Emmett Neyman (E '19) finds comfort in groups. He thrives when he’s being social; It’s clear from the way he lights up when he talks about tutoring other engineering students, playing on his Ultimate Frisbee team, or how he tries to fit lunches with prospective students during Quaker Days into his schedule. Even his bright purple t–shirt—branded with the “Penn Engineering” logo—links him to a broader community. For Emmett, the Engineering Quad is his home base, and he couldn’t look more comfortable sitting at a small table in the white marble halls of Towne.
Emmett is a computer science major with a minor in math. He’s completed the Logic, Information, and Computation minor in the College too, but flippantly says that he had to drop out of the major officially to avoid “triple–counting issues.” He’s graduating in May but staying for a few more courses next semester to finish up a master’s degree in computer science.
He has plenty of other accomplishments to speak of, too. He interned at Google last year and is interning at Facebook this upcoming summer. He’s president and second–year captain of Penn’s ultimate frisbee B–team, he worked with Access Engineering (a club that brings high school students to Penn on the weekends to teach them introductory engineering courses) in his sophomore and junior years, and last year he was the president of Penn’s Computer Science Society.
None of these résumé bullet points are what stand out most about him, though. Instead, his defining feature is the way he appears completely at ease talking with people. He feels like a college tour guide in the best ways—warm, knowledgeable, earnest, and never missing a beat. He makes direct eye contact and rests his arms comfortably at his side; the neon green plastic on his watch matches the green accents on his sneakers.
Emmett has lived in Philadelphia for his entire life and went to high school at the Julia R. Masterman School, just a fifteen minute walk from Rittenhouse Square. Penn was on his radar from a young age; he had been on Penn’s campus a lot throughout high school, as his high school robotics team was mentored by Penn grad students.
His grade sent 20 kids to Penn out of his class of 95, which made his transition from high school to college pretty easy compared to most people. He still lives in his hometown and sees people from his high school all the time—his classrooms just shifted 20 blocks west.
Emmett grew up with two moms that split up when he was in first grade. One still lives in Philly, and the other moved up to Vermont with her partner after Emmett graduated high school. Emmett’s used to being in a city, and it’s where he feels the most at home. He visits Vermont occasionally, but it doesn't take long for him to get antsy there.
“It’s so nice for like, a long weekend … but a week there and I’m like, I want to be able to walk to get food at 2 a.m.,” he said.
He has a fraternal twin named Leo, but that doesn’t even come up until 40 minutes into the interview. They’re not too close, as they’ve been in separate schools since middle school. As a theater major who loves writing feminist historical plays, Leo is perhaps the academic opposite of Emmett. However, they talk every once in a while, maybe a few times each semester, to check in or to tag each other on a funny post.
As a computer science major, Emmett is no stranger to long, late nights of homework. Courses were extremely difficult at the beginning, and he got so overwhelmed in his freshman spring that he temporarily quit all of the clubs he was a part of. However, he also talks about the tight community that he’s found with fellow computer science students.
“There’s a running joke that CIS majors are only friends with other CIS majors, and I think that’s kind of true," he said. "Two of my roommates were the two people I worked on CIS 160 with in freshman year, and they’ve been my closest friends throughout Penn.”
He’s still close friends with the both of them, and lives with one of them on 40th and Chestnut, right above Distrito. Emmett jokes that they’re both so busy that they only see each other about once every 48 hours.
While some steer clear of Locust Walk in the morning to avoid seeing an old Quad hallmate or an acquaintance from CIS 160, Emmett does the complete opposite, often making a point to walk on Locust, even if it's out of the way.
“I’m one of those people that actually likes seeing people that I kind of know,” he says.
Emmett says that his friends would describe him as a social person that“somehow knows a lot of people, but not anyone that well.” They would also say he’s funny, or at least he'd like to think that, he says as his eyes widen a little.
His passion is undeniable when he talks about the ultimate Frisbee team, a group that has become his family over the past couple of years. As an underclassman, the Frisbee team was a fratty environment where he didn’t fully feel like he fit in. But the ultimate Frisbee team under Emmett’s leadership is much more communal and relaxed. Now, it's a group of guys that hang out, play board games, and have nights where they drink wine and try to follow along with Bob Ross painting videos.
“We have an Easter egg hunt—that is never something we would do when I was a freshman or sophomore," he said. "It would be like, ‘we’ll have a tequila hunt’ or something.”
“It’s terrible that they destroyed High Rise field,” he blurts out before we move to a different topic. As a Frisbee player, the field, which has been ripped up to lay down a foundation for New College House West, was one of the few green spaces on the west side of campus.
“There’s that tiny sliver between Rodin and Hillel, but its so small and so windy there, which is hard for Frisbee,” he sighs. “A lot of people were sad when they announced that they were destroying the field, but I’d like to think that we were the saddest.”
When asked about his favorite nights at Penn, he has to pause for a minute to think.
“Maybe I haven’t had nights to remember,” he laughs almost guiltily. “There are just so many nights where we finish up Frisbee practice at 11:30 p.m., walk back to the Frisbee house … and we just turn on music and just hang out and dance and party for like an hour or two … then we go to McDonalds together afterwards.”
Moments like these—genuine moments of community—are what have made Emmett’s Penn experience so great.
“Find your people,” he says. “You need a group chat where you can just post something irreverent and nobody’s gonna judge you. Tonight, someone was like, ‘I'm going to an event where there’s a cash bar, does anyone have a flask that I can use to sneak in alcohol?’ and I’m like, ‘yes.’ You need that group of people where you can ask something like that.”
Emmett definitely found his people at Penn, and his contentment with college is infectious.
“I definitely know that I’ll be one of those people that comes back to Penn a lot," he says. "I can see myself like homecoming weekend, coming back and playing in the alumni Frisbee game or things like that.”
“I haven’t told any of my friends that I got picked for this yet,” he says. He laughs as he hoists his backpack over his shoulder to begin the long trek home and flashes a grin.
“This’ll be my little moment of fame.”