Clinical Research Manager, University of Pennsylvania Neuropsychiatry Program
Penn Graduate School of Education, Master of Science in Education, Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development ‘19
Franklin & Marshall College, Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Psychology ‘15
“I've always been a lover of learning and taking classes,” says Sage Rush, who enrolled in the Penn Alumni Program last fall. Sage is an alumna of the Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development program at Penn Graduate School of Education, where she completed a master’s degree while working full time as a clinical research manager in a Penn neuropsychiatry lab. “In college I studied neuroscience, and a lot of my classes were heavily science-focused. I don’t feel like I got a chance to study other disciplines,” she recalls. “The great thing about the Human Development program is that it is so broad, and it covers basically anything you would like to study that has to do with how human beings go through life,” she says. For Sage, the interdisciplinary master’s degree program gave her the opportunity to take courses in social sciences, explore her passion for restorative community practices, and make meaningful connections to her personal life and lives of the research participants she worked with.
After she completed her master’s degree, Sage wanted to return to the classroom—this time to meet a personal goal. “It's really important to me to become fluent in French,” she explains. Sage’s husband is a native French speaker, as are many of his friends and family members; some but not all of their extended circle speak English as well. “I do feel really close to the family, because nonverbal communication can go a long way,” Sage laughs. “But I’d like to be able to have conversations with them. So that’s my main goal: to be able to express who I am as a person—in French.”
To learn how to take undergraduate French courses, Sage contacted Jaime Kelly, Director of Certificate and Non-Degree Programs at the College for Liberal and Professional Studies, who helped her get started in the Penn Alumni Program. “In such a big institution it could be easy to get lost in the cracks, so it was really nice to have a responsive point person I could talk to when I was trying to figure out what classes to take, will I get a bill later on that I wasn’t expecting, how that all works,” says Sage. Sage also coordinated her new course schedule with her supervisor at the neuropsychiatry lab, where she often begins her workday after an early morning French class. “Tuition benefits are incredible,” says Sage. “It shows the importance of allowing your employees to do things that give them fulfillment outside of work. And getting a French tutor or taking classes elsewhere in Philly would cost thousands of dollars,” she observes.
After completing two terms of French courses, Sage has noticed a difference in her French communication abilities. “In the elementary courses, a lot of the focus is on basic grammar, learning how to construct sentences, and vocabulary,” she says. “But I would say that reading and writing is definitely getting easier, especially when I am communicating with friends via text.” She looks forward to taking intermediate courses, where the focus shifts more to verbal communication, and to learning more about French history and culture—“not only about France, but places outside of France where French is the primary language, which I think is really important,” adds Sage. While her courses shifted to remote learning in the spring of 2020, Sage also looks forward to eventually returning to the campus community. “I love just walking around campus. Over time, I've been able to identify more as a Penn student,” she says. “I’ve been able to take advantage of some events, like lectures or poetry readings that I would never have known about if I wasn’t enrolled in the Penn Alumni Program.”
“If there is any skill or topic you’ve always wanted to learn about, the Penn Alumni Program is a great opportunity,” concludes Sage. “My goal right now is to become fluent in French, but after that, who knows? There are so many classes you can choose from in art, language, and science—really, the options are endless.”