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Photo from Wenting Sun

In a change of plans, Penn President Amy Gutmann has confirmed that she will speak at the opening ceremony for the fourth annual 1vyG conference this Saturday. 1vyG is the largest conference for first-generation, low-income students in the world, and will feature 350 attendees, 275 of whom will be staying on Penn's campus for the weekend. 

The conference, which includes students from all eight Ivy League institutions, started at Brown University in 2015 before going to Harvard University and Yale University in the past two years. 

Prior to Feb. 14, members of Penn First, a student group for first-generation, low-income students at Penn, said that it was not clear whether Gutmann would be attending the conference. According to a previous version of the itinerary, Gutmann was only scheduled to deliver an address via video conference while Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett was slated to speak at the opening ceremony.

The 1vyG planning committee, which is composed entirely of Penn students, contacted the President’s Office in June 2017 about a possible appearance by Gutmann. The President’s Office responded saying that while Gutmann’s appearance could not be confirmed until much closer to the conference date, she would send in a video to be shown at the opening ceremony.

Director of Student Programming for 1vyG David Thai, a College senior, said the board was initially under the impression that Gutmann would not be able to speak at the conference. However, at 4:34 p.m. on Wednesday this week, Gutmann's office emailed 1vyG Co-chair and College junior Anea Moore confirming that Gutmann would be speaking at the conference later that week. 

Leah Popowich, a spokesperson for Gutmann, confirmed in an email that the president would be speaking at the conference this weekend. 

The 1vyG conference, which is being held at Penn for the first time this year, allows FGLI students to connect on a national level, to foster discussion, and to promote university resources for students. 

Thai said he was excited about Gutmann's speech especially because the president was a first generation, low-income student as well. 

“I think it will definitely be inspiring and encouraging for other FGLI students to hear her experiences, kind of hearing her words of wisdom, as to how we can best navigate our undergraduate career but also how we can navigate success after we graduate,” Thai said.

Moore agreed. “[Gutmann is] such an inspiration for what first-generation, low-income students can be and grow into,” she said. “We just always thought that as a powerful, formerly-FGLI leader, it would be very powerful to have her at the conference."

Gutmann will be introduced by Provost Wendell Pritchett and accompanied by Joann Mitchell, the senior vice president for institutional affairs and chief diversity officer. Valerie De Cruz, the director of the Greenfield Intercultural Center, will also speaking at the opening ceremony on Feb. 17.

Director of Administrative Programming for the conference and College sophomore Louis Lin said there will be more than 120 administrators from 24 peer institutions attending 1vyG. Lin added that those from Penn work in financial aid, dining, admissions, and the library system. 

Moore said the President’s Office has been very helpful in arranging the event, noting that the Office made a $2,000 donation to the conference.

“To see kind of what she has in store for the conference is going to be really exciting because I’ve always heard from other folks 'President Gutmann does come from a similar background,'" Thai said. “In my opinion, I don’t feel as though she hasn’t highlighted that as much, so it will just be a great opportunity to hear from her experience.”