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Especially amid the trauma and isolation of the COVID–19 pandemic, many of us have gravitated toward simpler, more agrarian lifestyles, as epitomized by the rise of cottagecore. We yearn to be more connected with nature, to feel a sense of inner peace, to plant our own gardens and bake our own bread—but how many of us actually know how to grow, harvest, and prepare food?
Located over 3,000 miles north of Philadelphia, Brandon Nguyen (C, W '21) spent the summer after his sophomore year learning that the worst part about working as an organic potato farmer is weeding. After every long day of farming nothing but potatoes, he would enjoy a hot meal of more potatoes and fish freshly caught from the cold depths of the Arctic Ocean, before doing further work on the research project that had initially brought him to the Arctic Circle.
Three professors to over 4000 undergraduate and graduate students. That was the ratio of core faculty in the Asian American Studies (ASAM) Program to Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) students at Penn in 2019. That same year, there were 248 tenure–stream AAPI faculty at Penn—the vast majority of whom didn't specialize in ASAM—compared to nearly six times that number of white tenure–stream faculty.
Walk into Fitz and Starts—a restaurant, bakery, and bar on South 4th Street—and take a look at its menu. Don’t panic when you see the prices. A cheeseburger, which would barely cost $2 at the McDonald’s on 40th and Walnut, is $17 at Fitz and Starts. Fresh, higher–quality ingredients make up one part of the story around the major price difference. The other part? The service, the experience, and the relationship that Fitz and Starts wants to build with its staff and its community.
On her first real date with her high school semi–sweetheart, Jo Howard (C '24) already knew their relationship’s expiration date. The pandemic provided the perfect opportunity to finally find closure from the drawn–out, will–they–won’t–they high school relationship that existed between Jo and her now–ex.
In the spring of 2019, Lauren Hummel (SEAS ‘20) and a few friends joined forces to create Women in MEAM (WiM), a group dedicated to fostering a sense of community and engagement among the female members of Penn’s Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics department.
“What does it mean that I’m a white person who was born in a small wealthy seacoast town in New Hampshire, moved to Philadelphia 25 years ago, and now is a parent of two kids in the public school district in the school that’s subsidized by Penn?” Professor Amy Hillier’s determination to constantly question her position as a tenured white female cis-gender professor at Penn is a guiding force through her life.
“I was in my apartment, getting ready to head to the rally of Count Every Vote,” Sarah Min (GSE ‘16/SP2 ‘20) details the moment she heard the results of the U.S. presidential election. “All of a sudden, my phone is blowing up. All my personal friend chats, my community organizing chats—and then I started getting back–to–back FaceTime calls, just being stunned and celebratory and literally crying on the phone with friends.”
Smiling fondly, Penn alumnus Ted Koutsoubas (C ‘12) recalls his experience handing out fliers from his booth on Locust Walk and campaigning door–to–door on campus for a Pennsylvania senatorial campaign. That was 2010. A decade later, the former member of PennDems has pursued his passion for politics and currently holds a position as political advisor at a Washington–based government relations firm where he specializes in the administration of the Medicaid program in state governments.
The cozy, cosmopolitan atmosphere of her apartment in Philadelphia is a far cry from the wave-soaked sand of the Jersey Shore, but that hasn’t stopped Emily Grossarth (C/W ’24) from pursuing her passion for surfing at Penn.
Wondering how Penn’s unofficial alma mater 'Red and Blue' would sound if it was written by different composers? Look no further than PennCompose, the club founded by first–year Anthony Hu (C ’24) that has created a community of music composers who meet weekly to share pieces, complete musical challenges, and talk about anything related to music.
As a first–generation, low–income student whose parents immigrated from Italy, Professor Michael Delli Carpini found his way to Penn through a University summer course in geology. Although the class itself sparked no interest in him, the diverse array of people and ideas that definitely did, and eventually led him to study and teach political science.
These days Penn Women’s Basketball player Kayla Padilla (W ‘23) finds herself shooting hoops in her grandma’s backyard in her hometown of Torrance, California—miles away from the sleek, top-notch facility of the Palestra.