As Penn’s foremost provider of student activities, services, and support, the Division of the Vice Provost for University Life enhances the ability of Penn students to reach their fullest potential through diverse academic, personal, and professional development experiences in support of Penn Compact 2022.
To achieve this, we foster a welcoming, stimulating campus life environment where students and participants develop intellectually, experience meaningful co-curricular opportunities, evidence civic responsibility, model intercultural, and interpersonal understanding. Penn students will leave prepared to freely pursue life-long personal and professional fulfillment, engagement, and stewardship of ever-changing local and global communities.
Academic, Career, and Personal Support
As the University’s centralized career center, Career Services helps Penn students, alumni, and post-doctoral trainees define and achieve their career goals through counseling, programs, partnerships, and other resources and strengthen the ties of alumni, employers, and post-graduate institutions to the University of Pennsylvania and its students.
FY20 saw Career Services successfully launching a comprehensive new website on the UConnect platform. The new site features 26 industry “communities” and nine affinity and identity communities where jobs, blogs, and resources can be highlighted and targeted more intuitively, with fewer clicks and searching.
The site fully integrates the Handshake job board and Vault industry guides, allowing students to generate customized weekly newsletters. Initial analytics for the academic year show:
1.44 million page views, with an average of three per visit – demonstrating intuitive design that saves students’ time
18,754 people subscribed to weekly newsletters, with an average open rate of 3% and clickthrough rate of 8%
FY20 also marked the launch of Peer Career Advisors, trained and paid student workers who support classmates across all four undergraduate schools with resumés, cover letters, internship, and job searches. In the first year, eight Peer Career Advisors held 701 appointments – double-staffing 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts to meet demand. The advisors also led 11 workshops for more than 300 students in settings such as La Casa Latina, Advancing Women in Engineering, Penn in Washington, Sigma Kappa Sorority, and Wharton Global Research and Consulting. Impressively, 98% of students completing post-appointment surveys said they were either very likely or likely to recommend the service to a friend.
Career Services staff also notched a record year, holding 11,174 individual student meetings, 300 workshops, 200 employer information sessions, and 13 job fairs featuring more than 600 employers.
A record 88,00 jobs and internships were posted on Handshake for students and alumni. More than 250 employers conducted nearly 5,000 on-campus interviews prior to the pandemic – with many employers creating “Penn-only” virtual recruiting sessions in the spring.
After pivoting to all-remote work in March, the Career Services staff conducted more than 2,200 advising sessions virtually. Academic collaborations also intensified in the remote workspace, with Career Services joining the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) for presentations for Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) participants. Staff also led several industry-based programs with Alumni Relations, four programs for Netter Center interns, and programming for specific student populations such as STEM PhDs and postdocs organized by the Singh Center for Nanotechnology and graduate students at the GRASP lab in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Career Services’ FY20 success stories represent the depth and breadth of this highly personal pre-professional guidance:
Miti Joshi (SEAS, Masters in Biotechnology, ’21) came to Career Services during the internship recruiting season looking for a revamp of her resumé and cover letter. An international student from Mumbai, she sought to tailor her resumé to particular job profiles. She received interviews for all three positions she sought, returning to Career Services to sharpen her skills in mock interviews. Miti also attended career fairs, employer presentations, and workshops.
I’d like to really thank Career Services for always being there for me and guiding me through the recruitment maze. They answered every single question I had – sometimes even multiple times – and gave me the positive reinforcement anyone would need before an interview. Thanks to this help I received an internship offer from Charles River Associates as an Associate Intern and I was able to pursue my dream internship in consulting.
Rebecca Suh (C’20, Psychology) started using Career Services as a sophomore and made use of frequent 1:1 appointments with Career Services advisors.
A large reason I ultimately chose to attend Penn over peer institutions was because of its renowned Career Services. I had a feeling my future self would be grateful for prioritizing this aspect of my college experience, and now, as a 2020 COVID graduate, I couldn’t be more appreciative of this thought process! From helping me acquire my first ever, first-choice internship to a full-time job offer in the midst of a global pandemic, I can confidently say that without Career Services, I know I would not be where I am today.
Without fail, I left every meeting at Career Services feeling inspired and energized. Whether I came in unsure about which industry I wanted to pursue or simply about how to send an appropriate thank you email, I was always met with genuine support and dedication while being directed to tangible and relevant resources. When Penn was moved to virtual instruction in the spring of 2020 and the uncertainty of the job market began to weigh on me, I felt anxious but also certain that what I needed to do was heavily rely upon the advisors at Career Services. Fortunately, they did not disappoint: navigating me from beginning to end through a five-round interview process and celebrating my eventual offer of a marketing analyst role.
Penn Violence Prevention
Penn Violence Prevention (PVP) educates and engages the campus community about sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking. Staff, students, and faculty work collectively to end interpersonal violence through programming and outreach addressing “everyday sexism,” gender inequity, social injustice, and oppression.
In its fifth year as a standalone department, Penn Violence Prevention devoted considerable energy to helping the Penn community process changes to Penn’s policies and reporting options related to sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual harassment – now coordinated by a new Associate Vice President for Equity and Title IX Officer. PVP also led efforts to explain and analyze the results to the second AAU Campus Climate Survey. PVP and the LGBT Center hosted an open forum for 30 students, faculty, and staff. A second event, for 60 faculty and staff members, took place in partnership with Special Services, of the Division of Public Safety to focus on the barriers students experience in seeking help and how faculty and staff can address those barriers. Other sessions tailored the survey results analysis for graduate students in STEM and for fraternity and sorority leaders. Finally, PVP staff also launched a poster campaign based on data on barriers to seeking help identified in the AAU Survey.
By design, PVP seeks extend outreach and programming to under-reached and/or marginalized communities. Tailored programming can help establish trust and meet each community’s unique needs. Examples of this work in FY20 included:
- Continued partnership with DuBois College House’s Trending Tuesdays, a discussion program to explore issues in a casual and comfortable setting
- Expanded the Men & Masculinities Student Organizing Committee and hosted 3rd Annual Men & Masculinities Summit
- Partnered with Athletics to increase programming for male-identifying student athletes
- Support and engagement with fraternity and sorority students
- Confidential and response support of student groups and campus communities such as UMOJA and the Asian Pacific Student Coalition
After helping lay the groundwork to launch restorative justice initiatives at Penn in FY18, PVP in FY20 played a pivotal role in the creation of a full-time Associate Director for Restorative Practices in the Office of Student Conduct. PVP staff continue to serve on the Restorative Practices at Penn Steering Committee and helped lead the inaugural Restorative Justice Training for students and staff in FY20. Restorative practices are now featured in New Student Orientation Consent Circles, a more intimate means for first-year students to explore interpersonal violence concerns and Penn policies. Finally, PVP also used restorative practices in trainings for key student constituencies such as Penn Anti-Violence Educators (PAVE) and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault (MARS).
Penn Anti-Violence Educators (PAVE) are a team of trained, paid undergraduate and graduate students who deliver PVP programming to their peers. In FY20, PAVE reached more than 1,500 students in 45 presentations.
- 6 varsity athletic teams
- 100% of Panhellenic chapters
- Fraternal organizations
- College Houses
- The Daily Pennsylvanian staff
In FY20, PVP assessed the efficacy of PAVE in its fifth year of existence. Students attending bystander intervention training were surveyed before, immediately after, and then again within six months, to evaluate the impact of the program. Data collected:
- 800 pre-evaluations, 602 evaluations one-week after, and 79 evaluations three months after
- 99% of participants learned where to seek help as a result of PAVE training – information that 96% of respondents said they retained three months later
- Nearly 90% of all participants recommend the PAVE training to classmates and friends
PAVE educators also experienced considerable personal growth through their experience. Responses included “I learned so much, gained incredible confidence and became a better person.” Others described PAVE as: “Amazing. Fulfilling and nourishing,” and “Educational and inspiring.”
Student Intervention Services
Student Intervention Services (SIS) enhances well-being, academic success, and personal growth within Penn’s diverse student body through crisis intervention and prevention. SIS collaborates with multidisciplinary partners to provide support, advocacy, solutions, and coordination of services for individual students and the Penn community.
For Student Intervention Services, FY20 was a year of challenges requiring flexibility, reliability, and selfless commitment to supporting students and colleagues. Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the depopulation of campus, SIS’ FY20 case load spiked nearly 30 percent: SIS served 1,359 unique students in FY20, compared to an average of 1,071 over each of past three years:
SIS staff worked with a multi-departmental team evaluating student requests to remain in campus housing after Penn’s decision to depopulate in March 2020. More than 900 undergraduates applied to stay, citing compelling reasons including crowded homes, insufficient financial resources for support at home, poor or inconsistent access to the Internet at home, abuse and distress in their families, and other factors that could affect students’ academic performance. These were difficult decisions, and many students whose requests were not approved were upset. SIS and partners also offered extensive support to students who could not remain in housing, including tickets for travel home, financial support for food and Internet service, personal outreach, and resources for emotional support. Of the 926 students seeking an exception to remain in College Houses:
Realizing that the underlying reasons to seek exceptions indicated possible challenges with remote learning, SIS reviewed and analyzed the academic outcomes by comparing their Spring 2020 GPA to cumulative GPA prior to the pandemic. The assessment also considered whether students took an incomplete, withdrew from a class, or expressed any other specific areas of concerns. Overall, the students who applied to stay in housing had excellent academic outcomes, regardless of whether their requests were approved, denied, or canceled.
Key data points from this assessment:
- 854 students who applied to stay on campus earned a 3.0 or better
- 351 students earned a perfect 4.0
- 88 students’ Spring 2020 GPA was lower than their previous cumulative GPA
- 42 students had no Spring GPA due to choosing Pass/Fail
- 23 students had a Spring GPA of 2.0-2.99
- 13 students were identified as being of concern academically, warranting school intervention
SIS has for several years administered an emergency grant program in partnership with Student Financial Services, Alumni Relations, and Penn First Plus to alleviate financial barriers to students’ well-being and academic success. From the start of the academic year through March 2020, the program received 359 applications. After the announcement in mid-March that Penn would transition to remote instruction for the remainder of the spring, an additional 175 students requested financial support for travel, technology, or other needs via e-mail, contact with SIS staff, or referrals from SIS partners. Altogether, SIS received 534 requests for financial assistance, which resulted in the following outcomes:
Emergency funding also serves as a gateway to case management, as SIS staff meet with applicants to learn more about their situations, provide personal support, and help with problem-solving. One prominent example in FY20 concerned a student who needed Internet service at home after the March 2020 depopulation. Talking with SIS, the student shared that she returned home to discover her mother sick with cancer. Days later, the mother died, leaving the student as head of household for two siblings with no other family. The student sold her family’s computer to pay for her mother’s funeral. The emergency response team from SIS, Penn First Plus, and Student Financial Services provided wide-ranging support for the student: Penn First Plus sent her a new laptop. SFS provided money for food and Internet service. The team advocated for her with the Trustees Council of Penn Women, which awarded an emergency grant. The student’s case manager in SIS checked in with her regularly, connected her with a chaplain and CAPS, and notified her school so an advisor could offer academic support. The student graduated from the College in May and sent the following note to SIS:
I am proud to say I graduated cum laude. I am so thankful for you and for all the help you provided to me during this tough time. It’s a bittersweet moment, but I am so grateful that I had people like you to depend on. You don’t know how much you’ve helped me; I really don’t know what I would have done without your support. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
Another FY20 success story concerns the multi-disciplinary support of a highly-aided student suffering from severe complications from an eating disorder. The student, already in the care of Student Health Service and Counseling and Psychological Services, needed a higher level of treatment and assistance transitioning from an unhealthy residential situation. SIS worked with the student to talk with a parent and overcome familial and cultural stigmas around taking a leave of absence. SIS continued to work with the family and the insurance provider to ensure she enrolled in an intensive treatment facility near home. Communication continued during treatment with the student writing:
I’m not sure if this is apparent, but you have saved my life. I had the intention of giving up on life when I came home. But now, somebody thought I was worth fighting for. You managed to believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
Weingarten Learning Resources Center
The Weingarten Learning Resources Center serves a two-fold mission to address the diverse needs of Penn undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Student Disabilities Services promotes accessibility and equity for students with disabilities in accordance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Office of Learning Resources and the Tutoring Services support and enhance the academic experience of students through study skills workshops and specialized content tutoring. Through professional and comprehensive services and programs, Student Disabilities Services, Office of Learning Resources, and Tutoring Services strengthen students’ approaches to learning and the development of life-long skills.
FY20 marked a time of great change for Weingarten, from the new mission statement (above) to an innovative new scheduling software, from the integration of the Tutoring Services to the dawn of a rebranding initiative. As a three-pronged department that works with all 12 schools, Weingarten is instrumental in aiding students to strengthen their study strategies and, for students with disabilities, safeguarding equity and access to programs and facilities. During the rapidly changing academic year and public health climate, Weingarten pivoted to enhance online offerings and ensure that students – perhaps grappling with new challenges related to remote learning – receive essential services and supports. Weingarten also demonstrated ingenuity in expanding collaborative partnerships, from Dr. Rashmi Kumar’s engagement with Perelman School of Medicine faculty to Student Intervention Services (SIS) staff holding office hours inside Weingarten and joining weekly Student Disabilities Services’ staff meetings. Weingarten now hosts Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff two afternoons a week for “Let’s Talk” sessions inside the center, to better serve students who may not feel comfortable venturing to CAPS for clinical care.
The Weingarten Ambassadors Program, made up of involved undergraduate and graduate students, deepened their work sharing positive experiences with peers. Ambassadors participated in the following programs: Time Management Simulation, a Political Science Student Study Skills Panel in collaboration with the Political Science Honor Society, and a wellness event hosted by USABE (Underrepresented Student Advisory Board in Engineering) in collaboration with CAPS.
Office of Learning Resources
In FY20, the Office of Learning Resources (OLR) provided 3,073 instructional sessions for 1,187 distinct undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
From March 23rd through June 30th, OLR staff provided 621 virtual appointments for 218 distinct students, compared with 687 appointments for 312 distinct students during the same period the previous year. Though slightly fewer students had appointments, those who did engaged at at a higher frequency. The transition to remote learning in March prompted revamping the Resources for Remote Learning page on the OLR website and releasing an interactive module on Proactive Time Management for Learning Online. Additionally, OLR offered a total of 289 outreach programs in FY20, reaching 2,899 students in 3,899 encounters.
OLR continued to demonstrate thoughtful tailoring of programs to distinct populations including:
- Master’s students focused on academic writing, structure, language use, and APA citation.
- Doctoral students addressing academic frustrations and inertia, appreciating concrete time management and exam preparation strategies as well as individual coaching through the dissertation proposal defense hearing.
- STEM specialists conducted 753 individual consultations for 275 distinct students.
Success Story: Aisha Oshilaja
Aisha Oshilaja (C’20) pursued a pre-dental track at Penn, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Chemistry. Her relationship with the Weingarten Center began during the fall semester of freshmen year, spurred by struggling to acclimate to her STEM courses. General Chemistry became one of her most challenging courses because she did not feel that the large amount of work she was investing daily translated to a functional understanding of the material. Aisha met with Dr. Rashmi Kumar, learning time management. She also worked with the Tutoring Services, beginning a tradition of seeking a tutor for every Chemistry course for the next four years. With the skills she honed, Aisha graduated a semester early, balancing six courses and two major extra-curriculars.
Reflecting on her experience, Aisha said,
“Weingarten can help you with different academic problems, but you must be willing to implement the recommendations in your life. Academic habits will not change overnight, so be prepared to struggle with these problems even after receiving help. It will take time to change.”
Student Disabilities Services
Student Disabilities Services (SDS) served 1,511 students in 3,801 contacts via appointment, drop-in, email, and phone. In FY20, 709 newly identified students received assistance. The upward trends in exam accommodations continued, with 6,808 exams — an almost 10% increase from 6,197 exams in FY19. Additionally, 175 SDS students received note-takers in FY20, a 22% increase from 143 in FY19. SDS hired note-takers for 717 courses in FY20, a 17% increase from 611 courses in FY19. Finding students to serve in this crucial paid role remains challenging in some courses.
More than $130,000 in donor funds went to 47 SDS students who use Weingarten grants for tuition, diagnostic testing, assistive technology, summer course work, summer internships, personal care attendant services, and other disability-related expenses. Another 15 students received $16,000 in funding for psycho-educational evaluations (cost: up to $5,000) to diagnose a learning disability or attention deficit disorder.
SDS continued to expand campus collaborations to better serve students with needs, from helping Penn maintain accessible web design compliance to approving student use of Penn Accessible Transit to updating procedures for disability-related housing and dining accommodations. Service and emotional support animals continued to be an area requiring regular meetings with Residential Services, Dining Services, and the College House system. As faculty converted courses to online delivery overnight in March, SDS worked closely with the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Online Learning Initiative to develop guidelines.
SDS’ FY20 student survey garnered 121 responses
with an overall satisfaction rate of
interactions with front desk staff
interactions with SDS staff
taking their exams with SDS
taking their exams with SDS
collaborative interview process
SDS will fully implement the new Accommodate database in FY21, allowing students to schedule appointments and exams online. Other aspects of Accommodate that will benefit students include the ability to upload medical documentation, email reminders of their appointments with SDS staff members, a kiosk to confirm their identity and alert staff members when students arrive for appointments, the ability to view their accommodations history online, the ability to sign paperwork online, and the ability to receive their class notes online in Accommodate. SDS also will pilot note-taking technology in FY21. Some students have experienced difficulty obtaining notes from a human note-taker or were dissatisfied with the quality of the notes provided by the note-taker. As a result, SDS will train students to use technology (Glean, Note-Taking Express) to help them take their own notes.
Tutoring Services at Penn formally joined the Weingarten departmental family in FY20, cementing the synergy in delivery of all academic supports for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
As part of this transition, and in response to tutor feedback, tutor training was reorganized. Improvements included assisting students in identifying campus spaces for tutoring, change in payroll process, updates to streamline hiring process, and more frequent communication of expectations.
Tutoring served 1,891 unique students
total hours of service
The Tutoring Services staff met 80% of 2,157 requests for weekly tutoring by offering 1,714 signed tutor-tutee contracts. A collaboration with Athletics led to 522 sessions for 180 students receiving assistance from 48 tutors. Student surveys in the Fall and Spring semesters 24%-30% response rate and overall satisfaction with group and individual tutoring, including:
- 98% Respondents say that they would utilize the Tutoring Services again
- 95% of respondents say that they met with their tutor regularly
- 95% of Respondents feel that tutoring helped them understand the material better
- 94% of respondents say that their tutor was responsive to communication and outreach
In the Spring, a third of all respondents noted technology challenges with virtual tutoring after the March 2020 transition to online learning. Concerns included unstable Internet, difficulty showing and sharing work, and the platforms (Go Board, BlueJeans).
Success story: Alexander Chianese
Alexander Chianese is a student in the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program with a minor in the Integrated Nursing Care of Autism Spectrum Disorder who engaged with all three prongs of Weingarten. A presentation from a Learning Specialist in his first graduate course had a profound impact on his personal academic success. He receives accommodations through the Office of Student Disability Services. Alexander also serves as a paid Tutor for more than 70 graduate students taking NU607 Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology, NU608 Advanced Pharmacology and Therapeutics for Nursing Practice, and NU624 Pathogenesis of Mental Disorders and Advanced Psychopharmacology. When he began, very few graduate students took advantage of tutoring. In short order, Alex had up to 30 tutees per class.
“I dedicate a lot of my time to teaching other students, because I have had so much trouble learning in the past,” Alex reflected. Diagnosed with learning disabilities in elementary school, Alex struggled with the basics, too, as he worked through special education courses and fell behind his same-aged peers. “It wasn’t until high school that something clicked and I became able to compensate for my learning disabilities,” said Alex. “I learned how to study effectively, and that has carried me far.” In college, Alex no longer wanted academic accommodations because of the stigma associate with disability services. He graduated summa cum laude, but he described his experience as suffering through, having “no life.” After arriving at Penn, he realized that he needed accommodations again, and was re-evaluated by a clinical psychologist.
“I could not achieve what I’ve achieved at Penn without the WLRC,” he commented. Alex receives extra time on tests and a distraction-reduced testing environment, which is “everything I could possibly need to make my learning environment optimal.” These services, “allowed me to learn comfortably, to learn at my own pace,” Alex said.
In May, Alex graduated from the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Nursing. His fellowship team applied for and received a grant, under which he will be working to assemble a team of mental health care providers who will see patients with intellectual disability and/or autism and other health conditions. Alex was also recently awarded publication in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (JAANP) for his manuscript submission, “Psychosexual Knowledge and Education in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Individuals.”
In an incredibly challenging academic year, Alex – who was exposed to COVID-19 at his job as a behavioral health nurse – also won the Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students.
Community Clubs and Organizations
Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps
The Naval ROTC Program was established to develop midshipmen mentally, morally, and physically; to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty and loyalty; and to instill the core values of honor, courage, and commitment in order to commission college graduates as naval officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the naval service, and have a potential for future development in mind and character so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.
Naval ROTC represented Penn in a variety of ways throughout FY20. The battalion held a blood drive in November for the American Red Cross with over 50 participants. Additionally, six midshipmen and one newly commissioned Ensign trained for, and participated in, the 44th Marine Corps Marathon in October. One Penn student even qualified for the Boston Marathon.
Penn NROTC maintained a visible presence throughout the community. This included performing color guard duties at area sporting events, participating in park cleanups and the 9/11 Heroes Run. Penn students are particularly involved with the local veteran’s community, volunteering at the VA Medical Center, with Veterans Upward Bound, and conducting a food drive for the Veterans Multi-Service Center.
Production Yield monitors the percentage of those who stay in the Penn NROTC unit after joining. GPA monitors their academic performance. Both of these numbers provide data utilized for formal commissioning Officers in the Navy and Marine Corps. Most NROTC related scholarships are designated for STEM majors. FY20 data:
Class of 2020
48% yield (12 commissioned students)
3.39 cumulative GPA
89% STEM Majors
Class of 2021
47% yield (17 current students)
3.35 cumulative GPA
86% STEM Majors
Class of 2022
63% yield (8 current students)
3.34 cumulative GPA
89% STEM Majors
Class of 2023
74% yield (14 current students)
3.50 cumulative GPA
67% STEM Majors
In FY20, Penn NROTC commissioned 9 Ensigns into the United States Navy and 3 Second Lieutenants into the United States Marine Corps. These 12 newly commissioned officers reported to duty stations ranging from Japan to California to Florida. Two standout success stories in the Class of 2020 include:
- ENS Olivia Cook, Nursing. Olivia served as the Fall Senior Semester Battalion Commanding Officer, volunteered at Kensington Health Sciences Academy, and served as a Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocate. After graduation, she reported to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
- ENS James Lenden, Mechanical Engineering. James served as Spring Semester Battalion Operations Officer and reported for duty as a Surface Warfare Officer at the USS Chancellorsville in Yokosuka, Japan.
Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life
We believe that when we work together, fraternities and sororities have the power to catalyze change and give voice to students. We uphold high standards of integrity and respect, promote inclusion, and provide service to make a difference in the community.
In FY20, OFSL launched the Chapter HOME Gathering, an interactive leadership program that expanded on what was previously known as “House Manager Training.” The Gathering prepares at least three officers (President, House Manger, and one additional officer of the chapter’s choosing) with essential preparation to oversee chapter houses. Programming includes rapidly evolving national guidelines and Penn policies on social event registration, alcohol, risk management, house budgets, emergency services, move-in/out protocols, chef/dining plans, fire/life/safety checks, and more. The three-day Gathering allows students to take more ownership and uphold University expectations within the 24 Penn owned/managed and eight privately owned/leased chapter houses. This ground-laying is especially important in advance of the two-year College Housing requirement, which will impact the demographic makeup of Greek chapter housing beginning in 2021.
FY20 marked the fourth year of OFSL’s ambitious accreditation program focused on equitable member and organizational development. The program allows chapters of all sizes to quantify progress and success in five areas:
- Academic Excellence
- Chapter Operations
- Member Development
- Leadership Development
- Experiential Learning
A student committee scores each chapter’s submissions and issues tiered awards based on overall percentages as well as for overall grade point average, community service, inclusion programming, philanthropy, and wellness initiatives. A stricter approach to grading resulted in some chapters receiving lower scores than in previous years – a difficult, but important reminder that accountability standards must be fully integrated into the Greek experience. Nineteen chapters were honored for high scores and celebrated in a social media campaign while 11 chapters just missed the cutoff. Twelve chapters will spend FY21 with limited social activity to focus on improvement plans.
Recruitment and retention of interested students remains an essential task for OFSL staff and chapter leaders – especially sophomores, who represent only 100 of the 600 women who register for Panhellenic recruitment each year. In the past, those sophomores withdrew from the process at a higher rate than first-year students, leading to lower overall retention. OFSL responded by implementing a secondary pool which allows freshmen and sophomores to be evaluated separately. This resulted in more sorority chapters inviting back sophomores. Panhellenic leaders contributed by marketing this secondary recruitment of sophomores both in the fall (coffee chats, intentional diversity initiatives) and in the spring at tabling events that allow the sophomores to get to know chapters more intimately.
At the same time, OFSL staff and Interfraternity Council (IFC) leaders collaborated with the LGBT Center and Penn Violence Prevention on a series of programming to explore serious and timely issues facing male membership organizations. Topics included rape culture/sexual violence and race/diversity challenges within the Greek system. Student leaders focused particular attention on a growing campus conversation around Locust Walk chapter houses.
In FY20, OFSL dramatically increased its alumni engagement work by holding two highly-successful events during the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA) Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California. In a first, OFSL hosted a Greek cocktail hour for alumni to celebrate their unique experiences in fraternities and sororities. OFSL also held a strategic session with chapter national volunteers and staff that included tailored reports for every chapter with statistics, report cards, capital improvement needs, and more. This event enhanced the department’s outreach and partnerships with national offices – and, at the same time, increased Penn’s presence in the national standing of fraternity and sorority life.
The abrupt transition to remote learning due to COVID-19, followed by the national racial conversations in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, invigorated Greek community and social justice fundraising. Between March and July, 18 chapters and two councils raised $100,000: $75,000 for diversity and social justice organizations and $25,000 for COVID-19 relief. Students employed myriad methods, from seniors donating their unused dues to direct calls to action, from Instagram campaigns to matching gift challenges and even a charitable video game tournament.
$85,000 social justice organizations
$25,000 COVID-19 relief
Donations to Social Justice Organizations
- Anti-Racism Fund
- Attic Youth Center
- Black and Brown Workers Cooperative
- Black Lives Matter (local, national, global)
- Black Trans Fund
- Breonna Taylor Memorial Fund
- Campaign Zero
- Know Your Rights Campaign
- Loveland Foundation
- Morris Home
- NAACP Legal Defence Fund
- Philadelphia Bail Fund
- Project HOME Philadelphia
- Reclaim the Block
Donations to COVID-19 Relief
- American Red Cross
- CDC Foundation
- Direct Relief Fund
- Domestic Violence Hotline
- Feed America
- Helping Hands
- Keep Kids Learning
- Meals for the Front Line Workers at Penn Presbyterian
- Philadelphia COVID-19 Fund
The Office of Student Affairs
The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) is a central provider of resources and experiences designed to supplement students’ classroom learning and to contribute significantly to their personal development. Through our programs, advising resources and services, and various forms of advocacy, OSA supports students in their growth as leaders and builders of a strong Penn community.
The Office of Student Affairs proudly expanded – and cemented as a cherished Penn tradition – the Thriving at Penn “Days of Play” initiative in FY20. Beginning as a pilot in FY19, this monthly (mostly outdoor) extravaganza attracts undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to College Green for fun, food, and festivities. In FY20, OSA, the Undergraduate Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, and colleagues from Athletics, Alumni Relations, the Graduate Student Center, and Wellness Services collaborated on:
- Day of Play: Summer Camp, complete with s’mores (primarily for graduate students)
- Day of Play: Back to School, featuring late-summer outdoor games and cool treats
- Day of Restoration, featuring chair massages, outdoor yoga, and crafts for the soul
- Halloween Day of Play, with a haunted Houston Hall, pumpkin carving and cider
- Day of Play: Pre-Finals Fun, offering late-night breakfast, cross-campus study breaks, movies, holiday films, and stress-relieving craft making
- It’s Your Birthday Day of Play, with cakes for every astrological sign
- Valentine’s Day of Play: Warm delights and Instagrammable photo shoots
With the March 2020 depopulation of campus, the Thriving at Penn initiative moved virtually, with the creation of the Locust Scroll e-newsletter, highlighting opportunities for global student engagement and self-care. In five issues, the programming team created themed playlists on Spotify, knitting circles, Animal Crossing connections, and profiled #PennHeroes.
In FY20, OSA also overhauled the online home of Penn Clubs. With more than 700 registered groups on campus, OSA had long sought a more intuitive and easily searchable platform for students to explore, join, and engage with co-curricular opportunities. Student developers from Penn Labs rose to the occasion and created a bold new website and global online Student Activities Fair in early September 2020.
OSA staff continued to work with student leaders to change Penn’s club culture to one that is more open, welcoming, and less-stressful. The Student Activities Council and Undergraduate Assembly, especially, are in agreement that student-to-student pressures related to club membership has caused unnecessary stress. Wherever possible, OSA and student leaders are reinforcing the goal of clubs allowing open membership (no resume/application/interview process) and “general” participation opportunities. Conducting recruitment online for the first time hopefully helped club leaders see that they can and should make the process more inclusive for all.
OSA successfully transitioned one of Penn’s newest traditions – U-Night, a celebration of all things sophomore – to oversight by the Sophomore Class Board. This April 2020 program thrived online, garnering more than 10,000 social media views as it highlighted 15 individual students and brought the class closer together while apart.
Finally, FY20 represented a milestone for OSA: Its 50th anniversary. The occasion inspired the first-ever OSA alumni brunch during Homecoming. The new event drew more than 100 registrants – including student government leaders who graduated in the 1980s. Alumni and current students mingled with staff and enjoyed a video timeline of OSA’s rich history. The anniversary celebration renewed many important alumni connections with the office and has already yielded offers to connect and donate for student leadership initiatives. The brunch inspired a new initiative: “The Lightbulb Moment,” which launches in FY21, will feature alumni recalling the moment when they realized that a skill or talent they honed working on a student club directly influenced their post-Penn careers.
Platt Student Performing Arts House
Platt Student Performing Arts House provides leadership and support for the creation and implementation of arts programming for students at the University of Pennsylvania.
In FY20, Platt House deepened its commitment to creating a community dialogue around equity and cultural understanding. The Inclusivity Campaign involved everything from microaggression awareness training to holding a virtual conversation on Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and protests. Exemplifying that commitment was Platt’s FY20 success story – the six-student Executive Board of the Performing Arts Council (PAC), who dramatically reshaped what it means to be in the performing arts community with a three-fold approach:
- Inclusivity: Expanding PAC to include two more diverse groups, Dischord (Acapella) and Penn Chinese Theatre; Creating the affordable and accessible PAC Season Ticket Pass enabling students to attend five shows for $25; Developing a peer review process to help student groups navigate challenging text, casting, and cultural representation in staging plays and other performances.
- Wellness: Streamlining auditions to be more accessible, less stressful; added bylaws creating more flexible attendance policies so student performers can prioritize academic demands even if it means missing rehearsals; shortening the length of theater rehearsals to accommodate students’ needs for personal time.
- Community: Creating new programs to unite students working in performance tech; providing storage opportunities for off-campus students leaving in March due to COVID-19.
Platt House devotes considerable energy to career mentoring, to connect students with professional opportunities and engage alumni working in theatre, film, dance, and music industries. In FY20, parents joined the effort which included alumni spotlight newsletter features, podcast recordings, and events such as:
- Conversation with Academy Award-nominated film and TV producer and Penn Parent Matt Gross
- Dinner, discussion, and screening of “Latter Day Jew” with producer Todd Shotz (C’96)
- Tap dance workshop with alumna Pamela Heatherington (C’01) who founded Soundworks Tap Factory
- “How the Entertainment World Is Changing” discussion with Penn Parent Rich Klubeck on talent agency careers, co-presented with Career Services
- Dance masterclass and career talk with choreographer and Strictly Funk founder, Jen Weber (C’00)
- Virtual discussion with HBO’s Director of Programming, Jason Butler (C’09)
FY20 saw Platt alumni and staff coordinate A Toast to Dear Old Penn: Live from Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. Conceived as a Platt House Alumni Advisory Council series, in partnership with VPUL and Alumni Relations, these shows give Penn students a rare opportunity to shine on an iconic stage before family, friends, and adoring alumni fans. The 2019 event featured eight diverse student groups inside a larger Carnegie venue, Weill Recital Hall. As a result, 360 people bought tickets – 100 more than the first year. The December 2019 event also featured an after-party co-sponsored with PennPARC. With the 2020 event postponed due to COVID-19, Platt and Alumni Relations will use the time to strategize on further improvements to potentially reduce ticket prices and improve sound.
The March 2020 depopulation of campus due to COVID-19 caused the entire student performing arts community to shift to a virtual format. Platt staff surveyed students to see how they were using virtual platforms and how Platt could best provide service and support. The community was surveyed again in May, at the end of the academic year, for real-time feedback. Key data points of this assessment revealed:
- In March, students expressed an interest in sharing completed work, compiling clips into a group trailer, postponing/re-purposing productions, taking in performances, career mentorship, social media takeovers, and focus groups on how to perform student performing arts on campus. Some students expressed concerns about time zones and connectivity issues for live events.
- In May, respondents reported satisfaction with events such as Open Mic Night, virtual career mentoring, and Platt study hall sessions. Students also appreciated opportunities to engage with Platt alumni over remote platforms.
Finally, significant progress was made in FY20 on reimagining the Platt House Alumni Advisory Council. Potential new members were recruited and new expectations developed for the council. Continuing members met in FY20 to frame forthcoming initiatives which include events for unrecognized groups of alumni, programming around Black Lives Matter, mentoring, and tailored assistance for students interning in Los Angeles.
Cultural Resource Centers
Greenfield Intercultural Center
The Albert M. Greenfield Intercultural Center is Penn’s intercultural resource and incubator for designing diversity initiatives that enhance intercultural knowledge, competency, and leadership within the Penn community. The center also works to advocate for and support underrepresented groups including international, First-Generation, Lower-Income (FGLI), and Native students.
The FGLI Donated Library was established in 2016 as a GIC and Penn Libraries partnership to collect, catalog, and disseminate high-cost academic materials to highly-aided students. Since its inception, the initiative has served more than 800 students and amassed more than 4,000 titles for loan.
An FY20 assessment of this program found:
- 200 more visits to the textbook request site in Fall of 2019 than the previous Fall
- 417 completed requests seeking 707 items
- 242 unique students received 495 books and/or access codes
- More than 70% of requests fulfilled with items in the collection
- The March 2020 campus depopulation challenged timely textbook return. Program leaders estimate needing more than $12,000 to replace highly sought-after Math, Science, Economics, Business, and Foreign Language books
The GIC and Weingarten Learning Resources Center partner to offer 90-minute FGLI study groups that run 13 weeks each semester. The study sessions aim to build student confidence and persistence in STEM and other disciplines, increasing course participation, perceptions of group study, and improving personal study habits.
In FY20, groups formed around five courses:
ECON 001 | BIOL 101 | MATH 114 | BIOL 102 | CHEM 241
An assessment of the program revealed:
- 49 unique students were served in 37 sessions.
- In-class promotion of the study groups by faculty mid-Fall resulted in an increase of registrants from 13 to 45. Faculty messaging at the start of the Spring semester spurred even more interest, with 21 more registrants alone in ECON 001 (January 2020) than BIOL 101 (September 2019).
- Year to year, the average study group size increased from 3.5 to 4.6 students.
- Modifying sessions to be more interactive improved retention. Prior to the COVID-19 depopulation, the Spring semester groups were on track to exceed 50 total student encounters despite having fewer unique students.
- Despite the challenging context of math-based sessions — in which students default to practicing problems outside of the group setting – the modified interactive format positively impacted student behaviors and perceptions of group study: 100% of respondents in Spring 2020 reported being more likely to start or join study groups in the future as a result of their experience compared to just 33% when asked at the start of the program in Fall 2019.
In FY20, GIC hired an inaugural full-time FGLI Program Coordinator who also helped revitalize Natives at Penn. Signature events include a first for Penn: The staging of Manahatta, a play written by a Native American playwright (Mary Kathryn Nagle), and directed by a Native student (NAP co-chair Connor Beard). Native students faced unique challenges returning home in March, as evidenced by NAP Chat statements like:
It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who finds it difficult going back and forth between my reservation and school. I thought I was the only one who had to completely change the way I speak and act; I even noticed my posture changes.
Finally, in FY20, the GIC partnered with Alumni Relations and VPUL Development Operations and Alumni Relations to formally launch Penn FLASH, the University’s first targeted online mentoring platform connecting alumni mentors with Penn FGLI students. Seeded by a donor grant, the virtual platform took off after the March 2020 depopulation of campus – with student and alumni participation more than doubling.
By the end of FY20, 231 alumni and 134 students had forged 86 unique connections.
User analysis confirms:
- 75% of students who reach out to connect with alumni do so with several different alumni, seeking different types of relationships or advice
- Alumni engage at a rate of 84%, representing 59 industries and areas of expertise
- 22,000 actions took place among users in 17 states and 6 countries
Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina
La Casa Latina is a crossroad of academic, personal, and professional growth for University of Pennsylvania students interested in Latino and Latin American cultures. Through advising, leadership development, academic, social, and cultural programming we expand student access to the University’s resources to achieve their fullest potential.
In FY20, La Casa Latina supported more than 25 student organizations, nurtured collaborative partnerships on and off campus, and participated in programs ranging from New Student Orientation to alumni mentorship. This year, particular attention went to embracing the many ways to “be Latinx” by creating programming for minoritized groups such as LBGT+, undocumented, and Afro-Latinx students. This work included spaces for students to reflect and heal from personal trauma while challenging anti-black racism. La Casa Latina also collaborated closely with Latin American and Latino Studies Program, ensuring educational outcomes for programming and activities.
FY20 represented the third year of the Familias mentoring program, which absorbed three previous platforms. Familias creates supportive pods including a first-year student, sophomore, junior/senior, graduate student, and Latinx alumnus. These groups form tight family units that can last for years to come.
In FY20, Familias included 68 undergraduates, 34 graduate students, and 38 alumni. Together, they coordinated with the Association of Latino Alumni to raise money for La Casa’s Book Emergency Fund.
Beyond Familias, Latinx student/alumni engagement and mentorship remained robust in FY20, during La Casa’s 20th Anniversary year. Examples include:
- Diverse and robust 20th Anniversary Latinx Heritage Month, Festival Latinx, and Penn Spectrum Weekend events reaching more than 1,000 community members
- San Francisco Latinx Alumni mixer for more than 25, hosted by two tech companies
- Annual Bienvenida event for more than 150 new and returning Latinx graduate and professional students, a partnership with LAGAPSA, and the Graduate Student Center
- Pennsamientos career exploration opportunities
La Casa Latina staff intensified student outreach and support in the aftermath of the March 2020 depopulation of campus due to COVID-19. Highlights include:
- Offered more than 85 hours of virtual programming focused on fostering community and supporting a global dialogue among students.
- Held 93 individual 1:1 wellness meetings helping students connect to resources and support – including nine students needing financial support for DACA renewal fees.
- Made 35 hours of Zoom calls with the Latinx coalition between late March and July.
- Led successful programs, such as Cafecito con La Casa Latina and Anti-Blackness Book Club, with 105 students, staff, faculty, and alumni recreating the warmth of the La Casa living room.
La Casa recognized two graduating seniors FY20 success stories: Cinthia Ibarra and Erik Vargas, both members of the Class of 2020.
Cinthia, who began her Penn studies shy and reserved, blossomed into a confident advocate who publicly disclosed her DACA status and became a strong leader of organizations such as Mujeres Empoderadas, MEChA, Cipactli, and the Latinx Coalition.
Erik, also a proud undocumented student, came to Penn empowered to speak up, and out, on behalf of his community. He became a passionate member of Penn for Immigrant Rights, the Student Labor Action Project, as well as Philadelphia-based groups like Juntos, which offers Know-Your-Rights sessions for immigrant families. When COVID-19 struck, he mobilized food, clothing, and supplies for West Philadelphia families.
Finally, FY20 saw a changeover in two-thirds of the La Casa staff, with the retirement of beloved Director Johnny Irizarry and inaugural Program Coordinator Maritza Santiago. Together, and individually, Johnny and Maritza positively mentored thousands of students who went on to become devoted, caring alumni.
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center’s mission is to enrich the experiences, foster the success, celebrate the victories, and affirm the existence of Penn’s LGBTQ+ undergraduates, professional, and graduate students, staff, faculty, and alumni, using the lenses of social justice and intersectionality. Through education, support, and advocacy, the Center cultivates a campus climate where all students, regardless of their gender or sexual identity, can live, learn, and thrive authentically.
FY20 found the Center short-staffed, with a two-person leadership team needing to adjust programming to prioritize quality over quantity. Free Fun Fridays became monthly, including a dedicated “Thank Grad It’s Friday” session for graduate and professional students. Significant work went to support trans/nonbinary/gender non-conforming students who may arrive at Penn with “X” markers on birth certificates and driver’s licenses to find a University system still evolving beyond binary definitions. Center staff have played a prominent role in developing the Next Generation Student Systems (NGSS) project and working with academic planning to ensure that students can indicate their preferred pronouns in Canvas (as of Fall 2020) and Pennant (when it debuts).
In FY20, Center staff sought to consciously increase involvement in the physical arts on campus and across the community. In a truncated year, the Center collaborated with the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, Center for Experimental Ethnography, Weitzman School Department of Fine Arts, Wolf Humanities Center, ICA, FringeArts, and the Icebox Project Space to sponsor a performance-intensive and provide a home base for artists involved. In January, the Center organized Full Metal Indigiqueer, a residency for two queer indigenous artists – the largest Native program in many years outside of the annual Native at Penn Powwow. In June, the Center collaborated with the Penn Band on a musical celebration of Pride.
Penn Band Social Distancing Orchestra: Accidentally In Love
The Center has long served as a campus hub for signature, and non-signature, social justice trainings, and professional development. These offerings increased in FY20, both in person and virtually, with an incredible uptick in requests for Implicit Bias training and the White People Confronting Racism program in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
In FY20, trainings included, but were not limited to:
- Promoting LGBT Inclusivity
- Healthy Masculinities
- LGBT Cultures in the US
- Teamwork and Implicit Bias
- Implicit Bias
- Broadening your Perspectives
- Transitioning in the Workplace
- Trans 101
- Transitioning Ideas on Transgender Identities
- Trans Literacy
- Building Connected Communities
- Whites Confronting Racism
The March 2020 campus depopulation, due to COVID-19, took a tremendous toll on the LGBTQ+ student community, as a larger number than anticipated equated going home with going back in the closet. Racial unrest in June further exacerbated the global challenges for the extended undergraduate, graduate, and professional LGBTQ+ student community.
After the murder of George Floyd, the Center mobilized and reframed Pride Month around solidarity and honoring the struggles of LGBTQ+BIPOC and especially trans women of color. As the weeks became months, the Center focused on hosting weekly Family Dinners, social and support programming after realizing that students were “Zoomed Out” and uninterested in heavy discussions.
Staff reimagined FY20 assessment work to evaluate this wide-ranging virtual COVID-19 response. Nearly 125 respondents – more than half staff – shared candid viewpoints of the LGBT Center’s approach and programming, including:
Most respondents prefer receiving direct email messages or weekly newsletters, a surprising majority considering the rise of social media
Respondents felt the Center builds community, but can improve in understanding myriad interpretations of community
Respondents crave more virtual speaker events, leading the Center to reboot “Alumni OUT Loud” in the Fall 2020
The Center is proud to share its FY20 success story, Camilo “Cam” Duran (C’21). A FGLI student from rural North Carolina, Cam began transitioning at Penn but soon realized that the cost of binders – not initially covered by the generous Penn Student Insurance Plan benefit, which covers trans-related health care – was prohibitive. Cam worked with the Undergraduate Assembly, the Center, and Student Health Service to successfully lobby Aetna (PSIP) to include free binders as a medical necessity beginning in Fall 2020. Cam, a Civic Scholar and chair of the FGLI LGBTQ+ student organization, interned with City Councilwoman Helen Gym and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He applied for and was awarded, a prestigious Truman Fellowship. In the summer of 2020, Cam successfully underwent top surgery – covered by PSIP.
Makuu: The Black Cultural Center
Makuu: The Black Cultural Center is a nexus of academic, professional, and personal growth for University of Pennsylvania students interested in Black culture and the African Diaspora. Through advising, leadership development, network facilitation, and cultural programming, we expand student access to the University’s resources, enhancing our campus and global communities.
Makuu serves as a hub of supplemental academic support, from staff pre-major advising to the Robeson Scholars Program. Makuu’s longtime partnerships with the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, School of Engineering and Applied Science, The Writing Center, and Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowship (CURF) enhance the intentional approach to helping Black students navigate Penn and succeed. One notable example: Dr. Nakia Rimmer, of the Math department, holds office hours at the ARCH (remote after spring).
In FY20, Makuu launched THRIVE, a peer-led coaching program for time management and resource utilization, in consultation with Weingarten staff. Makuu also debuted Spring brunches, organized by class, to provide more intimate connection and support points for students – especially those who aren’t daily regulars. Two were held (seniors, first-years) prior to the March 2020 depopulation of campus due to COVID-19.
Makuu advocates for the academic wellness of the Black student community at Penn. In FY20, Makuu proposed that the Office of Institutional Research, Penn First Plus, and Student Registration and Financial Services (SRFS) work together to gather and analyze data on:
How many Black students take a leave of absence annually?
How many Black students have dropped annually?
How do Black students’ GPAs compare to other students/averages, across schools, and overall?
How many Black students are on financial aid, and what are the average packages?
How many Black undergraduate students enroll as non-traditional students via the School of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS)? What are their financial challenges and completion rates?
The abrupt transition to remote learning in March 2020, followed by the civil unrest and heightened national awareness of anti-Blackness, deepened stress and strain for the entire Makuu community. Every staff meeting and student group call became even more focused on the urgency of social justice, support, and healing. By April, it was clear that Makuu could not replicate its emotional annual Senior Celebration. Working closely with students, the team built a 35-minute virtual program with remarks, awards, and a powerful commemorative video. More than 120 unique attendees participated, with more than 200 chat posts. Families, staff, alumni, and students used the evening as a time to reflect, honor, and commit to each other and a brighter future.
Makuu’s FY20 success story, Mckayla Warwick, was one of Director Dr. Brian Peterson’s premajor advisees’ freshman year, a student in EDUC 240, and a Robeson Cooper Scholar. Early on in her Penn tenure, she shared apprehension about her place on campus. Mckayla grew more confident through participating in groups like 4A (African American Arts Alliance). As a senior, she took another course with Dr. Peterson, AFRC 187, and also served as a TA for URBS 140. In May 2020, Mckayla graduated summa cum laude and won the President’s Engagement Prize.
She posted the following statement on Facebook during Commencement weekend:
I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. While I wait for my cap and gown and my diploma to come in the mail, I feel compelled to reflect on this journey. I arrived on campus in August 2016 more unsure of myself by the day. I sat in classes, too afraid to speak, thinking whatever I said would confirm that I didn’t actually belong.
I avoided social interaction because I’d already had too many awkward encounters where I confirmed to myself that I couldn’t compare to my peers. I feared getting the scholarship to Penn would be the height of my experience. Somewhere along the way, however, I found people who wanted to listen to me, who admitted I was weird, but found it interesting. Gradually, I wanted to take on leadership positions in Ase Academy, creating the curricula for middle school students from Philly; I wanted to help create the Makuu Summer Impact Program, which exposed Black high school students to college and the power they hold to change their schools, communities, and the world. I wanted to direct and produce plays! I wanted to be a part of bringing more folks to the Penn V-Day community.
I began to use my voice in small seminars to ask questions, then to advocate for folks who weren’t present in the room, and finally, to offer my ideas. And today, my ideas have given me a platform to build a bigger stage for more voices to be heard.
So Let me repeat how I began. I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. I am graduating summa cum laude, with the honor of receiving the Makuu Senior Arthur Fauset Award, the Service Award from the Sociology department, and Dr. Gutmann’s President’s Engagement Prize. The girl I mentioned before wouldn’t have believed it.
Pan-Asian American Community House
The Pan-Asian American Community House is a hub of academic, personal, and professional growth for University of Pennsylvania students interested in Asian American culture and the Asian American Diaspora. Through advising, leadership development, advocacy, and social and cultural programming, we expand student access to the University’s resources.
In FY20, PAACH sustained 15 arms, onboarded 3 new developing student initiatives, and supported over 100 student organizations, nurturing collaborative partnerships on and off campus. Alumni and graduate/professional student engagement grew despite staffing shortages and the abrupt transition to remote learning in March 2020.
Newer initiatives, such as Spice Collective, South Asian Women’s Space, and 7|8 Collective (for first-generation and low-income Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students), Penn AAPI Politics, and Radical South Asian Collective focused on taking all interested members to build an open, welcoming community free of competition and rejection. Radical South Asian Collective, for example, formed in response to the lack of South Asian activist communities on campus. The South Asian Women’s Space brings together undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who would not otherwise have an opportunity to connect.
As the COVID-19 crisis led to a surge in bias incidents against people of Asian backgrounds, PAACH joined the University Task Force on Support to Asian and Asian Americans, led by Associate Vice Provost Dr. Amy Gadsden. PAACH’s Director Peter Van Do co-chaired the program series, Stopping the Hate and Starting to Heal: Living with and through the COVID-19 Pandemic. Initial events included a discussion panel on the Increase of Anti-Asian Violence featuring City Council member Helen Gym (C’93 GED’96), criminologist, and community activist Cliff Akiyama (CGS’04 GR’08), and CAPS Psychologist Dr. Yuhong He, moderated by student leader Shaina Zafar (C’21.). More than 200 people attended live and another 400 watched the YouTube recording.
Stopping the Hate and Starting to Heal
Living with and through the COVID-19 pandemic
PAACH staff also collaborated with Restorative Practices @ Penn, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Special Services, and Penn Global to offer healing spaces for faculty and staff experiencing anti-Asian bias or harassment. Two restorative circles – one held in Mandarin – took place over the summer.
PAACH’s FY20 student survey, taking place virtually a month after Commencement, drew 38 complete responses representing diverse constituencies in ethnicity, gender, year, school, family status, and geography. Data points and highlights include:
- 100% of respondents said PAACH communicates well and provides effective support to students
- 97% said PAACH has positively influenced their Penn experience, and that staff appreciate and celebrate cultural differences and leadership development
- 91% of respondents were satisfied with staff/resource accessibility
- 69% of respondents said PAACH did well, but could improve, in assisting students with career development and 70% praised networking opportunities
One powerful student reflection was shared by Stephanie Hwang (C’23), a leader of Penn AAPI Politics, the civic engagement arm.
As I’ve learned in my involvement in AAPI Politics, addressing and accepting such ‘taboo topics’ is pivotal in empowering our community – we possess the agency to effect change by participating in this dialogue. Yet, what I have seen is that the opposite of high engagement and participation is not resistance or hostility, but rather, apathy; the AAPI population as a whole remains largely uninvolved in political activity both on and off campus.
As a club, this has been something that we have struggled with; How do you take steps to overcome something that is so insidiously pervasive within this community, when the course of action is ill-defined and nebulous? Trying to overcome these sorts of issues present the danger of burn-out. Coming to have this understanding but choosing to continue being involved is part and parcel of being a trailblazer within the AAPI community. In a time where we have seen a mass influx of racial discrimination and violence against the AAPI community, it is more essential now than ever for our community to use our platforms to contribute to an immersive and continually diversifying discourse and to create a sense of cultural solidarity.
As such, personally, the most meaningful and impactful civic engagement activity through this club has been the on-campus protests. In particular, I felt especially empowered in my involvement with helping organize the Dinesh D’Souza silent protest. I firmly believe that protests are one of the most powerful ways to band people together under a united cause. In my experience as a club member, it was at these civic engagement events that I felt most connected and united with the AAPI community.
Penn Women’s Center
Penn’s longest-standing resource center, the Women’s Center’s promotes gender justice through a diverse array of personal, academic, and educational development opportunities intended to help our students, staff, and faculty reach their fullest potential.
FY20 saw the PWC rebrand and refresh – from a new logo and marketing materials to remodeling the multipurpose room and updating programming. These physical efforts exemplified the team’s expanding campus relationships and mission of inclusivity, wellness, upliftment, and meeting people where they are. PWC serves as a unique hub for students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) as well as faculty and staff, the latter via the popular lactation pump kit giveaway and partnerships with Human Resources and the Family Center.
Indeed, in nine years of analyzing the distribution of nearly 400 pump kits.
In February 2020, shortly before the campus depopulation, PWC hosted the return of V-Day’s Penn Monologues, a three-night production for students and community members of all identities to share experiences navigating interpersonal violence. The original Vagina Monologues ran on campus 2010 through 2017 and was rekindled in FY20 by students seeking an even more complex and fulsome production. The 2020 shows, held in the Rotunda and ARCH, sold nearly 400 tickets and raised more than $6,000 for the Philadelphia-based Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR).
In FY20, PWC assessed the Penn Environmental Education Kitchen (PEEK), the physical core of the center space. A Level 4 Certified Green Office Space, this cozy, but innovative kitchen educates the community about environmentally friendly practices such as composting, high-efficiency appliances, and reusable dishware. After nine years, the PWC team sought insight into how the kitchen is used and how it might better serve the community. Outcomes included:
- Even in a truncated academic year, the PEEK was utilized for more than 100 meetings, retreats, mixers, speaker events, cooking demonstrations, and fundraising activities. Examples include CAPS clinicians leading Body Love support groups; The Penn Orchard Project hosting a public elderberry syrup making workshop; The Netter Center’s Agatson Urban Nutrition Initiative Cooking Workshop; Student-led “What’s Cooking at PWC” sessions; Penn Masters of Fine Arts Printmaking Class; Challah bread making demonstration.
- PEEK brings diverse voices together around food and nourishment.
Many people who attend cooking demonstrations, mixers, and retreats at PWC are visiting for the first time. FY20 participants included: Black Graduate Women’s Association Happy Hour; Penn Law Office of Inclusion and Engagement retreat; UMOJA Halloween party for alumni mothers and children; MeChA (El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan) fundraiser; Philadelphia Alliance for Labor and Support doula training; LAGAPSA vegan cooking demonstration
The Penn Women’s Center remains a trusted confidential resource for individuals experiencing sexual violence, relationship violence, harassment, and stalking. FY20 data:
- 136 individuals for crisis options counseling and support services, a 10% increase from 124 in FY19
- 120 of the individuals supported identified as female; 13 identified as male, 1 as nonbinary
- 75 individuals supported were undergraduate students, 35 were graduate students, 16 were staff
- 54% of all support focused on interpersonal violence, followed by mental health (16%) and interpersonal dynamics (7%)
Finally, PWC continued to intensify and deepen relationships with alumni, as evidenced by the $250,000 reunion class gift from the Class of 1995 – led by women – to revitalize the Center’s outdoor garden. In Fall 2020, PWC and the LGBT Center hosted a multi-generational panel as part of Penn Spectrum focused on “Women at Penn Through the Years.” In Spring 2020, PWC sponsored a networking reception during the OWN IT Summit featuring prominent Penn alumnae. As part of the COVID-19 response, PWC shifted alumni engagement to mentoring newly-minted Class of 2020 graduates transitioning from student life to professional roles largely alone, in remote status, around the world.
The University of Pennsylvania is home to active and diverse organizations of people who gather to pursue academic, personal, and professional exploration. Our mission at Perelman Quadrangle is to harness the visions of those we serve and make them a reality. As innovators, we anticipate the evolving needs of our ambitious community by creating strategies to reach our shared goals. Enriching the lives of Penn students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community is inspiring, and we are motivated by the positive impact our organization has on these individuals.
Before the depopulation of campus in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Perelman Quadrangle (PQ) achieved two physical student-facing success stories – both within Houston Hall, America’s oldest student union. The PQ team devoted considerable energy in FY20 to improve student programming and foster a more diverse community of students engaging in the iconic space. All activities are free and open to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Examples of new and expanded programming included monthly Make & Take craft nights. PQ partnered with Athletics for NCAA and Eagles game watch parties. Staff launched a Fall Porch Party and revived the Halloween Houston Haunt. PQ also partnered with the Assembly of International Students to offer Thanksgiving and Spring Break activities for students remaining on campus when classes were not in session. One new instant classic: The Thing Before Fling Roller Skate Night, in which a portable rink flooring transforms Houston Hall for one memorable evening as a free, non-alcoholic alternative social option open to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
The first of two substantial successes can be found in reimagining the first floor of the iconic student union building. Students returned to campus in the Fall of 2019 to find bold, contemporary graphic wall coverings, new modern furnishings, and an array of gaming equipment. Two professional-grade ping pong tables breathed new life into the Class of 1970 Game Room. More than 400 people played table tennis each week, with the games attracting a demographically diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students from every school, every day of the week, morning until late night.
weekly sign outs
most popular time slot
most popular day
The second Houston Hall success story concerns the Penn Student Agencies (PSA), a collection of student-run, self-supporting enterprises such as firstServices (laundry and water deliveries), Penn Student Design, Penn Lens (photography), Quaker Corner (store), Special Deliveries, Penn Closet (thrift store), Williams Cafe, Compass Marketing, PSA Bartending, and – as of 2020, Benny’s Diner – the first PSA campus restaurant.
In August 2019, PSA learned that Paris La Petite Creperie was not renewing its lease on the first floor of Houston Hall. PSA leadership (Michael Warren C’21 and Jazzy Ortega E’20 with the help of Tyira Bunche C’21 and Alex Jackman C’21) crafted a well-researched proposal to create and run an all-day breakfast diner serving as an eco-friendly, affordable, community eating experience. The PSA team spent four months solidifying the restaurant operational plan, brand guidelines, marketing strategies, hiring and training procedures, the menu and recipes, vendor relationships, and meeting Philadelphia health and sanitation guidelines. With the excitement of the Penn student body behind this project, Penn Student Agencies hired a team of six student leaders and 33 student kitchen staff to launch the business. The diner was slated to go live March 16th but had to postpone due to COVID-19. All systems remain in place to launch as soon as campus reopens.
185 students participated in 11 PSA operations. FY20’s assessment asked 30 students in PSA leadership positions to rate the impact of their experience on a host of skill-building areas. Highlights included:
students participated in 11 PSA operations.
FY20’s assessment asked 30 students in PSA leadership positions to rate the impact of their experience on a host of skill-building areas.
experienced growth in leadership skills
experienced growth in communication skills
experienced growth in time-management skills
experienced growth in team building skills
Based on these assessment results, PSA will implement strategies and provide resources for FY21 to create even more opportunities for student growth in team building and providing feedback. Students also shared qualitative testimonials about the impact of their PSA jobs:
Working with OhSnap Photography has made me a better person overall because it has kept me accountable to something. Being able to run the company makes me feel powerful and proves to myself that I am capable of managing and improving things. These are feelings that I transfer to my other internships and jobs.
I have learned how to delegate, time manage, and oversee projects and people, providing me with a better sense of understanding how a company might function at a larger scale, and providing me with skill sets that I know I will be able to implement in my professional work post-graduation.
PSA really gives students the opportunity to handle responsibility on their own with just the right amount of guidance and it’s a great place for students to grow in their leadership and work skills.
VPUL Technology Services
VPUL Technology Services works to provide VPUL with best-in-class student and administrative information systems and desktop computing equipment. The group offers a variety of technical services to ensure that technology facilitates the work processes of divisional offices. VPULTS also works to develop collaborative relationships to ensure that technologic projects are developed and delivered in an integrated fashion. The central goal of VPUL Technology Services is to create and maintain a supportive environment, in which technology advances the imperatives of the division and the University.
VPUL Technology Services oversees every desktop, laptop, mobile device, application, and web page across this vast student services division. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 11-person VPUL Technology Services team had spent the first quarter of FY20 undertaking a complex project to successfully transition to Windows10 for hundreds of user, desktops, and mobile systems across the division. This project included 24 offices – 14 of which received refreshed hardware, a total of 80 new desktops.
Not long after, at the end of 2019, VPULTS began the complete tech transfer of 11 departments as part of divisional reorganization:
- Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives (AOD)
- Campus Health; Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
- Student Health Service (SHS)
- Educational Talent Search
- Provost’s Summer Mentorship Program
- University of Pennsylvania College Achievement Program (PENNCAP)/Pre-Freshman Program (PFP)
- Upward Bound; Upward Bound Math Science
- Veterans Upward Bound
- Civic House
This reorganization necessitated documenting assets, processes, workflows, specialized software, and licenses. The reorganization required a transfer of critical applications – including CAPS and SHS scheduling systems – for each office. VPULTS staff provided crucial leadership, including removing existing CPUs, transitioning iPads, Chromebooks, and mobile technology, as well as disabling network IPS and user accounts; building and implementing all transitioning websites from the VPUL content management system to new WordPress sites. All departments continued to operate without disruption in service as a result of VPULTS’ expertise and attention to details.
Years of thorough mission continuity planning and technology maintenance well-positioned VPULTS to provide best-in-class service in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic up to, and after, the March 2020 depopulation of campus. Working around the clock, VPULTS created its own internal Virtual Private Network (VPN) to serve the entire division. This new technology involved configuring private IP address space, a web portal, and Virtual Domains (VDOM), as well as developing firewall policies to allow secure remote access to server infrastructure while maintaining existing protections and security of data. Staff secured hardware firewalls point of entry (SSL certificate), configured unique access points, activated a directory group policy, created policies to ensure that on-campus desktops remained powered to facilitate remote work. VPULTS also configured user policies to prevent multiple logins and tested every desktop in every office.
Technology Services staff purchased and configured more than two dozen laptops for divisional staff home use, in addition to webcams, keyboards, and other mobile accessories. VPULTS also purchased and distributed loaner laptops. VPULTS staff drove to colleagues’ homes to drop off technology and spent hours assisting students facing technology challenges that threatened their academic progress. The Technology Services team personally trained the entire division on using Secure Remote Access (VPN), phone forwarding, and essential new tools like Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans, and Zoom. Hundreds of staff and thousands of students flocked to these new tools, spending hours hosting meetings, conducting club recruitment, auditioning new members, or just catching up with friends. In one three-week period alone in August, more than 12,000 global participants attended 821 unique meetings and six webinars – all as a result of VPULTS’ leadership and software management.
One of the most striking examples of VPULTS’ work was seen in the implementing of Accommodate, a comprehensive, ADA-compliant enterprise software architecture and student case management system for the Weingarten Learning Resource Center (WLRC). VPULTS worked for more than two years on the research, purchase, and customization of the Accommodate system, which schedules and tracks student activities; allows students to upload electronic documents; helps directors recruit, onboard, and train staff; and integrates data for custom reporting.
Accommodate launched on schedule, July 1, 2020. The timing was fortuitous, as Penn was at that very moment in need of a system to organize and schedule a comprehensive Gateway COVID-19 testing protocol for returning students, staff, and faculty, and then to continue administering surveillance tests throughout the semester. VPULTS again rose to the challenge, determining that Accommodate could be innovatively reconfigured to schedule COVID-19 tests. More than 30,000 COVID-19 tests were administered to students, faculty, and staff between August and November – sometimes more than 3,000 a day – all thanks to the scheduling system created by VPUL Technology Services. The integrated system allowed Penn to produce a weekly Dashboard, providing the extended community with timely information about testing compliance, symptoms, and positivity rates.
AUGUST – NOVEMBER
COVID-19 TESTS ADMINISTERED
sometimes more than 3,000 a day
Finally, VPUL Technology Services provided unparalleled leadership in guiding the division to communicate with 25,000 students suddenly scattered around the world after the March 2020 depopulation. Providing design and technical expertise, VPULTS played a direct role in moving cherished in-person Penn traditions to online platforms, creating new events for students to come together, and disseminating essential information to keep students connected, safe, and healthy. Examples of this globally-impactful work include:
Class of ’20 “Final Toast”
seniors attended via Facebook Live
“Life After Penn”
students attended the Career Services remote session
“Take Back the Night”
people attended to address sexual violence
staff meetings in a seven-week period (July-August)
“How to Turn Your VPUL Resource Bandana Into a Mask” GIF, viewed more than 10K times on Instagram
THE LOCUST SCROLL
Locust Scroll, interactive e-newsletter, created by VPUL and student leaders, shared with more than 25,000 students and 10,000 families from March through August
Class of ’20 IVY Day Leadership Awards video, achieving more than 14K Instagram views
#MaskUPenn campaign collaboration between VPUL, Wellness Services, and Penn student leaders, featuring custom Instagram posts, Zoom/Teams backgrounds, and how-to videos
TEXT | NARRATIVE | EDITING
Monica Yant Kinney, Chief of Staff and Chief Communications Officer
DESIGN | PHOTOGRAPHY | ANIMATION
Marjan Osman Gartland, Director of Design Services
Steve McCann, Photographer and Videographer
Gloria Zhu (W’21), University Life Design Intern
Dr. Max King, (Retired) Associate Vice Provost for Health and Academic Services; Curator Emeritus of the Curtis Organ