Strategic Initiatives

University Life at Penn nurtures an inclusive campus life environment where students grow intellectually, engage in meaningful experiential opportunities, and deepen intercultural and interpersonal understanding in preparation for a life of meaning and purpose.

2022 University Life Working Groups

Working Group 1
Mission, Branding, and Website

Co-Chairs: Jane Holahan & Marjan Gartland

This working group will explore University Life’s role, brand, and presentation as Penn’s hub of the undergraduate, graduate, and professional student experience for a diverse community with unique needs, interests, and cultures.

• How can University Life better align with larger University strategic priorities?
• How can we explain, demonstrate, and exemplify our roles as promoters of student growth and thriving?
• How can we be a one-stop resource for prospective and current students, families, West Philadelphia community members, staff, faculty, and our own University Life colleagues.

Working Group 2
Culture of Student Care - Individualized Duty of Care for Students

Co-Chairs: Aaron Spector & Erin Cross

This working group will explore University Life’s role as a central source of support and convener of coordinated care for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. How do we provide a truly holistic approach to student care from every department and sector of the division?

• With the shifted student demographics and increase of first generation and/or low-income students, how are we providing a personalized care approach for our students without requiring them to repeat their personal stories to each person or department they engage with?
• How do the coordinated care practices differ when supporting graduate and professional students? Do we clearly explain the difference of approaches to the varying student populations?
• How are we strengthening the coordination of case management? How are we strengthening the culture of case management?
• How can we use the 8 domains of well-being as a tool in this experience/process?

Working Group 3
Culture of Assessment

Chair: Ryan Miller

This working group will examine traditional, and emerging, means to report and assess the work of student affairs.

• What does it mean to document, analyze, and quantify student affairs?
• How can University Life gather good data to share stories of our impact on students reaching their fullest potential?
• What training/education does our organization need to engage in effective assessment of the effectiveness of our impact on the student experience?
• How does assessment connect to the annual report, donor opportunities, continued alumni engagement, and continued promising national practices to be infused in our work?

Working Group 4
Culture of Human Flourishing (Diversity, Inclusion & Social Justice Education)

Co-Chairs: Laurie McCall & Reema Malhotra

This working group will explore University Life’s active and intentional commitment to pursue justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts in service of the campus community.

• What is our learning agenda around understanding privilege and power across and among all of our social identities?
• What does it mean to be an anti-racist organization?
• Where are we uplifting the thriving of our colleagues and creating space for wholeness across and among all of our identities?
• How are we co-creating a sense of belonging?
• How are we partnering across the University, and convening initiatives in support of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion on behalf of the University?

Working Group 5
Divisional Celebrations & Recognitions

Co-Chairs: Jonathan Bell & Katie Bonner

This working group will explore the essential roles that celebration and recognition play in feeding and nourishing the soul of the division, positively influencing personal, professional, and team growth and morale.

• How are we creating celebrations that build community and joy within our organization?
• How do we create a culture of internal recognition of excellence within our organization?
• How do we cultivate a culture of involvement with professional organizations, and a culture of external recognition of excellence?

Working Group 6
Divisional Communication Strategy

Chair: Michael DeAngelis

This working group will explore how the diverse staff across University Life talk to, and share information – across the division, among directors, within teams, to students, campus staff and faculty partners, to families, and to external constituents.

• With a commitment to transparency and efficiency, how can we best share information to colleagues within our organization?
• What tools can/should we use/develop? (newsletter, website, etc.)
• How might we tailor communications to best serve diverse and unique audience needs?
• How can we be mindful to do no harm in our communications and publications? (language, photos, visuals, stories)
• How can we leverage student consultation, feedback, and wisdom to guide our communications strategy?
• What information are we allowed to share publicly/not allowed to share? How are we conveying this information to our teams?

Working Group 7
Learning Agenda & Professional Development

Co-Chairs: Krista Cortes & Saleem Curry

This working group will explore University Life’s commitment to intentional, lifelong learning, personal and professional growth for all staff members.

• How do we build a culture of continued learning, self-assessment, and professional development within University Life?
• How are we engaged in our national professional associations and staying involved in the broader conversation of our functional area work?
• How are we involved in any institutional consortia (Ivy League/Ivy +/COFHE gatherings)?
• How do we leverage the talents of our colleagues internally to offer education/training broadly?
• How do we partner with other organizations/departments at Penn?

Working Group 8
Student Spotlights

Co-Chairs: Jessica Ryan & Rodney Robinson

This working group will explore how University Life can best seek out, and share, intentionally diverse and impactful stories of students making a difference in their communities, across campus, and around the world.

• How can we best generate a regular narrative that celebrates and elevates our students’ brilliance and resilience, their creativity and ingenuity?
• How do we share student stories that simultaneously uplift alumni and donors? Our faculty partners? Our programs?
• How do we tell student stories in a manner grounded in cultural wealth and cultural humility?

Working Group 9
Unified Curriculum for Student Employees & Leaders

Co-Chairs: Barbara Hewitt & Valerie Leduc Wrenn

This working group will develop a central curriculum for all student employees (workstudy and graduate assistants) and volunteer leaders (such as pre-orientation or elected coalition officers).

• What are consistent compliance-based professional expectations for all student employees and volunteer leaders?
• How are our expectations conveyed to student employees and leaders?
• How are we assessing what our student employees and volunteer leaders learn through their employment/leadership experiences?
• Can we develop a ‘badging’ system in partnership with Career Services for students to use on professional platforms such as LinkedIn?

University Life Annual Report

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.