G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

University of Pennsylvania, College of Liberal and Professional Studies Success Profile – Dennis Szafran


 Dennis Szafran                          rsz_ds260x350

University of Pennsylvannia,

College of Liberal and Professional Studies


Program Type/Area of Study: Political Science
Military Branch: Navy
Years Served: 1998-2000

Tell us about yourself:

I am currently a corporate tax attorney specializing in executive compensation and employee benefits. After Penn, I went on to law school, and I received my LLM in Taxation. At home, I have a beautiful wife and a seven-month-old son.

What prompted you to return to school?

When the real estate market crashed in 2006-2007, I lost everything. In 2008, with nothing left to lose, I felt that it was my time to start over. So, at the age of 28, I began my degree and finished it three years later and continued to law school.

Why did you choose The University of Pennsylvania?

I chose the University of Pennsylvania because of its incredible reputation. After applying, I found out that Penn had a program through the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) that worked with adults that had a gap in their education. After admissions told me about the program at LPS, I had them transfer my application over.

What military education benefits, such as the GI Bill, did you use?


What has your experience been like as a student or alumnus?

As a student, I found that LPS was always very helpful when I was trying to make my schedule or figure out what classes I needed to graduate. I was also amazed every time I walked around campus – I never imagined that I would be able to make it into an Ivy League school. It was one of those moments where you realize that your hard work and dedication paid off.

After graduating, I wanted to make sure I stayed connected to the Penn family. I am currently an alumni admissions interviewer. I feel that it is a great way to spread the word about Penn and the amazing experience I had as a student.

What challenges did you have adjusting to campus culture after military life?

Prior to starting, I was worried that I was going to feel out of place in classes with students that were 10 years younger than me and that people were going to be judgmental. I quickly found out that was not the case. The students and the professors were very welcoming. They enjoyed the fact that I had life experiences to bring to the discussion and always encouraged me to engage in the conversation. Also, as a veteran, you will notice that you will be the first one in the classroom every time. Being early is something that we were programmed to do.

Do you believe your military experience has made you a better student?

Absolutely! The military teaches discipline, which is essential if you want to succeed in an academic environment. Personally, I know that if I would’ve gone to college immediately after high school, I would not have had the discipline to study every night. I wouldn’t have taken it seriously. Although I enjoyed every minute at Penn, I treated my schoolwork as if it was my job. I continuously gave 110% effort with every assignment and every exam – thanks to the military!

What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?

Penn now has a student veteran group – definitely get involved! They will be very helpful in navigating the university as well as the use of your military benefits. Plus, you will have other students around you that have a similar background, which I always found to be helpful.