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PennArts is one of five pre-orientation programs that will receive part of the $250,000 donation (Photo from PennArts).

Penn’s Class of 1982 donated $250,000 to five of University Life at Penn’s pre-orientation programs for first-year students, which will be used to enhance programming and lower costs for students.

The five programs the Class of 1982 donated to— PENNacle, PennArts, PennGenEq, PennQuest, and PennGreen — will each receive $50,000 in funding. Each program occurs over a four to five-day period, and each has a different focus, including leadership, arts, gender equity, and environmentalism. Incoming first years apply for programs in June and attend right before New Student Orientation in August.

Sally Katz, president of the Class of 1982, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the class made the donation as part of their fundraising goal for their 40th reunion, achieving the goal with 475 separate donations. The donation to pre-orientation programming is one of four donations the Class of 1982 made to celebrate four decades of being alumni, the other three being the class scholarship, support for the Penn Fund, and individually endowed scholarships.

Typically, classes are given a number of capital, brick-mortar projects, such as the construction of new buildings or renovations, to choose to sponsor. However, the Class of 1982 considered 11 non-capital projects, ultimately deciding to donate to pre-orientation programming as it resonated most heavily among the class, according to Katz. While the Class of 1982 did not have pre-orientation programming when they attended Penn, New Student Orientation, NSO, was where many classmates made lifelong friendships and met future spouses.

“NSO in our day is nothing like it is now, but people always think so fondly of their first experiences being on campus and getting to know everyone,” Katz told the DP. “Our goal is to have the money enhance or expand the availability [of pre-orientation programming].”

Bruce Lane, the gift chair for the Class of 1982, said in a written statement to the DP that pre-orientation programs give participating students “a base of friends and great experiences to start with.” For Lane, his first-year orientation was an important part of his first-year experience, and where he met one of his closest friends. Years later, his daughter, Dana of the Class of 2021, also formed friendships during her orientation.

Laurie McCall, the staff coordinator of PennQuest, also noted the significance of the Class of 1982’s generous gift.

“The Class of '82 did not have these programs, so I think it's phenomenal that they came together for this,” McCall told the DP. “It speaks to the experience and the experiences that [pre-orientation programs] give to students.”

Megan Edelman, the program advisor for PennArts, explained how pre-orientation programming is significant for introducing students who share similar interests in a small and safe environment. 

“It's really cool to see those connections that can really extend beyond that week, and carry [students] through [school],” Edelman said to the DP. “And some of those connections might change or drop off, but they'll still see a face they know on Locust Walk, and that's a really special experience for them.”

Elisa Foster, staff leader for PennGenEq, a pre-orientation group that focuses on gender equity and social justice, discussed how pre-orientation programs can help students engage with Penn’s greater community. Foster noted that since PennGenEq first began in 2021, many of its participants have joined the board of the Penn Association for Gender Equity. 

According to Michael Elias, Strategic Initiatives Executive Director for University Life, the University Life department submitted the proposal for different donation options for the Class of 1982 in 2021. Penn Fund notified the department this July that the donation to pre-orientation programs went through, and directors of the pre-orientation programs were notified of the gift that same month.

PennArts, PennQuest, PENNacle, and PennGreen require students to pay $375 to $395 to attend programming but offer need-based aid to students applying to the programs. PennGenEq is free to students because of previous donations established before the Class of 1982’s gift.

“[The Class of 1982’s gift] is really great because it ensures the future of the next few years of being able to comfortably host PennGenEq knowing that we have the funds to bring in speakers and to have workshops,” Foster said.

Directors of pre-orientation groups plan to stretch the donation over multiple years, with most pre-orientation groups estimating around five years.

Elias said that University Life’s proposal to the Class of 1982 was strategic, as it allows all students to attend pre-orientation programs without financial burdens. 

“The intentionality is that we're able to provide more access for particularly first-generation, low-income students to be able to access these programs," Elias said. "And so this is going to be one of our more long-term goals and visions which is to expand these programs and create more opportunities for our students."