Robin Carney, C’94, W’94, WG’98, currently resides in Poland with her husband, who is also an alumnus of Penn. She is an active interviewer of prospective Penn students and helped establish the fundraising unit for BIG Against Breast Cancer, a network of scientists in more than 50 countries who are collaborating to find a cure for breast cancer.
You currently reside in Poland; what brought you there?
In 2001 I was working as a management consultant. I had always wanted to work abroad, and when the opportunity finally came up, I took an 18-month post in Lisbon. After a year there my husband got another job and we loved Europe so much that we decided to stay. After bouncing around many different countries, we landed in Poland, where we have lived for the past two years. We just found out that we will be moving on to South Korea soon, so that’s another big step!
Tell us a little bit about what drew you to Penn.
I didn’t want a quiet college experience. I was looking for a vibrant, urban campus, and Penn was perfect not only because of its location but because it had a dynamic, diverse student body as well. I grew up in a suburb of Houston that had a very small-town feel, and I wanted to break out of that. I was also really attracted to the fact that I could take both liberal arts and business classes. I started at Penn studying international relations, but after taking a few classes at Wharton I decided I wanted to pursue that as well, and ended up graduating with a dual degree from both the College and Wharton.
What activities were you involved in while on campus?
My main activity was a dance company, Penn Dance. I absolutely loved it and it is one of my fondest memories of being at the school. We had a wonderful group of dancers, and it actually gave me the chance to choreograph, which was really exciting. One of my favorite experiences was getting together with some of my fellow dancers to choreograph a piece together for the first time. We each took a portion of the dance, and as it turns out it was a total disaster. Looking back on it, it was extremely amateur, but one of the people who I worked with went on to become an award-winning choreographer, so it couldn’t have been all bad.
Besides that, I made some of my best friends my freshman year while living in Hill House. We were very adventurous and were always looking for new experiences around Philly. I’m actually still in touch with many of them today. This evening we are having our book club, which we do over Google Hangout. We are located in four different time zones, so sometimes it’s hard to find a time to get together, but we still do it despite the physical distance. It’s really fun!
How did you get involved with the Penn Alumni Interview Program?
When I was living in Belgium I was trying to find a way to stay connected with Penn, and the person I made contact with turned out to be the chairperson for the interview committee for that region. She asked me if I was willing to do a few interviews, and I ended up really enjoying the experience of talking with prospective students, so when I moved to Poland I wanted to continue to be involved. I emailed Penn to found out who Poland’s chairperson was, and when they told me there wasn’t one, I agreed to take the job. We formed a committee of four alumni and we usually interview around 30 students each year. I think in the past three years I have interviewed over 40 students, and it is fascinating to talk with young people who are so excited about studying in the United States and at Penn.
How would you encourage other alumni to get engaged with the University as you have?
Use the easy tools that are available to stay in touch with Penn, whether on social media, the website, or the email newsletters that they send out. The other day I saw a social media campaign around the students who had been accepted for the fall, and they had posted a few pictures of them looking overjoyed. It was really inspiring.
For people like me are so far away, try to find your local Penn club. You will meet people you may not normally have met, and you have the bond that comes from living abroad and going to Penn in common.
I also think everyone should become an interviewer. It’s been really inspiring to meet a new generation of students who are so excited about going to Penn and studying in the United States. It’s been a very uplifting experience.