Q1. What’s your one sentence bio?
PENN engineer, married to PENN classmate, a proud PENN parent, Financial Services and Banking Executive, China CEO, globe-trotting expat living 10+years in Europe, China and Australia, Ivy League Football Champion, football fanatic, sports broadcaster in next life, economic developer, city councilman, mentor, public speaker, grateful friend and father of 3.
Q2. What was your experience as a student of color at Penn?
I really enjoyed PENN. Having grown up in Long Island, NY and frequently spending time in NYC I wanted a top academic school with a campus in an urban environment. Penn had everything I wanted including a vibrant academic and social atmosphere. I was exposed to a truly talented PENN community and Faculty. As a student of color, I appreciated the exposure to gifted students from around the world including Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and Latin America to name a few. The best aspect was the melting pot of all aspects of cultural and thought diversity inside and outside of the classroom. I also appreciated the student activism and engagement when the voices of color brought issues to the forefront through the Black Students Association and the fraternities and sororities and academic affinity groups like NSBE and what was then called the SEAS Office of Minority Programs.
Q3. What activities were you involved in as a student?
Penn Freshman and Varsity Football, National Society of Black Engineers, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Black Student League, Big Brothers Program of Philadelphia.
Q4. JBS celebrates the history of diversity at Penn. Why is that important to you?
Real diversity raises the importance and urgency of inclusiveness, otherwise the benefits of diversity can never be realized. We must recognize and celebrate that which many groups have added, and continue to add, to the collective history and success of PENN. That recognition and celebration cannot be passively represented by people of different race, thought, nationality, religion, sexuality and gender on campus --all attractive statistics. Celebrating where we’ve come from, where we are and where we’re going is giving a voice and substance to that representation. That collective diversity that is stronger than its parts.
Q5. What excites you about Penn now?
My daughter is in the Class of 2019 so I have the unique opportunity to see Penn now as not only an alum but a parent. I am excited about the growth and diversity of Penn. The University has so much to offer…the world class academic programs – joint interdisciplinary programs like Huntsman, Vagelos, Management & Technology, etc. The Annenberg Center, the Kelly Writers House all of these programs that have unique offerings that provide such a rich student experience. The world renowned top Graduate Programs - Wharton, the School of Medicine, Law School, the School of Engineering to name a few. The Penn Compact 2020 initiative led by President Gutmann. The long standing traditions of Homecoming, Spring Fling and others carries on and Penn Connects - the expansion of the Penn campus in University City, Penn Park and the future land use and development . The launch of Pennovation, the Center for Nanotechnology, and the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing. Projects that are under construction - The Perry World House, The Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics, the Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building - Wow! The diversity of the student body…the strength of the study abroad curriculum. The vision and the future really excites me!
Q6. How would you encourage alumni to get engaged or re-engage with Penn?
There are many ways to get engaged or re-engaged. You can first start out with your local Alumni Clubs in the area in which you live. You can also stay active with the Penn Alumni Center and participate in the Alumni Interviewing, attend an alumni event either on campus or close to your home. I encourage all alumni of color to participate in this year’s Penn Spectrum coming this fall on campus. It will be a terrific way to stay engaged/re-engage. Give back to the University – either with your time, your charitable donations or your participation in alumni events. It will be well worth the effort. Giving back in any of these ways, will help ensure Penn stays vibrant, innovative and a strong value proposition for prospective students and faculty. In summary, leverage your time through volunteering – Alumni clubs, Alumni Interviewing, leverage your unique skills/professional expertise to a Penn initiative, and give back to your personal capacity through charitable gifts. Lastly, be an active member of the James Brister Society!