In the midst of election season, the Social Planning and Events Committee announced Wednesday night that its fall Connaissance speaker will be Arianna Huffington.
Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, and serves as president of the Huffington Post Media Group.
Starting her career as a political commentator, Huffington has grown into an influential media player, having played a central role in the shifting of news to an online platform. Because of this, she was ranked 29th on Forbes’ most recent list of the “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”
Huffington has also made a name for herself in pop culture, appearing in episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” and being parodied on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” by actresses Nasim Pedrad and Michaela Watkins.
Wharton senior and SPEC Connaissance Co-Director Crystal Lu explained the reasoning behind bringing Huffington to campus.
“With it being an election year, bringing in a political speaker is something students will be interested in,” Lu said. “A wide diversity of speakers is always our main goal — we’ve had Steve Forbes and Newt Gingrich as well as James Franco and Sanjay Gupta — so we wanted to reach the other end of the political spectrum.”
Wharton junior Gib Baltzer and College sophomore Gabriel Jimenez, also co-directors, agreed with Lu’s point about Huffington’s relevance. According to Lu, Huffington is symbolic of a medium that is in sync with Penn students’ interests.
“From the election angle we wanted her opinion because she’s very in touch with what’s going on in the world right now — not just socially, but in the business and media world,” Baltzer said. “She’s been able to create a large online media empire.”
Lu added that Huffington “is opinionated and confident, which is nice to see.”
“The way she comports herself and the ideas that she has hopefully will spark discussion amongst students,” she said.
Penn President Amy Gutmann, who is friends with Huffington, will deliver the introduction at the event.
Lu said SPEC is hoping Huffington will provide a fresh outlook on the election during her talk, and Baltzer added that he is hoping she will also spend time giving advice to students based on her own experiences.
“She is the modern-day Renaissance woman because she has more than one field that she connects to,” Jimenez said. “It’s nice to see a professional who’s been able to be a jack of all trades and extend beyond the status quo — hopefully this reflects possibilities for Penn students as well.”
Huffington will speak in Irvine Auditorium on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets will be sold on Locust Walk as well as online through SPEC’s website starting Thursday. Tickets for Penn students will be $5 in advance and $7 at the door.
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