The Daily Pennsylvanian asked Jennifer Richards of Penn women’s tennis 15 questions about her sport, her time at Penn, and life overall. Here’s what the senior had to say.
1. Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Jennifer, I grew up in New York, but I now live in San Diego. I’m a double major in psychology and criminology, and I also submatriculated into the master's program of criminology.
2. What have you loved most about being a Penn athlete?
My favorite thing about being an athlete at Penn is that you can be a student and an athlete. At a lot of schools you really have to pick one. For me, so much of my identity is excelling on the court, but also excelling in the classroom, and also getting involved in the community. I felt like I was really able to maximize that during my time at Penn.
3. What has been your most memorable experience at Penn?
My second to last match junior year, before COVID-19 hit, I had clinched for the first time in my career. I had always been close, but I don't think it had happened. In collegiate tennis, there’s seven points and the team that gets to four wins. I remember it was a really tight match against William and Mary, and I remember that my match was the one that got us to four. I had been match number five or number three, but I hadn’t been match number four before.
4. What originally attracted you to tennis?
My mom played a little bit and she kind of wanted me also to play. At first I did it for fun, but then we saw some potential there, and I realized I really loved it and wanted to pursue it more seriously.
5. Which do you like playing more: singles or doubles?
Absolutely singles. I think doubles is so fun, but I don’t think I was ever nearly as good as a doubles player as I was a singles player. I definitely did not get recruited to Penn to play doubles. If there was something I wish I could do differently, or if I had more time and COVID-19 didn’t hit, I would really develop my doubles game. To me, it’s so different that it’s like a different sport almost.
6. How have you been trying to stay in shape during the pandemic?
I’ve been in San Diego for the last year and I just tried to play tennis as much as I could here. I’m very lucky to have such nice weather and to be able to play year-round, even during COVID-19.
7. Who’s your favorite professional athlete?
Roger Federer is my favorite men’s tennis player. His game is just so smooth, and he’s just a class act on the court. He’s just someone you want to root for. I think Serena Williams on the women’s side is arguably the greatest player of all time. To be able to win at the level she does and have a child and also be such an awesome role model for so many people makes her my favorite on the women’s side.
8. You’re the co-founder of the new Penn Undergraduate Criminology Society. What motivated you to start that?
I really lucked out personally with finding such incredible mentors, especially within criminology, who really took me under their wing and set me up for so much success. I realized that many people probably just didn’t have that same kind of luck with meeting the right professor at the right time, and I felt like there was really no way to pass on knowledge either. I felt like we really just wanted to pass on what we had learned in a really formal way and also just build a network of public interest and criminal justice oriented people. I felt that Penn didn’t really have a formal group for that. I didn’t really want it to be necessarily an advocacy group, I wanted it to be more of a community where we draw on each other's experiences and help each other become successful.
9. What has been your favorite class you’ve taken at Penn?
Adrian Raine’s class, the biopsychosocial criminology class. That class really first got me interested in crime, and it was the first class that made me question my beliefs coming into Penn. I really thought that crime was very black and white, but that class really pushed me to open my perspectives and it honestly changed my life and changed what I thought I’d end up doing and wanting to study.
10. You grew up in New York, went to school in Philadelphia, but now live in San Diego. So which is better, the East Coast or the West Coast?
I have a slight personal preference toward the East Coast. I think there’s just more going on, particularly New York. In my head, it’s New York versus California, when you say east versus west. I really just love New York, I love the energy, and I don’t think any city is the same as New York.
11. What’s your favorite spot to eat on campus?
Mizu. I really miss Mizu. It’s pretty okay-priced for Japanese food, and I think it’s still pretty good.
12. In a typical semester, where was your favorite spot to hang at around campus?
It’s definitely changed from year to year. I’ve been on the Undergraduate Assembly throughout college, so my freshman year I’d always hang out in the Office of Student Affairs offices, we had an office there. My sophomore and junior years I was always in Panera all the time, that was my second home. Once it opened I pretty much lived there.
13. Favorite tv show?
"Saturday Night Live."
14. What are your post-graduate plans?
They’re still being worked out, but most likely either Harvard or Stanford Law School.
15. If you could go back and change one thing about your time at Penn, what would it be?
Stop and smell the roses a little bit more. COVID-19 has definitely taught us all a little bit about that. Junior year I was so ready for senior year and so excited to apply to law school and the next chapter in my life. Time really goes by quickly, and COVID-19 hit us out of the blue, and I really wish I had savored more of those in-the-moment memories with friends and made the most of the now.