranging from minorities and media visibility to powerful shifts in social media use.

Beyond favorite traditions like Homecoming and outstanding new programs like Engaging Minds and Penn Spectrum, we also have greatly increased opportunities for Penn alumni to interact and network with each other through our QuakerNet initiative. The complete online home for proud Penn alums, QuakerNet is more than an invaluable source for news, events, and University information. You can engage in discussion groups with fellow Quakers, browse through Alumni Notes, and stay in touch with old classmates and new friends. Combined with the University’s presence on Facebook and Twitter, QuakerNet brings our world-wide Penn community together in more ways than ever before.     

On campus, on the road, and online, we are weaving a stronger and more engaged Penn family fabric. I invite and encourage you to connect again with your University and with one another. By tightening the bonds among Penn alumni and friends, we will continue to harness the true potential of the Making History campaign and lay the foundation for a stronger, prouder Penn in the years ahead.

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  ©2011 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 12/23/11