Double counting sector requirements, pass/fail grading, getting into that exclusive seminar—no one understands the frustration of refreshing Penn InTouch during Advance Registration like Arman Ramezani (C, W ’20).
As external chair of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, a branch of student government, Arman works as a liaison between administrators and students to address academic issues and suggest ways to improve the undergraduate education experience.
Currently, Arman’s time is fully devoted to the upcoming SCUE “White Paper," a comprehensive report published every five years on the state of undergraduate education at Penn. Past White Papers have been highly influential, implementing procedures such as pass/fail grading and four–credit semesters from the previous minimum of five credits. Back in the 1970s, SCUE even initiated co–education in the College.
Arman says the ability to make lasting change in Penn education first motivated him to join SCUE. He explains the White Paper as an “80–page document which is essentially ‘hot–takes’ on undergrad education."
"Did you know a SCUE White Paper started the writing seminar? God bless its heart—everyone hates it,” jokes Arman.
However, Arman emphasizes that outdated polices can be improved or undone, even if that takes time. Modifying the College sector requirements system and easing freshman year academics are at the top of his priority list. Arman sees the sectors as a way to explore a range of academic interests, but he finds the current system limited.
“For example, for ‘Physical World’ [one of the sectors]—I loved Chemistry in high school but I’m hesitant to take CHEM 101 with all the other students when I can’t pass/fail it,” Arman says.
He also wants to encourage freshmen to take academic risks and explore the full range of opportunities available.
“We’re also working on integrating students better their freshman year—for example, whether they could take more classes pass/fail to ease the pressure,” he adds.
He says the biggest challenge with SCUE is that change is slow to happen.
“A lot of SCUE projects are on a much longer timeline than you would expect. You’re looking at a timeline of about five years for a major change. That takes away the tangibility of a project," Arman says.
He notes that he'll probably be 27 years old before the changes he is working on now may be implemented.
A member of SCUE since freshman year, Arman is nothing but passionate about his Penn education.
“I want to make the most of my education and I want to help other people make the most of their education," Arman says. "I want to make Penn the best education environment and give people agency in their education. People don’t always realize all the opportunities that are out there.”
Arman says his study abroad experience was formative in his appreciation for Penn. Although many of his classmates were looking to party in Barcelona, he was looking for more academic rigor.
When he came back for his junior fall, Arman channeled his experience into a SCUE project on study abroad to help students navigate the process and figure out what program is right for them.
“Sometimes students go abroad and suddenly find one of their classes won’t count for their major or they’re on financial aid but then there’s a lot of miscellaneous extra costs like air travel.”
SCUE hopes to make study abroad more accessible for all students who want to do it but feel that academic requirements or finances are barriers for them.
In addition to his SCUE efforts, Arman has spent much of his time at Penn sharing his Iranian heritage with the student body. A Los Angeles native, both of Arman’s parents immigrated to the United States from Iran before the revolution. One thing he misses from home is Persian food, which he finds is lacking in Philadelphia.
“It’s so nerdy, but for my 20th birthday I invited ten of my closest friends over, and I cooked a full Persian dinner for them. I was on the phone with my mom the whole time, trying to get her exact recipes,” Arman recalls.
Last year, he helped revive Penn Persian, a cultural club dedicated to all things Iranian. On March 29, the club is putting on a city–wide Persian New Year Festival, inviting students, faculty, and members of the Philadelphia Iranian community to celebrate with food and music.
Arman treasures his Iranian culture. He has one other lesser–known passion: luxury cars. Earlier in the week he presented his "most precious possession" to one of his classes. The possession: a silver Mercedes–Benz key chain in the shape of a steering wheel.
“The design and opulence of luxury cars is so fascinating. I have no eye for design, but I just love car design,” Arman says excitedly.
Reading about cars, researching, and visiting car shows are all ways Arman enjoys his "me time." He’s the one to go to for car advice.
“One of my aunts needed a new car and I did all the legwork. Like, 'Tell me what you’re looking for in a car, not what type.' So many people misjudge what they want, thinking they need an SUV just as a status symbol,” Arman says.
His dream vehicle? A Mercedes AMG S 65 Coupe. For him it is the “pinnacle of luxury and sport with a 12–cylinder engine.” He can’t help but gush when talking about it.
“As I much as I love cars, I would hate to commute. My grand scheme is Level 4/Level 5 automation—basically driverless cars, where I can sit back and read while it does the work,” Arman says.
While Arman daydreams about luxury cars, his main focus at Penn is his work with SCUE.
“The chair [of SCUE] my freshman year told me: ‘When I wake up in the morning, I think of SCUE and when I go to bed at night, I think of SCUE.’ I remember thinking that is such a load of bullshit," Arman laughs. “And now when I wake up, I think of SCUE, when I go to bed, I think of SCUE. When I’m in the middle of class, I get an email about SCUE. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”