Laying the groundwork at Penn before taking to the air

Tuesday, May 14, 2024



Amanda Yagerman, a fourth-year from Queens, New York, has always loved the humanities and became a history buff after having two inspiring teachers in high school who brought lessons to life. But as she prepared to apply for college, she was interested in the Navy ROTC program, where they tend to value STEM majors. “When I was applying, I said that I’d major in biology because I thought, ‘Hey, I could end up liking it. Who knows? Let me try it,’” she says. “Regrettably, it just wasn’t for me.”

So Yagerman had to get up the nerve to write a letter to the Navy to get approval to switch to a history major. It wasn’t guaranteed. But since getting the OK, the history and English double major hasn’t looked back. 

“The reason that I’ve always loved history is that I’m fascinated by the idea that there have been so many different iterations of the human experience,” she says. “There’s so much that we all have in common, but there’s also so many civilizations and societies that have risen and fallen that had completely different value systems than us and lived their lives in a completely different way.”

As for double majoring in English, “my mom was an English major, and she always raised me with a healthy respect for the Oxford comma,” Yagerman says. “There have been so many courses that overlapped, and I’ve been able to really combine the two in interesting ways.”




As a part of the Navy ROTC program at Penn, Yagerman says her experience has been “the best of both worlds.”

“A free Ivy League education is nothing to sneeze at, and I get to enter the military as an officer, which gives more opportunities for a career path that otherwise wouldn’t have been open to me,” she says. “What’s nice is that I am a college student for most of my time.”

Yagerman’s day-to-day is something like this: most weekdays she is at the NROTC unit from 6 to around 10 a.m. or so, and the rest of the day is her “normal college student” time. One day a week, the NROTC students must walk around campus in uniform for visibility, and the training consists of a physical component, leadership labs, and naval science classes. Penn is the host school of the Philadelphia consortium NROTC unit which also has students from Drexel and Temple.

Yagerman will be commissioned into the Navy as an ensign on May 18 and then will become active duty when she graduates from the College of Arts & Sciences the next day. She’ll then head to flight school with the main goal of flying helicopters.




Yagerman says combining her time at Penn with the NROTC experience has been “pretty great”.

I’ve gotten the college experience; I’ve formed such great professional and personal relationships at Penn, but I’m also training to enter the military and I get all those benefits, too,” she says. “I wanted the college experience. But I also really felt like I needed discipline and direction in my life, and I wanted to be part of something that was bigger than myself.”

Penn’s diverse community will directly benefit her in her new role as a naval officer, she says.

“I’ve had the chance to interact with people who come from so many different backgrounds, religiously, ethnically, politically, and people with very different viewpoints. As a naval officer, I’m going to be encountering so many people who are coming from so many different walks of life and who have so many different perspectives. Being at Penn has taught me to communicate with people better.”

Something they always stress in our training for the Navy is being a good leader, Yagerman says. 

“I think one of the main parts of that is really knowing who you’re leading and caring enough to get to know who you’re leading. That’s another thing that Penn has really taught me, in the history department particularly,” she says. “Most of our classes make an effort to be intersectional and take a look at the same historical event or problem from varying viewpoints. That’s a really important way to learn how to successfully get your point across and make connections with people as you move in the world.”

Improv for interviewing

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

What’s your favorite movie? Favorite subject? What would you bring to a picnic? What do you do to relax? Thinking of quick answers to these questions can help students prepare for the job market, says J. Michael DeAngelis, senior associate director of communications and technology at Career Services.

If you stumbled over a response, you’re not alone, DeAngelis says. “People get hung up on right answers and wrong answers,” he says.

A former theater major, published playwright and podcast creative, DeAngelis runs a semiannual workshop, “Improv for Interviewing,” that uses games and techniques from the theater world to guide students to enter the job market by thinking on their feet.

“Improv is all about keeping the conversation going,” he says. “If you’re in the interview, they already think you can do the job.”

The interview is a way to assess soft skills and interpersonal communication, but many people panic and seize up over simple questions. Everyone gets nervous, DeAngelis says. “I was nervous walking over here today,” he told a group at an April 16 session in Van-Pelt Dietrich Library Center. “Oh, this is such a weird workshop, are people going to like it?”

Bianca Vama, a fourth-year neuroscience major from New York City, is applying to medical schools and interviewing for summer programs. She attended the spring workshop as a good way to get advice and to practice and better handle unexpected prompts, she says.

Lisa Yang, who will graduate with a master’s in higher education from the Graduate School of Education in May, found the workshop on Career Services’ Handshake, a platform that gives students and alumni access to employers, job and internship postings, networking resources, and events. “I’m looking for opportunities to sharpen my interview skills,” she says.

Originally from Beijing, Yang is applying for academic advising and program coordinator positions in the U.S. and China but struggles to bring her authentic point of view and have honest, normal conversations while under pressure. “I always overthink and over-prepare for an interview,” she says.

For one exercise, DeAngelis had the group stand in a circle. Holding a small stuffed Ewok that “will bite you on the arm if you hold it too long,” DeAngelis asked Yang a question, tossing the toy as he waited for an answer.

“Lisa, what’s your favorite vacation?” he asked.

“Uh … what kind of vacation?” Yang responded.

“Doesn’t matter,” DeAngelis said. “There’s no wrong answer.”

“When I was in middle school, I went to Europe,” Yang answered. Yang tossed the stuffed animal and addressed another participant, “What have you been watching lately?”

DeAngelis says he has led this workshop a half-dozen times. He first started over Zoom in the summer of 2020, at the request of the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships. “They were hearing from folks on campus that students were really stumbling over the personal, anything that didn’t have to do with their academics or research,” he says. “That was in line with what we were hearing from employers.”

Conversations, small talk, and storytelling are transferrable skills that are helpful in any profession, he says. “I’m such a strong believer in the liberal arts, particularly being a theater major,” he says. “I can rely on that training that I have to ask questions, to keep a conversation going, to listen.”

The workshop has traditionally attracted international students, who have the additional challenge of answering off-the-cuff questions in a foreign language, DeAngelis says. Regardless of reticence or language difficulties, everyone ends up participating, he says. “I’ve never had to pull teeth. Sometimes you get that one person who’s like, ‘No, no, no,’ … And then they get up and do the last one.”

For students looking to practice interviewing skills, Career Services offers mock-interview practice for both in-person and Zoom meetings. They also have rooms that students can reserve to speak with potential employers. “Improv for Interviewing” workshops and other services can be requested through the Career Services website, DeAngelis says.

Nicholas Yohn, a third-year student studying finance and statistics at the Wharton School, already knows where he’s going to land this summer. Originally from Hoboken, New Jersey, Yohn will be interning at a private equity firm and wants to make the most of his experience.

“I’m going to be meeting a lot of new people, trying to understand the firm,” Yohn says. He is also hoping to entertain future job offers and says, “This is for me to be able to keep up the conversation and think on my feet.”

Private equity is a relationship-driven business, Yohn says, and he wants to start making contacts and learning to talk about himself in professional settings “in a way that’s not overly prepped.”

In the workshop, Yohn volunteered to play a scene where two participants are given established roles—in his case, a student called into the principal’s office—and secret identities—the principal is also his long-lost father!—a detail revealed later in the conversation.

The exercise is relevant to interviewing, Yohn says. A lot of firms ask potential hires scenario-based questions based on ethics, deadlines, or interpersonal conflict, giving interviewees 20 seconds to film a response with no re-dos, he says.

“I’ve been hit with some of those curveballs,” he says. “It’s a skill I’m trying to work on.”

A look at the preparations for this year’s Spring Fling concert and festival

Monday, April 22, 2024

Ahead of Spring Fling 2024, which is set to feature Daya and Metro Boomin, The Daily Pennsylvanian took a look at the behind-the-scenes work which makes the event happen.

Spring Fling, which is planned by Penn’s Social Planning and Events Committee, consists of the Daytime Festival and the Spring Fling Concert — planned by two separate committees within the organization. SPEC leadership, which described them as “some of the largest college events on the East Coast,” wrote that their planning processes are distinct from each other.

Over 10,000 students attend Spring Fling over the course of two days, according to Wharton senior and SPEC President Megan Li.

SPEC’s goal for the Daytime Festival is to create “a more lighthearted event that will be fun and enjoyable for all.” SPEC researches food options, carnival activities, and merchandise opportunities throughout the year and contacts student performing groups, Penn Athletics, and different vendors.

Most of the planning and organizational work during the fall semester for the Spring Fling Concert focuses on talent acquisition. Li wrote that SPEC works closely with multiple talent agents to find potential artists, considering factors such as availability, price, and logistics, which narrows artist options. Then, throughout the spring semester, the committee shifts their focus to event logistics — such as audio and visual technicalities at Penn Park, ticketing, and advertising.

The focus of this year’s event is the performances of Metro Boomin, the headliner and Daya, the opener. 

“Metro Boomin and Daya fit our vision for what we wanted the concert to look like this year,” Li wrote. “We are very fortunate to be able to welcome them to campus.”

Spring Fling will also feature several changes from last year’s edition in an attempt to make it a “novel experience” for attendees.

For the concert, Li highlighted changes in the genre of the headliner, with Metro Boomin belonging to a different genre than last year’s headliner, Lauv. She added that SPEC attempts to avoid having performers who have previously appeared at Spring Fling.

Li added that the Daytime Festival has “more flexibility year to year,” with many new food vendors — Korea Taqueria, Mom–Mom’s, and Funnellas Funnel Cake — joining the event this year. There are also new activities like a Human Claw Machine, Spinning Tea–Cups, and Shoot and Shower Basketball. 

Li also wrote that SPEC faced additional challenges from inflation, which caused production costs to increase “exponentially” compared to the allocated budget.

“We’ve been working diligently to negotiate costs with different vendors and figuring out where we can be flexible in order to maintain the quality of experience our attendees are used to,” Li wrote.

Li wrote that Spring Fling is one of the most anticipated events students look forward to, noting her excitement for students to see what they have prepared for the weekend.

“This is our best selling concert in recent memory and we have an excellent lineup of food and activity vendors for the Daytime Festival,” she wrote. “I don’t think there really is anything to not be looking forward to. Perhaps what I’m looking forward to most is driving a golf cart around campus.”

Who, What, Why: Luke Godsey’s Appalachian quilt

Tuesday, April 9, 2024
The quilt, which goes on view April 12, is part of a new art series at the Penn Women’s Center.


It was in high school that Luke Godsey first learned how to quilt. “I actually was taught by my dad’s girlfriend,” Godsey says. “She had all this scrap fabric and was like, ‘Hey, do you want to learn how to quilt?’” Originally from Somerset, Kentucky, where quilting still has a robust—albeit aging—culture, Godsey worked on community quilting projects with friends or at church.

“There was a really nice process, because we would just sit and talk and quilt,” Godsey says. “It’s fun and it’s a really good emotional release; it can get your frustration out in a healthy way. When I was frustrated about school, I could sew and get mad at the sewing machine instead of bottling it up.”


Godsey still has that first quilt and uses it at Penn. Now a second-year student studying linguistics, Godsey continues to quilt. 

Godsey’s latest project is a quilt commissioned by the Penn Women’s Center where Godsey also works. Godsey sewed 5-by-5-inch square scraps of fabric pieced together in blocks. The multicolored quilt is made of 20 blocks with each block containing five squares of one pattern and four squares of another.

That’s just the quilt top, notes Godsey. Underneath is a soft in-between layer, called batting. Godsey is using fusible batting, which is ironed into the top and the backing. Then, Godsey sews it all together, using a technique called “stitch in the ditch.”

“You sew vertically into every line and then you sew horizontally into every line, so it makes a grid on the back,” Godsey says. “That’s called ‘stitch in the ditch’ because it’s supposed to be hard to see the top stitch, because it’s in the crease of the other ones.”

The quilt is part of a new art series at Penn Women’s Center and will be unveiled at the Center on Friday, April 12 with a reception and artist’s conversation from 4 to 6 p.m.


This work is Godsey’s first commission. “I’ve always been wanting to do a quilt for the center, just to make it feel like more like a home,” Godsey says.

“It also truly is a connection to back home, because by car, I’m about 12 hours away,” Godsey says. “When I came to Philly, I felt like I lost community,” Godsey says. “I was looking for a place to build community and learn about other people.”

Appalachia has his own unique culture, Godsey says, very different from that of Penn and Philadelphia. Godsey is also one of the few students from Kentucky on campus. “It’s that immediate isolation from home,” Godsey says. “The process of making this quilt has been really cathartic, to work through finding my identity—and also to hold on to my identity in a new place.”

Powwow at Penn

Friday, March 29, 2024

A powwow begins with drums, as the cascading voices of musicians call dancers in for the Grand Entry, the first moment when they are called into the sacred arena. At Penn’s 13th annual Powwow, which also marked the 40th anniversary of the Greenfield Intercultural Center and the 30th anniversary of Natives at Penn, an Indigenous student organization formerly called Six Directions, Brian Weeden, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, and his wife, Keturah Peters, a School of Nursing alumnus who is also Mashpee Wampanoag, led the group as head dancers.

Penn’s Powwow emphasizes diversity while honoring the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe. At the 2024 ceremony, Natives at Penn honored two Lenape elders, Lewis “Gray Squirrel” Pierce and Ann “Wolf Spirit Woman” Dapice. “It is always important to understand that Native communities exist here,” says Valerie De Cruz, who has served as director of the Greenfield Intercultural Center since 1997. “They are not just part of history. They occupy land here; they exist here in our community.”

When a stranger walks on new ground, it is tradition to seek out their hosts, De Cruz says. “You want them to know that you understand this is their territory and that you understand that you are a guest.”

Powwow at Penn
An intertribal dance at Penn’s 13th annual Powwow, with the Yoontay Singers in the foreground. The singers, five of whom were present at Penn’s Powwow, sat in a circle around the drum, which is made from the skin of a large ungulate (deer, moose, and buffalo are common) stretched across a wooden frame. “We call our drum grandfather,” says Atsa Zah of the Yoontay Singers. “We believe there is a spirit inside.”

For Ryly Ziese, a third-year at the Wharton School from Cookson, Oklahoma, this is important. Ziese, who is Cherokee Nation, is on the Natives at Penn board as treasurer and helped to organize the Powwow. “Yes, we are Natives at Penn,” she says, “but it’s important to ask the people whose land we are on.”

Through her involvement, Ziese was able to meet people from different tribes. “Coming to Penn, I had very set mind of what a Native person was, just because I grew up around the same type of people,” she says. 

“It’s been very eye-opening,” Ziese says. “I’ve enjoyed learning about all the different cultures that either blend with mine, or maybe sometimes contradict what we believe.”

“Our goal is really to support Native, Indigenous, and First Nations students,” De Cruz says. “We center students in exploring what it is they want to do on campus, in terms of building their leadership, raising awareness, and increasing understanding of Native traditions.”

Powwow at Penn
An intertribal dance. In the background, a young man wears regalia made from birds of prey.

According to Natives at Penn, more than 20 tribes, nations, and peoples are represented by Penn faculty, students, and staff. Now a registered nurse in Mashpee, Peters says that Natives at Penn helped her adjust to University life. 

Wearing a fringed buckskin skirt and carrying a blanket, Peters led the first women’s intertribal dance. The women traveled clockwise in a circle, following the path of the sun. 

Traditionally, both feet remain on the ground during powwow dancing, said the event’s emcee, Keith Colston of the Tuscarora and Lumbee tribes. Dancers took small steps forward, moving forward with the balls of their feet with heels elevated and knees bent, following the beat of the drum. 

With more than 100 people in attendance from Penn and beyond, Colson guided the audience through the Powwow, offering education and protocols. Certain dances and ceremonies are for specific groups only, he said. In the women’s fancy exhibition, twirling dancers in long, fringed shawls made 360° turns in place; in the jingle dance, a newer dance from the early 20th century, women wore bugle-shaped ornaments, tobacco tin lids rolled into cones and sewn to their skirts, which clinked as the dancers moved. The men’s traditional dance is for warriors, Colson said. These dancers wear regalia made from birds of prey and cowbells tied around the ankles. 

Penn LGBT Center’s Scholars-in-Residence Program returns, welcomes three local voices

Friday, March 15, 2024

The University of Pennsylvania’s Penn LGBT Center’s Scholars-in-Residence Program is returning for 2024 and will welcome three new LGBTQ+ scholars with diverse backgrounds, all from the Philadelphia area. This year’s program includes a TedTalk by each of the scholars, which will take place during the University of Pennsylvania’s QPenn week March 22-29. This year’s scholars include a cohort of three local activists and entrepreneurs: TS Hawkins, Kyle Cuffie-Scott and Dr. Danna Bodenheimer.

The program is a first-of-its kind initiative that amplifies queer and trans voices, integrating scholars from varying lines of work into Penn’s classrooms. One of the main objectives of this program is to increase students’ awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and encourage social change.

In the summer of 2022, the Penn LGBT Center received an anonymous endowment of $2 million meant to advance LGBTQ+ scholarship and awareness of the queer and trans community. The Center used this money to launch the Scholars-in-Residence program in 2023. In that first year, the Penn LGBT Center hosted ALOK, a renowned gender-nonconforming author, comedian and public speaker. This year, the focus will be on scholars from the Philadelphia area to connect students with LGBTQ+ professionals who represent the local community.


TS Hawkins

Hawkins is an international, award-winning poet, performance artist, playwright and trauma-informed educator. They have been recognized by the Barrymore Awards; featured in publications such as WHYY, NPR and the Chicago Tribune; and are a recipient of both the Victory Foundation Theatre Education Award and a Best of Philly Award. Their written works include “Seeking Silence,” “sweet bread peaches” (formerly ”Cartons of Ultrasounds”), “Too Late to Apologize,” “In Their Silence” (formerly “They’ll Neglect to Tell You”) and others.

“What I love and what I’m intrigued by [about the Scholars-in-Residence program] is, yes, they gave us parameters, but the process is very collaborative and very open,” Hawkins said.

“They want you at the table doing what you do, and a lot of times in a residency, they want your work, but they still want you to follow a specific framework to get that process and product done,” they added. “This has been a very different and engaging experience, which is exciting.”

Hawkins also spoke to the importance of poetry and education, which they will be applying to their TedTalk, “Purpose, Poetry, and Power: Tools for Thriving in a Shifting Society.” The talk will address how one finds peace in the present climate, particularly in the context of social media. Hawkins will also be turning their talk into a master class in the program.

Hawkins also shared their philosophy, explaining, “If you have access to language and are able to paint the world with your words, that’s poetry.”

Kyle Cuffie-Scott

Cuffie-Scott has appeared on “Good Morning America” and has made birthday cakes for celebrities such as Janet Jackson. As the founder and co-owner of Darnel’s Cakes LLC — which will be celebrating its fourth year at its Old City location in May — Cuffie-Scott explained that he began the bakery to honor his cousin Darnel, who passed away due to AIDS complications. Although the business began as a fundraiser to spread awareness, it blossomed into a full brick-and-mortar shop, which has continued Cuffie-Scott’s activist work. 

Cuffie-Scott’s business raises awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and contributes to activism and advocacy by collaborating with national and local organizations that work to combat both the virus itself and the pervasive stigmas around those with the disease. 

Of his activism, Cuffie-Scott explained tha Darnel’s Cakes focuses on, “spreading the word about getting tested, finding ways to get tests in people’s hands so it’s not so taboo or scary, and helping to de-stigmatize HIV and AIDS a little bit more.” 

Cuffie-Scott explained that he is most excited about the opportunity “to help change some young lives and get them on the right track of getting tested early, letting their friends know and staying on top of their sexual health.”

Danna Bodenheimer

Dr. Danna Bodenheimer

Bodenheimer, who could not be reached for comment, is the founder and director of Walnut Psychotherapy Center, a prominent therapy practice in Philadelphia serving the LGBTQ+ community. Bodenheimer also has more than 15 years of experience in the mental health field, with a particular focus on providing therapeutic care to those in the LGBTQ+ community. For the Scholars-in-Residence program, she will bring the perspective of an experienced instructor and published author who is particularly interested in the effects of dual marginalization.

Responding to community needs

Jake Muscato, one of the Penn LGBT Center’s associate directors, explained that the transition to Philadelphia-based scholars this year was because the Center wanted to give local activists and educators a platform and because of the scholars’ significant contributions to the community. Muscato elaborated that connecting to the community is an essential tenet of the LGBT Center’s goals. 

Muscato also shared that another of the Scholars-in-Residence program’s main goals is to “change hearts and minds, which is the goal of advocacy and scholarship.” 

“It’s often community activists who have told the story of queer and trans communities, so this is the natural connection between this sort of work,” said Eric Anglero, the director of Penn’s LGBT Center. 

Anglero also highlighted that the work of the three scholars in the 2024 program is integral to the current story of the LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia and the ways that academic spaces talk about gender and sexuality. 

In addition to connecting and empowering queer and trans students, the program is a learning opportunity for students who may not otherwise encounter these topics, organizations or conversations. Anglero also explained that the aim of the program is to truly foster learning, including those working within the Penn LGBT Center. In fact, many facets of the program are driven by the students themselves, as the Center actively seeks their input on what they want out of the program. 

“My hope, my dream is that we are responsive to the community needs and that we are really open to listening, as I think the Center really has done since its foundation,” Anglero said.

“As we face this litany of legislation happening nationally, I think this is one of the ways to highlight how advocacy can happen even in the face of some really terrible legislative maps,” Anglero added.

Archiving materials that reflect a ‘shared history’

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

In 1969, a group of women met to talk about women: their bodies, their sexual health, their reproductive rights, and their experiences with doctors and medicine. A year later, these women put together a 193-page course booklet and in 1971, retitled it “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” Now a cult classic, the book has sold more than 4 million copies, been translated into 34 languages, and been banned from high schools and public libraries.

“Our Bodies, Ourselves” is now out of print. But an old, yellowed copy, dated 1971, stapled at the corner, and priced for 75 cents, for years existed in a box in Fisher-Bennet Hall. This spring, it will move to the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, as part of the formal archiving of all the historical materials from the Program in Gender Studies and Women’s Studies (GSWS) and the Penn Women’s Center, both of which are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.

Gwendolyn Beetham, associate director of GSWS, says that in the run-up to the 50th anniversary, she and Elisa Foster, director of the Penn Women’s Center, realized that none of their documents were housed as accessible archival material. “We wanted to get them out of boxes in people’s offices or basements,” Beetham says.

Students reviewing archival materials
Adriel Strickland takes a picture of a news article while Maddie Scott (center) and Maven Kielska (right) read together.

Alicia Meyer, curator of research services at the Kislak Center, says she’s had researchers come in looking to see and ask to see “this OG copy of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves.’”

“People will ask me, ‘Do you have it? Do you have it?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I know where one is …’” Meyer says. Archiving the materials will make them more accessible for researchers, she says, who can view the library documents in the sixth floor reading room at Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. Any materials specifically relating to Penn will be located in University Archives, and all will be available to the public.

The material is saved in context, with newspaper clippings pointing to larger national issues, says Meyer. “It’s great when you can connect those other sources to the history of Penn, because I think it really affects students and helps them see their own role in the history of the institution.”

“I’m a feminist, and it was really helpful to have professors who helped me study feminism,” says Marielle Cohen, who graduated in 1991 from the College of Arts & Sciences with a degree in sociology and in 1992 with a master’s in social work from what is now the School of Social Policy & Practice

While at Penn, Cohen advocated against sexual assault and attended “Take Back the Night” rallies. In her second year as an undergraduate, Cohen began volunteering as a rape crisis counselor for the Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence, eventually serving in the emergency room at Jefferson Hospital.

“Issues of equality affect all of us, all of our lives,” she says.

Using the materials in the classroom

The 50th anniversary was a good turning point to preserve the history of gender studies and women’s studies, Foster says. “It’s not just about our specific programs, but the impact that these movements have had so far throughout the University.”

The archival material also includes documentation of the histories of Special Services and Penn Violence Prevention, Foster says. Penn Violence Prevention grew out of the Women’s Center, which continues to serve as a safe space and offers education to students and employees about preventing interpersonal violence.

“We have this shared history,” Foster says of GSWS and the Women’s Center. “The same people who were pushing for the Women’s Studies program were pushing for a women’s center and advocating for the safety of women on campus in their everyday lives.”

This semester, the Center also served as a classroom, where Beetham’s course Trauma Porn to Title IX: 50 Years of Anti-Violence Activism at Penn met to go over the archival material before it moves into the University Archives and the library system. Students have pored over program flyers, course materials, and handouts about interpersonal violence, sexuality, and resilience. There are saturated photographs of Anita Hill during her 1992 visit to Penn, a proclamation from City of Philadelphia declaring “Penn Women’s Center Day,” and a poster advertising a lecture on eating disorders. “Not Just a White Girl’s Thing,” it reads. 

close up of archival materials
A selection of materials from the GSWS archives on display in the Kislak Center during the program’s recent 50th anniversary symposium.

The students have been particularly drawn to material from the 1990s, a decade whose music, fashion, and iconography resonate with Gen Z. Plus, the ’90s mark the transition from black and white to color, with photographs and posters becoming more commonplace.

Chiara Bruzzi, a third year from Miami majoring in materials science and engineering, found a flyer from the ’90s that read, “If we don’t have abortion, what will we do?” Next to those words was an image of a coat hanger, a once-common reminder of the history of reproductive rights.

Greenfield Intercultural Center celebrates 40 year anniversary, reflects on history at Penn

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Greenfield Intercultural Center commemorated its 40th anniversary on Jan. 27.  

GIC was established in 1984 to support the University’s underrepresented communities and build intercultural awareness on campus. As Penn’s first intercultural center, the GIC has provided a space for numerous student affinity groups over the years – including the United Minorities Council, Natives at Penn, and the Alliance for Understanding.

The center was founded in response to a UMC petition calling for the creation of a campus center for underrepresented students. Since its inception, GIC has supported many different initiatives, programs, and communities. It was a key advocate that pushed for the University to create community hubs, such as Makuu, La Casa Latina, and PAACH.

“GIC has set a vital model for how universities can better support their students and educate society on intercultural belonging,” GIC Associate Director Kia Lor said. 

Lor added that the center has served as an “intercultural incubator of new ideas and programs” over the past four decades.

Around 2015, the GIC aided in the establishment of Penn First Plus, which has since become a community to bolster the successes of first generation and low income students.

GIC Director Valeria De Cruz spoke to the center’s platform as a guiding force for new community groups on campus. She said that the GIC team was thankful for the opportunity to mentor and be a point of consultation for students that aim to develop their passions and leadership skills. 

“As one of the oldest centers at Penn, the GIC is often sought out for expertise and guidance from newer departments and centers on best practices in building and supporting diverse communities,” De Cruz said. 

De Cruz reflected on the University’s relationship with the center, acknowledging the financial and directional support they’ve received.

“Since the GIC was established, [it has] received consistent budgetary support from the university and University Life has been instrumental in providing guidance as the center has worked to address the needs of different communities,” she said. 

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, GIC recognized local alumni who are making change in the community at an Open House Celebration on Jan. 27. In the fall, the center plans on hosting a gala to bring together alumni located nationally and globally.

De Cruz highlighted the importance of the alumni network in continuing GIC’s work. “The center benefits from generous alumni support which has enabled us to increase our visibility and extend our reach on campus, ” De Cruz said.

New Leadership Announced at the LGBT Center

Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Eric Anglero, Director of Penn's LGBT Center

Eric Anglero (they/them) was appointed as the new Director of University of Pennsylvania’s LGBT Center, Associate Vice Provost for University Life Will Atkins announced. Following an extensive national search, Anglero brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and aspirations to the role.

Anglero joins Penn from Princeton University’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, where they provided training for community partners, supervised staff, and helped oversee its direction and mission. In addition to their role at Princeton, Anglero currently serves on an alumni board at Stockton University and the executive board at COLAGE, an organization for people with one or more queer parents and/or caregivers.

“I am elated to join the historic tradition at Penn and the incredible staff of the LGBT Center,” said Anglero. “I look forward to being a contributor to the work of the broader Cultural Resource Centers in University Life and look forward to meeting with the campus community.”

Anglero earned their Master of Arts in American Studies at Stockton University.

Additionally, Wesley (Wes) Alvers (they/them) will serve as the newly appointed Associate Director. They hold a Master of Social Work degree from Penn, specializing in macro practice for LGBTQ+ populations. Alvers previously served as the LGBT Center’s Program Coordinator, and they are committed to supporting and advocating for queer and trans communities at Penn.

Both Anglero and Alvers began their current roles on January 8. Continued gratitude is extended to Jake Muscato, Loren Grishow-Schade, and all LGBT Center staff who worked collaboratively to ensure seamless support for students throughout this transition. Malik Muhammad, who helped lead search efforts for the positions, will continue his work at Penn as the Director for Social Justice and Inclusion Initiatives in University Life.

University Life and the LGBT Center look forward to an exciting semester ahead with both new and existing staff at the helm.

Wes Alvers, Associate Director of Penn's LGBT Center

Our Alums in Their Spaces: Krista Cortes | Director, La Casa Latina

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Krista Cortes’ book-filled office on the top floor of the ARCH Building on Locust Walk is quiet, cozy, and full of golden, autumnal light. But the director of Penn’s La Casa Latina—the campus hub for Penn’s Latine community and Latin American culture—is more often found posted up in La Casa’s bright, bustling home on the garden level, chatting with students, organizing programming, and welcoming people into the space.

How a space is organized and outfitted for optimal learning and inclusion is important to her. After finishing her two master’s programs at Penn GSE (in teacher education and language and literacy), Cortes earned her PhD in education at the University of California, Berkeley, where her dissertation explored how Afro-Puerto Rican mothers create learning environments for their children that center Blackness.

“That’s what I’m trying to do in my work here,” said Cortes, who is also teaching “Applied Linguistics in Education” at GSE this semester. “It’s really important to me to bring Afro-Latinidad into conversations in a Latine cultural center. . . . I want us to really think about the multiplicity within our understanding of Latinidades. How do we do that, not only through programming, but how we do that in our interactions with students? How we do that in the ways that our space is designed?”

That care and intentionality is obvious throughout her office and at La Casa. She gave us a tour of everything from the personally meaningful art she’s hung on her walls to the snack closet she keeps stocked with condiments—Valentina hot sauce, Tajin chili-lime seasoning, adobo seasoning—to remind students of a taste of home.

1. Orisha prints 

I practice Santería—that’s my religion. Santería is an Afro-Cuban religion that came to Cuba when enslaved people from Africa who practiced Yoruba were brought over. These are representations of orishas [spirits] that are really important to me. That’s Oya—goddess of the wind, who represents transformation—with the sword, and Oshun—the river deity [not pictured], who represents love—is behind my desk. And there’s Elegua—deity of the crossroads, who represents destiny. I think they are super important as a lens or a metaphor through which to understand the ways in which Afro-Latinidad is often obscured and not talked about. . . . Even in thinking about the way that this tradition has persisted over time, it very much had to be hidden, right? To keep their traditions alive, they had to hide them behind Catholicism, and then Santería is really a blending of the Yoruba traditions with Catholicism as a way to adapt to a new situation. When folks come in my office, I don’t know that they would know what these images are. But it was important—a way of me bringing a piece of myself into this space.

Orisha prints

2. Prints of Puerto Rico 

I inherited these when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother asked me to help clean his room. In the back of his closet, I found this canister of prints like ones my grandmother has hanging in her home. . . . They are of streetscapes in Puerto Rico, which is where my grandparents and parents were born. I grew up on Long Island. But for me, the identity that is important to me is my “Puerto Ricanness.” That’s how I understand myself. These prints are like me trying to bring the idea of “a home that is not here” into this space. 

3. Spiderman and La Borinqueña comic books 

These feature Miles Morales, the Afro-Puerto Rican Spiderman, and La Borinqueña, who is also Afro-Puerto Rican. She’s a superhero that is meant to save Puerto Rico, so she talks about eco-feminism and climate justice. There was a comic shop in Berkeley that I was able to get some of these from. While I was in California, I met the author of the La Borinqueña comic books, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, and he signed some of them for me. Folks really are into superheroes, and these have become a conversation-starter with students.

Spiderman and La Borinqueña comic books

4. Día de los Muertos decorations 

These are the boxes we’ve been packing for Día de los Muertos. They are full of supplies that we use to build an altar. We began this partnership with the College Houses—we give them all the supplies, and then usually a resident advisor or graduate resident advisor will make a program out of it where they build the altar in a common area in their College House. . . . Día de los Muertos is very much associated with Mexicanness. But it’s actually a practice that is celebrated all over Latin America and the Caribbean and beyond. It’s a cross-cultural practice. Lots of cultures honor their dead and want to remember their passed loved ones.