Honors College welcomes new director with reception

Dr. Finegan's main goal as The Honors College Director is to maintain focus on the students. (Heather Tabacchi/ The Penn)

“I feel like the Honors College is in good hands,” Ethan Wang (senior, ac­counting) said.

Wang was one of around 50 students present at the reception Monday for new Robert E. Cook Honors College Director Dr. Caleb Finegan.

“Dr. Finegan was actually my first college professor at my first college class,” Wang said. “He’s the one who will take the Honors College to the next level,” he said. “He brings a new energy, which is really good.”

The reception, held in the Honors College’s Great Hall from 5 to 7 p.m., attracted a mix of underclassmen and upperclassmen. Most crowded onto and around the leather-upholstered couches and chairs along the edges of the room, while a few gathered at the tables in the center of the room used by the classes occasionally held there.

A refreshment table near the front of the room also attracted a few members of the crowd.

Students had about 20 minutes to mill around before Kevin Berezansky, the Honors College’s associate director, who served as interim director for the Honors College during the transition period, picked up a microphone and started his introduction of Finegan.

Berezansky asked those living off-campus who had come to the event to raise their hands. More than 10 people did, and Berezansky thanked them for returning for the reception.

Berezansky then gave a brief account of Finegan’s four-year history of teach­ing at the Cook Honors College and the knowledge of the institution it gave him.

“He understands what Cook Honors College is ….” Berezansky said, adding that he was also equipped by this un­derstanding to deal with challenges the Honors College faced.

Before turning the program over to Finegan, Berezansky gave the Honors College’s administrative assistant, Lisa Halmes, the opportunity to express her opinion on Dr. Finegan’s appointment.

“I’m thrilled to death,” she said.

Berezansky then handed the pro­gram over to Finegan, to a loud round of applause from the audience.

“The first thing you need to do is be­gin to overcome the shock of seeing me dress like this,” Finegan said, referring to his suit.

The students, familiar with Finegan’s normal wardrobe of jeans, T-shirts and leather bracelets, laughed.

“Only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday will I attempt to dress like an adult,” he said.

In an interview after the speech, Fin­egan explained that, for the spring se­mester, he will be working in the Hon­ors College on those three days, while he will spend Tuesday and Thursday teaching history classes in Keith Hall.

Next year, he will be in the Honors College full-time, teaching and fulfilling his duties as director.

Finegan continued his speech by also thanking the members of the class of 2014 who had chosen to attend the event, as they were the first class of Honors College students he taught.

“We’ve kind of come full circle here,” he said.

He then talked about his selection for the position, saying that he told the selection committee that he enjoyed working with 18- to 21-year-olds.

“I am thrilled and so excited to begin working in this capacity,” he said.

He announced his intention to preserve Honors College traditions while also making changes when needed and reiterated his intended open-door policy for the semester.

“That door is open for a reason, so come in and talk with me,” he said.

He added that he was considering adding some office hours on a weekday night between 5 and 7 p.m. because he loved the energy that the building has at that time, but said he hadn’t made a final decision about it yet.

Toward the end of the speech, he reminded students that applications for the Achievement Fund, a scholarship granted to Honors College students for study abroad programs, internship pro­grams and other extracurricular experi­ences, were due on Feb. 14.

After asking if anyone had further questions, he closed the speech by re­minding the students that he was inter­ested in hearing from them.

“I’m really looking forward to work­ing with all of you,” he said. “I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true.”

After the speech, many attendees stayed, taking advantage of the refresh­ments, congratulating Finegan, and talking among themselves.

Many of the students had Dr. Fine­gan for the Honors College’s Core class.

“I loved his class,” Stephanie Sorage (freshman, psychology) said. “He was a great teacher.

“I think he’ll be really good because he’s such an interesting person,” she said.

Veronica Caro (freshman, chemistry) also had Finegan for class and said that she looks forward to his time as director.

“I’m interested to see how it turns out, but I’m happy about it,” she said.

Daniela Alarcón (junior, biology/ pre-med), another of Finegan’s students, said that her class with him made the Honors College “one of my favorite places to be on campus.”

“He’ll do a wonderful job as direc­tor,” she said.

Another attendant, Michael Duffey (senior, history), isn’t a member of the Honors College at all, but Finegan is his senior thesis adviser.

He came to congratulate Finegan, whom he has gotten to know through work on his thesis and a trip to Spain over the summer, which Finegan led.

“I’m really happy for him,” Duffey said. “I could tell he really wanted it.”

Among the qualities that he said will make Finegan a good director are his listening skills and his ability to give advice.

“He won’t tell you what to do, but he helps you go with your gut,” he said.

After the speech, Finegan remained, giving the students a chance to speak with him.

“It was good to finally meet with the students that are a part of this place,” Finegan said in an interview after his speech. “For me it’s especially satisfying to see some of the seniors come back for this event.”

When asked how he felt about the new position, he laughed and said, “I’m excited and scared at the same time, which I think is a healthy balance.”