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Penn President Liz Magill.

Credit: Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

As I write this, Move-In is in full swing: students and families filling their carts, wheeling to their college houses, bumping into classmates, getting settled. I’ve been out wheeling and greeting, too, giving families a warm Penn welcome, delivering snacks, and hanging with the Penn Band. Because I’m still relatively new here, I’ve also been asking students for recommendations on what to do at Penn and in the city. 

I have to say, wow, did you deliver. I’ve been keeping track of your ideas, from throwing toast at a Penn football game and cheering on the Quakers in the Palestra, to meeting faculty in their offices and taking in a Mask and Wig show, to pulling an all-nighter in Van Pelt. Going forward, I’ll do my best to follow up on all your ideas. (Though I think I’ll take a pass on that all-nighter; I already did my fair share in college.) 

Since you’ve been so generous and thoughtful with your recommendations, I want to offer you one of my own in return. You’re out meeting people, being adventurous, and getting a taste of everything wonderful that Penn and Philadelphia have to offer. But try to make time for another important pursuit, as well: I encourage you to get involved.

A great first step is in the classroom with your faculty. Attend office hours and ask about research opportunities. The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships is another important resource. And if you’re not already considering taking one of the Netter Center’s Academically Based Community Service courses, go browse the current course listings. The Center is an excellent place to begin learning about a range of opportunities for getting involved in the local community.

As you read this, the student-run Penn Leads the Vote organization is already hitting the streets to promote voter registration and civic participation. All elections are important, but we have an especially critical election day coming up on Nov. 8. For many of our first-year students and perhaps some upperclassmen, this will be the first time in your lives that you’ll be old enough to vote. I strongly urge you to. Along the way, consider volunteering with Penn Leads the Vote or seek out student groups such as the Penn Government and Politics Association, the largest political group on campus that welcomes students of all political points of view. So, get registered, get your voice out there, and get involved.      

For our graduate and professional students, especially those new to campus, you should get to know the Graduate Student Center. Consider it your home base for engaging with the Penn graduate and professional student community. In fact, the Center is celebrating its 21st birthday on Friday, Sept. 23, a perfect opportunity to stop by and learn more.

These are just a few examples among so many at Penn. That spirit of getting involved is part of everything we do here and will be a central theme of another big upcoming event. On Oct. 21, we will join together for inaugural programming in celebration of the University of Pennsylvania, our bright future, and our hometown of Philadelphia. Please mark your calendars and keep an eye out for more information. I hope to see you there.

Until then, I’m thrilled to join you at the start of another exciting academic year. Welcome back to campus. Welcome to Penn.

LIZ MAGILL is the ninth president of the University of Pennsylvania. Her email is