AboutOur PeopleSydney Liu
SNF Paideia Fellow Sydney Liu
Fellow, Class of 2026

Sydney Liu

Cognitive Science
Darien, CT

Sydney Liu plans to major in Cognitive Science with a focus on pre-health studies. Sydney is motivated to utilize her knowledge, empathy, and experiences to help and connect with others. Her tentative goal is to work in a teaching hospital but she is open to other possibilities.

Sydney places value on slowing down, being authentic, and connecting with others. As a Penn student, she has found that it is easy to feel alone. By keeping an open mind and taking the perspective that there’s a lot more below the surface, Sydney has been able to find connection with her peers. Rather than focus on external markers of success, Sydney is asking herself not what she wants to be, but who, in this overstimulating, changing world that she exist in, she wants to be.

To quote 19th century sociologist Georg Simmel, “the development of modern culture is characterized by the preponderance of what one might call the ‘objective spirit’ over the ‘subjective spirit.’” Simmel outlines three main characteristics of modernity: alienation, quantification, and a blasé attitude. Alienation: you might be surrounded by people, but feel so alone because everyone’s so busy doing their own thing. There’s homework to complete, phones to scroll on, things to do… how can we possibly have time for it all? Quantification: this relates to the prior quote. Because of the sheer overwhelming nature of modern life, we need some way to standardize and compare everything: time, measurements—but even, perhaps, people. Just think of millions of qualified students applying to college or jobs; by necessity, there has to be objectivity (resumes, etc) over subjectivity, because how else will you compare them? A blasé attitude: to cope with overwhelming stimulus, the necessary solution is to care less. Do what’s practical/necessary, follow the crowd, and don’t ask questions.

Sydney sees SNF Paideia as a way of countering these byproducts of modernity. It’s a program that embraces slowing down and keeping an open mind. Dialogue reaches across differences and prevents a sense of alienation. The interdisciplinary, holistic nature of the program encourages students to look not only at the quantifiable, but closer, at what’s inside. Through SNF Paideia, Sydney hopes to meet people who put their heart and soul into everything they do, and who are unafraid to ask questions and carve their own path.