With over 13,000 interviewers, it can sometimes be hard to grasp that from October through February, Penn alumni are having real and engaging conversations with thousands of students who are interested in attending Penn. However, hearing the personal stories of Penn interviewers―why they got involved, what keeps them interviewing, and how serving as ambassadors for Penn has impacted their life―makes this process tangible.

This year, when we set out to thank our interviewers for their amazing work, we thought it would be interesting to learn more about their connection to the Interview Program. The back of their thank-you card contained a mostly blank space with the words “I interview because … ” We encouraged interviewers to fill this out, take a photo of them holding the sign, and upload it to social media using #penninterviews (because who doesn’t love a social media campaign?). The response has been tremendous: Interviewers from all over the world are sharing why they participate in the Interview Program, and in doing this are revealing the fantastic ambassadorial nature of Penn alumni! Three of our wonderful interviewers agreed to expand upon the reasons why they believe the interview program is so vital to Penn.

Sophia Li Ferry, W'02, GED'03Sophia Li Ferry, W’02, GED’03

1. How long have you interviewed?
I have been interviewing since October 2008.

2. What committee(s) do you interview for?
I have interviewed in San Francisco and in New York City for public and private schools. I currently serve on a virtual committee for the Northeastern United States and an in-person committee in Manhattan, New York.

3. Why did you start interviewing?
I moved to San Francisco after graduation and I felt disconnected from the Penn community. A few years later, I met a Penn alumni interviewer, and I knew that this was an opportunity to connect to Penn from afar. I also knew that I could give back to Penn and, at the same time, provide unique insight to prospective students who lived thousands of miles from Penn’s campus.

4. Why do you continue to serve as an interviewer?
Selfishly, I continue to interview because there is this energy that takes me back to the days of being on-campus―it is a chance to relive my college youth. Beyond revisiting my Penn experience, I love hearing about prospective students' hopes and dreams. The applicants have their whole lives ahead of them, and it is wonderful to hear a fresh perspective―their views of the world and how they see themselves shaping the future.

5. What is your favorite part of the process?
When I think about interview season, a huge grin washes over me. I truly appreciate being on both sides of the decision-making process. From an admissions perspective, the interview gives admissions officers additional insight to who this applicant is beyond the traditional application. For the prospective students, the interview gives them a chance to find out more about Penn, to interview me, and to figure out whether Penn is a good fit for them.

6. What is your favorite interview question?
Beyond the standard questions, I prefer asking hypothetical questions that not only require creativity or originality but also indirectly give me a better sense of the individual. For example, last year, I asked applicants to identify an animal that they would most likely be and why.

7. Why should your classmates sign up to interview for Penn?
As former students, we are part of Penn’s history. As alumni, we represent what Penn stands for today. And as alumni interviewers, we play a role in the future of Penn.

 

Dr. Mae Pasquariello, CW'53, GRD'85Dr. Mae Pasquariello, CW’53, GRD’85

1. How long have you interviewed?
Three years

2. What committee(s) do you interview for?
Main Line

3. Why did you start interviewing?
The opportunity to join the interview program was presented to me, and I immediately signed up. I just loved the chance to talk with potential students. Interviewing is really a wonderful opportunity to show another side of a student that you will not find in an application.

4. Why do you continue to serve as an interviewer?
I can tell you that I do not interview with the idea of someone getting in or not getting in. I like the idea of learning something that admissions might not necessarily know that I can share with them. I find that when you get these applicants comfortable, they tend to open up more. It really is a labor of love, and so many of these kids are really phenomenal.

5. What is your favorite part of the process?
Really just meeting the students. I look forward to it! I will walk into a coffee shop, and invariably they say “Dr. Mae?” and we end up having a great discussion.

6. What is your favorite interview question?
Why Penn? This is easily my favorite―it’s a question that can teach you a lot about that kid. I see the good pieces in all the answers they give (even if they don’t want to go to Penn) and it helps me to learn a lot about the student. Above all, I appreciate honesty.
 
7. Why should your classmates sign up to interview for Penn?
First, they must be able to give it the appropriate amount of time. You can’t interview in a hurry or you will do the student a disservice. Second, you must love Penn. The interview program is perfect for those who care about the University and want to see it flourish.

Suresh Shanmugham, W'92

Suresh Shanmugham, W’92

1. How long have you interviewed?
I have been interviewing for two years now.

2. What committee(s) do you interview for?
I interview candidates in the Silicon Valley area.

3. Why did you start interviewing?
It was a way to stay better connected with Penn. Being on the West Coast makes it much more difficult to stay engaged with the school. I find myself more motivated to keep up with what is happening on campus now.

4. Why do you continue to serve as an interviewer?
I enjoy meeting accomplished high school students and hearing about their activities, interests, and aspirations. Many of the applicants are doing amazing things.

5. What is your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part is after the initial nervousness passes and the interaction becomes much more of a conversation than an interview.

6. What is your favorite interview question?
It isn’t a question but a suggestion given to me by one of Penn classmates who has been an interviewer for many years now. I ask them to bring an “ice breaker,” an item of personal meaning or significance that they can talk about. It provides an opportunity for them to begin the discussion with something they are comfortable with to get the conversation going.

7. Why should your classmates sign up to interview for Penn?
It is a way to help Penn to continue to set itself apart with its high level of alumni engagement and provides an opportunity for you to be an ambassador for the University.

To learn more about the Penn Alumni Interview Program or to become an interviewer yourself, please visit www.alumni.upenn.edu/interviews.