How can Penn seniors pass down all they’ve learned?
That’s the question Lauren McCann, W’16, asked herself this fall. As a student in Professor of Management Adam Grant’s Organizational Behavior class, Lauren was challenged to think of a way to spend one free class period during the semester. All she had to do was think of an idea and pitch it to Prof. Grant.
Lauren noticed that much of the discussion in their class centered on how to improve the culture on campus. Yet with an impending graduation date for many of the seniors, those conversations seemed unproductive.
“I wanted a better system to disseminate our ideas at scale. I then proposed the idea of each of us writing a letter to our freshmen selves and somehow publishing them,” she says.
Prof. Grant was fully on board and made time in class for the project to get started. Over the next few months, the idea matured and Lauren opened it to include all Penn upperclassmen. Prof. Grant and his Teaching Assistant, Julianna Pillemer, helped refine the idea, brainstorm web design, and the marketing strategy.
Friends were asked to contribute and classmates were nudged to complete their letters. McCann launched “Dear Penn Freshmen,” on Valentine’s Day.
Within the first 24 hours, the site received 10,000 visitors. Students from Duke, Georgetown, and other universities reached out to Lauren asking how to get the project going at their schools. The letter writers’ inboxes have been flooded with freshmen wanting to meet up and talk. People from around the world with no connection to Wharton or Penn have messaged Lauren thanking her for the project because they connected to the ideas.
“It’s been an awesome reminder that as much as we try to draw lines between ourselves and others, we’re all more alike than we’re willing to admit.”
Clearly, Lauren is onto something.
“We hope these words will inspire you, spark your curiosity, make you laugh, or even help you out of a rough patch. Either way, we hope this blog will offer something for everyone.”
In Their Own Words
Below are a few of our favorite Wharton excerpts from the collection. You can find them all at DearPennFreshmen.com.
86,400 Seconds a Day
“I’ve been to over 50 cities in 30 countries and Philadelphia is STILL my favourite city in the world (at least for a university student). The Penn Bubble is real, and DON’T get sucked into it. A huge reason that every day was filled with excitement during my freshman year was that I was able to go out of my comfort zone in a different way all the time. Adventure awaited me just across the bridge, and I loved that. Make a Philly bucket list. Go to Old City, South Street, Fishtown, West and North Philly, and Center City. Get to know the community via clubs or volunteering or community based courses. Get to know your home for the next 4 years, and try to find a way to contribute to it.”
Self-Discovery and Beyond
“Learn to trust – Have faith in the sincerity and qualities of the people you surround yourself with. It takes a lot to be vulnerable and put yourself out there, especially in this intensely competitive environment. But really there is little that parallels the depths of comfort and simple joy in the knowledge that you have your people to count on. Learn how to let others care for you, learn to create spaces with your most trusted friends which you can retreat into when life gets too overwhelming and learn to trust that they will be there to catch you when you fall.”
Wharton Misfit to Aspiring Chef & Everything in Between
“Don’t do anything simply to “fit in” or because “everyone does it.” I’m in Wharton, but loathe even the thought of working in finance or consulting (gasp!). What I love is marketing and food, so I’ve worked to carve my own professional path combining my two passions. Penn has the most amazing resources and access to a vast network of fascinating people doing such varied things, so find those who will help you achieve your goals and go for it – you won’t be disappointed that you chose the path less traveled.”
Success is a Holistic Idea
“Come up with your own definition of success. Whilst in college, take some time to ponder on what success means to you. It is easy to fall into the trap of chasing someone else’s definition of success if you don’t define it for your own self. When we don’t think carefully about what we want, we default to chasing the most coveted things, assuming that other people must know what’s right. The most ‘popular’ professional and academic choices become a proxy for the ‘best’ one and we get involved in a race that we didn’t even choose to run.”
— Mike Kaiser
Posted: February 17, 2016