Actor Kal Penn from “Harold & Kumar” teaches at The University of Pennsylvania

Actor Kal Penn from the Harold & Kumar movies is working a guest lecturer in Asian American studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches two courses, “Images of Asian Americans in the Media,” and “Contemporary American Teen Films.” Penn has an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of California and is working on a graduate certificate in international security from Stanford.

Penn contacted the department after he gave a speech for the college during Asian Pacific American Heritage week. Somehow a deal was reached to hire him, and while the director of the Asian American Studies program will not reveal Penn’s salary it is thought to be more than an average guest lecturer. He’s not doing it for the money, but it’s not a pittance either:

[Asian American Studies program director] Kao would not reveal how much more it cost to hire Penn versus the average adjunct professor, but he said that the Asian American Studies Program contributed a significant portion of its yearly budget, as did the Cinema Studies department contributed funding.

Penn is “really doing this because he wants to. He’s not going to get rich doing this,” Kao added.

The ASAM Program is relatively small, and students and administrators say that Penn’s arrival could increase its prominence.

“Kal Penn coming to Penn for a semester is going to be huge for the ASAM program,” College sophomore Rahima Dosani wrote in an e-mail.

[From the Daily Pennsylvanian]

A lot of students signed up for Penn’s class due to his celebrity status, but he says his popularity only goes so far when it comes to showing up for class and doing the work. Penn told MTV news that a lot of students dropped his class when they realized how early it was: “It’s a Monday, early morning class and there’s a lot of reading and papers, so a lot of people dropped the class.” [via Contact Music]

The University of Pennsylvania was hoping that Penn’s guest lecturing gig would bring more attention to the Asian American studies department, and it surely did, but it seems it didn’t take long for students to realize that a famous teacher doesn’t necessarily make a class easier. I tried to take “Blacks in Films” when I was in college and the requirements were too hard so I dropped it. Entertainment-related subject matter doesn’t make a class any less demanding.

SFGate has an article about pop culture university classes, and they include `”The Simpsons: Sitcom as Political and Social Satire,” and “Droppin’ Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture” at UC Berkeley.

Kal Penn is currently starring in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, which is out in the US on 4/25/08. Here’s the trailer. Warning NSFW language and adult subject matter.

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19 Responses to “Actor Kal Penn from “Harold & Kumar” teaches at The University of Pennsylvania”

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  1. Gina says:

    ah! come on celebitchy! Penn State and University of Pennsylvania aren’t the same!

  2. Celebitchy says:

    Sorry Gina! I got confused with all the Penns going on with that guy’s last name. I have updated it. I noticed your e-mail is at U Penn. Do you know anyone taking this guy’s class?

  3. Gina says:

    Haha no problem it happens all the time. No I actually don’t. It seems like it’s not actually that big of a deal that he’s teaching here to be honest; but he seems pretty accessible to the students since he does a lot of different events here. About his salary thing, not sure how much more he’d be making than other profs here; the president just tried to cut funding on their department for the next academic year!

  4. Bernie says:

    great school.. great guy. siked for him.

  5. Alarmjaguar says:

    He was fabulous in The Namesake, if you haven’t seen it, definitely try to. He’s actually a pretty amazing actor. I think it is great that he is willing to work with students.

  6. Sanj says:

    jai hind!

  7. Other Karen says:

    Lecturers don’t make nearly as much as professors. If they don’t have to pay health benefits etc. for him, that brings his cost to the department down significantly. Most employees at a university cost more than twice their base salary. It’s a pretty good move for the department, publicity-wise, as they compete for funds with other departments.

    Salaries vary a lot from department to department, depending how good your options are outside the university. Computer science professors get more than English professors, and law professors really rake it in.

  8. Bodhi says:

    Well thats cool! I took a Religion & Film class my senior year thinking it would be a piece of cake & boy was I wrong!

  9. bros says:

    as a communications grad student at upenn, i can definitely vouch for the fact that pop culture, media, and film classes involve an insane amount of reading and requirements. the asian american dept. is going to be cut, just like a lot of the great departments that penn used to have, like the folklore dept. american studies dept. very sad. they never did offer many classes though. he gave a talk at penn. it was ok. he’s not a very qualified academic, so things are pretty superficial and not terribly intellectual or critical.

  10. The Observer says:

    Heard on campus:

    “Dude, give me an A+ or I will not watch your movies”

    -Shakira Mebarak owes me money.

  11. brit says:


    i love The Namesake!

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