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Penn President Amy Gutmann traveled to London last weekend in an effort to connect with alumni and potential donors.

Penn President Amy Gutmann is willing to go the distance.

Last weekend, Gutmann traveled to London alongside Provost Vince Price in an effort to reach out to alumni and connect with potential donors.

The “Engaging Minds” academic symposium, which they co-hosted, invited alumni living abroad to re-experience the classroom. The event, featuring three Penn Integrates Knowledge professors, was hosted at the British Museum.

According to Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations Fredrick “Hoopes” Wampler, the event was the first “major academic program” for international alumni that Penn has ever hosted.

The symposium served as part of Penn’s ongoing plans to work with alumni, particularly those living abroad.

Wampler said that of Penn’s approximately 297,000 living alumni, about 8 percent live outside the United States, with both numbers increasing substantially in the last three years. He added that Penn hopes to host more events similar to the symposium in London last weekend.

Working more with alumni around the world could mean even better prospects for the Making History campaign, which is $500 million away from its $3.5 billion goal for June 2012.

Lisa McClatchy, assistant vice president for development and the Making History Campaign director, said that of all donors to Penn in fiscal year 2010, 62 percent of them were alumni, and 2 percent of all donors were from outside of the U.S.

Fungayi Kapungu, a 1999 College graduate, lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since there are few Penn alumni living in his region, the primary contact he receives from the University is through the internet, he said.

However, Kapungu said that if Penn were to host more alumni events in his area, the events would “absolutely” have an effect on his donations to his alma mater. “It would be great if there could be more events outside the States,” he said.

For Noel Pérez-Benitez, a 2003 College graduate and president of the Penn Alumni Club of Mexico, alumni events featuring professors are “vital in providing a way to stay in touch with Penn,” she wrote in an e-mail.

“These events are important factors in strengthening the alumni community in Mexico,” she added.

Nevertheless, Pérez-Benitez donates to Penn because she was a financial aid recipient.

“My contributions are independent of Penn’s outreach programs,” she wrote. “However, I do consider that the Alumni Office makes it easier to donate by sending information [online].”

Not only are alumni important for donations to the University, but promoting alumni relations internationally is significant in “making sure that the Penn brand is strong abroad,” Wampler said. These “key ambassadors” are the “best tool to help us improve our brand,” he explained.

Kapungu, who interviews prospective Penn students, said he hopes Penn’s efforts will encourage more students in South Africa to apply, especially because few alumni live there now.

Andrea Loayza, a 2008 Engineering graduate, wrote in an e-mail that “the fun part” of Penn’s alumni relations efforts is getting to see fellow Quakers locally in Toronto, especially since many events take place in New York or Philadelphia.

“I like to stay connected to the alumni community here in Toronto because it’s my way to staying connected to Penn — since most of my friends live in other cities in the world,” Loayza wrote.

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