Former White House Office of Public Engagement Associate Director Kal Penn will deliver the keynote speech at Emory University’s annual Class Day Crossover, according to an email to the Wheel from Senior Event and Design Manager Amber Herring. The event will be held on May 4 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Emory Student Center.
Penn, whose full name is Kalpen Suresh Modi, is also an actor. He is best known for his roles in TV shows such as “Designated Survivor” and “House,” the film “The Namesake” and the “Harold & Kumar” movie series.
According to Herring, Class Day Crossover recognizes baccalaureate degree candidates of Emory College, Goizueta Business School, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the Emory School of Medicine’s Medical Imaging Program.
Traditionally, the event occurs the Thursday before Commencement and features a senior reception, a ceremony with a keynote speaker and select senior awards — the Boisfeuillet Jones Medals, the Brit Katz Senior Appreciation Award, the Knights of Emory Spirit Awards and the Lightkeeper of Emory Award. Class Day Crossover also includes a candlelight procession and an alumni-hosted celebration, according to Herring’s email.
Penn received his undergraduate degree in sociology, theater, film and television at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also received a graduate certificate in international security from Stanford University (Calif.).
He is currently a cast member of the animated Disney Junior series “Mira, Royal Detective.” He also hosts a culinary competition show called “Money Hungry,” which airs on Food Network. “Money Hungry” wrapped up its first season in 2021, and Food Network has yet to announce whether it plans to cancel or renew the show.
Penn took a break from acting between 2009 and 2011 to serve in former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration as the President’s Liaison to Young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Arts community. He worked on many issues, including the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, Pell grants, arts and culture programs and the Affordable Care Act.
In 2012, Penn served as a national co-chair for Obama and U.S. President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign and later served on the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, focusing on arts education and cultural diplomacy.
Last year’s Class Day Crossover featured former NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Capt. and fighter pilot Scott Kelly. Previous speakers include former National Football League quarterback Peyton Manning, co-founders of ice cream chain Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield and science education television show host Bill Nye. The first keynote speaker was actor Danny Glover in 2003.
Ashley Zhu (she/her) (25C) is from Dallas, Texas, majoring in biology and minoring in sociology. She is the vice president of recruitment for the Residence Hall Association, a sophomore advisor for Raoul Hall and a staff writer for the Emory Undergraduate Medical Review. She is involved in cell biology research at the Pallas Lab and is a BIOL 141 Learning Assistant. Zhu enjoys FaceTiming her dog, stalking people's Spotify playlists and listening to classical music in her free time.