To balance Penn's pre-professional culture, a group of Wharton students are pushing to connect students through their hobbies.
PennDoes, a group project created in Wharton professor Adam Cobb’s MGMT-104 class, is a new social media initiative designed to celebrate the hobbies and passions that make Penn students unique and to promote having a well-rounded life. Started just a few weeks ago, the group has already shared profiles of Penn students interested in hiking, scuba diving, and video editing.
“The idea was to start a social movement on campus and to find something that we think isn’t recognized, and to bring more awareness to it,” Wharton sophomore Rae Peterson said, regarding the origins of the project. “A lot of people [in MGMT-104] do really typical projects like how to make GSR reservations more efficient, but we really wanted to focus on [the pre-professional culture].”
The group takes submissions via a ‘Hobbies’ survey on its Facebook page which asks users to fill out what sorts of activities they enjoy. PennDoes then connects participants with other Penn students with similar interests.
According to Wharton sophomore Tyler Knox, also involved in the project, students have been receptive to the idea so far.
“We’ve had quite a few students that have reached out just to share the fact that they really like the idea of what we’re doing,” he said. “I think any initiative designed to show that the Penn community is more than its pre-professional ambitions will probably go over pretty well.”
According to some of the PennDoes organizers, the project is personally important because of how Penn’s pre-professional culture has shaped their time on campus. Penn’s pre-professional culture, both in classes and extracurricular activities, has led many to criticize the campus for having a negative effect on the mental health of students.
Wharton senior and PennDoes organizer Alexis Glasgow shared some of the difficulties adapting to the culture on campus as a transfer student.
“Coming in as a sophomore, it was definitely a culture shock — people were conducting themselves in a totally different way,” she said. “I think it’s unfortunate that you can’t get to know what people actually like to do unless you’re removed from a classroom setting or you’re outside of Huntsman.”
The group has already had social outings, including a pop-up event last Friday at Winterfell Dessert which brought together board game enthusiasts. Possible future plans include reserving basketball courts for casual games.
Wharton sophomore Vanessa Wanyandeh, who signed up for PennDoes at the recommendation of fellow Wharton sophomore and PennDoes organizer Ava Perry, was featured on the group’s Facebook page for her interests in video editing, finding new music, reading, and journaling. She said that the group’s mission statement appealed to her because Penn students are so often focused on pre-professional and educational goals.
“I think it’s just cool to highlight what students like to do outside of class; I don’t think we talk about that enough,” she said. “It’s nice to see Penn is at least trying to highlight something that’s not pre-professional, because that’s important too.”
Wanyandeh said that while Penn’s administration and status contribute to the pre-professional culture, she thinks that students need to start changing how they interact with each other if Penn is to change its campus environment.
“I think [PennDoes] is a step in the right direction, but I think there’s a lot more work we have to do, too," she said.
According to the organizers, PennDoes is not meant to oppose Penn’s pre-professional culture, as it makes many students successful, but is instead meant to supplement it.
“Of course, Penn students should take part in classes and professional organizations, but they shouldn’t let passions they have not be an interest,” Knox said. “Stay true to who you are — that’s the advice I give.”
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