Political and Proud: A Penn Democrat and a Penn Republican

Before Andrew Brown and Laura Brown — no relation — arrived on the University of Pennsylvania campus, they had both heard of Penn’s reputation, correct or not, as liberal.

Once at Penn, they both found like-minded fellow students, and each rose to leadership roles in political party student organizations. Andrew, from Pittsburgh, is president of Penn Democrats.  Laura, from Pulaski Va., is president of Penn Republicans.

This Election Day they join hundreds of energized undergraduates from student groups like Penn Leads the Vote working hard to get out the student vote.

More than 89 percent of Penn undergraduates voted in the 2008 presidential election. Students involved in voter-registration efforts on campus this year predict an even larger turnout.

Last month, David Thornburgh, director of Penn’s Fels Institute of Government, expressed optimism about the millennial generation of "fired up" voters during his School of Arts and Sciences 60 Second Lecture.

Penn Democrats is the largest student organization on campus. It has a listserv of 2,900, a deputy board of 60 appointed officers and an elected executive board of nine Andrew says, adding that “Our deputy and executive boards have racked up literally thousands of hours of volunteering for the President. We registered 1,236 students to vote, the highest number of students we've ever registered.”

Laura says the College Republicans organization has fostered a small but engaged community of 30-35 active members. 

“From my side of the aisle, the biggest misconception about being a young Republican is that people think it’s not okay to be a Republican in college. But a lot of people have conservative leanings. Just because you’re 21, doesn’t mean you have to be Democrat,” says the 21-year-old Wharton senior, a business and public policy major. 

Andrew, also 21, a junior, double majoring in economics and Africana studies, says he’s more partisan than his liberal-leaning parents. He cites his experiences attending an inner city high school as one of the major influences that led him to the Democratic Party.

Andrew says that some of his fellow students question whether to include their affiliation with a partisan Penn student organization on their resume.

Doing that certainly hasn’t hurt Laura. She’s just been offered a job in corporate banking at PNC with a post graduation start date in 2013. 

“I was personally really scared about having College Republicans on my resume. But in my interviews, they were impressed about my being a leader.”

Tonight when the polls close, both Browns say they’ll be glued to the TV watching election returns in their separate political encampments. 

When the frenetic pace of election season winds down, Laura will continue her work as a Wharton Ambassador and board member of the Penn Political Coalition. Andrew will have more time to sing with Penn’s Jewish a capella group the Shabbatones (he’s a tenor) and more time for “bro-ing out” with his fraternity Phi Kappa Psi, where he serves as community-service chair.