New family welcome: ‘The right place; the right time’

President Liz Magill and Provost John L. Jackson Jr. welcomed first-year and transfer students and their families in an afternoon celebration on College Green.

Students and families sitting on red and blue tablecloths on College Green
Hundreds of first-year and transfer students and their families attended the New Family Welcome on College Green on Aug. 23, hosted by Penn President Liz Magill and Provost John Jackson.

While an occasional cloud gave cover on College Green as hundreds of new Penn students and their families gathered after moving into College Houses, the warm welcome on the warm afternoon was clear. 

“I have one core message for the students here that I hope you’ll take to heart. I think you are in the right place at precisely the right time,” said President Liz Magill, standing in front of College Hall, flanked by towers of red and blue balloons. 

Penn founder Benjamin Franklin first arrived in Philadelphia as a young man three centuries ago, Magill said. “He concluded, this is the right place for me,” she said. “I think all of our new students are young Franklins in their own way. You are now part of one of the world’s great universities and this, this is your University.”

Magill, who is in her second year as president, spoke of Penn as a pioneer in teaching and research, serving the wider world, on a compact and contiguous urban campus. “It’s a dynamic, diverse, and humming ecosystem where students can access endless possibilities and pursuits,” Magill said, adding that the University is constantly looking ahead. 

“I think we’ve never been positioned better or been more alive with momentum than at this moment,” Magill said. “We’re planning for Penn’s future as we speak, and you are part of that.”

Provost John L. Jackson Jr. welcomed students and their parents to the “Penn family.” While Jackson has been at Penn since 2006, this is his first year as the chief academic officer. 

“You’re about to begin one of the most exciting and challenging times of your lives. You’ll acquire knowledge, of course, and definitely more than a bit of wisdom. You’ll have a lot of work, and also a ton of fun,” Jackson said.

“Penn will help you build an intellectual foundation that will serve you well for the rest of your life,” he said. “Yet college is about more than a specific academic path alone, or even the pursuit of knowledge, both worthy goals to be sure.”

As part of a new and richly diverse community of classmates, roommates, professors, staff members, and new friends “you’ll gain wisdom, emotional intelligence, and an elevated awareness of the world, its people, and how you can make a positive contribution to society,” Jackson said, “but, perhaps more than anything else, Penn provides you the opportunity to learn more about yourself—not simply what you want to do but who you are and who you want to be. Penn’s goal is to support you throughout this journey, not to remove every obstacle, as if we could, but to give you the tools to succeed regardless of them.” 

Penn President Liz Magill shakes the hand of a new student and their family in front of College Hall.
Provost John L. Jackson Jr. in front of College Hall talking to a new student and their family.
Penn President Liz Magill (left) and Provost John L. Jackson Jr. (right, center) greeted students and families after the welcome event.

Jonathan Nixon, a first-year from Washington, D.C., in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, joined his family on College Green after finishing his move into Hill College House. Move-In was “an incredibly easy transition,” he said, adding that he had met many other students and everyone had been helpful. “It’s been really good so far. I’m having a really good time,” Nixon said. 

“I’m excited for him because I had such a great experience,” said his brother, Garrett Nixon, a 2021 graduate of Penn Engineering, who came back to campus to help his brother move in, along with their parents Belinda and Gregory Nixon. “I’m just remembering back to my time coming here and seeing him drop me off when he was really small.”

At that time, in the fall of 2017, “there were a lot of tears on the part of our 2027 Penn student when we were dropping big brother off,” Belinda Nixon said, “and now it’s happiness. It’s good to see him really happy.” 

First-year Emma Yao, who is from Vancouver, Canada, and plans to study physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, had just finished moving into Hill College House with roommate Ashley Lee, a first-year in the School of Nursing from Houston, before coming to College Green. 

Yao, who traveled to campus with her mother, Minli Ye, said she appreciated Magill’s welcome. “I think it was what I needed to hear, especially since we just landed last night, and it was a very quick move-in process and especially being in a new country,” Yao said. “Hearing it said out loud that ‘you are in the right place’ was comforting.”

Lee agreed, saying that just before the event she had been talking with her parents about her worries about making new friends, even though she has the support of her older brother, Andrew Lee, a second-year at the Wharton School. The welcome speeches made her feel better, she said. “There’s always a timing for everything, and I think being here at Penn it’s perfect timing and the perfect place to be,” Lee said. 

Mason Padilla, who plans to study international relations in the College, had just moved into Ware College House in The Quad. Padilla was with his parents, Jacqueline Valouch and Jeffrey Padilla, and younger sister Sofia Padilla, all from Rye Brook, New York, and all new to Penn. 

“I thought it was a great opportunity for people to hear from the leadership of the institution,” Valouch said about the welcome. “I love the message, and I think it was really nice to just have people in one spot gathering. The energy on the campus is great. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”

Valouch said she also enjoyed hearing Penn’s traditional songs sung by the Penn Glee Club, “Hail, Pennsylvania!” to kick off the event, and “The Red and Blue” to wrap it up. 

“It’s the right place. It’s the right time,” Magill said at the end of her talk. “This is going to be an extraordinary chapter in your lives, and you’ll now have a place here for the rest of your lives. We couldn’t be more excited to have you here. So welcome, welcome to Penn, your University.”

Hundreds of students and families gathered on College Green.
Students and families filled College Green during the New Family Welcome event. 

For more photos from this year’s President’s and Provost’s New Family Welcome, visit the President’s Website.