Street: So you were in Israel this summer. What for?
Lauren Silberberg: Yeah, so I was doing this program called Birthright Israel Excel. So basically it’s a ten–week internship. Part of it I was working at General Motors, um which was really interesting. I was doing an intersection between autonomous systems and autonomous vehicles. And then also, um... like ride–sharing. And I actually patented this idea and it’s like in the works, so hopefully that’ll go through. Um, and then another part of the program is you're sort of paired within Israel with a peer to kind of get you integrated into society. Um we went on runs together, she showed me around to like cool beaches, cool restaurants. And then another part of the program is speakers, so you basically have like speakers come––three to four a week and like you hear from––we heard from the CEO of Google. We heard from some really, really interesting people. So it’s a really comprehensive program. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.
Street: And what was the idea you patented?
LS: I don’t think I can say details, but it was basically like a different way of looking at the ride–sharing space. So right now, sort of it’s end to end point. So, you get in an Uber or a Lyft or whatever, and you get, if you’re ride–sharing, you’re getting in with someone like close to you, close by. So this is like a little bit different and it’s a little bit more specific to the person. And so GM actually invested a lot in Lyft so we were sort of working with the Lyft interface.
Street: What are you involved in on campus?
LS: I’m really involved in the Panhellenic Council which is overseeing all the different sororities. Throughout the year we plan different events [and] fundraise for scholarships so women who can’t pay for sororities can still have a chance to be a part of them. We really want to work with mental health and do an initiative with that. I’m also really involved in Theta Tau, which is my favorite thing in the entire world. It’s basically like a group of brothers who are really supportive, really different. Everyone’s very unique and I think I’ve learned a lot from everyone there. Those are my main two involvements on campus.
Street: What field in engineering are you studying?
LS: Networked and Social Systems Engineering. So, it’s a combination of econ, math and computer science. It sort of looks at how systems work. So for one class we looked at how Facebook works, like how friends interact with each other, and then actually coded the ‘friend request’ algorithm. We do a lot of comp sci, but not to the extent of a comp sci major. And then we also learn econ and the more business side of it. I’m doing a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship which has also been really interesting. So for that you take different classes and sort of get a feel for how products work from like beginning to end. You go through marketing strategy, business strategy and overall how you would start your own company which is really cool.
Street: So when you’re using social media, are you thinking about all the stuff and all the technical details behind it?
LS: Sometimes. I think it really depends on my mood. Like if I had just come from a class, then maybe yeah. Um, but other times—most of the time, I’m not thinking about the technicality of it.
Street: When you have a free moment, what do you do to relax?
LS: I really like exercising. I ran a half marathon—two half marathons last year. Um, so that was really cool ‘cause it was sort of giving me a goal to train for. I just think exercising is just a great mental health de–stresser. I also really like reading but unfortunately don’t have any time for it at Penn.
Street: You have three sisters. How has being in a sorority or having three sisters impacted either one?
LS: So we call ourselves ‘The Silberberg Sorority.’ When I was growing up I sort of knew I wanted to be in a sorority and like loved the fact that the house was always busy and crazy and loud. And that actually is what drove me to live in SDT because I didn’t get a chance to live in sophomore year. I think I knew going in that I wanted to be in a sorority. I think in a lot of ways having a supportive community of all girls is different and a lot of times like has a different dynamic that is really inclusive, and I think that that’s one of the things that drew me to sorority life.
Street: You mentioned mental health a couple of times. So, how important are things like Theta Tau and SDT for mental health?
LS: I definitely think at Penn, and really in college in general, one of the hardest things is finding a community of supportive people, and it’s definitely possible. This is something that last semester I struggled a lot with because the communities that I’m in are exclusive by nature, and they can’t encompass the entire student body. So I think that when seniors in high school are talking to me or are like, ‘How do you like Penn? How do you like college?’ My response is ‘It is what you make of it.’ And so if you go out and look for those communities, like sometimes things might be hard. The Birthright Excel program that I applied to, I got rejected the year before when I applied. So like, there is rejection. I do think my sorority’s very supportive. I think the Wellness Workshops SDT has put on have been unbelievable, and I’ve been to almost all of them. I really think that it’s those sort of conversations that need to be had, and ought to be had a lot more. And in Theta Tau, we did something similar. We did something called ‘Share’ which actually was taken from Phi Psi. Basically we sat there in a room, like didn’t give anyone a time limit, didn’t say you had to speak, and if someone wanted to speak they could speak as little or as long as they want about something happy, something sad—just something about themselves that they felt was important to share. It ended up going for like six or seven hours.
Street: People often criticize Greek life. How do you deal with that?
LS: First of all, everything has their ups and downs and I think the structures in place sometimes make it difficult. I think a lot of like sorority things have been in place for years and years and years. And so, some of that I can’t change because it’s written in the by–laws. But I think there are ways to like make it so that people understand the reasoning behind why you’re doing certain events, certain activities. As an executive board if we know, okay, we’re sending 25% of the chapter to the Vagina Monologues because it’s gonna raise money for Women Organized Against Rape, then if we can somehow communicate that to the overall student body, then that maybe makes it a little bit easier. I think this year, my goal is sort of to work towards creating events that are really meaningful and have three different reasons why they benefit the community.
Street: What drove you to take on the role of leading Panhel?
LS: I saw the community as having a lot of potential. One–third of the school is involved in Greek life and there’s a lot of opportunities for fundraising and for different ways to sort of unite the community, and I wanted to be a part of that and I wanted to be a part of making it more cohesive and inclusive, and I hope to keep doing that this semester. But I think that’s why as I sort of saw Panhellenic, not as as an institution that just says, ‘Here are the rules, if you disobey them you’re punished.’ It’s more like, ‘We want to work together.’ It was also in a very sort of interesting place because I think when I took over the role as president there was a lot of rules set in place that were very controversial. I also think the Greek community as a whole was going through a lot of different cultural issues and things of that nature, so I think just kind of being able to see from both sides and maybe being able to be an in–between between the administration and students was a cool and unique experience.
Street: What would you be infamous for?
LS: I have a couple of different outfits that I wear so I think I’d be infamous for repeating outfits all the time. And by that, I love to dance, but I also think I have one dance move that I do, so I definitely think people know by that and can repeat it pretty spot on.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn…
LS: People who live to eat and people who eat to live.
Street: If you could give advice to freshmen women or sophomores that are rushing what do you think your main piece of advice would be before heading into that process?
LS: I would say that while I think rush is a necessary process, how it is just because it is so organized to make sure no one falls through the cracks, it’s not necessarily indicative of what sorority life is like. I don’t think anyone is like ‘Yes, I’m excited to wait in line in the cold in January,’ but when you get through that process, really, like, you have a pledge class of 50 girls who you have the opportunity to meet and say that it’s worth it–to come out on the other side and have that network.
Street: First screen name?
Street: What is one question that we forgot to ask you?
LS: So, I haven’t been in a while, but I love hiking and in high school I went off–trail backpacking in Colorado. My goal is to hike the Appalachian trail one day, like take four months off.
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