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Student Profiles

The College of Liberal and Professional Studies opens up worlds of possibility for Penn’s Bachelor of Arts students. Read about our students who come from different backgrounds and have traveled unique paths to find their academic home at Penn.

  • Bachelor of Arts, Social Science, 2017—expected

    For 29-year-old El Paso, Texas native Michelle Brooks, earning her BA at The University of Pennsylvania was a no-brainer. She moved to Philadelphia from New York City in her early 20’s, and landed a job in development at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Today, she's a Financial Coordinator at Wharton—it was only a matter of time before she dove into Penn academics. Now in her fifth year as a social sciences major with the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS), Michelle is an expert in all aspects of life at the University of Pennsylvania.

    As the treasurer of the LPS Student Association (LPSSA), Michelle dedicates her spare time from her full-time job and part-time education to help non-traditional students fully embrace all that Penn has to offer. “If you’re a new student, the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a student who has been here for a few years and learn the ropes together. When I joined the LPSSA group, I made so many friends and learned about the university’s resources like the writing center, career counseling and tutors.”

    With the help of Penn’s academic support services, Michelle has been able to successfully balance the rigor of a full-time career and a part-time Ivy League degree. “It’s a commitment, and you utilize the time you have. No one can go home after eight hours of work and two hours of class and magically have the energy to study for two or three more and avoid your family and friends. I’ve been doing it for five years and nothing is suffering at this point.”

    Michelle has also found that earning her degree while simultaneously building her career has been a huge help in her success. “I definitely think you’re more focused when you go to school later in life. You know who you are and understand the dynamics of a career, and you know what’s needed to get to the next level. You see how the skills you’re learning in school are transferrable into your work life.”

    She began as a chemistry major with a focus on biomedical chemistry and then transitioned into the social sciences with a special interest in non-profit work and community outreach. “I love being research driven. My favorite class has been Culture and Consumption in the Global Marketplace. We went to Atlantic City, the outskirts of Philadelphia and the inner city. We got to go out and see what’s shifting and changing right now.”

    Along with enjoying the diversity of coursework, Michelle has enjoyed the diversity of her fellow LPS students in the classroom, “Last year, I met a ballerina who is in the Pennsylvania Ballet. I’ve met people in the military and a woman from Mauritius in my classes. These are people I probably would have never gotten to talk to and learn from their experiences and lives. It really broadens your horizons.”

    When Michelle completes her degree in 2017, she hopes to continue on her path in higher education and apply her knowledge of finance and social sciences to community work.  “I would love to work with outreach programs in high schools and help teach basic financial life skills program—like taxes and banking to young people—it could really give them a leg up in life.”

    Michelle has advice for anyone considering earning their BA at Penn, “Jump in and do it because the time is going to pass anyway, so you might as well to do something to propel you to the next level. In a lot of instances, that degree is everything. I was hesitant at first, and it has been a journey, but it has been so well worth it. I’d do it again.”

  • Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, 2016–expected

    Ten years ago, Chris Lubanski had one dream and one dream only: to play professional baseball. The Schwenksville, PA native played for Team USA for two years while he was in high school where he took both bronze and gold medals. He was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year during his senior year and then was drafted and signed in the first round by the Kansas City Royals. Now, he’s rounding out his last year as a Penn undergraduate at the age of 30, and he has never looked back. “I was always planning on going back to school regardless of if I was playing 20 years or one year in baseball.”

    After sustaining a couple of injuries towards the end of his career, Chris knew it was time to step away from the game. By taking advantage of the Major League Baseball College Fund, Chris began what he calls “phase two” of his life. You might think that being a former pro athlete would make Chris feel like the ultimate “non-traditional” student at Penn, but he’s found quite the opposite, “Penn and the College of Liberal and Professional Studies are so unique because you get to take the same courses with the same professors as a traditional student. I know I’m a little older, but that’s, in a way, an advantage when it comes to life experiences. I bring something else to the table in classroom discussions and recitations.”

    Though he didn’t know it at the time, baseball helped train Chris to become a better student. “I’m so much more focused than I was at 18. I believe that things happen for a reason. It’s better for me to be in school now because I appreciate it so much, and I see how it can be a vehicle for your life.” As a political science major, Chris has been nothing short of an all-star student, “I’ve really been trying to take advantage of the opportunities that the Penn brand can give you. There’s a very open dialogue here. There’s no shortage of opportunities to get your foot in the door.”

    He really means it, too. Since starting his academic career at Penn, he’s written for The Daily Pennsylvanian’s political blog, interned with Senator Pat Toomey and worked on immigration policy initiatives at Princeton University. Chris has also been a key intern and student leader in two major research projects at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked on Dr. James McGann’s prestigious Think Tank program where he traveled to Washington, D.C. for an international meeting on economic policy. He also joined Dr. Daniel Vining’s study on fertility of men and women in government and politics.

    Now that Chris has invested his time in trying out many of the opportunities introduced by his Penn education, he knows exactly where he wants to go next: law school. “One thing I learned about myself coming back to school was this passion for research and really enjoying it, which set me on a path to law school. It’s an area where I feel I can make an impact and still get that scholarly feel.”

    As a father-to-be, Chris reflects proudly on all of the incredible adventures and challenges that have brought him to this point in his life, “Baseball was a once in a lifetime experience and Penn is a once in a lifetime experience.”

  • Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, 2016–expected

    After nearly six years in the military with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, US Marine Corps Sergeant Erik Morinaga decided he was finally ready to take on his most fearsome challenge: academics. After graduating from high school, Erik enlisted as soon as he could because, in his own words, “I was tired of reading books. I was hard-headed.”

    During his time overseas, Erik witnessed history happening first-hand. Now as a political science major, Erik reads about his own life in textbooks. “We had a lot of problems on the ground in 2006. We couldn’t recruit who we needed because there were guys lining the streets trying to kill people who wanted to help us. Then one day 500 guys show up and say they want to be police. But now that I read the books, that was the Sunni awakening that they talk about.”

    Four days before Erik was scheduled to return home from Iraq, he was shot in the jaw and had to undergo six months of reconstructive surgery, and it was an entire year and a half before he had his teeth back—which are now plated in gold with “USMC.” But you won’t ever hear Erik complain about his injury. “I got lucky with that,” he reflects calmly.

    After recovering Erik decided it was time to go back overseas. “I didn’t want to quit at that point. I got an extension and went to Afghanistan as an advisor to train the Afghan army.” By the end of his time in Afghanistan, the US involvement in the Middle East had dwindled and Erik returned home. However, his time in combat-mode was far from over. Erik joined an AmeriCorps program where he fought wildfires and was able to assist with the Hotshots—a wildland firefighting crew that works with the USDA Forest Service.

    After working as a firefighter and then attending Windward Community College—University of Hawaii, Erik realized that his desire to work in international relations was going to require a bachelor’s degree. “The jobs of my dreams are competitive, so I looked for the top schools in the nation, and that’s how I came across Penn.”

    The formerly stubborn student is now a voracious learner, as hard working in his classes as he is as a soldier. “I now see how what I’ve learned in school will apply to my work.” However, stepping into an Ivy League education wasn’t easy. Erik was able to navigate the transition with the help of Penn’s learning resources, tutors and especially the support of the Penn Writing Center. “Now that I’ve learned how to write academically and analyze critically, it’s changed the quality of everything. This summer I applied to and earned a US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship in Indonesia, and I was offered a Defense Intelligence Agency internship. My applications are so much more successful now because my writing is better and I’m earning my degree from Penn.”

    Now coming to an end of his studies, the 28-year-old Kaneohe, Hawaii native, and mixed martial arts hobbyist is looking forward to his winter and summer breaks back home. “I try to spend every day at the beach and go surfing.” He certainly deserves it. Not only has the Marine Corps veteran earned his stripes, but he’s also earned the highest honor as a student. “I’m on the dean’s list now,” he says as the letters “USMC” peek through his smile.

  • Bachelor of Arts, Health and Societies, 2016-expected

    After eight years and two deployments with the Air Force, Deborah Trimble wanted an academic challenge that would expand her mind and let her help people. Listen to Deborah share how Penn’s College of Liberal and Professional Studies is helping her achieve those goals and is bringing her closer to becoming a physician.

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Where do our Bachelor of Arts LPS students come from?

Where do our Bachelor of Arts LPS students come from?

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