Interview with Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, C'85

Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, C'85 - Senior Rabbi, Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church in Virginia
Major: Religious Studies
Location: McLean, Virginia

How has your liberal arts degree been influential throughout your career?

 During my years at Penn acquiring my degree, my greatest and most important learning was in the area of 'independent thinking.' Through many courses I learned the value of not following the prescribed philosophy, not adhering to the common approach and being open and learning to mine new ways of thinking and solving problems. This has been of the highest value to me throughout my career. It has enabled me to bring new and creative ideas, programs and rituals to my community.

What is the value of the Penn network, and how has it played a role in your career?

 It has been wonderful to experience the connection that is always very present when I meet another Penn alum. We immediately bond over some aspect of our shared experience. I find people open up to me more quickly and immediately have greater interest and trust in me.

How do you stay connected with Penn Arts and Sciences, and why is it a priority for you?

I have appreciated staying in touch with my classmates on all of the traditional and non-traditional vehicles (Facebook, email, etc.) The Gazette is a wonderful way to hear people's news and also to be stimulated by great articles.

What advice would you give students at The College who are trying to decide what career path to pursue?

I changed my major in the junior year and my path in Religious Studies and the Rabbinate turned out to be the correct one. So don't feel obligated to stay in the major you may have declared early on. Take lots of courses; be open to a new path. Try to get as much hands on experience as you can.

What was your favorite course at The College and why?

 My favorite courses were in the Religious Studies Department where almost all of the classes are very small and there is a great deal of discussion, debate and directed learning. Penn is a big place and I feel I received the best of a large university by taking classes in a small department.