Navigational Advice for the Class of 2015

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On the soggy evening of September 6, the Class of 2015’s Convocation ceremony was rained into the Palestra, but their enthusiasm was not dampened. 

“You’re the most talented and diverse group of students we’ve ever enrolled,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “I’ll soon see if you are also the most spirited class we’ve ever enrolled!”

After eliciting raucous cheers first from the students of the College of Arts and Sciences, then the nursing students, the engineers, and the Whartonites, Gutmann officially welcomed them into the University community. 

“Today, you begin your journey at Penn,” Gutmann said. “As on any journey, you’re going to be in need of a way to navigate.”

Gutmann urged the incoming class to throw out their GPS devices and instead consult the stars. “My advice is to make the most of the stars in front of you, the stars around you, and the stars within you.” 

The stars in front, she went on to explain, are Penn’s traditions. “These Penn stars are our spirit of inquiry and inquisitiveness, of creativity and innovation. All made sweeter by Penn’s audacious and irrepressible community spirit. Holding Convocation here in the Palestra, filled with years of Penn’s winning spirit, makes for a fitting start.”

The stars around are Penn students and faculty. “You make your journey alongside an amazing group of classmates,” Gutmann said. 

Finally, Gutmann continued, the stars within are the dreams, passions, and ambitions of each member of the Class of 2015. “Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams,” she advised.

Like Gutmann, Provost Vincent Price warned students not to rely too heavily on technology as they journey through Penn. “Spend some time offline,” he counseled. “By all means, share your status, but do it over coffee. Go ahead and follow someone, but do it on a bike, or on a hike.”

Price advised students to make the most of their time at Penn—but, he added, multi-tasking is not the answer. “Study after study has shown, when we try to do too many things at one time, performance suffers.

“Make time to focus on yourself, create time to help someone else,” he said. And “leave time to relax.”

But Penn Alumni President Lee Spellman Doty W’76 said she could see why Penn students tend to overexert themselves. “There’s just so much to see and do on this campus, you want to be able to try it.”

Other advice to the incoming class included recommendations on where to eat—“Cheesesteaks and pretzels taste better here than anywhere else” said Doty—to dating advice. 

Doty shared that she met her husband at Penn. “The person sitting right next to you could be someone you know the rest of your life, and share every major milestone together,” Doty said, eliciting a round of giggles.

Gutmann added later, “I have to say, I have not a survey—a statistically significant, mathematically sound survey—but I would bet anyone that among the Ivy-plus institutions, more people met their lifelong partners here at Penn than any place else. 

“We don’t advertise that,” she laughed.

Doty reminded students, “You have just embarked on a journey that is going to transform your world. Not just for the four years ahead, but for your lifetime.”

—Maanvi Singh C’13

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