Five events to watch for in October

Penn Spectrum Weekend returns for the first time in three years, the Penn Museum gets festive for Dia de Los Muertos, and the Weitzman School celebrates design.

Two costumed dancers at a Dia de Los Muertos event
Costumed dancers perform for Dia de Los Muertos. (Photo courtesy: Penn Museum)

With the new semester—and fall—in full swing, campus is abuzz with talks, symposiums, celebrations, and more. 

This month, the design community gathers at and around Meyerson Hall to commemorate the naming of the Stuart Weitzman School of Design with an immense and interdisciplinary meeting of design minds; at the Annenberg School for Communication, an HBO documentary is screened alongside the film’s producers; and at the Penn Museum, the CultureFest! series returns with a can’t-miss day of festivities surrounding the Day of the Dead. 

Here, find just a few happenings around campus this October. 

Weitzman Celebration of Design (Oct. 3, 1 p.m.)

sculpture in front of penn design meyerson building
In addition to naming the School of Design the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design, the School’s central plaza will be named The Stuart Weitzman Plaza. It will undergo significant redesign and renovation by renowned landscape architect, Laurie Olin, Practice Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the School of Design.

One of the Weitzman School’s biggest-ever events, this celebration is a historic occasion for the University—capped with a naming ceremony at 5 p.m. at Meyerson Hall with remarks from President Amy Gutmann, Dean Frederick Steiner, and Stuart Weitzman. 

The keynote speaker for the event is Paul Goldberger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic and contributing editor at Vanity Fair. He will engage in conversation with Gutmann, touching on subjects in design that cross disciplines. 

Elsewhere in the program, Inga Saffron, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer, moderates a panel about the interplay of design, technology, and the natural world—featuring, among others, James Corner of James Corner Field Operations, and a professor emeritus at the Weitzman School, who was project lead for the design of the New York City High Line. A second panel covers the conversations surrounding the meaning of memorials—everything from statues of generals to new murals on urban housing. 

The event is free to attend.

Penn Spectrum Weekend (Oct. 4-6, various times)

Since its inception in 2010, Penn Spectrum Weekend has been held every three years all around campus to unite alumni and students to engage in dialogue and celebration surrounding cultural identity and intersectionality. 

This year’s topics include gentrification, first-generation and low-income students’ experences, ongoing healthcare disparities among minorities, and the experiences of alumnae at Penn—discussing how the campus has changed and stayed the same. 

There will also be a variety of mixers, receptions, and an art exhibition, “20 Years, La Casa Latina, Student, and Alumni Voices,” made by two community artists and on display at The ARCH. 

‘At the Heart of Gold’ Screening (Oct. 17, 5:15 p.m.)

This 2019 HBO documentary film about the U.S. gymnastics team scandal is part of the “Courage First” program by the Foundation for Global Sports Development, created to highlight and raise awareness around sexual abuse in sports. The film is touring the country as part of that program.

“At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal,” to be shown at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, is an 89-minute deep dive into the events and human consequences of the scandal, directed by Erin Lee Carr—who also directed the HBO documentary film, “I Love You, Now Die.” This film examines the experiences of the athletes at the center of the scandal and the culture that led to the hiding of the abuse from Larry Nassar. Executive producers David Ulich and Steven Ungerleider, as well as gymnast Trinea Gonzcar and CHILD USA CEO Marci Hamilton—the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion—will engage in a Q&A following the screening. 

Those who plan to attend should RSVP; space is limited. 

Environmental Justice Symposium (Oct. 25, 8 a.m.)

Hosted by the Department of Earth & Environmental Science, this symposium—loosely commemorating the 25th anniversary of former President Bill Clinton signing an executive order that incorporated environmental justice principles into the missions of federal agencies—is an opportunity to bring together prominent practitioners and thought leaders from a slew of academic disciplines.

The symposium, held at the Convene coworking space in Center City, opens with remarks from Provost Wendell Pritchett, followed by a keynote from Paul Mohai, a professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who is a past member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Themes in the day of panels span from  how science and technology could benefit the environmentally disadvantaged, to how law, economics, and politics assess who wins and loses as a result of environmental exploitation, and how the environmental justice movement relates to a Green New Deal.

“Our symposium should be of interest to everyone, no matter which race, ethnicity, or class they belong to, or what their values are,” says Svetlana Milutinovic, research program manager in the Department of Earth & Environmental Science. Because, she adds, “new research shows that helping those who face environmental injustice improves the environment overall and benefits the health of populations at large.”

Before the symposium, on Oct. 24 at the Fitts Auditorium, is a screening of “Cooked: Survival by Zip Code,” about a deadly heat wave that overtook Chicago in 1995 and disproportionately affected those living in poverty. Filmmaker Judith Helfand will attend the screening for a discussion after the screening. 

Dia de Los Muertos (Oct. 26, 10 a.m.)

The Penn Museum comes alive with Day of the Dead festivities all day long, with musical and dance performances, puppetry, storytelling, face painting, sugar skulls, and a collection of arts and crafts activities for families.

The marquee attraction, however, is an altar created by Cesar Viveros, in association with the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia and the Mexican Cultural Center. Attendees are invited to leave a photo of a loved one who has passed, a unique opportunity for the Penn and Philadelphia community to collectively gather and honor those who’ve moved on. 

The event is free for PennCard holders and included with Museum admission. 

Want to know more about what’s happening around campus? Find out more through Penn Today’s curated events calendar. Have an event you’d like to suggest for the calendar? Email Staff Writer Brandon Baker at