Student-Athlete Spotlight

Virginia Burns - Swimming


1. Name: Virginia Burns

2. Class Year: 2018

3. Sport: Swimming

4. Position: Freestyle

5. Why did you choose Penn?
I chose Penn because it was the absolute best opportunity for me to have the best of both worlds--an extremely competitive athletic league and emphasis remaining on academics.  There are lots of great schools, and lots of great athletic programs, but Penn makes you feel like you belong.  I first came to see Penn with my parents in high school, and we initially didn’t know that it was during spring break so campus was pretty empty. I didn’t fall in love until I came on my visit and actually saw campus overrun with students and got to meet my team.  I credit my host and my team for absolutely everything.  

6. What does the experience of being a Penn Swimming student-athlete mean to you?
Being a student-athlete here at Penn has absolutely changed my life.  Our coaches and our friends are all pushing us for success in the classroom and in the pool.  In high school, I found that I was being pulled in all different directions, each individual discipline encouraging in itself, but without much wiggle room to exceed in all areas.  Here, everyone wants the best for you in absolutely everything that we do.  We have this amazing network of fellow student-athletes to study with or to assist us as tutors.  We’re a community.

7. What has been your favorite moment/memory with Penn Swimming?
Every moment with Penn Swimming and Diving has been incredible, but I think anyone who was on the team for this one in particular would agree that it was transcendent.  My freshman year, we swept Columbia in our very first home meet.  It was my first collegiate meet, and it was supposed to be a really close call, but we came together and stepped up, and shut Columbia out in every single event.  We won 215-85.  It was a home meet, so Pottruck was filled with our parents, alumni, our entire men’s team, and our new friends and hallmates.  In high school, swimming is very much an individual sport, with some team benefits.  This was the first time that I had experienced this kind of pride for the girls that worked so hard beside me every single day. The energy on deck was electrifying. It was perfect.    

8. What has been your favorite class to date and why?
In my sophomore year, I took a class called International Political Economy with Mark Pollack, a visiting professor.  I had originally wanted to major in Econ, and this was one of the classes that convinced me to switch to Philosophy, Politics and Economics instead.  It was a 9am class, so students would often not be the most engaged upon arrival, but Pollack always came to class cheery and excited both to teach and to wake everyone up.   

9. What does life after Penn look like (where you live, what you will be doing)?
I’d really like to end up back in Massachusetts, working in Boston for a few years or in D.C..  Ideally, I’d like to work in public sector consulting, or in public policy.  Grad school is not out of the question, but I’d like to work for a while first. 

10. What are some lessons that you have learned through athletics at Penn that will stay with you after graduation?
The biggest lessons I’ve learned in my time as a Penn student-athlete have been in determination and grit.  Our team works.  In my third season with the team, I can say without a doubt that we’re more focused on improving and pushing each other every day than we’ve ever been.  We’re becoming more and more competitive.  Each year, we’ve started the season at a higher level than the year before, and are hoping to continue that trend in our championship meets.  Hard work truly does pay off, and Penn swimming as affirmed me of that.

11. Last year, over 280 Penn Swimming alumni, family and friends made a financial contribution to your program to help provide you with things like equipment, training tools, uniforms, travel to away meets, meals on the road, sports medicine and sports performance.  What would you say to those who invest in your experience as a Swimming student-athlete? 
To each and every contributor, big and small: thank you.  Thank you for providing us with the means to train and travel and strive for excellence.  Thank you for believing in us as student-athletes and allowing us to continue to promote success.  We are working hard to help make you all proud, and to assure Penn Swimming and Diving remains one of the best programs in the league.