People of Penn

People make Penn go ‘round. Toddlers, teenagers, and young adults. Twenty-somethings, 30-somethings, and 40- and 50-plus. Sexagenarians, septuagenarians, octogenarians, and maybe even more. The “Greatest” Generation, the Silent Generation, and those who came before. Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Millennials. Students, faculty, and staff.

People who think, study, create, build, support, give, advise, care, protect, serve, and make other people.

Without people, Penn would be a lifeless, dark, and derelict place.

“People of Penn” is a Current multimedia project highlighting only a modicum of the diverse members of the University faculty and staff community in his or her space on campus. Each acts as one of the tens of thousands of beats to Penn’s ever-pumping heart and centuries-old soul. They are, in part, police officers, doctors, curators, biologists, clinicians, and fabricators.

Each is unique in his or her own right, and together they make us whole. Me, we.

Photos by Scott Spitzer
Text by Heather A. Davis, Greg Johnson, and Lauren Hertzler

Muslim Chaplain Office of the University Chaplain

What is the favorite part of your job?
“I love working with young people. I think they offer such originality, thoughtfulness, passion, and creativity that I feel keeps me alive in terms of what it means to be an American Muslim. When I see them—as corny as it may sound—this is the future of my community, so how could I not be invested in making sure they have everything they need?”

Oren Friedman

Associate Professor of Clinical Otorhinolaryngology
Perelman School of Medicine

What’s the best part of your job?
“The best part of it is engaging in educational experiences with medical students and residents, as well as undergraduates who are looking for opportunities in medicine. Advancing the care we provide our patients through innovations developed with burgeoning doctors is fascinating.”

James Steel

Associate Director of Sports Performance
Penn Athletics

What are some of your job responsibilities?
“We’re in charge of training all of the athletes in the weight room to get them stronger and more explosive. We have 33 sports so we work with around 900 kids. Our No. 1 goal is to prevent injury. We also do their speed and agility work. We train everybody from football to fencing.”

Jackie Tileston

Associate Professor of Fine Arts, Painting

How do you prepare for a show?
“You work like hell. You just work all the time whenever you’re not teaching. … I tend to work all the time, and then edit and curate from what I have to make the most interesting combination of works.” 
[At the time of the interview, Tileston was preparing for a solo show at the Philadelphia-based Pentimenti Gallery, which runs through Nov. 28.]

Paul Rozin

Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology
School of Arts & Sciences

Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology
School of Arts & Sciences

Ellen Oplinger

Event Coordinator
WXPN and World Cafe

Are there any artists who you’ve been especially excited to meet?
“It was nerve wracking to meet Willie Nelson. We also just had Brian Wilson in for our Non-Commvention. There’s a lot of huge names—you have to keep your composure.”

Dave Dunn

Senior Project Manager in Design and Construction
Division of Facilities & Real Estate Services

How long have you worked at Penn?
“I started at Penn in September 1997, so it will be 18 years in September. I first worked in facilities as a facilities manager, for about two years. Then a job opened in design and construction, which is more what my background was, so I applied for it and got hired and have been there ever since.”

Meeta Kumar

Director of Outreach and Prevention Services
Counseling and Psychological Services

What do you do each day at work?
“The days all look pretty different. A big focus is really keeping an oversight and providing supervision and helping to develop and implement a contemporary vision for our outreach and prevention programs that encompasses a variety of different activities like education, training, and collaboration with partner offices.”

Sharon Moorer Aylor

Executive Director of Human Resources—Staff and Labor Relations
Division of Human Resources

How long have you worked at Penn?
“I’ve worked at Penn for 40 years. I started out working probably a week after graduation [from Penn] in student services under what is now known as Vice Provost for University Life.”

Joseph DiMartino

Nurse Manager
University of Pennsylvania Health System, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center

How long have you been at Penn?
“I’ve been at Penn Medicine since 2005. I originally started as a staff nurse at Rhodes 5, which was the trauma [intensive care unit] at HUP. I was there for a little under three years, and then transitioned into a leadership role for Penn E-lert, which is the telemedicine program for the Health System. In December 2011, I became the nurse manager for the surgical ICU.”


Associate Director
Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina

What’s the best part of your job?
“Working with students is the best part of my job. The work I do is personal; I can relate to our students’ lived experiences and so I do my best to provide them with the resources and support they need.”

Eric Furda

Dean of Admissions

What do you do in your job?
Put simply, Furda says, “I admit amazing young people to Penn each year.” Statistics show that each year, these students are only getting more amazing: Only 9.9 percent — or 3,583 — of the 35,868 applicants were admitted to the Class of 2018. In that class, 52 percent of those admitted are female, and 45 percent self-identify as minority students. 

Stephenie Cook

Lead Teacher
Penn Children’s Center

What is the favorite part of your job?
“Working with the children is the best part. You get to be silly every day and they don’t judge you for that because they’re silly.”

John McGuire

Facilities and Real Estate Services

Describe what you do.
“Trash. It’s all about trash. I’m responsible for all the floors, the dumpster, the garage downstairs, half of the lobby, trash rooms, recycling—and that’s just in [Sansom Place East].”

Bob Schoenberg

Penn LGBT Center

What’s the most unique aspect about your workspace here in the carriage house?
“Just having this space is unique. Still, 30-some years after we started, there are only about 220 institutions of higher education across the country that have professionally staffed LGBT centers.”

Alli Katz

Program Coordinator
Kelly Writers House

What sort of work do you do?
“I have a couple different jobs. I help come up with programming, I plan events, and probably the biggest part of my job is, I function as a staff manager."

Jeff Gasko

Mail Carrier
Penn Mail Services

Have you ever delivered anything unusual?
“Nothing out of the ordinary, although we have delivered stuff to the Med School,” he says. “I will just leave it at that.”

Deborah Becker

Practice Associate Professor of Nursing
School of Nursing

What do you like best about your work?
“The variety is very nice, but one of the nicest things is watching a student go from, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about and are you sure I can learn this?’ to say, by the end of the program, ‘Yeah, I got this.’”

Prithvi Sankar

Professor of Clinical Opthalmology
Scheie Eye Institute

What kind of work do you do?
“I see patients usually for the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma. I do see patients for cataracts and other diseases, too.”

Thomas J. Hauber

Executive Director
Vice Provost for University Life (VPUL) Facilities

What has kept you at Penn for four decades?
“First of all, it’s a great place to work and there is the opportunity for growth,” he says. “I grow every single year doing something better than the year before. Every day is different.”

Lucy Fowler Williams

Associate Curator and Jeremy A. Sabloff Senior Keeper of American Collections
Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

“I spend each day surrounded by amazing handmade objects in a state-of-the-art, high security, climate controlled wing of the Penn Museum—the architects designed it to look like a jewelry box, and it feels that special to me everyday.”

Vijay Kumar

UPS Foundation Professor
School of Engineering and Applied Science

“If Ben Franklin were alive today, he would not only be delighted with robotics education at Penn, but he would himself be a roboticist creating machines that would be both ‘useful’ and result in ‘human improvement.’”

Donna Manley

IT Senior Director
Information Systems & Computing 

“Every day my staff and I are presented with a new challenge and work together to find ways to continuously improve our customer’s experience.”

Mark Frazier Lloyd

University Archives and Records Center

What’s special about the space in which you work? 

“Two-hundred and sixty-four years of historical documentation.”

Rich Cray

Police Officer
Motorcycle Patrol
Division of Public Safety

“The best part of my job is when we take someone off the street who has victimized a member of our community. It’s very satisfying to know that I was a part of preventing that person from victimizing anyone else.”

Amita Sehgal

John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience
Perelman School of Medicine
Co-Director of the Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center
Vice Chair of the Department of Neuroscience

“The favorite part of my job is discussing experiments, research projects, with the people in my lab, trying to analyze an experiment and figure out what it’s telling us about a biological process, and then trying to plan the next stage.”

La’Toya Latney

Service Chief and Attending Clinician, Exotic Companion Animal Medicine and Surgery
School of Veterinary Medicine

“The best part about my job is getting to work with the same animals I read about as a kid. I live my dream each day.”

Andrea Gottschalk

Exhibition Designer and Coordinator
Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center

“I design the look of the exhibit. I work with curators on refining their selections for the different spaces, trying to figure out just how much we can fit in, trying to balance the visual with the verbal.”

Winnie Hallwachs

Biologist, courtesy appointment, research partner to Daniel H. Janzen
School of Arts & Sciences

“We live in Costa Rica in a house that is always open. You can always hear insects, birds, sometimes it’s a frog.”

daniel janzen

Professor of Biology
School of Arts & Sciences

“I study nature, not people, and I relate to people as I need to, to help nature stay in the game.”

dennis pierattini

Fabrication Lab
School of Design

“There’s nothing sedentary about using this stuff. It’s a physical and emotional and mental energy that’s very vibrant.”

Doug Yates

Nanoscale Characterization Facility
Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology

“In our rooms, it has to be plus or minus one degree Celsius per hour, and in one of the rooms, it has to be plus or minus .2 degrees Celsius per hour, and that’s a very difficult thing to achieve.”