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Since 1927, gifts to The Penn Fund—from undergraduate alumni and parents like you—have made a profound and immediate impact on all aspects of student life and learning at the University by providing grant-based financial aid packages to undergraduates, supporting enhancements to academic programs and campus technology, and fostering community through student clubs and organizations. This longstanding tradition of loyal generosity allows donors to support the University’s greatest needs and highest priorities through the general fund, long-term scholarship support, and special reunion class projects.

How do we support Undergraduates at Penn?

Undergraduate Financial Aid
Residential and Campus Life
Academic Enrichment

I would not be here if not for financial aid. And if I weren’t here, I don’t know if I would have been able to finish my education.”

Alexandra Vlasenkova W’24

Alexandra Vlasenkova W’24

Alexandra Vlasenkova W’24 persevered through many challenges to achieve her dream of attending Penn. While the entire class of 2024 endured the shared experience of a virtual first year in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alexandra faced additional obstacles to make it to campus from her hometown of Moscow, Russia. “The American embassy in Russia was closed which meant I couldn’t get my student visa, and I had to complete my first semester remotely from Moscow.” Alexandra ultimately had to travel to the embassy in Kazakhstan to obtain her visa, and she made it to Philadelphia just in time for the spring semester. “Everything was still online and we had to stay in our rooms, but I was here! I was so grateful to be at Penn.”

Through her journey at the University, Alexandra explored new challenges which inspired her personal and professional growth. Prior to her first semester, she had never attended a course taught in English—and this required her to acclimate to a new academic style, grading system, and format for essay writing. “People write differently in English. The logic of essays is different. Thankfully, math is the same, regardless of language.”

As Alexandra continued to find her footing at Penn and establish herself within The Wharton School and her many clubs and extracurriculars, escalating hostilities between Russia and Ukraine made it increasingly difficult for her to connect with her family back home. “Penn has been very helpful and understanding,” Alexandra says. “I would not be here if not for financial aid. And if I weren’t here, I don’t know if I would have been able to finish my education. I’m so fortunate to be here, and to be safe.”

Alexandra has prioritized making the most of every moment at Penn. Her passion for giving back to her community is especially evident in her work with Nonprofit Connect, a Netter Center student-led program that offers general consulting as well as organizational and administrative support to Philadelphia-area nonprofit organizations. While Nonprofit Connect was first piloted in the summer of 2020, Alexandra improved upon its existing framework, spearheading a direct partnership with the Wharton Undergraduate Division. As a result, Wharton students offer their skills and expertise to local nonprofits, and the students in turn benefit from community engagement and education beyond the “Penn bubble.” Under Alexandra’s leadership, the number of student participants increased from 9 to 40, and she remains focused on the group’s sustainable growth. Her dedication stems from Penn’s long legacy of service: “Ben Franklin founded this University because he believed in the power of higher education to improve community. Being a part of Nonprofit Connect allows students to engage with community partners in a really meaningful way, because these nonprofits are dedicated to identifying problems in their neighborhoods and trying to fix them—and we’re working to help them achieve their goals.” As an acknowledgement of her contributions to Nonprofit Connect—as well as to the organizations Wharton Leadership Ventures and Wharton Cohorts—Alexandra was honored with the Penn Alumni Student of Merit Award.

Now a proud graduate of The Wharton School, Alexandra reflects with gratitude on the direct impact of alumni philanthropy. “If it weren’t for the generosity of alumni donors, I would not have been able to go to school here, and organizations like Nonprofit Connect would not exist. Because of Penn, I understand what excites me and I know where to go next. The University has opened the rest of the world for me.”

Favorite Penn Memory
During winter break of my junior year, I led an expedition to Patagonia, Argentina through Wharton Leadership Ventures. We were summiting a peak on a particularly rainy, cold day, and we were at such a high altitude that the biggest gusts of wind would bring you to your knees. During a gust, I was sitting on this mountain with the wind whipping around me, and I see Chile on one side and Argentina on the other, and I couldn’t stop smiling. The wind was blowing sand into my mouth, and I was still smiling. It made me think about how far I’d come—how I would not be sitting on that mountain if I hadn’t taken a risk and joined this club, if I hadn’t applied to Penn, if I hadn’t taken a chance and flown here during a pandemic. It was a moment where everything clicked, and I felt so grateful.
Favorite Spot on Campus
Huntsman Hall—more specifically MBA Café or the computer lab. I can’t choose between them!
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