Vedika Jawa (W ‘26) knows Penn is where she belongs. Smiling after a long day of classes, she’s perfectly at ease amidst McClelland’s afternoon rush. Evidently, the Quad is as welcoming to her as she is to her fellow students.
Despite the chaos of New Student Orientation and moving onto campus, “for me, Penn became my home really quickly,” Vedika says. This feeling was the deciding factor in her choice to run for student government: wanting to ensure that other freshmen felt that similar sense of home. “The Class Board plays a big role in that—you're going to have a lot of highs and lows throughout your freshman year, because we're all getting used to it,” she says. The thought of helping others acclimate to life on campus was appealing, so she embarked on her journey and ventured into Penn’s “undergraduate politics” scene.
A race between ten other candidates, the campaign season is intense. Vedika remembers waking up early with two of her friends to chalk “Vedika Jawa Wawa 4 Prez” on the Quad stairs. Beyond the wee hours of the morning, candidates spend day and night collecting signatures, introducing themselves to their peers, and passing out flyers. At the end of the day, though, the most important part of running for Class Board is simply getting your name out in the crowd, which requires an iconic slogan. “It was just coming up with something that was super catchy and would rhyme,” Vedika said. Ultimately, the answer to her catchphrase predicament was just down the street from her Hill College House dorm room. Vedika utilized the popularity of the convenience store we know as home to create the perfect slogan that would tie together her Californian roots with her new home in Philly. Hence, “Jawa like Wawa” was born.
Besides the grind of racking in voters, Vedika found campaigning a great way to meet new first–year students from around the globe. In contrast to the classic 30–second exchange of name, major, and hometown associated with NSO, campaigning gave Vedika the perfect excuse to talk to new people on campus. “It was such a great way to bond. I actually got lunch with so many people I met through the election process after the campaign ended,” Vedika says. “Even when I didn't know the results, I was glad I ran, because I was able to meet so many people because of it.”
Vedika’s commitment to the community goes beyond Penn’s campus. Vedika’s favorite class this semester is an Academically Based Community Service course where she volunteers at Paul Robeson High School to bridge her in–class knowledge with civic action. She’s already expanding the bounds of the Penn community by helping students with college applications, researching food insecurity, and brainstorming sustainable student enterprises. “It's nice to be able to give back to the Philly community,” she says. Regardless of what she ultimately chooses to study within the Wharton curriculum, Vedika knows she wants to utilize her education to uplift local communities.
As president, Vedika intends to invest in the student body’s cultural diversity by organizing culturally based classwide events. She also plans to work with the class board to subsidize merchandise for first–generation, low–income students. “I really just want to make [Penn] a welcoming place for everyone,” Vedika says.
Either way, making Penn a community starts with meeting her peers in the Class of 2026. So even after the election, Vedika’s beloved talks with new friends aren’t over. “Every single member of the Class Board enjoyed meeting and talking to everyone, and that’s something we don’t want to stop even after we’ve been elected,” she says. “So please come up to us and say hi whenever you see us on campus.”
And, as the rhyme suggests, feel free to invite Jawa on your next trip to Wawa.