From schoolwide celebrations to reinventing the writing seminar, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Advisory Board hopes to improve the College experience one initiative at a time. Its latest endeavor is recruiting new members.
The student organization, which seeks to bridge the gap between student opinion and administrative reality, has been rolling out initiatives to improve student life at Penn for years. It works closely with College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dennis DeTurck to introduce projects both academic and social in nature. College students with ideas about how to improve the undergraduate experience should apply, DAB co-chair Dan Eder said at a recent information session — DAB is accepting applications through this Wednesday.
One of the main academic initiatives DAB plans to introduce is an Academically Based Community Service Writing Seminar, which will be offered in the fall.
“There are a lot of cool writing seminar topics, but there really aren’t any that allow you to go out into the community and help, and reflect upon your experience in the writing seminar format,” Eder said. “A lot of the exercises seem kind of meaningless, but if you can apply them to outside work that you’re doing, they fit very nicely.”
Outside of the classroom, DAB seeks to improve College students’ academic experience with a service that connects freshmen interested in doing research with juniors who have already received research grants. The program, College Connection, will offer guidance in an area that some students may find hard to navigate.
“A lot of kids get to Penn freshman year and don’t really know where to start for research, so we were aiming to make it a little easier to figure out that process,” College senior and co-Director of the initiative Lili McKinley said.
DAB is not solely concerned with College academics, however — they also create programs that support students' lives on campus. Last semester, DAB held a workshop called “Deconstructing the Penn Face,” which dealt with managing mental health and well-being as a student.
“There’s this whole idea of the ‘Penn face’ … the idea that lots of people walk around this campus and put up masks that everything is cool, but on the inside they’re stressed out,” College junior and Co-Director of the initiative Bobby Lundquist said. “We tried to break that down by having people talk about their experiences.”
DAB also offered a program called Retrospect, in which a panel of seniors shared advice they wished they had known as underclassmen with freshman.
“Seniors have so much wisdom to offer, and they just don’t have a venue in which to offer it to people like freshmen,” College senior and Co-Director of the project Ajay Shroff said. “Freshmen, at the same time, have a ton of questions; simple things like ‘How many blocks west can I go before it’s unsafe?’, or ‘which BYO can I go to?’ or ‘how many clubs can I actually take on?’ … stuff like that, where you’re never going to get an answer through most Penn resources.”
And then, of course, there’s the party: DAB plans College Palooza, a carnival-like event in its tenth year. This year the event will take place on April 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on College Green, and will include 60-second lectures, performances, exhibits from various departments — last year, the Chemistry department made liquid nitrogen ice cream — and catering from local food trucks such as Sugar Philly and Schmear It.
“It’s a celebration of the College of Arts and Sciences. We try to get a diverse range of departments and academic centers to really exemplify education with the College and put it on display,” College senior and committee Director Carly Sokach said. “As a College student, sometimes it’s difficult to have an identity, especially because we don’t have a set building; we don’t have Huntsman or anything, so College Palooza is our event to celebrate our community. “
Going forward, DAB plans to continue pioneering initiatives that respond to student concerns and improve the undergraduate experience.
“The DAB is one of many groups of College students that help students take the initiative to make Penn a better place,” DeTurck said. “It's one of the things that makes the College proud.”
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