You’re most likely to find Julia Pan on any given day on the fourth floor of College Hall, home to Penn’s oldest literary organization, the Philomathean Society. Julia Pan has been a member of the Philo for the past two years, so Street met her there this week to speak about sexuality, advocacy for LGBTQ rights, and her literary self. 

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Major: Cognitive Science and Economics, Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative

Activities: Philomathean Society, Lambda Alliance, Hack4Impact, Sphinx, Bell, and Carriage 

34 Street Magazine: Why did you decide to join Lambda Alliance, Penn’s LGBTQ Center, and Queer and Asian?

Julia Pan: I wanted to find a community when I was a freshman—I just wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. The queer community for me in freshmen year was really inclusive. I was the Political Chair for Lambda Alliance in sophomore year, and the Chair during my junior and senior year. I think college is the first time when a lot of students actually come out. I want freshmen to be involved so that they can positively contribute and accept themselves. Penn is a second home and you should be fully loved, celebrated, and accepted for who you are in your second home. 

Street: Have you experienced any challenges with being open about your sexuality?

JP: I came out to my mom two years ago, and she didn’t take it well. We still don’t talk about it today and both agree that we’re not telling this to my father. But I’m actually fortunate. At Penn I am friends with a lot of queer people who come from countries that are way less accepting than America. My parents haven’t been violent and form a kind of supportiveness around me. 

Street: You are a part of the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative. What made you want to join this program?

JP: I think when you are studying business, public policy is hugely important. I applied during my freshman year when I was still a pre–law student. I was interested in policy because I had worked in government positions. Meanwhile, I was studying cognitive science and economics. I was trying to fit my current interests and realized that the intersection of cognitive science and economics was technology policy. My application essay to this certificate was about how artificial intelligence affects public policy. 

Street: How much time do you spend at the Philomathean Society?

JP: It ranges. Average is two to five hours per week. This past week I spent two hours interviewing applicants and two hours at the Friday meeting, but last semester I definitely spent 20 hours per week at Philo. We’re more tied to each other because we share this physical space. Compared with other social organizations on campus, we don’t have to meet in Huntsman. 

Street: Have you given a speech at Philo yet? 

JP: I haven’t yet because you only need to give one before graduation. I want to talk about the brain from the perspectives of statistical physics, information theory, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy. I think the only way to view the brain is through an integrated study.

Street: What’s a typical day like in your life at Penn?

JP: I don’t think I usually have a typical day at Penn. My aspirational day at Penn is to wake up at 9am, eat breakfast, go to the gym, shower, go to class, get dinner with someone and do work. But I only went to the gym once this semester. A lot of times I can’t follow my calendar, and it’s because I really value people. If I run into someone, I’m probably going to talk to them for about 30 minutes. If I schedule a lunch with them, it will probably be 90 minutes or two hours. I’m aspirational organizational, but I don’t always follow that. 

Lightning Round

Favorite place on campus?

College Hall. 

If you have to pick only one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Grilled Salmon.

What was your freshman dorm and how did you like it?

I was in KCECH. I loved it so much and applied to be an RA, but got waitlisted. 

What’s one course you really want to take?

Adam Grant’s organizational behavior, MGMT–238.

What’s your favorite movie?

Before Sunrise. And I only watched Before Sunrise because I want to watch the other two, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, at the stage that I’m in. 

There are two types of people on campus?

The Splitters and the Lumpers.


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