Wharton. This word is charged with a multitude of different stereotypes of what Wharton students are like. Very competitive. Highly pre–professional. Probably in a GSR at this very moment. But that is definitely not the whole picture. 

The Wharton Passion Projects program, sponsored by Wharton Wellness and Wharton Advisory Board in partnership with the Undergraduate Division, helps fund students who are looking to pursue an extracurricular passion outside of clubs and start–ups. The fellows are curious, driven, and excited to share the activities that inspire their own creativity. In the past, these projects ranged from building a computer to learning Arabic calligraphy.

Here are some of this year's Passion Project fellows who prove it’s possible to venture out of Huntsman. 

Griffen Croft (W '21)

Griffen Croft, from Spencerville, Ohio, has all the charm of a small–town boy. After finding out about Wharton Passion Projects, he decided he wanted to teach agriculture to elementary students in the Philadelphia school area. 

“I come from a small farm town, so it’s something that I grew up around and it’s really important to me," Griffin said. "I raised animals my whole life and showed them at the fair and stuff. I just want to give back the opportunities I was given and the knowledge I learned through that.” 

Starting in March, he hopes to teach the students about the processes of raising animals and planting crops. He also hopes to teach the city kids at Lea Elementary School about country life and, perhaps, even some country line–dances. “Stuff that seems pretty simple to me, people have never heard of, or never experienced, so I think it would be really cool to share that with little kids, so that maybe it will spark their interest in agriculture.”

Alysson Choi (W '18)

Photo: Christina Piasecki

After four years at Penn, Alysson Choi finally had the time to pursue her passion for climbing. After realizing she was quite bad at it, her motivation to succeed kicked in and led her to find a sport that can resonate with any type of individual. Through Passion Projects, she’s able to get funding for climbing gear, an investment she wouldn’t have been able to make without the program’s support. For her, climbing is both mental and spiritual, a complete investment in nature. 

“It’s just such a different world from what I’m used to in my Wharton classes. I think that’s why I need to climb and I need to involve myself in the community just to get that balance, that way I’m not always feeling the pressure of recruiting or the pressure of just, well, Wharton.” In response to the fellowship, she states that it’s “a great opportunity for Wharton students to really have an outlet to pursue. I think it’s a really great way to engage with something greater than just the business community at Penn.”

Connor Chong (W '20)

Photo: Christina Piasecki

Connor Chong was struck with inspiration for the electric violin after finding out about the different and innovative Passion Projects of the past. “When I learned more about the program, I was really inspired by it. It was just something that was completely non–Wharton, in a sense, very untraditional. I guess I really value the anti–cultural kind of aspects of the Passion Projects and how they were so innovative. People were doing really interesting things.” 

Coming from a classical violinist background, Connor wants to fuse the different styles of pop with the classics, such as Bach and Beethoven. Passion Projects funded a new electric violin, and the application and interview process helped him with idea development and execution. “At least in Wharton, I think sometimes autonomy and the spirit of entrepreneurship can get muffled. I think creating that sense of autonomy that is, kind of, almost, very similar to the spirit of entrepreneurship is why it is so powerful, why it is so different. I think in perspective, sometimes, people start off as very diverse and they kind of streamline into something that is more like homogenous.”

Wharton Passion Projects is no longer taking applications for Spring 2018. More information about WPP Showcases coming soon. Questions? Email wab-passionprojects@wharton.upenn.edu.


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