Born and raised in San Francisco, Sam knew he wanted to utilize his college years to explore a different part of the country. Penn’s location combined with its stellar communications school and faculty made the University his natural first choice, and he was thrilled to be accepted after applying early decision.
The University’s hallmark interdisciplinary programming has allowed Sam to further his long-term interests while cultivating new passions. Having worked as the sports director for a non-profit community radio station while in high school—which allowed him to cover teams like the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors along with industry professionals in the press box—Sam arrived to campus with an already finely-tuned skillset in sports media. He has continued to nurture his talents at the University, where he majors in communications through the Annenberg School and minors in statistics through Wharton. He brings his broad-ranging experience to WQHS, Penn’s student-run radio station, serving as the program director, and to his work study position with Career Services, for which he records and edits their official podcast. Through his reporting and storytelling, Sam seeks to create a personal connection between his featured subjects and listeners. “I’ve done a lot of creative personal interest pieces,” Sam says. “In sports media, for example, which can sometimes get very repetitive, I like to add color and do things a little differently. My niche became focusing on the players as people, rather than just athletes, which makes the topic more accessible to everyone.”
Sam’s extracurricular involvement expands well beyond the radio station and the press box. After learning about Penn’s sprint football team from a classmate, he decided to try out—even without prior football experience. “My freshman year started during the height of COVID, and we were all taking classes through Zoom. One of the guys in my virtual Spanish class was on the team, and he encouraged me to check it out. I played basketball in high school, but never football. It was a great experience—to be a Varsity athlete, form friendships, and become part of the team.”
During the remainder of the spring semester, Sam will focus his attention on his senior thesis, for which he received funding from Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF). His project centers on large language models (LLMs) and generative AI, specifically examining the ways in which LLMs determine the newsworthiness of stories and headlines in a changing media landscape. He will engage with news industry leaders, gaining their perspectives on the applications of new technologies, while simultaneously applying his fluency in coding and data storytelling into developing his own LLM. When considering the current and future implications of AI, Sam shares, “It needs to be understood. It’s a great power, but we want to make sure it moves in a positive direction. How do we work with it? How do we channel it to increase creativity?”