Tuition at the University of Pennsylvania for the 2016-2017 academic year is $45,556. If you assume a course load of 4.0 course units, you’re spending more than $100 per hour of class time. During your time at Penn, you’re sitting in a classroom for over 1,500 hours, and you are interacting with a minimum of 30 different professors, all of whom are experts in their respective fields. The education you’re receiving at Penn is in many ways the basis of the rest of your life and the basis of your career.
We have all been hearing the same spiel from adults in our lives about why school is important since we started kindergarten. I’m not here to argue this point. If you don’t believe in the value of your education and the value of a Penn education itself, you probably wouldn’t be here.
What I’m here to discuss is why you should care about what’s happening in your education — not just what you may be learning in the classroom, but what is going on around Penn and in higher education in general.
Something I am frustrated with at Penn is when people complain about what’s happening around them but don’t make an effort to understand and solve the problem. Yes, you may be right that the curve in this class stinks or the structure of that class may not be as conducive to learning as the professor intended it. Still, what good does sitting around and venting about it do? It might make you feel better for a bit, but at the end of the day, you still go to bed with the same lack of satisfaction and resolution.
What I think is great about Penn is that there are tons of people across the University who are dedicated to improving the Penn education. Penn is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its students. Administrators work to engage students from across the University for feedback to understand their needs.
While it may not always be transparent, many faculty, administrators and students alike dedicate a lot of time and energy to thinking of innovative and practical solutions to issues that affect students and their academics.
For example, when students wanted more opportunities to pursue global research and engage with policies that affect the entire world, the Perry World House was created. Additionally, a group of students has been working with the deans and the provost’s office to reduce the extraneous costs that are required in various courses.
I agree that there is always more that can be done, but administrators across the University are incredibly receptive to your feedback and are trying really hard to meet the needs of all Penn students. In the long run, the goal of students and administrators is the same: to make the Penn education the absolute best that it can be.
If there is one thing you can take away from reading this, it’s that you shouldn’t sit by and let your education happen to you. Be an active participant in your education and what is happening in your education. Shout loudly when you support the way something is being done. Shout even louder when there is something you want to see changed. You are an integral piece of this university, and you can have a voice in the way your education is manifested.
There are so many people who are here to listen. Come to Student Committee on Undergraduate Education office hours to share issues of academic importance that you want to see improved. Attend an Undergraduate Assembly GBM to discuss problems you are having with student life or Penn in general. Share your experiences with your academic advisors. Talk to faculty about their courses, and tell them what you liked and didn’t like about your time in their class. I promise that most of them really want to hear what you have to say.
Most of all, don’t let four years go by and end up looking back on them thinking about what you didn’t like about Penn. Be a voice for change at the University and actively participate in the changes that are happening across Penn.
One of my favorite quotations from President Obama is, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” This could not be more applicable to your time at Penn. We are here at Penn for our education, and we need to be the change that we seek.
SHAWN SROLOVITZ is an Engineering junior from Manalapan, N.J., studying bioengineering. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “Srol With It” usually appears every other Tuesday.
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