Name: Emma Bollinger
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Major: Health and Societies, concentration in Public Health
Tell us about your major. How did you decide on Health and Societies?
When I got to Penn, I literally had no idea what I wanted to do at all. I took [classes in] communications, sociology, and history. My second semester, I took a health and societies class and found it so interesting. I was like, that’s exactly what I want to do. So I started taking more classes and decided I wanted to be an HSOC major my sophomore year.
I’m concentrating in public health, so I’m really focused on the social determinants of health and helping minority communities get better access to healthcare. I’m most interested in the issues that currently exist and ways that we can try to fix them. Right now, the majority of people who participate in clinical trials are white. I interned at a hospital in Los Angeles doing research and clinical trials and learning about why other communities don’t want to participate—why there’s such a lack of access. That’s really what I want to focus on in my career.
How did you get involved with Strictly Funk?
I auditioned my freshman fall. I was on a competitive dance team in middle and high school, so I knew [that] when I got to Penn I wanted to join a dance group, but I didn’t really know anything about any of them. I wanted to do something completely different than anything I’d ever done, so I talked to a couple people who were in dance groups here and someone told me to try out for Funk. My roommate and I tried out together and we both got in. I don’t think I would have done it by myself because I was too scared.
What’s your favorite part about being in Funk?
The community, for sure. They’re some of my best friends and they’ve become my family—we spend way too much time together. It was really nice freshman year because everyone’s still trying to figure it out and I had a community that I knew would always be there. That’s definitely something I love about Funk: We’re a family.
Is there any overlap between your sorority and Funk?
Not at all.
How has it been to have those distinct communities?
I love it. I’m way less involved in Greek life at this point. It’s really nice to have two completely separate communities because I had a lot more things to do. If I ever didn’t want to do something with my sorority, I always had Funk and vice versa.
What’s your favorite part about performing?
I’m a little bit shy when I first meet people and so they don’t expect me to get on stage and do intense hip hop. The first time my friends came to my show, they were shocked that I was doing what I was doing. Being on stage is a different personality for me and it’s one of my favorite feelings in the world.
Do you have a favorite song or performance that you’ve done?
That’s hard. Last semester felt like the best performance we’ve ever done, but my sophomore year we had a Halloween show and that was really, really fun. It was a little bit spooky and it was based on horror movies. That was so much fun.
What has been the most meaningful experience that you’ve had at Penn?
During COVID–19, a lot got taken away. Halfway through rehearsals, one of our shows got canceled. Later, we had two virtual performances, and so the first show we performed back in–person last semester was a huge moment for us. There are ten seniors and it was a huge deal for all of us. It was an amazing moment that we thought was never going to happen. We weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to do an in–person show last semester. Being back on stage after a year and a half of not being able to do anything like that, that was one of the most meaningful moments for me.
Tell us a little bit about your work with Service Link.
I’m a little overwhelmed with being Chair of Funk, so I’m not doing Service Link this semester. I joined when they had moved virtually, so I worked shifts where we called Philadelphia residents who needed help accessing medical services and helped them get access. There were people in wheelchairs who needed ramps at their houses and didn’t know how to get [them], so we would help figure out those services for them. There were people who needed help scheduling doctor’s appointments or getting heaters for their homes in the winter. We would call and check up on people every week, or every couple of weeks, just to see how they were doing. I found it to be a really meaningful experience but it was a little disconnected over the phone. I think it’s probably more meaningful in person because you get to actually work with the people. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time this semester.
What's next for you after Penn?
I’m not really sure yet. There are so many options. There are so many different directions I can go in, which is a little bit overwhelming but also good. It’s hard to find a job that focuses specifically on my interests. I could do traditional consulting or something like that, which I don’t necessarily want to do. I’m looking at smaller companies that are focused on outreach to lower income minority communities to increase healthcare access.
Favorite Dua Lipa song? Let’s just say "Future Nostalgia." That was really good at her concert a couple weeks ago.
Best concert you’ve ever been to? That one. I hadn’t been to a concert in so long!
Best podcast for beginners? Oh gosh, I have so many. Armchair Expert and To Live and Die in LA.
For pros? Smartless.
What’s your favorite thing to cook? My easiest thing is always pasta. I recently bought the super squiggly ones. It’s now gone viral on TikTok so I bought extra because I’m afraid it’s going to sell out. Those are my favorite. The most complicated thing I’ve ever made was Pop Tarts. My roommates and I made the dough from scratch and everything. It was the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but also the hardest thing I’ve ever made.
Death row meal? A huge bowl of pasta with vodka sauce, mint chip ice cream, and a cheeseburger and fries.
Cup or cone? Cone all the way.
There are two types of people at Penn… Those who cook and those who dine out.
And you are? Cook, for sure.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.