Three days. One campus-wide effort. More than 750 admitted students registered. The entire University joined us in congratulating the Class of 2018 with a new overnight program, Quaker Days. The driving force behind the program Regional Director Liz Washo and Admissions Counselor Landon Reitz share the process, thought, and energy that defined the event.
In your early preparation for Quaker Days, what were your goals for the program?
LW: We wanted to create a comprehensive overnight event that gave students the opportunity to experience the breadth and depth of Penn. After looking at the surveys from Penn Preview Days (the traditional day-long welcome program), we realized that an 8-hour format was not enough to give students that “aha moment.” We wanted to make sure that we created a program that gave students time on their own to explore. Decision making is an organic process—students need to see how they feel on campus as an integral part of the Penn community.
Can you discuss the planning process?
LW: We had to organize our staff around this effort first, many months ago. We had never tried this model before and we were up 15% in applications. Putting together the program meant late nights, constant communication, and a full staff rallying behind the effort during this extremely busy time. It was an evolution.
LR: connectEDquaker days happened in February and, for us, that created energy, fueling our enthusiasm for moving forward.
How many departments helped coordinate this effort?
LW: To give a number would be misleading. Everyone pitched in. This was the first time that our campus, under the umbrella of Admissions, really came together in such a way. Quaker Days was an all-out effort. Everyone, every department, every program helped in some way.
LR: I thought I was in the center of all the planning but realized that so much more was happening to prepare.
Tell us about the Penn student effort.
LW: We started signing kids up to overnight host at the NSO Activities Fair in September 2013. We had 200 Penn students going into the fall that agreed to help. The current students also helped us choose the name. We did a naming contest in the Daily Pennsylvanian and the winner was obviously Quaker Days. The fact that we ended up with more hosts than needed was amazing. We also had over 200 student volunteers just to help out with the overall event and more than 30 student groups plan events. The student support was overwhelmingly wonderful.
LR: The student events were so fun. There were all sorts of things- karaoke, cornhole, and dancing. The Center for Research and Fellowships (CURF) had a 60 second thesis synopsis that went over really well too.
How many prospective students attended?
LW: Close to 800.
Tell us about the signature event, the Last Hurrah.
LR: We wanted to have students get out in Philly. They got to run up the Rocky Steps and see the Betsy Ross House. We pulled out the red carpet at the Franklin Institute with the Last Hurrah. The students were together at the Welcome event, found their own niche communities and then were able to come back together at the Last Hurrah. The event, at the Franklin Institute, featured guest speaker, Mike Feinberg, Penn alumnus and co-founder of the KIPP Foundation, a guest student D.J., and the Mask and Wig band. Dean Furda and the Admissions Office took part in the festivities and Chi Omega Philanthropy volunteered their time to coordinate activities.
LW: A number of admitted students walked into Franklin Institute and said “Wow.” That’s what we wanted. We wanted the event to be so fun. And it was so fun. When do you get to hang out in a museum late-night?
LR: Before the program, my favorite part was going to the Franklin Institute and testing out the lighting and projection screens. All the pieces were coming together. This was the space we imagined and it was coming to fruition. During Quaker Days, I loved walking around and seeing everyone on their phone. Admitted students were huddled together on the Quaker Days App anticipating the next session or event.
LW: On Sunday, when I got the report that admitted students were using their Quaker Days cards to go to the dining halls. They were taking this experience and making it their own… I am still in a “pinch” moment. I am just so thrilled that there were only positive things in the experience. The students were wonderful and our campus partners were so supportive. Overall, it was an amazing event.