A Time to Explore

The Penn Arts & Sciences Pathways video series highlights the intellectual journeys of undergraduates.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Jane Carroll

When she arrived at Penn, Bayley Tuch, C’21, intended to major in biological basis of behavior, but she quickly discovered that her passions lay elsewhere.

“I started realizing that the things that made me happy were more focused on politics—largely through my involvement in Penn Democrats,” says Tuch, who grew up in Los Altos, California. After trying a few classes, she decided to declare a major in political science.

Tuch is among the latest undergraduates featured in Pathways, a Penn Arts & Sciences video series that explores the academic journeys of students in the College. Newly admitted students often have a path in mind, but a compelling class, influential professor, or out-of-the-classroom experience can inspire them to chart a different course than the one they first envisioned.

Bayley Tuch, C’21; David Zhou, C’20

Courtesy of Bayley Tuch & David Zhou

That’s what happened with Tuch. “In my introductory data science course, we got to analyze data through coding—I was thrilled to find an intersection between political science and some of the more science-y, problem-solving interests I had,” she says.

That class also introduced Tuch to the survey research and data analytics minor, offered through the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES).

For economics major David Zhou, C’20, exploring different courses confirmed his original intentions and introduced him to new ideas.

“The longer I stuck with economics the more I enjoyed it,” he says. “Economics plays into so many elements of our lives.”

An acting class Zhou took during sophomore year helped him learn more about himself.

“It helped me figure out who I was as an individual outside of academics—and how to better express that,” he says. Zhou is also an avid baker and photographer.

The changes to the spring semester, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, required Tuch and Zhou to adapt to new routines.

“I spent my time writing my final papers and as a research assistant,” says Tuch. “I participated in the PORES hackathon where we analyzed public opinion data surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. I also spent a lot of time exercising, playing board games, and making matzo ball soup with my mom to celebrate Passover. I just hope my Penn peers and faculty are doing well and staying healthy.”

Zhou adds, “For my product design course this semester, my project partner and I had to get more creative with how we communicated by leveraging a variety of digital platforms. This shift to virtual learning has really made me appreciate the experience of in-person classroom learning. I feel that it is important that we apply our knowledge and resources to do what we can to not only support those most vulnerable populations that have been affected by this pandemic, but to also ensure that the world we build after this situation has subsided is one that is kinder and better respects the value and dignity of human life.”

View Tuch's Pathways video here, and Zhou’s here.