While Penn graduates often flock towards Wall Street and finance jobs, there is one workplace Penn alumni rarely end up — Capitol Hill.
There are currently only seven Penn alumni in Congress, and all of them serve in the United States House of Representatives. According to data compiled by The Daily Pennsylvanian, out of 106 total Ivy League alumni in Congress, half are Harvard University graduates, 17 are Yale University graduates, both Princeton University and Dartmouth College are tied at eight, and Penn sports seven representatives.
The seven Penn graduates are Pennsylvania Democrats Conor Lamb, a 2006 College graduate and 2009 Penn Law School graduate, Mary Gay Scanlon, a 1984 Penn Law graduate, and Matt Cartwright, a 1986 Penn Law graduate. 1997 College graduate Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), 1985 Wharton MBA David Trone (D-Md.), 2004 Wharton graduate Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.), and 1969 Wharton MBA David Scott (D-Ga.) are all also currently serving in the House.
Of the 15 Senators with Ivy League undergraduate degrees, none are Penn alumni.
Political science professor Dan Hopkins said while “Washington has long been demonized as a creature of elites,” Ivy League graduates do not necessarily have a harder time on the campaign trail.
“The Ivy League, despite constant political attacks, still has a very good brand,” Hopkins said, citing a previous survey he conducted that found voters appreciate Ivy League degrees. “You do run into rhetorical tropes against these places, but I haven’t seen significant evidence that it’s actually a liability on the campaign trail.”
Rather, Hopkins thinks the small group of Penn alumni in Congress may be a result of Penn’s strong reputation for business and consulting.
“On the margin, Penn has a very, very strong reputation in business,” Hopkins said. “I think that students who are especially interested in politics as a vocation, they may find Washington, D.C. or a place like Georgetown [University] or George Washington [University] a bit more attractive.”
Hopkins added that while Penn has “fellows and programs for people interested [in politics],” the lack of an undergraduate school dedicated to public policy may affect the college choices of aspirational politicians.
One of the Penn programs dedicated to encouraging students to pursue careers in public service is the Penn in Washington program, which helps College students find internships on Capitol Hill.
Executive Director of the Penn in Washington Program Deirdre Martinez said students often feel frustrated with the possibility of a career in public service.
“There’s a lot of recruiting that happens on campus, and there are a lot of compelling reasons to go to New York,” Martinez said. “Going to D.C. is the more complicated path.”
While Penn alumni are not currently joining Congress in large numbers, campus political leaders said there are many students on campus who harbor political aspirations.
President of Penn Democrats and College sophomore EJ Carlson said there are “definitely” a large number of people in the group’s membership who are interested in public service, including a potential stint on Capitol Hill.
“Based on the places that a lot of [Penn] Dems members are interning at — campaign offices or Congressional offices — I think people definitely see themselves serving a future in public service,” Carlson said.
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