Engaging Minds New York, now in its seventh year, has become a hot ticket each December for New York-area Penn alumni.  This year’s event sold out weeks early and drew a crowd of nearly 650 to hear a panel of stellar faculty.

The lineup included Danielle Bassett from Penn Engineering, who spoke about the intricacies of human thought. Enrique Mendoza, an economics professor from Arts & Sciences, grappled with the thorny topic of the federal debt crisis.  And Michael Platt, a Penn Integrates Knowledge professor with appointments in neuroscience, psychology and marketing, explored the compelling connections between friendship and the brain. 

Throughout the morning, members of the Engaging Minds host committee circulated with cameras and smart phones in hand to record highlights of the event.

Several host committee members shared why they connect so strongly with the Engaging Minds experience:


Jan A. Sigmon, C’82, PAR’13, PAR’17
Host committee member since 2010

“Engaging Minds is an annual tradition for me and some close friends and family members. I try to block out that first Saturday in December each year at all costs!

“My favorite thing about Engaging Minds is the palpable energy and Penn pride that absolutely fills the room. My second favorite thing is President Gutmann’s exuberance in being emcee for her fabulous Penn professors. Someone should bottle that!”


Betty R. Klein, C'82
First year on Host Committee

“All of the speakers were terrific but I was most amazed by the physicist, Danielle Bassett’s presentation on her scientific and mathematical model for the network of human thought. She is a 2014 MacArthur Genius fellow. Dr. Bassett broke down this intimidating subject with such clarity, warmth and enthusiasm that I could not help marveling at the good fortune for Penn students to have her as a professor and research mentor.”


Lori Wood Weil, C’88, PAR’19
Parker A. Weil, C’88, PAR’19

Host Committee 2015, 2014

“Our Penn experience defines us as people, thinkers and professionals.  Now we feel our connection rejuvenated as parents of a Penn student. Engaging Minds is a unique way to share with others the special community that Penn represents for us. Seeing old friends and hearing about current research reminds us of how proud we are of our Penn affiliation. It also allows us to connect our current life (friends, interests, work) to the Penn experience.”


Daniel “Danny” Urgelles, C’11, W’11
Host committee member 2014, 2015

“Engaging Minds is a reminder of what first drew me to Penn – the caliber of a strong academic institution with a practical approach to education and research. I enjoy learning about topics I don’t ordinarily think about in my day-to-day and having them discussed at a sufficiently comprehensible level for a non-expert.

“The event is aptly named – the presentations are highly engaging and provide for some great dialogue. It’s a great way to feel connected to Penn and appreciate the impact the university has had across generations in attracting and educating folks eager to learn new things.”


Lauren G. Hedvat, ENG’05, C’06, GEN’07
Host Committee member since 2010
(Note:  Lauren’s father, mother, sister and brother have also attended and/or served on the host committee.) 

I am passionate about promoting alumni engagement and can't think of a better opportunity to connect alumni with the amazing professors and their incredible research. Engaging Minds brings the best and brightest professors to local alumni. I love feeling connected to what is happening on campus and what students are experiencing in the classroom, and learning about the impressive cutting-edge faculty research.

Engaging Minds reminds me of how thankful and proud I am to have had the opportunity to attend Penn.”