"When people talk about home, it’s not just where we sleep at night. It’s where we have roots, and it’s where we receive unconditional acceptance and unalloyed affection, whoever we are,” remarked President Amy Gutmann to the audience during Taste of Penn Spectrum on September 24. As she continued with “Welcome home,” the crowd’s cheers set the tone for an intense and gratifying weekend.
The University’s best-attended Penn Spectrum Weekend, a three-day event celebrating diversity, equity, and access – all priority issues for Dr. Gutmann and the entire University—began on Friday, September 23 with a Diverse Women in Leadership panel and luncheon, open houses at the multiple cultural centers on campus, student-group performances, and Table Talk’s Campus Couches. The weekend brought together over 700 members of the Penn community as well as friends and allies from all backgrounds to engage on issues that relate to Black, Latinx, Native, Asian, and LGBTQ alumni and students.
With events ranging from social to intellectual, and sometimes a combination of the two, Saturday’s line-up included 15 panel discussions on timely topics and pressing issues such as the presidential election, Black Lives Matter, and behavioral health, to name just a few. That the weekend coincided with the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. was merely coincidence. However, the two shared similar messages of celebrating diversity, and encouraging dialogue and open communication.
Now in its third iteration (occurring once every three years), the weekend-long program is relatively young and quickly gaining steam. Indeed, according to Elise Betz, Executive Director of Alumni Relations, this year’s Penn Spectrum Weekend was a success. “The feeling is that we moved the needle a little bit on the conversation about diversity and race,” she said. The Diversity Groups, almost 20 years old and part of Penn’s department of Alumni Relations, recognized a need for a dedicated conference to address topics that concern the University’s increasingly diverse population of students and alumni. Hence, Penn Spectrum Weekend was born, and continues to thrive.
The weekend wrapped up on Sunday, September 25 with optional gallery visits to the Penn Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art. And finally, a farewell brunch, in honor of Ms. Cora Ingrum, Director of Multicultural Programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science to celebrate her 55 years of service at Penn and her long-time commitment to underrepresented minority students and faculty. A fitting send-off, both for Ms. Ingrum and the Penn community she faithfully served.