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Fall Semester 2021
Content Last Updated 7/13/2021

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Student Spotlight: Chris Raboy, Chief Executive Officer for Penn Student Agencies

During the Fall '22 semester, I met up with Chris Raboy, formerly the Marketing Director for Penn Student Agencies (PSA) and now currently serving as the  Chief Executive Officer. Apart from the funny bits about juicy tomato costumes and the debate over which cafe is best, our conversation was enlightening. I’m glad I was able to talk to him about, among other things, his time at PSA, a very interesting organization here at Penn that allows students to create and run their own businesses.  

As a nursing student, Chris has no background in marketing, networking, or website building. So how did he become the Marketing Director for PSA and eventually, the Chief Executive Officer? Chris applied for the Executive Director position of First Services, sadly he did not get the job. But luckily his supervisors saw something in him. They saw that he was passionate about the job and offered him the Marketing Director position for Penn Student Agencies during. This meant he had to learn how to market these businesses, how to build websites, and how to network. How did he manage this? Email. Chris asked for help, he emailed everyone he could, asked 100 questions, he experimented, and saw first-hand what worked and what didn't. By persevering Chris was not only able to do his job efficiently, he also learned a lot of skills he uses for his personal and professional goals. Additionally he was able to find mentors that would be instrumental in not only guiding him but PSA as a whole. Similarly, that perseverance allowed Chris to promote his own passions. Currently he has his own website and social media platforms in which he promotes fitness and wellness. As for PSA, he is currently working along with the team to establish continuity within the organization and develop new businesses.  

Chris is one of those people who you look up to, partly because he actually goes to the gym and can maintain that routine, but also because he is proof that one can achieve anything. The only condition is that one must not be afraid to try, to fail and to ask for help. As I’m writing this I am reminded of this popular phrase that says “El que tenga miedo a morir que no nazca”. It translates to “whoever is afraid of dying, don't start living”. It's mostly satirical, but there is a message behind it, if you're afraid of failure you will never succeed. That's why I implore anyone to take a page from Chris’ book. Try, send a thousand emails, and ask a million questions. Learn from your failures instead of letting them define you, and most importantly never give in to self-doubt.  

Introduce yourself:

My name is Chris Raboy. I'm a sophomore in the School of Nursing studying nursing and nutrition. I am currently working at Penn Student Agencies as the Chief Executive Officer, previously the Marketing Director, and I recently began working as a fellow at Venture Labs at a startup.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working out, and I am very interested in preventative medicine through nutrition and exercise. Additionally, I enjoy movies, specifically psychological thrillers, as well as dancing, going out with friends, and having a good time.

What's your favorite psychological thriller?

My favorites are usually those movies with a crazy last-minute twist like Shutter Island. Anything IMDB 7 or higher is usually pretty good.

I saw that you have a website, why did you choose to make one and what would you want other people to know about it?

Making a website actually came from my experience at PSA. PSA’s department recently transitioned everything to WordPress which meant that everything in regards to the websites had to be redesigned. My administrator at the time Kelly Hartman asked me to take a look and see what I could do with it. I started looking at it and realized that I was unfamiliar with a lot of things so I decided to educate myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked a lot of questions. I would try, mess up, and ask questions. It's funny because I’m known as the guy who sends a lot of emails and asks 100 questions, but I think that's the best way to learn. That process of trial and error taught me that website building is not as hard as I thought it would be. From that experience, I thought why don't I build my own website. I used everything I learned from PSA, kept asking questions, and over the summer I created my own website. That helped me build a skill set  that I could use not only for my website but for other things that could contribute to PSA.

What's your favorite video you've made on your social media?

My favorite video was when I challenged myself to do a 1,000 squats. Sometimes I feel like things get too monotonous so I try to switch it up. The challenges seem like a good idea at first but very quickly you realize that it's not as easy as you thought. However, no matter how hard it is, I always force myself to see it through.

What's your favorite workout? Any tips?

My favorite exercise is squats. It's such a functional exercise, a lot of people run and do a lot of leg exercises, but simple squats can make you very strong.

Finally, what was your Halloween costume this year?

This year I dressed as a juicy tomato. I ordered it on Amazon and it was great.

Penn Student Agencies

What are Penn Student Agencies? What do they do? What is their mission

Penn Student Agencies is a collection of student-run businesses on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. There were originally 10 businesses. Due to the pandemic we had to shut down, not entirely in terms of the businesses, but the university as a whole. As of recently, we have been absorbing some businesses together to centralize some processes and help establish continuity between each of the businesses. We are focusing on establishing continuity because some of the processes have been lost since a lot of people graduated and we want the processes to stay in place even if people graduate. Our mission is to teach transferable skills and business management to Penn students by providing hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities to make them competitive in the workplace environment. People who graduate from Penn that have worked in PSA get a jump start into business in the US or internationally. PSA is also good because we have a wide range of opportunities from retail, hospitality, and creative design.

Outside of on campus, we are also part of the Student Run Business Association which is an intercollegiate organization that hosts conferences to discuss different operations and provide networking opportunities for students.

Very recently you were promoted to Chief Executive Officer of PSA. Congratulations! Can you share what this promotion means to you and what your vision for PSA is headed into the Spring ’23?

As a Nursing and Nutrition student, PSA has proved to be a vital resource not only for my continued professional development but for my academic studies as well. I have not had any exposure to business prior to working as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). My time spent working over the summer and into the school year as CMO made me increasingly passionate about the program and providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities outside the classroom. I wanted to be an integral part of PSA’s future growth and development.

The promotion to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) allows me to be at the forefront of furthering PSA’s mission, vision, and growth while also increasing my knowledge to gain a comprehensive view of business and employee management skills.

As PSA heads into Spring 23’ I envision the expansion of our organization’s presence on/off campus for students, the local community, and alumni; the development of a community with on and off-campus networks ranging from clubs, departments, local businesses, and Student-Run Business Organizations; and a restoration of continuity that PSA has had in the past through an all-new management board training program.

Tell us about your role as Marketing Director before being promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

I served as the Marketing Director prior to starting my new role. I actually applied for the Executive Director of First Services position but I did not get the job. Instead, they offered me the Marketing Director position in the Spring '22 position since they liked some of my ideas and saw that I was passionate about the job.

As the Marketing Director, I was responsible for the entire marketing portfolio for PSA businesses. This means that I work in the marketing of each individual business, whether that means recruiting, inter-departmental relations, newsletters, events, list serves, I try to get PSA involved.

How would you describe your experience running the marketing for these businesses?

Very exciting. Over the summer with everything, with learning how to build the website, branding, meeting with people to talk about future plans for PSA, I learned a lot. I learned the psychology behind marketing, how to catch people's attention, and also how to market yourself. By doing this I’ve been able to get PSA out there.

What is your favorite part of working at PSA?

The people and the experience. My administrators and my program manager are amazing. I'm very grateful that they took a chance on me and for their unbelievable support. They helped me navigate this job and stay motivated to keep making PSA better. As for the experience, it's unmatched. I've learnt so much, marketing, communication skills, website building and so many other things. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Time management. I'm taking 5.5 credits so scheduling is very important in order to keep up with classes and my job. I feel like it makes me more efficient because if I know that's the only time I have available to get a particular thing done, I can focus solely on that task. Additionally, scheduling blocks of time for certain things helps me get organized and find more time to work, find fellowships and in general pursue more things.

Do you have a favorite business? If so, let's put your marketing to the test! In one minute, promote your favorite business. Tell Penn students why they should go to that business.

Williams Cafe: coffee, bagels, pastries. Best prices on campus, located in the language building 2nd floor. At Williams Cafe you may hear Penn Records who occasionally play on Fridays, and you can get a nice warm espresso.

A Renewed Vision for Penn Student Agencies

Penn Student Agencies thrived on continuity as one of the oldest student organizations at the University of Pennsylvania. Each graduating class passed the baton to the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives, and business-minded students.  

When the pandemic shuttered most of its student-run organizations into a virtual state, it disrupted the clockwork transfer of skills that kept PSA in business for 89 years. The handed-down experience of running a business and knowing the ins-and-outs from a financial, operational, and community perspective was all but lost. Without the training from students with experience, current PSA students missed the baton and were left putting puzzle pieces together from scratch. 

The expertise was retained by PSA alumni. Naturally, the first place they looked to revive the organization was with one of its own.  

Michael Paul Warren ‘20/‘21 took over as the Program Manager at Penn Student Agencies in September ‘22. The former PSA Executive Vice President of Operations 2018-2020, now titled PSA Chief Operating Officer, looks to reinvigorate PSA back to its pre-pandemic state and reimagine the organization to better meet the needs of Penn students.  

“The pandemic showed us the importance of resilience, both for organizations and individual student leaders. That resilience is what made Penn Student Agencies what they are now. We have a foundation to continue building from the pandemic.”  

At its heart, PSA is student-run. It is comprised of four organizational clusters: central corporate, creative services, dining and hospitality, and retail and delivery divisions. Within that, there are currently seven PSA enterprises, consisting of firstServices, Penn Student Design, Penn Lens, Special Deliveries, Penn Closet, Williams Café, and Benny’s Diner. It aims to teach transferable business skills to Penn students through hands-on experience outside of the classroom.  

As a student, Michael oversaw many of PSA’s human resource functions, organizational effectiveness, and the compliance policies and procedures of the businesses. He and fellow PSA director Jazzy Ortega ‘20 created a proposal to start a quick-service, all-day breakfast restaurant that became Benny’s Diner in Houston Hall.  

PSA changed the course of Warren’s career ambitions. He entered Penn as a pre-med student. When he joined PSA, he gained an appreciation for interpersonal relationships. He wanted to learn the dynamics of people working collectively in groups. The experience led him to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Law in Society from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“I really loved understanding process design and process optimization — how different policies, laws, and structures are set up based on how humans interact with each other. PSA led me down a career path more on the operations and instructional design side of things. In business, I’ve always enjoyed the ambiguity that came with the startup environment and entrepreneurship.”   

A PSA Homecoming

Warren graduated from Penn shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started. He moved to New York City to work in client services serving private equity firms, but quickly shifted back to the entrepreneurial space. Michael helped lead the build out of the global logistics team at a unicorn e-commerce startup based in New York that specialized in consumer goods. Launching in February 2022, he was one of the original team members, and oversaw global inventory movements and relationships on the end-to-end supply chain.  

Michael maintained his involvement to PSA as an advisor. He was appointed as co-president of the Student-Run Business Association in 2022 after serving as a Vice President and on the Board of Directors since 2019. He continued to cultivate different relationships at universities throughout the country.  

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Penn student Chris Raboy ‘25 was looking for advice on how PSA operated outside of a COVID context. Upon researching pre-pandemic PSA documents and websites, Raboy reached out to several alumni hoping to discover historical information that would improve his ability to reignite the program post-pandemic. He messaged Warren via LinkedIn, and the two stayed in touch after Raboy took over as the Chief Marketing Officer. When the full-time Program Manager position became available, Raboy immediately thought of Michael. The ideal candidate was someone familiar with PSA, who could create continuity, guide PSA post-pandemic, and help grow the program in an increasingly digital world.  

“From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency,” said Raboy, who is PSA’s Chief Executive Officer for 2023-24. “I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions. He gave insight into a ton of the strategies I ended up utilizing throughout the summer.” 

Warren's interests in operations and organizational dynamics enable him to expand upon a network of institutions and nonprofits that run similar programs. For example, the business proposal for Benny’s Diner was inspired by student-run food service ventures presented at the 2019 Student-Run Business Association conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“I'm bringing the knowledge of what it was like operating in a pre-pandemic world, the challenges that we faced when I was a student and the challenges that the students before me had encountered. I can share that knowledge and bridge the connections between young alumni and the current students.” 

The biggest hurdle for PSA students is navigating the people element of business and entrepreneurism. A lot of businesses that were “heavy on in-person interaction had to alter those interactions to be able to operate virtually or digitally.” As organizations become more focused on e-commerce, the student-run businesses need to understand how to keep their staff engaged and ensure positions are appropriately filled. 

PSA’s focus for the 2022-23 academic year and beyond is setting up that continuity between leadership, turnover, and new students joining the organization. Warren looks to recreate the consistency that allowed PSA to thrive and replicate a consistent experience on a yearly basis, allowing Penn students to build off what individuals accomplished before them.  

Michael and Christ sitting down and speaking to each other
Chris Raboy (left) and Michael Warren (right) discuss PSA strategy at Houston Hall.

From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency. I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions.

Chris Raboy
PSA’s Chief Executive Officer

Building A Bridge With Alumni

Warren has noticed a renewed interest in PSA alumni. He said that there is an extensive number of Penn graduates from multiple generations that want PSA to succeed and bounce back from the pandemic. One of Warren’s biggest pushes is to establish an alumni network. There is an “untapped potential” of interested and influential grads that can serve as a significant resource for PSA students. 

Because PSA is not tied to any undergraduate or graduate school, one of the advantages that it offers is a wide array of perspectives. Warren said that its leadership and general body consists of a substantial cross-section of different academic disciplines.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to showcase their mindset and how they approach thinking. A nursing student isn’t going to approach the problem the same way a Wharton or an engineering student would. Putting them together on the same team and having them brainstorm and navigate the ambiguity that is the startup environment allows them to come up with these creative and interesting solutions to problems.” 

A large part of learning for the students in PSA is supported through the introduction of frameworks that help distill large complex problems into more manageable concepts. 

“For many students this is the first time they are taking on considerable responsibility and decision making. Understanding the impact of those decisions can be difficult with limited experience – which brings us to a framework I use with the students – FORTS.  

“FORTS stands for financial impact, operational impact, reputational impact, team impact, and strategic impact. This framework helps student leaders understand what the implications of their decisions may or will have on various aspects of their business and help create a figurative mental fort around their decision making.” 

Heading into its 90th anniversary, PSA has always been financially self-sufficient, the money that they make goes back into the programs and students. First known as Self-Supporting Students, PSA began in 1933 as part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, an early model of what is now the Federal Work-Study Program. It started as three student-run businesses: Dorm Laundry Agency, Parking Squad, and Trunk Moving Squad. Under the name of Associated Student Agencies, it grew to more than 10 businesses in the 1950s, including Coat Checking at the Palestra, Railway Express, and a birthday cake shop. PSA students worked at Pennsylvania’s central control point to call in vote tallies during the 1964 presidential election. Adopting its current name in 1975, the organization has since adopted several ventures to its portfolio including apparel manufacturing, tourism guide publications, newspapers, and a bartending school.  

There have been a few success stories, such as Penn Closet, that have prevailed with continued interest in the student body after the organization’s founders graduated. Some alumni have gone out and become entrepreneurs on their own by starting competing businesses. It has created unique experiences for students to compete with one of their former colleagues.  

Its alumni have each gone off to their own different paths, whether it is med school, law school, or serial entrepreneurism. Warren said, “the nice thing about PSA is that you have students who join for different reasons and get different values from it." 

As a professional and an alumnus, Warren views his role as a coach and a mentor. Sticking to the organization’s for-students mantra, he offers students the freedom to conduct day-to-day operations, think through business decisions, and determine whether they made the correct choices. 

“PSA fosters that environment where you have the support, you have the resources, and it’s up to the students to decide how they use them. Providing them direction, giving them experience, allowing them to manage teams before even going out in the corporate world gives them a lot of different exposure and experience that they wouldn’t have had if they were simply taking a class.” 

Historically each graduating class in PSA is between 30-50 students each year. Currently, PSA retains a database of 600-plus alumni ranging from the class of 2022 all the way back to some as early as 1955. PSA is looking to grow this network! 

University Life Represented at ’22 AFA Conference

Jessica Ryan, Director for Leadership Community in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award at the '22 Association of Fraternity / Sorority Advisors Annual Conference.

The Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award was established in 2003 and re-named for Shelley Sutherland upon her retirement in 2011. The purpose is to annually recognize outstanding volunteer service by an association member in an official AFA volunteer role. The individual has devoted significant time and energy supporting association initiatives or efforts through their volunteer role. They are consistent and reliable, communicative, and committed to the values and mission of the association as demonstrated through their service.

Ryan shared her excitement about attending the conference and receiving the award; "What an amazing experience! Thank you to the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors for letting me chair the Educational Programs for the Annual Meeting Planning Team these last two years, and serve in volunteer roles with the association for the last decade. Truly a goal accomplished and amazing experience. Thankful to be recognized for volunteering with the association."

The Clothing Closet

A new partnership between Wellness at Penn and the LGBT Center offers a sustainable way for students, faculty, staff, and community members to recycle outfits and shop for new ones.

4th Class Midshipmen Leadership Lessons

4th Class Midshipmen and active duty staff from the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University Naval ROTC units took part in an overnight retreat to Outdoor Odyssey in western Pennsylvania.

Pathways to Purposeful Careers: The Unique Narratives of Penn’s Career Advisors 

As part of an ongoing effort to explore the people that make University Life a diverse community of educators and humans, I sat down with an ordained minister, a chicken expert, a geographer, an actor, and a podcaster.

The Penn Community Celebrates Campus Pride​

The University of Pennsylvania Recognized as one of Campus Pride’s 2022 “Best Of The Best” Colleges & Universities for LGBTQ+ Students

Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion and advocacy within higher education,  announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, naming the University of Pennsylvania to this year’s list of campuses creating a safe, welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff alike.

The announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the  Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.

Check out video messages from our campus colleagues celebrating the Center.


LGBT Center's website

The significance of Indigenous People’s Day

Two Penn students, Nyair Locklear, of the Tuscarora Nation and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and Ryly Ziese, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offer their points of view.

Penn Announcements & Campus Information

Student Spotlight: Chris Raboy, Chief Executive Officer for Penn Student Agencies

During the Fall '22 semester, I met up with Chris Raboy, formerly the Marketing Director for Penn Student Agencies (PSA) and now currently serving as the  Chief Executive Officer. Apart from the funny bits about juicy tomato costumes and the debate over which cafe is best, our conversation was enlightening. I’m glad I was able to talk to him about, among other things, his time at PSA, a very interesting organization here at Penn that allows students to create and run their own businesses.  

As a nursing student, Chris has no background in marketing, networking, or website building. So how did he become the Marketing Director for PSA and eventually, the Chief Executive Officer? Chris applied for the Executive Director position of First Services, sadly he did not get the job. But luckily his supervisors saw something in him. They saw that he was passionate about the job and offered him the Marketing Director position for Penn Student Agencies during. This meant he had to learn how to market these businesses, how to build websites, and how to network. How did he manage this? Email. Chris asked for help, he emailed everyone he could, asked 100 questions, he experimented, and saw first-hand what worked and what didn't. By persevering Chris was not only able to do his job efficiently, he also learned a lot of skills he uses for his personal and professional goals. Additionally he was able to find mentors that would be instrumental in not only guiding him but PSA as a whole. Similarly, that perseverance allowed Chris to promote his own passions. Currently he has his own website and social media platforms in which he promotes fitness and wellness. As for PSA, he is currently working along with the team to establish continuity within the organization and develop new businesses.  

Chris is one of those people who you look up to, partly because he actually goes to the gym and can maintain that routine, but also because he is proof that one can achieve anything. The only condition is that one must not be afraid to try, to fail and to ask for help. As I’m writing this I am reminded of this popular phrase that says “El que tenga miedo a morir que no nazca”. It translates to “whoever is afraid of dying, don't start living”. It's mostly satirical, but there is a message behind it, if you're afraid of failure you will never succeed. That's why I implore anyone to take a page from Chris’ book. Try, send a thousand emails, and ask a million questions. Learn from your failures instead of letting them define you, and most importantly never give in to self-doubt.  

Introduce yourself:

My name is Chris Raboy. I'm a sophomore in the School of Nursing studying nursing and nutrition. I am currently working at Penn Student Agencies as the Chief Executive Officer, previously the Marketing Director, and I recently began working as a fellow at Venture Labs at a startup.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working out, and I am very interested in preventative medicine through nutrition and exercise. Additionally, I enjoy movies, specifically psychological thrillers, as well as dancing, going out with friends, and having a good time.

What's your favorite psychological thriller?

My favorites are usually those movies with a crazy last-minute twist like Shutter Island. Anything IMDB 7 or higher is usually pretty good.

I saw that you have a website, why did you choose to make one and what would you want other people to know about it?

Making a website actually came from my experience at PSA. PSA’s department recently transitioned everything to WordPress which meant that everything in regards to the websites had to be redesigned. My administrator at the time Kelly Hartman asked me to take a look and see what I could do with it. I started looking at it and realized that I was unfamiliar with a lot of things so I decided to educate myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked a lot of questions. I would try, mess up, and ask questions. It's funny because I’m known as the guy who sends a lot of emails and asks 100 questions, but I think that's the best way to learn. That process of trial and error taught me that website building is not as hard as I thought it would be. From that experience, I thought why don't I build my own website. I used everything I learned from PSA, kept asking questions, and over the summer I created my own website. That helped me build a skill set  that I could use not only for my website but for other things that could contribute to PSA.

What's your favorite video you've made on your social media?

My favorite video was when I challenged myself to do a 1,000 squats. Sometimes I feel like things get too monotonous so I try to switch it up. The challenges seem like a good idea at first but very quickly you realize that it's not as easy as you thought. However, no matter how hard it is, I always force myself to see it through.

What's your favorite workout? Any tips?

My favorite exercise is squats. It's such a functional exercise, a lot of people run and do a lot of leg exercises, but simple squats can make you very strong.

Finally, what was your Halloween costume this year?

This year I dressed as a juicy tomato. I ordered it on Amazon and it was great.

Penn Student Agencies

What are Penn Student Agencies? What do they do? What is their mission

Penn Student Agencies is a collection of student-run businesses on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. There were originally 10 businesses. Due to the pandemic we had to shut down, not entirely in terms of the businesses, but the university as a whole. As of recently, we have been absorbing some businesses together to centralize some processes and help establish continuity between each of the businesses. We are focusing on establishing continuity because some of the processes have been lost since a lot of people graduated and we want the processes to stay in place even if people graduate. Our mission is to teach transferable skills and business management to Penn students by providing hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities to make them competitive in the workplace environment. People who graduate from Penn that have worked in PSA get a jump start into business in the US or internationally. PSA is also good because we have a wide range of opportunities from retail, hospitality, and creative design.

Outside of on campus, we are also part of the Student Run Business Association which is an intercollegiate organization that hosts conferences to discuss different operations and provide networking opportunities for students.

Very recently you were promoted to Chief Executive Officer of PSA. Congratulations! Can you share what this promotion means to you and what your vision for PSA is headed into the Spring ’23?

As a Nursing and Nutrition student, PSA has proved to be a vital resource not only for my continued professional development but for my academic studies as well. I have not had any exposure to business prior to working as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). My time spent working over the summer and into the school year as CMO made me increasingly passionate about the program and providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities outside the classroom. I wanted to be an integral part of PSA’s future growth and development.

The promotion to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) allows me to be at the forefront of furthering PSA’s mission, vision, and growth while also increasing my knowledge to gain a comprehensive view of business and employee management skills.

As PSA heads into Spring 23’ I envision the expansion of our organization’s presence on/off campus for students, the local community, and alumni; the development of a community with on and off-campus networks ranging from clubs, departments, local businesses, and Student-Run Business Organizations; and a restoration of continuity that PSA has had in the past through an all-new management board training program.

Tell us about your role as Marketing Director before being promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

I served as the Marketing Director prior to starting my new role. I actually applied for the Executive Director of First Services position but I did not get the job. Instead, they offered me the Marketing Director position in the Spring '22 position since they liked some of my ideas and saw that I was passionate about the job.

As the Marketing Director, I was responsible for the entire marketing portfolio for PSA businesses. This means that I work in the marketing of each individual business, whether that means recruiting, inter-departmental relations, newsletters, events, list serves, I try to get PSA involved.

How would you describe your experience running the marketing for these businesses?

Very exciting. Over the summer with everything, with learning how to build the website, branding, meeting with people to talk about future plans for PSA, I learned a lot. I learned the psychology behind marketing, how to catch people's attention, and also how to market yourself. By doing this I’ve been able to get PSA out there.

What is your favorite part of working at PSA?

The people and the experience. My administrators and my program manager are amazing. I'm very grateful that they took a chance on me and for their unbelievable support. They helped me navigate this job and stay motivated to keep making PSA better. As for the experience, it's unmatched. I've learnt so much, marketing, communication skills, website building and so many other things. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Time management. I'm taking 5.5 credits so scheduling is very important in order to keep up with classes and my job. I feel like it makes me more efficient because if I know that's the only time I have available to get a particular thing done, I can focus solely on that task. Additionally, scheduling blocks of time for certain things helps me get organized and find more time to work, find fellowships and in general pursue more things.

Do you have a favorite business? If so, let's put your marketing to the test! In one minute, promote your favorite business. Tell Penn students why they should go to that business.

Williams Cafe: coffee, bagels, pastries. Best prices on campus, located in the language building 2nd floor. At Williams Cafe you may hear Penn Records who occasionally play on Fridays, and you can get a nice warm espresso.

A Renewed Vision for Penn Student Agencies

Penn Student Agencies thrived on continuity as one of the oldest student organizations at the University of Pennsylvania. Each graduating class passed the baton to the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives, and business-minded students.  

When the pandemic shuttered most of its student-run organizations into a virtual state, it disrupted the clockwork transfer of skills that kept PSA in business for 89 years. The handed-down experience of running a business and knowing the ins-and-outs from a financial, operational, and community perspective was all but lost. Without the training from students with experience, current PSA students missed the baton and were left putting puzzle pieces together from scratch. 

The expertise was retained by PSA alumni. Naturally, the first place they looked to revive the organization was with one of its own.  

Michael Paul Warren ‘20/‘21 took over as the Program Manager at Penn Student Agencies in September ‘22. The former PSA Executive Vice President of Operations 2018-2020, now titled PSA Chief Operating Officer, looks to reinvigorate PSA back to its pre-pandemic state and reimagine the organization to better meet the needs of Penn students.  

“The pandemic showed us the importance of resilience, both for organizations and individual student leaders. That resilience is what made Penn Student Agencies what they are now. We have a foundation to continue building from the pandemic.”  

At its heart, PSA is student-run. It is comprised of four organizational clusters: central corporate, creative services, dining and hospitality, and retail and delivery divisions. Within that, there are currently seven PSA enterprises, consisting of firstServices, Penn Student Design, Penn Lens, Special Deliveries, Penn Closet, Williams Café, and Benny’s Diner. It aims to teach transferable business skills to Penn students through hands-on experience outside of the classroom.  

As a student, Michael oversaw many of PSA’s human resource functions, organizational effectiveness, and the compliance policies and procedures of the businesses. He and fellow PSA director Jazzy Ortega ‘20 created a proposal to start a quick-service, all-day breakfast restaurant that became Benny’s Diner in Houston Hall.  

PSA changed the course of Warren’s career ambitions. He entered Penn as a pre-med student. When he joined PSA, he gained an appreciation for interpersonal relationships. He wanted to learn the dynamics of people working collectively in groups. The experience led him to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Law in Society from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“I really loved understanding process design and process optimization — how different policies, laws, and structures are set up based on how humans interact with each other. PSA led me down a career path more on the operations and instructional design side of things. In business, I’ve always enjoyed the ambiguity that came with the startup environment and entrepreneurship.”   

A PSA Homecoming

Warren graduated from Penn shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started. He moved to New York City to work in client services serving private equity firms, but quickly shifted back to the entrepreneurial space. Michael helped lead the build out of the global logistics team at a unicorn e-commerce startup based in New York that specialized in consumer goods. Launching in February 2022, he was one of the original team members, and oversaw global inventory movements and relationships on the end-to-end supply chain.  

Michael maintained his involvement to PSA as an advisor. He was appointed as co-president of the Student-Run Business Association in 2022 after serving as a Vice President and on the Board of Directors since 2019. He continued to cultivate different relationships at universities throughout the country.  

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Penn student Chris Raboy ‘25 was looking for advice on how PSA operated outside of a COVID context. Upon researching pre-pandemic PSA documents and websites, Raboy reached out to several alumni hoping to discover historical information that would improve his ability to reignite the program post-pandemic. He messaged Warren via LinkedIn, and the two stayed in touch after Raboy took over as the Chief Marketing Officer. When the full-time Program Manager position became available, Raboy immediately thought of Michael. The ideal candidate was someone familiar with PSA, who could create continuity, guide PSA post-pandemic, and help grow the program in an increasingly digital world.  

“From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency,” said Raboy, who is PSA’s Chief Executive Officer for 2023-24. “I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions. He gave insight into a ton of the strategies I ended up utilizing throughout the summer.” 

Warren's interests in operations and organizational dynamics enable him to expand upon a network of institutions and nonprofits that run similar programs. For example, the business proposal for Benny’s Diner was inspired by student-run food service ventures presented at the 2019 Student-Run Business Association conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“I'm bringing the knowledge of what it was like operating in a pre-pandemic world, the challenges that we faced when I was a student and the challenges that the students before me had encountered. I can share that knowledge and bridge the connections between young alumni and the current students.” 

The biggest hurdle for PSA students is navigating the people element of business and entrepreneurism. A lot of businesses that were “heavy on in-person interaction had to alter those interactions to be able to operate virtually or digitally.” As organizations become more focused on e-commerce, the student-run businesses need to understand how to keep their staff engaged and ensure positions are appropriately filled. 

PSA’s focus for the 2022-23 academic year and beyond is setting up that continuity between leadership, turnover, and new students joining the organization. Warren looks to recreate the consistency that allowed PSA to thrive and replicate a consistent experience on a yearly basis, allowing Penn students to build off what individuals accomplished before them.  

Michael and Christ sitting down and speaking to each other
Chris Raboy (left) and Michael Warren (right) discuss PSA strategy at Houston Hall.

From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency. I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions.

Chris Raboy
PSA’s Chief Executive Officer

Building A Bridge With Alumni

Warren has noticed a renewed interest in PSA alumni. He said that there is an extensive number of Penn graduates from multiple generations that want PSA to succeed and bounce back from the pandemic. One of Warren’s biggest pushes is to establish an alumni network. There is an “untapped potential” of interested and influential grads that can serve as a significant resource for PSA students. 

Because PSA is not tied to any undergraduate or graduate school, one of the advantages that it offers is a wide array of perspectives. Warren said that its leadership and general body consists of a substantial cross-section of different academic disciplines.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to showcase their mindset and how they approach thinking. A nursing student isn’t going to approach the problem the same way a Wharton or an engineering student would. Putting them together on the same team and having them brainstorm and navigate the ambiguity that is the startup environment allows them to come up with these creative and interesting solutions to problems.” 

A large part of learning for the students in PSA is supported through the introduction of frameworks that help distill large complex problems into more manageable concepts. 

“For many students this is the first time they are taking on considerable responsibility and decision making. Understanding the impact of those decisions can be difficult with limited experience – which brings us to a framework I use with the students – FORTS.  

“FORTS stands for financial impact, operational impact, reputational impact, team impact, and strategic impact. This framework helps student leaders understand what the implications of their decisions may or will have on various aspects of their business and help create a figurative mental fort around their decision making.” 

Heading into its 90th anniversary, PSA has always been financially self-sufficient, the money that they make goes back into the programs and students. First known as Self-Supporting Students, PSA began in 1933 as part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, an early model of what is now the Federal Work-Study Program. It started as three student-run businesses: Dorm Laundry Agency, Parking Squad, and Trunk Moving Squad. Under the name of Associated Student Agencies, it grew to more than 10 businesses in the 1950s, including Coat Checking at the Palestra, Railway Express, and a birthday cake shop. PSA students worked at Pennsylvania’s central control point to call in vote tallies during the 1964 presidential election. Adopting its current name in 1975, the organization has since adopted several ventures to its portfolio including apparel manufacturing, tourism guide publications, newspapers, and a bartending school.  

There have been a few success stories, such as Penn Closet, that have prevailed with continued interest in the student body after the organization’s founders graduated. Some alumni have gone out and become entrepreneurs on their own by starting competing businesses. It has created unique experiences for students to compete with one of their former colleagues.  

Its alumni have each gone off to their own different paths, whether it is med school, law school, or serial entrepreneurism. Warren said, “the nice thing about PSA is that you have students who join for different reasons and get different values from it." 

As a professional and an alumnus, Warren views his role as a coach and a mentor. Sticking to the organization’s for-students mantra, he offers students the freedom to conduct day-to-day operations, think through business decisions, and determine whether they made the correct choices. 

“PSA fosters that environment where you have the support, you have the resources, and it’s up to the students to decide how they use them. Providing them direction, giving them experience, allowing them to manage teams before even going out in the corporate world gives them a lot of different exposure and experience that they wouldn’t have had if they were simply taking a class.” 

Historically each graduating class in PSA is between 30-50 students each year. Currently, PSA retains a database of 600-plus alumni ranging from the class of 2022 all the way back to some as early as 1955. PSA is looking to grow this network! 

University Life Represented at ’22 AFA Conference

Jessica Ryan, Director for Leadership Community in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award at the '22 Association of Fraternity / Sorority Advisors Annual Conference.

The Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award was established in 2003 and re-named for Shelley Sutherland upon her retirement in 2011. The purpose is to annually recognize outstanding volunteer service by an association member in an official AFA volunteer role. The individual has devoted significant time and energy supporting association initiatives or efforts through their volunteer role. They are consistent and reliable, communicative, and committed to the values and mission of the association as demonstrated through their service.

Ryan shared her excitement about attending the conference and receiving the award; "What an amazing experience! Thank you to the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors for letting me chair the Educational Programs for the Annual Meeting Planning Team these last two years, and serve in volunteer roles with the association for the last decade. Truly a goal accomplished and amazing experience. Thankful to be recognized for volunteering with the association."

The Clothing Closet

A new partnership between Wellness at Penn and the LGBT Center offers a sustainable way for students, faculty, staff, and community members to recycle outfits and shop for new ones.

4th Class Midshipmen Leadership Lessons

4th Class Midshipmen and active duty staff from the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University Naval ROTC units took part in an overnight retreat to Outdoor Odyssey in western Pennsylvania.

Pathways to Purposeful Careers: The Unique Narratives of Penn’s Career Advisors 

As part of an ongoing effort to explore the people that make University Life a diverse community of educators and humans, I sat down with an ordained minister, a chicken expert, a geographer, an actor, and a podcaster.

The Penn Community Celebrates Campus Pride​

The University of Pennsylvania Recognized as one of Campus Pride’s 2022 “Best Of The Best” Colleges & Universities for LGBTQ+ Students

Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion and advocacy within higher education,  announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, naming the University of Pennsylvania to this year’s list of campuses creating a safe, welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff alike.

The announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the  Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.

Check out video messages from our campus colleagues celebrating the Center.


LGBT Center's website

The significance of Indigenous People’s Day

Two Penn students, Nyair Locklear, of the Tuscarora Nation and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and Ryly Ziese, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offer their points of view.

Move-in, Getting Settled

Student Spotlight: Chris Raboy, Chief Executive Officer for Penn Student Agencies

During the Fall '22 semester, I met up with Chris Raboy, formerly the Marketing Director for Penn Student Agencies (PSA) and now currently serving as the  Chief Executive Officer. Apart from the funny bits about juicy tomato costumes and the debate over which cafe is best, our conversation was enlightening. I’m glad I was able to talk to him about, among other things, his time at PSA, a very interesting organization here at Penn that allows students to create and run their own businesses.  

As a nursing student, Chris has no background in marketing, networking, or website building. So how did he become the Marketing Director for PSA and eventually, the Chief Executive Officer? Chris applied for the Executive Director position of First Services, sadly he did not get the job. But luckily his supervisors saw something in him. They saw that he was passionate about the job and offered him the Marketing Director position for Penn Student Agencies during. This meant he had to learn how to market these businesses, how to build websites, and how to network. How did he manage this? Email. Chris asked for help, he emailed everyone he could, asked 100 questions, he experimented, and saw first-hand what worked and what didn't. By persevering Chris was not only able to do his job efficiently, he also learned a lot of skills he uses for his personal and professional goals. Additionally he was able to find mentors that would be instrumental in not only guiding him but PSA as a whole. Similarly, that perseverance allowed Chris to promote his own passions. Currently he has his own website and social media platforms in which he promotes fitness and wellness. As for PSA, he is currently working along with the team to establish continuity within the organization and develop new businesses.  

Chris is one of those people who you look up to, partly because he actually goes to the gym and can maintain that routine, but also because he is proof that one can achieve anything. The only condition is that one must not be afraid to try, to fail and to ask for help. As I’m writing this I am reminded of this popular phrase that says “El que tenga miedo a morir que no nazca”. It translates to “whoever is afraid of dying, don't start living”. It's mostly satirical, but there is a message behind it, if you're afraid of failure you will never succeed. That's why I implore anyone to take a page from Chris’ book. Try, send a thousand emails, and ask a million questions. Learn from your failures instead of letting them define you, and most importantly never give in to self-doubt.  

Introduce yourself:

My name is Chris Raboy. I'm a sophomore in the School of Nursing studying nursing and nutrition. I am currently working at Penn Student Agencies as the Chief Executive Officer, previously the Marketing Director, and I recently began working as a fellow at Venture Labs at a startup.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working out, and I am very interested in preventative medicine through nutrition and exercise. Additionally, I enjoy movies, specifically psychological thrillers, as well as dancing, going out with friends, and having a good time.

What's your favorite psychological thriller?

My favorites are usually those movies with a crazy last-minute twist like Shutter Island. Anything IMDB 7 or higher is usually pretty good.

I saw that you have a website, why did you choose to make one and what would you want other people to know about it?

Making a website actually came from my experience at PSA. PSA’s department recently transitioned everything to WordPress which meant that everything in regards to the websites had to be redesigned. My administrator at the time Kelly Hartman asked me to take a look and see what I could do with it. I started looking at it and realized that I was unfamiliar with a lot of things so I decided to educate myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked a lot of questions. I would try, mess up, and ask questions. It's funny because I’m known as the guy who sends a lot of emails and asks 100 questions, but I think that's the best way to learn. That process of trial and error taught me that website building is not as hard as I thought it would be. From that experience, I thought why don't I build my own website. I used everything I learned from PSA, kept asking questions, and over the summer I created my own website. That helped me build a skill set  that I could use not only for my website but for other things that could contribute to PSA.

What's your favorite video you've made on your social media?

My favorite video was when I challenged myself to do a 1,000 squats. Sometimes I feel like things get too monotonous so I try to switch it up. The challenges seem like a good idea at first but very quickly you realize that it's not as easy as you thought. However, no matter how hard it is, I always force myself to see it through.

What's your favorite workout? Any tips?

My favorite exercise is squats. It's such a functional exercise, a lot of people run and do a lot of leg exercises, but simple squats can make you very strong.

Finally, what was your Halloween costume this year?

This year I dressed as a juicy tomato. I ordered it on Amazon and it was great.

Penn Student Agencies

What are Penn Student Agencies? What do they do? What is their mission

Penn Student Agencies is a collection of student-run businesses on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. There were originally 10 businesses. Due to the pandemic we had to shut down, not entirely in terms of the businesses, but the university as a whole. As of recently, we have been absorbing some businesses together to centralize some processes and help establish continuity between each of the businesses. We are focusing on establishing continuity because some of the processes have been lost since a lot of people graduated and we want the processes to stay in place even if people graduate. Our mission is to teach transferable skills and business management to Penn students by providing hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities to make them competitive in the workplace environment. People who graduate from Penn that have worked in PSA get a jump start into business in the US or internationally. PSA is also good because we have a wide range of opportunities from retail, hospitality, and creative design.

Outside of on campus, we are also part of the Student Run Business Association which is an intercollegiate organization that hosts conferences to discuss different operations and provide networking opportunities for students.

Very recently you were promoted to Chief Executive Officer of PSA. Congratulations! Can you share what this promotion means to you and what your vision for PSA is headed into the Spring ’23?

As a Nursing and Nutrition student, PSA has proved to be a vital resource not only for my continued professional development but for my academic studies as well. I have not had any exposure to business prior to working as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). My time spent working over the summer and into the school year as CMO made me increasingly passionate about the program and providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities outside the classroom. I wanted to be an integral part of PSA’s future growth and development.

The promotion to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) allows me to be at the forefront of furthering PSA’s mission, vision, and growth while also increasing my knowledge to gain a comprehensive view of business and employee management skills.

As PSA heads into Spring 23’ I envision the expansion of our organization’s presence on/off campus for students, the local community, and alumni; the development of a community with on and off-campus networks ranging from clubs, departments, local businesses, and Student-Run Business Organizations; and a restoration of continuity that PSA has had in the past through an all-new management board training program.

Tell us about your role as Marketing Director before being promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

I served as the Marketing Director prior to starting my new role. I actually applied for the Executive Director of First Services position but I did not get the job. Instead, they offered me the Marketing Director position in the Spring '22 position since they liked some of my ideas and saw that I was passionate about the job.

As the Marketing Director, I was responsible for the entire marketing portfolio for PSA businesses. This means that I work in the marketing of each individual business, whether that means recruiting, inter-departmental relations, newsletters, events, list serves, I try to get PSA involved.

How would you describe your experience running the marketing for these businesses?

Very exciting. Over the summer with everything, with learning how to build the website, branding, meeting with people to talk about future plans for PSA, I learned a lot. I learned the psychology behind marketing, how to catch people's attention, and also how to market yourself. By doing this I’ve been able to get PSA out there.

What is your favorite part of working at PSA?

The people and the experience. My administrators and my program manager are amazing. I'm very grateful that they took a chance on me and for their unbelievable support. They helped me navigate this job and stay motivated to keep making PSA better. As for the experience, it's unmatched. I've learnt so much, marketing, communication skills, website building and so many other things. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Time management. I'm taking 5.5 credits so scheduling is very important in order to keep up with classes and my job. I feel like it makes me more efficient because if I know that's the only time I have available to get a particular thing done, I can focus solely on that task. Additionally, scheduling blocks of time for certain things helps me get organized and find more time to work, find fellowships and in general pursue more things.

Do you have a favorite business? If so, let's put your marketing to the test! In one minute, promote your favorite business. Tell Penn students why they should go to that business.

Williams Cafe: coffee, bagels, pastries. Best prices on campus, located in the language building 2nd floor. At Williams Cafe you may hear Penn Records who occasionally play on Fridays, and you can get a nice warm espresso.

A Renewed Vision for Penn Student Agencies

Penn Student Agencies thrived on continuity as one of the oldest student organizations at the University of Pennsylvania. Each graduating class passed the baton to the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives, and business-minded students.  

When the pandemic shuttered most of its student-run organizations into a virtual state, it disrupted the clockwork transfer of skills that kept PSA in business for 89 years. The handed-down experience of running a business and knowing the ins-and-outs from a financial, operational, and community perspective was all but lost. Without the training from students with experience, current PSA students missed the baton and were left putting puzzle pieces together from scratch. 

The expertise was retained by PSA alumni. Naturally, the first place they looked to revive the organization was with one of its own.  

Michael Paul Warren ‘20/‘21 took over as the Program Manager at Penn Student Agencies in September ‘22. The former PSA Executive Vice President of Operations 2018-2020, now titled PSA Chief Operating Officer, looks to reinvigorate PSA back to its pre-pandemic state and reimagine the organization to better meet the needs of Penn students.  

“The pandemic showed us the importance of resilience, both for organizations and individual student leaders. That resilience is what made Penn Student Agencies what they are now. We have a foundation to continue building from the pandemic.”  

At its heart, PSA is student-run. It is comprised of four organizational clusters: central corporate, creative services, dining and hospitality, and retail and delivery divisions. Within that, there are currently seven PSA enterprises, consisting of firstServices, Penn Student Design, Penn Lens, Special Deliveries, Penn Closet, Williams Café, and Benny’s Diner. It aims to teach transferable business skills to Penn students through hands-on experience outside of the classroom.  

As a student, Michael oversaw many of PSA’s human resource functions, organizational effectiveness, and the compliance policies and procedures of the businesses. He and fellow PSA director Jazzy Ortega ‘20 created a proposal to start a quick-service, all-day breakfast restaurant that became Benny’s Diner in Houston Hall.  

PSA changed the course of Warren’s career ambitions. He entered Penn as a pre-med student. When he joined PSA, he gained an appreciation for interpersonal relationships. He wanted to learn the dynamics of people working collectively in groups. The experience led him to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Law in Society from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“I really loved understanding process design and process optimization — how different policies, laws, and structures are set up based on how humans interact with each other. PSA led me down a career path more on the operations and instructional design side of things. In business, I’ve always enjoyed the ambiguity that came with the startup environment and entrepreneurship.”   

A PSA Homecoming

Warren graduated from Penn shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started. He moved to New York City to work in client services serving private equity firms, but quickly shifted back to the entrepreneurial space. Michael helped lead the build out of the global logistics team at a unicorn e-commerce startup based in New York that specialized in consumer goods. Launching in February 2022, he was one of the original team members, and oversaw global inventory movements and relationships on the end-to-end supply chain.  

Michael maintained his involvement to PSA as an advisor. He was appointed as co-president of the Student-Run Business Association in 2022 after serving as a Vice President and on the Board of Directors since 2019. He continued to cultivate different relationships at universities throughout the country.  

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Penn student Chris Raboy ‘25 was looking for advice on how PSA operated outside of a COVID context. Upon researching pre-pandemic PSA documents and websites, Raboy reached out to several alumni hoping to discover historical information that would improve his ability to reignite the program post-pandemic. He messaged Warren via LinkedIn, and the two stayed in touch after Raboy took over as the Chief Marketing Officer. When the full-time Program Manager position became available, Raboy immediately thought of Michael. The ideal candidate was someone familiar with PSA, who could create continuity, guide PSA post-pandemic, and help grow the program in an increasingly digital world.  

“From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency,” said Raboy, who is PSA’s Chief Executive Officer for 2023-24. “I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions. He gave insight into a ton of the strategies I ended up utilizing throughout the summer.” 

Warren's interests in operations and organizational dynamics enable him to expand upon a network of institutions and nonprofits that run similar programs. For example, the business proposal for Benny’s Diner was inspired by student-run food service ventures presented at the 2019 Student-Run Business Association conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“I'm bringing the knowledge of what it was like operating in a pre-pandemic world, the challenges that we faced when I was a student and the challenges that the students before me had encountered. I can share that knowledge and bridge the connections between young alumni and the current students.” 

The biggest hurdle for PSA students is navigating the people element of business and entrepreneurism. A lot of businesses that were “heavy on in-person interaction had to alter those interactions to be able to operate virtually or digitally.” As organizations become more focused on e-commerce, the student-run businesses need to understand how to keep their staff engaged and ensure positions are appropriately filled. 

PSA’s focus for the 2022-23 academic year and beyond is setting up that continuity between leadership, turnover, and new students joining the organization. Warren looks to recreate the consistency that allowed PSA to thrive and replicate a consistent experience on a yearly basis, allowing Penn students to build off what individuals accomplished before them.  

Michael and Christ sitting down and speaking to each other
Chris Raboy (left) and Michael Warren (right) discuss PSA strategy at Houston Hall.

From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency. I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions.

Chris Raboy
PSA’s Chief Executive Officer

Building A Bridge With Alumni

Warren has noticed a renewed interest in PSA alumni. He said that there is an extensive number of Penn graduates from multiple generations that want PSA to succeed and bounce back from the pandemic. One of Warren’s biggest pushes is to establish an alumni network. There is an “untapped potential” of interested and influential grads that can serve as a significant resource for PSA students. 

Because PSA is not tied to any undergraduate or graduate school, one of the advantages that it offers is a wide array of perspectives. Warren said that its leadership and general body consists of a substantial cross-section of different academic disciplines.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to showcase their mindset and how they approach thinking. A nursing student isn’t going to approach the problem the same way a Wharton or an engineering student would. Putting them together on the same team and having them brainstorm and navigate the ambiguity that is the startup environment allows them to come up with these creative and interesting solutions to problems.” 

A large part of learning for the students in PSA is supported through the introduction of frameworks that help distill large complex problems into more manageable concepts. 

“For many students this is the first time they are taking on considerable responsibility and decision making. Understanding the impact of those decisions can be difficult with limited experience – which brings us to a framework I use with the students – FORTS.  

“FORTS stands for financial impact, operational impact, reputational impact, team impact, and strategic impact. This framework helps student leaders understand what the implications of their decisions may or will have on various aspects of their business and help create a figurative mental fort around their decision making.” 

Heading into its 90th anniversary, PSA has always been financially self-sufficient, the money that they make goes back into the programs and students. First known as Self-Supporting Students, PSA began in 1933 as part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, an early model of what is now the Federal Work-Study Program. It started as three student-run businesses: Dorm Laundry Agency, Parking Squad, and Trunk Moving Squad. Under the name of Associated Student Agencies, it grew to more than 10 businesses in the 1950s, including Coat Checking at the Palestra, Railway Express, and a birthday cake shop. PSA students worked at Pennsylvania’s central control point to call in vote tallies during the 1964 presidential election. Adopting its current name in 1975, the organization has since adopted several ventures to its portfolio including apparel manufacturing, tourism guide publications, newspapers, and a bartending school.  

There have been a few success stories, such as Penn Closet, that have prevailed with continued interest in the student body after the organization’s founders graduated. Some alumni have gone out and become entrepreneurs on their own by starting competing businesses. It has created unique experiences for students to compete with one of their former colleagues.  

Its alumni have each gone off to their own different paths, whether it is med school, law school, or serial entrepreneurism. Warren said, “the nice thing about PSA is that you have students who join for different reasons and get different values from it." 

As a professional and an alumnus, Warren views his role as a coach and a mentor. Sticking to the organization’s for-students mantra, he offers students the freedom to conduct day-to-day operations, think through business decisions, and determine whether they made the correct choices. 

“PSA fosters that environment where you have the support, you have the resources, and it’s up to the students to decide how they use them. Providing them direction, giving them experience, allowing them to manage teams before even going out in the corporate world gives them a lot of different exposure and experience that they wouldn’t have had if they were simply taking a class.” 

Historically each graduating class in PSA is between 30-50 students each year. Currently, PSA retains a database of 600-plus alumni ranging from the class of 2022 all the way back to some as early as 1955. PSA is looking to grow this network! 

University Life Represented at ’22 AFA Conference

Jessica Ryan, Director for Leadership Community in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award at the '22 Association of Fraternity / Sorority Advisors Annual Conference.

The Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award was established in 2003 and re-named for Shelley Sutherland upon her retirement in 2011. The purpose is to annually recognize outstanding volunteer service by an association member in an official AFA volunteer role. The individual has devoted significant time and energy supporting association initiatives or efforts through their volunteer role. They are consistent and reliable, communicative, and committed to the values and mission of the association as demonstrated through their service.

Ryan shared her excitement about attending the conference and receiving the award; "What an amazing experience! Thank you to the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors for letting me chair the Educational Programs for the Annual Meeting Planning Team these last two years, and serve in volunteer roles with the association for the last decade. Truly a goal accomplished and amazing experience. Thankful to be recognized for volunteering with the association."

The Clothing Closet

A new partnership between Wellness at Penn and the LGBT Center offers a sustainable way for students, faculty, staff, and community members to recycle outfits and shop for new ones.

4th Class Midshipmen Leadership Lessons

4th Class Midshipmen and active duty staff from the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University Naval ROTC units took part in an overnight retreat to Outdoor Odyssey in western Pennsylvania.

Pathways to Purposeful Careers: The Unique Narratives of Penn’s Career Advisors 

As part of an ongoing effort to explore the people that make University Life a diverse community of educators and humans, I sat down with an ordained minister, a chicken expert, a geographer, an actor, and a podcaster.

The Penn Community Celebrates Campus Pride​

The University of Pennsylvania Recognized as one of Campus Pride’s 2022 “Best Of The Best” Colleges & Universities for LGBTQ+ Students

Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion and advocacy within higher education,  announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, naming the University of Pennsylvania to this year’s list of campuses creating a safe, welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff alike.

The announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the  Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.

Check out video messages from our campus colleagues celebrating the Center.


LGBT Center's website

The significance of Indigenous People’s Day

Two Penn students, Nyair Locklear, of the Tuscarora Nation and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and Ryly Ziese, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offer their points of view.

Wellness Resources

Student Spotlight: Chris Raboy, Chief Executive Officer for Penn Student Agencies

During the Fall '22 semester, I met up with Chris Raboy, formerly the Marketing Director for Penn Student Agencies (PSA) and now currently serving as the  Chief Executive Officer. Apart from the funny bits about juicy tomato costumes and the debate over which cafe is best, our conversation was enlightening. I’m glad I was able to talk to him about, among other things, his time at PSA, a very interesting organization here at Penn that allows students to create and run their own businesses.  

As a nursing student, Chris has no background in marketing, networking, or website building. So how did he become the Marketing Director for PSA and eventually, the Chief Executive Officer? Chris applied for the Executive Director position of First Services, sadly he did not get the job. But luckily his supervisors saw something in him. They saw that he was passionate about the job and offered him the Marketing Director position for Penn Student Agencies during. This meant he had to learn how to market these businesses, how to build websites, and how to network. How did he manage this? Email. Chris asked for help, he emailed everyone he could, asked 100 questions, he experimented, and saw first-hand what worked and what didn't. By persevering Chris was not only able to do his job efficiently, he also learned a lot of skills he uses for his personal and professional goals. Additionally he was able to find mentors that would be instrumental in not only guiding him but PSA as a whole. Similarly, that perseverance allowed Chris to promote his own passions. Currently he has his own website and social media platforms in which he promotes fitness and wellness. As for PSA, he is currently working along with the team to establish continuity within the organization and develop new businesses.  

Chris is one of those people who you look up to, partly because he actually goes to the gym and can maintain that routine, but also because he is proof that one can achieve anything. The only condition is that one must not be afraid to try, to fail and to ask for help. As I’m writing this I am reminded of this popular phrase that says “El que tenga miedo a morir que no nazca”. It translates to “whoever is afraid of dying, don't start living”. It's mostly satirical, but there is a message behind it, if you're afraid of failure you will never succeed. That's why I implore anyone to take a page from Chris’ book. Try, send a thousand emails, and ask a million questions. Learn from your failures instead of letting them define you, and most importantly never give in to self-doubt.  

Introduce yourself:

My name is Chris Raboy. I'm a sophomore in the School of Nursing studying nursing and nutrition. I am currently working at Penn Student Agencies as the Chief Executive Officer, previously the Marketing Director, and I recently began working as a fellow at Venture Labs at a startup.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working out, and I am very interested in preventative medicine through nutrition and exercise. Additionally, I enjoy movies, specifically psychological thrillers, as well as dancing, going out with friends, and having a good time.

What's your favorite psychological thriller?

My favorites are usually those movies with a crazy last-minute twist like Shutter Island. Anything IMDB 7 or higher is usually pretty good.

I saw that you have a website, why did you choose to make one and what would you want other people to know about it?

Making a website actually came from my experience at PSA. PSA’s department recently transitioned everything to WordPress which meant that everything in regards to the websites had to be redesigned. My administrator at the time Kelly Hartman asked me to take a look and see what I could do with it. I started looking at it and realized that I was unfamiliar with a lot of things so I decided to educate myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked a lot of questions. I would try, mess up, and ask questions. It's funny because I’m known as the guy who sends a lot of emails and asks 100 questions, but I think that's the best way to learn. That process of trial and error taught me that website building is not as hard as I thought it would be. From that experience, I thought why don't I build my own website. I used everything I learned from PSA, kept asking questions, and over the summer I created my own website. That helped me build a skill set  that I could use not only for my website but for other things that could contribute to PSA.

What's your favorite video you've made on your social media?

My favorite video was when I challenged myself to do a 1,000 squats. Sometimes I feel like things get too monotonous so I try to switch it up. The challenges seem like a good idea at first but very quickly you realize that it's not as easy as you thought. However, no matter how hard it is, I always force myself to see it through.

What's your favorite workout? Any tips?

My favorite exercise is squats. It's such a functional exercise, a lot of people run and do a lot of leg exercises, but simple squats can make you very strong.

Finally, what was your Halloween costume this year?

This year I dressed as a juicy tomato. I ordered it on Amazon and it was great.

Penn Student Agencies

What are Penn Student Agencies? What do they do? What is their mission

Penn Student Agencies is a collection of student-run businesses on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. There were originally 10 businesses. Due to the pandemic we had to shut down, not entirely in terms of the businesses, but the university as a whole. As of recently, we have been absorbing some businesses together to centralize some processes and help establish continuity between each of the businesses. We are focusing on establishing continuity because some of the processes have been lost since a lot of people graduated and we want the processes to stay in place even if people graduate. Our mission is to teach transferable skills and business management to Penn students by providing hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities to make them competitive in the workplace environment. People who graduate from Penn that have worked in PSA get a jump start into business in the US or internationally. PSA is also good because we have a wide range of opportunities from retail, hospitality, and creative design.

Outside of on campus, we are also part of the Student Run Business Association which is an intercollegiate organization that hosts conferences to discuss different operations and provide networking opportunities for students.

Very recently you were promoted to Chief Executive Officer of PSA. Congratulations! Can you share what this promotion means to you and what your vision for PSA is headed into the Spring ’23?

As a Nursing and Nutrition student, PSA has proved to be a vital resource not only for my continued professional development but for my academic studies as well. I have not had any exposure to business prior to working as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). My time spent working over the summer and into the school year as CMO made me increasingly passionate about the program and providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities outside the classroom. I wanted to be an integral part of PSA’s future growth and development.

The promotion to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) allows me to be at the forefront of furthering PSA’s mission, vision, and growth while also increasing my knowledge to gain a comprehensive view of business and employee management skills.

As PSA heads into Spring 23’ I envision the expansion of our organization’s presence on/off campus for students, the local community, and alumni; the development of a community with on and off-campus networks ranging from clubs, departments, local businesses, and Student-Run Business Organizations; and a restoration of continuity that PSA has had in the past through an all-new management board training program.

Tell us about your role as Marketing Director before being promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

I served as the Marketing Director prior to starting my new role. I actually applied for the Executive Director of First Services position but I did not get the job. Instead, they offered me the Marketing Director position in the Spring '22 position since they liked some of my ideas and saw that I was passionate about the job.

As the Marketing Director, I was responsible for the entire marketing portfolio for PSA businesses. This means that I work in the marketing of each individual business, whether that means recruiting, inter-departmental relations, newsletters, events, list serves, I try to get PSA involved.

How would you describe your experience running the marketing for these businesses?

Very exciting. Over the summer with everything, with learning how to build the website, branding, meeting with people to talk about future plans for PSA, I learned a lot. I learned the psychology behind marketing, how to catch people's attention, and also how to market yourself. By doing this I’ve been able to get PSA out there.

What is your favorite part of working at PSA?

The people and the experience. My administrators and my program manager are amazing. I'm very grateful that they took a chance on me and for their unbelievable support. They helped me navigate this job and stay motivated to keep making PSA better. As for the experience, it's unmatched. I've learnt so much, marketing, communication skills, website building and so many other things. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Time management. I'm taking 5.5 credits so scheduling is very important in order to keep up with classes and my job. I feel like it makes me more efficient because if I know that's the only time I have available to get a particular thing done, I can focus solely on that task. Additionally, scheduling blocks of time for certain things helps me get organized and find more time to work, find fellowships and in general pursue more things.

Do you have a favorite business? If so, let's put your marketing to the test! In one minute, promote your favorite business. Tell Penn students why they should go to that business.

Williams Cafe: coffee, bagels, pastries. Best prices on campus, located in the language building 2nd floor. At Williams Cafe you may hear Penn Records who occasionally play on Fridays, and you can get a nice warm espresso.

A Renewed Vision for Penn Student Agencies

Penn Student Agencies thrived on continuity as one of the oldest student organizations at the University of Pennsylvania. Each graduating class passed the baton to the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives, and business-minded students.  

When the pandemic shuttered most of its student-run organizations into a virtual state, it disrupted the clockwork transfer of skills that kept PSA in business for 89 years. The handed-down experience of running a business and knowing the ins-and-outs from a financial, operational, and community perspective was all but lost. Without the training from students with experience, current PSA students missed the baton and were left putting puzzle pieces together from scratch. 

The expertise was retained by PSA alumni. Naturally, the first place they looked to revive the organization was with one of its own.  

Michael Paul Warren ‘20/‘21 took over as the Program Manager at Penn Student Agencies in September ‘22. The former PSA Executive Vice President of Operations 2018-2020, now titled PSA Chief Operating Officer, looks to reinvigorate PSA back to its pre-pandemic state and reimagine the organization to better meet the needs of Penn students.  

“The pandemic showed us the importance of resilience, both for organizations and individual student leaders. That resilience is what made Penn Student Agencies what they are now. We have a foundation to continue building from the pandemic.”  

At its heart, PSA is student-run. It is comprised of four organizational clusters: central corporate, creative services, dining and hospitality, and retail and delivery divisions. Within that, there are currently seven PSA enterprises, consisting of firstServices, Penn Student Design, Penn Lens, Special Deliveries, Penn Closet, Williams Café, and Benny’s Diner. It aims to teach transferable business skills to Penn students through hands-on experience outside of the classroom.  

As a student, Michael oversaw many of PSA’s human resource functions, organizational effectiveness, and the compliance policies and procedures of the businesses. He and fellow PSA director Jazzy Ortega ‘20 created a proposal to start a quick-service, all-day breakfast restaurant that became Benny’s Diner in Houston Hall.  

PSA changed the course of Warren’s career ambitions. He entered Penn as a pre-med student. When he joined PSA, he gained an appreciation for interpersonal relationships. He wanted to learn the dynamics of people working collectively in groups. The experience led him to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Law in Society from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“I really loved understanding process design and process optimization — how different policies, laws, and structures are set up based on how humans interact with each other. PSA led me down a career path more on the operations and instructional design side of things. In business, I’ve always enjoyed the ambiguity that came with the startup environment and entrepreneurship.”   

A PSA Homecoming

Warren graduated from Penn shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started. He moved to New York City to work in client services serving private equity firms, but quickly shifted back to the entrepreneurial space. Michael helped lead the build out of the global logistics team at a unicorn e-commerce startup based in New York that specialized in consumer goods. Launching in February 2022, he was one of the original team members, and oversaw global inventory movements and relationships on the end-to-end supply chain.  

Michael maintained his involvement to PSA as an advisor. He was appointed as co-president of the Student-Run Business Association in 2022 after serving as a Vice President and on the Board of Directors since 2019. He continued to cultivate different relationships at universities throughout the country.  

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Penn student Chris Raboy ‘25 was looking for advice on how PSA operated outside of a COVID context. Upon researching pre-pandemic PSA documents and websites, Raboy reached out to several alumni hoping to discover historical information that would improve his ability to reignite the program post-pandemic. He messaged Warren via LinkedIn, and the two stayed in touch after Raboy took over as the Chief Marketing Officer. When the full-time Program Manager position became available, Raboy immediately thought of Michael. The ideal candidate was someone familiar with PSA, who could create continuity, guide PSA post-pandemic, and help grow the program in an increasingly digital world.  

“From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency,” said Raboy, who is PSA’s Chief Executive Officer for 2023-24. “I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions. He gave insight into a ton of the strategies I ended up utilizing throughout the summer.” 

Warren's interests in operations and organizational dynamics enable him to expand upon a network of institutions and nonprofits that run similar programs. For example, the business proposal for Benny’s Diner was inspired by student-run food service ventures presented at the 2019 Student-Run Business Association conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“I'm bringing the knowledge of what it was like operating in a pre-pandemic world, the challenges that we faced when I was a student and the challenges that the students before me had encountered. I can share that knowledge and bridge the connections between young alumni and the current students.” 

The biggest hurdle for PSA students is navigating the people element of business and entrepreneurism. A lot of businesses that were “heavy on in-person interaction had to alter those interactions to be able to operate virtually or digitally.” As organizations become more focused on e-commerce, the student-run businesses need to understand how to keep their staff engaged and ensure positions are appropriately filled. 

PSA’s focus for the 2022-23 academic year and beyond is setting up that continuity between leadership, turnover, and new students joining the organization. Warren looks to recreate the consistency that allowed PSA to thrive and replicate a consistent experience on a yearly basis, allowing Penn students to build off what individuals accomplished before them.  

Michael and Christ sitting down and speaking to each other
Chris Raboy (left) and Michael Warren (right) discuss PSA strategy at Houston Hall.

From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency. I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions.

Chris Raboy
PSA’s Chief Executive Officer

Building A Bridge With Alumni

Warren has noticed a renewed interest in PSA alumni. He said that there is an extensive number of Penn graduates from multiple generations that want PSA to succeed and bounce back from the pandemic. One of Warren’s biggest pushes is to establish an alumni network. There is an “untapped potential” of interested and influential grads that can serve as a significant resource for PSA students. 

Because PSA is not tied to any undergraduate or graduate school, one of the advantages that it offers is a wide array of perspectives. Warren said that its leadership and general body consists of a substantial cross-section of different academic disciplines.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to showcase their mindset and how they approach thinking. A nursing student isn’t going to approach the problem the same way a Wharton or an engineering student would. Putting them together on the same team and having them brainstorm and navigate the ambiguity that is the startup environment allows them to come up with these creative and interesting solutions to problems.” 

A large part of learning for the students in PSA is supported through the introduction of frameworks that help distill large complex problems into more manageable concepts. 

“For many students this is the first time they are taking on considerable responsibility and decision making. Understanding the impact of those decisions can be difficult with limited experience – which brings us to a framework I use with the students – FORTS.  

“FORTS stands for financial impact, operational impact, reputational impact, team impact, and strategic impact. This framework helps student leaders understand what the implications of their decisions may or will have on various aspects of their business and help create a figurative mental fort around their decision making.” 

Heading into its 90th anniversary, PSA has always been financially self-sufficient, the money that they make goes back into the programs and students. First known as Self-Supporting Students, PSA began in 1933 as part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, an early model of what is now the Federal Work-Study Program. It started as three student-run businesses: Dorm Laundry Agency, Parking Squad, and Trunk Moving Squad. Under the name of Associated Student Agencies, it grew to more than 10 businesses in the 1950s, including Coat Checking at the Palestra, Railway Express, and a birthday cake shop. PSA students worked at Pennsylvania’s central control point to call in vote tallies during the 1964 presidential election. Adopting its current name in 1975, the organization has since adopted several ventures to its portfolio including apparel manufacturing, tourism guide publications, newspapers, and a bartending school.  

There have been a few success stories, such as Penn Closet, that have prevailed with continued interest in the student body after the organization’s founders graduated. Some alumni have gone out and become entrepreneurs on their own by starting competing businesses. It has created unique experiences for students to compete with one of their former colleagues.  

Its alumni have each gone off to their own different paths, whether it is med school, law school, or serial entrepreneurism. Warren said, “the nice thing about PSA is that you have students who join for different reasons and get different values from it." 

As a professional and an alumnus, Warren views his role as a coach and a mentor. Sticking to the organization’s for-students mantra, he offers students the freedom to conduct day-to-day operations, think through business decisions, and determine whether they made the correct choices. 

“PSA fosters that environment where you have the support, you have the resources, and it’s up to the students to decide how they use them. Providing them direction, giving them experience, allowing them to manage teams before even going out in the corporate world gives them a lot of different exposure and experience that they wouldn’t have had if they were simply taking a class.” 

Historically each graduating class in PSA is between 30-50 students each year. Currently, PSA retains a database of 600-plus alumni ranging from the class of 2022 all the way back to some as early as 1955. PSA is looking to grow this network! 

University Life Represented at ’22 AFA Conference

Jessica Ryan, Director for Leadership Community in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award at the '22 Association of Fraternity / Sorority Advisors Annual Conference.

The Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award was established in 2003 and re-named for Shelley Sutherland upon her retirement in 2011. The purpose is to annually recognize outstanding volunteer service by an association member in an official AFA volunteer role. The individual has devoted significant time and energy supporting association initiatives or efforts through their volunteer role. They are consistent and reliable, communicative, and committed to the values and mission of the association as demonstrated through their service.

Ryan shared her excitement about attending the conference and receiving the award; "What an amazing experience! Thank you to the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors for letting me chair the Educational Programs for the Annual Meeting Planning Team these last two years, and serve in volunteer roles with the association for the last decade. Truly a goal accomplished and amazing experience. Thankful to be recognized for volunteering with the association."

The Clothing Closet

A new partnership between Wellness at Penn and the LGBT Center offers a sustainable way for students, faculty, staff, and community members to recycle outfits and shop for new ones.

4th Class Midshipmen Leadership Lessons

4th Class Midshipmen and active duty staff from the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University Naval ROTC units took part in an overnight retreat to Outdoor Odyssey in western Pennsylvania.

Pathways to Purposeful Careers: The Unique Narratives of Penn’s Career Advisors 

As part of an ongoing effort to explore the people that make University Life a diverse community of educators and humans, I sat down with an ordained minister, a chicken expert, a geographer, an actor, and a podcaster.

The Penn Community Celebrates Campus Pride​

The University of Pennsylvania Recognized as one of Campus Pride’s 2022 “Best Of The Best” Colleges & Universities for LGBTQ+ Students

Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion and advocacy within higher education,  announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, naming the University of Pennsylvania to this year’s list of campuses creating a safe, welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff alike.

The announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the  Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.

Check out video messages from our campus colleagues celebrating the Center.


LGBT Center's website

The significance of Indigenous People’s Day

Two Penn students, Nyair Locklear, of the Tuscarora Nation and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and Ryly Ziese, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offer their points of view.

Student Spotlight: Melissa Echeverry, Master’s in Social Work Program, Graduate Teaching Fellow, and Graduate Resident Advisor in La Casa Hispanica

“According to what someone told me: They say the moon is always one, By the sea or by the mountains. So I yell to the villain, I would be Boricua Even if I was born on the moon.”

Reopening the ARCH building

A Sept. 7 event celebrated the building’s new incarnation as a centrally located space dedicated exclusively to cultural resource centers and affiliate groups.

Penn dedicates ARCH building to cultural centers after decades of student advocacy

After years of campaigning and student advocacy, Penn has begun renovations on the Arts, Research, and Culture House, designating it as the home to the University’s main minority coalition groups and cultural resource centers.

Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life Models Leadership and Inclusive Excellence

OFSL staff serve on national leadership positions for their alumni sororities

Reimagining Space, Place, & Belonging

In all of our spaces, we are making sure we consider the needs of our undergraduate and graduate students, both in terms of formal programmatic use and their needs for interaction and building relationships across identities.

Philadelphia Gayborhood with Malik Muhammad

In celebration of Pride Month, University Life took a trip to the Philadelphia Gayborhood with Malik Muhammad, Associate Director of the LGBT Center.

Sharon Smith, AVP for University Life Receives Penn Dental Honor

As part of Penn Dental Medicine’s commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022, the school recognized Sharon Smith, Associate Provost for University Life, with a special certificate of appreciation for her service to students. In her role at the University, Ms. Smith oversees a number of campus support programs and endeavors to holistically serve students navigating Penn. 

Presently a member of Penn Dental Medicine’s Committee for Cultural Growth, Ms. Smith supports Penn Dental Medicine students and the administration in wide-ranging areas, including assisting with issues such as personal and academic emergencies, food insecurity, provision of urgent medical care, and providing assistance to the school’s international students.

Ms. Smith came to Penn in 1987, serving in various leadership positions throughout campus, including the Penn College Achievement Program, New Student Orientation, and Open Expression.  She was instrumental in helping to create the mission and framework of the Student Intervention Services Office (SIS), which leads Penn’s response to emergencies and critical incidents involving students.

“For over 20 years, Sharon has been a dedicated and passionate supporter of Penn Dental Medicine students,” said Uri Hangorsky, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. “She has selflessly made herself available to work with us not only during regular working hours, but also during nights, weekends, and major holidays. She embodies the very best humanity has to offer—wisdom, compassion, integrity, and dedication.”

Embracing Intersectionality: Sean Massa

Before Sean Massa (C’15) could apprehend the intercultural understanding needed to launch a career in foreign diplomacy, he first had to discover his own individual identity.

Projection and Pursuit: A Two-Fold Meaning of Longing

University Life shares the wisdom of Sam Strickberger, ’22 Class Board President and speaker at this year’s Commencement Baccalaureate Ceremony. Sam’s speech, Projection and Pursuit: A Two-Fold Meaning of Longing, is an inspiring reflection on pursuing your passion.

Leadership from the Lens of a Former Lawyer

Forty years ago, Tamara Greenfield King, J.D. would have never imagined herself working in higher education, let alone in a senior leadership role on a college campus.

Triple S Show Student Spotlight

Today’s spotlight features Zaria Franklin, a senior in the College who has been actively involved with Greek Life at Penn. Zaria has been part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority since 2019, surrounded by like-minded women with a purpose to serve their communities and build lifelong bonds along the way.

Houston Hall to be revamped into ‘hub for students’ by Vice Provost for University Life

Houston Hall, the oldest student union in the nation, will undergo a renovations process to become a central hub of student life on campus, according to Penn’s Division of the Vice Provost for University Life.

Students have expressed for years that Houston Hall felt like "more of a dining area and study space than a hub of student activity." This project, while still in early stages, hopes to address that sentiment, according to project leads Saleem Curry and Laurie Hall from University Life, who said they shared that the primary aim is to transform Houston Hall into a more inclusive, welcoming, and inviting space for students by restoring its status as a focal point of student life on Penn's campus.

Before 2017, Houston Hall operated on a conference center model and was self-funded, according to Hall, the assistant vice provost for strategic planning and operations. She added that Interim President Wendell Pritchett has worked to dismantle that model to create a student hub during his tenure as provost.

Houston Hall
“There was a very deliberate mandate from Provost Pritchett to return Houston Hall to its mission of being a student center. Penn was the first university in the country to put capital funds — meaningful contributions — into the student leisure experience.”
Laurie Hall outside on campus copy
Laurie Hall
Assistant Vice Provost for Strategic Planning and Operations

Curry, director of University Life Space and Events Management, said that although this project is rather abstract, he and Hall hope to involve students in the process as much as possible. He added that Pritchett’s idea to transform Houston Hall into a student-focused center came from students in the first place.

“What we [are] looking to do very shortly is to have a University Life space steering committee that is made up of students,” Hall said. She added that this committee would serve as a connection between all the different needs of the students. 

Curry said that he hopes Houston Hall can “situate itself as a centralizing point” on campus and be a center for all types of campus involvement. In the future, Curry said he hopes that Houston Hall can host events on the weekends for students. 

Students expressed that although there is nothing wrong with the current state of Houston Hall, there is a possibility for improvement into a more robust hub of student life.

College first year Sarah Garrison, who works as a Welcome Ambassador at Houston Hall, said she is excited about the potential of this project to welcome and bring together students on campus.

“In my personal experience, I have seen Houston Hall trying to implement some of these changes, and I think that it’s absolutely great. It would be nice to have [Houston Hall] to be a hub for students,” Garrison said.

Garrison noted that some students may feel cut off from Houston Hall when it is being used by specific clubs or for planned events. 

College first year Julia Rotgin performed in the One Acts Festival hosted by the Theatre Arts Council in Houston Hall earlier this semester. Even so, she said that she does not have a reason to spend time in Houston Hall, and rarely frequents the space.

Students playing table hockey

“Outside of that experience, I have not spent that much time in Houston Hall,” Rotgin said. “I haven’t been involved in anything else that used that space.” 

While Rotgin frequents Houston Market, Penn’s food market located on the lower level, she said she does not frequent any other part of Houston Hall. 

“We have the space. We should definitely take advantage of it,” Rotgin said. 


Read more at the DP


Visit Houston Hall

The problem solvers

SIS identifies and meets student’s most urgent needs. When a pattern emerges, like when students go from bringing a pen and notebook to class to taking notes on personal laptops, SIS works to formalize partnerships with other offices to anticipate the shift

Student Spotlight: Harley Haas

Hi everyone! My name is Isha Reddy, and I’m a freshman at Wharton, and a Strategic Planning and Communications intern here at Penn University Life. Working for University Life, I get the unique opportunity to highlight some of the amazing cultural and student life events at Penn, as well as feature the exceptional students behind them through our Student Spotlight series. 

 

Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Harley Haas, a sophomore in the College, and a member of the Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Club (ASAP) at Penn. Nearing 2 years with the club, Harley is currently ASAP’s Internal Chair, and has been working tirelessly with the ASAP team to organize the first in-person Take Back the Night (TBTN) event at Penn since 2019. 

Students march at rally for Take Back the Night
Students march at rally for Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night is an international campaign to combat sexual violence in all forms and foster collective awareness around consent and sexual misconduct. At Penn, ASAP, along with Penn Violence Prevention (PVP) and Penn Women’s Center (PWC), strives to continue the conversation about the need for consent education and share important information about resources that can help support survivors. The event typically includes a poster-making session, a rally on College Green, a march around campus, and a survivor speak-out. This year, due to unfortunate weather conditions, Take Back the Night was held in the Graduate School of Education Tent, and could not include a march around campus, though the rally and survivor vigil were successfully held.

Take Back the Night creates a safe and supportive environment for survivors of sexual misconduct to share their experiences surrounded by their community, as well as for student allies to learn about how to support survivors, access vital resources, and advocate for change. This year, the rally and vigil took place on Thursday, April 7th, 2022, between 5 and 9 PM. 

Students creating signs for the TBTN march at the poster-making session on April 6th 2022.
Students creating signs for the TBTN march at the poster-making session on April 6th 2022.

Through ASAP, Harley has seen firsthand the positive impact that Take Back the Night can have on others who have had similar experiences. As she emphasized, “Everyone is welcome at the event, and we hope that this night sparks the conversation about the change that needs to happen on campus.” She and ASAP believe that there is always more Penn can do in terms of supporting survivors, raising awareness about consent, and encouraging victims to speak out. 

As Internal Chair, Harley helps direct ASAP’s website, through which she aims to promote the club’s message, help students access the resources they need, and educate others about the problem and the ways in which they can get involved. Rape culture and sexual misconduct are undoubtedly still extremely prevalent issues in today’s time, and it is vital that we, as students and members of this community, raise our voices and make ourselves seen and heard. It is only through collective action that we can truly make any difference. 

Students march at rally for Take Back the Night
Students march at rally for Take Back the Night

Although I myself am fortunate enough to have never been exposed to any form of abuse, I am inspired by Harley, and many others like her, who have found strength in their experience and grown from it. Learning about her work with ASAP and TBTN has really opened my eyes to the gravity of the issue, and the power we each hold. As a young female, and an international student, I am no stranger to worried texts from my mother about my whereabouts, warnings about walking alone late at night without pepper spray, or numerous “… started sharing their location with you” notifications. Events like TBTN exist so that hopefully and eventually some of these things we’ve grown so accustomed to might not be the norm anymore. Whether you are a survivor or a supporter, there are so many ways you can get involved. From attending the rally and speaking at the vigil, to simply posting on social media or volunteering at the event, the smallest of actions can have the biggest of impacts, for your peers and for your future.

Until next time,

Isha Reddy


Penn Women's Center


Penn Violence Prevention

Student Spotlight: Xandro Xu

If you don't already know, I am Carola Agostini, a freshman here at the University of Pennsylvania. My goal, with the help of University Life, is to show the real college experience at Penn and to showcase the bright students that make this place so special. Recently, I interviewed Aditi Singh, a bright young woman who overcame very difficult circumstances and found herself after getting lost. If you are interested in reading Aditi’s story you can check it out here.

Fast forward a few weeks later, I interviewed yet another bright young student named Xandro Xu. Midterm week was particularly difficult for Penn students, especially those in the Psychology department. As I took brief breaks between studying, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a poster for events happening in the incoming week. The list was titled QPenn week. Interestingly enough, I was coordinating an interview with Xandro Xu to discuss the planning of this event, but since I was focused on my midterm, I had scheduled it for the following week. It was Wednesday, March 23. I just took my midterm, and I revised the event list for QPenn to see if I could report on a specific event for the interview. Then I saw there was an ice skating event that very night. An idea brewed in my head, "What if I interview Xandro at the ice rink?"

To be completely honest, I thought he would decline my proposal because it was so last minute. Little did I know that two minutes later, he responded to my email by saying yes to the interview.

I was shocked, to say the least, but also very excited. At night, I went to the ice rink and had the pleasure of interviewing Xandro Xu.

Xandro Xu is a Chinese freshman here at Penn. He works with the LGBT Center, and he is a Vice Chair of Education at Lambda Alliance, an umbrella organization of the LGBTQ+ affinity groups for queer students. In that role, he is tasked with the great responsibility of organizing QPenn, a week of events, to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community presence on campus. When speaking to him at this event, I could tell just how passionate he was about representing and fighting for this community. I could also tell just how important this event was for him and his team. They were all very welcoming, and I could tell how much effort they put into making QPenn a success.

Xandro and I come from very different backgrounds, but I found I could relate to a lot of what he was saying. I think a lot of people would benefit from learning from Xandro mainly because he is unapologetic about his background. Despite feeling difficult to express himself and his sexual identity, he was able to not only come to terms with who he is, but be proud of it. That, to me, is not only honorable but brave. We also had a meaningful conversation on the concept of trust. I'm sure we are not the only ones who have experienced this, but trust can be a very tricky thing. Our families encouraged us to not trust anyone for a variety of reasons. Particularly, as a student from an underrepresented community, it can be very daunting to let your guard down in the face of uncertainty or intolerance; however, during our talk, we both agreed it is necessary. As humans, we need to be able to trust, to have friendships and to love, because that's something we deserve. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy because we are not machines meant to be perfect, unemotional, and merely productive — we are human.

Another thing that I noted whilst talking to Xandro was how he valued spontaneous outings with his friends as the best times he's had on campus. He very much reminded me of all the memories I made since coming here: the multiple adventures and laughs made on a whim. That is what the Penn experience is and should be. Penn is hard, don't get us wrong. We are not saying you shouldn't study, but the Penn experience should be more than that. Your time at Penn should be about growth and connection. Moreover, what makes Penn special is not the academics or the aesthetics, it's the people. It's the people, as Xandro says, who go on spontaneous strolls down Locust Walk or make you laugh after a long day. It's especially those people who support you unconditionally. Thus, like Xandro suggests, there is nothing wrong in giving up one or two hours of studying to have a fun time. Who knows what could happen. Maybe you meet your soulmate. Maybe you'll have a night that you'll remember for the rest of your life. What you should learn from Xandro is to be open-minded and open to the possibilities, be unapologetically yourself, and fight for the things you believe in. That is what the Penn experience is all about.

Before I sign off, I want to extend my gratitude to Xandro Xu for this interview and welcoming me to this event with open arms. I can report the event was extremely fun, even for an island girl that can't skate. I also strongly recommend that everyone look forward to and attend next year's QPenn as a way to support and uplift the LGBTQ+ community in our campus.

Until next time,

Carola Agostini

The Interview

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, how did you come to join the center, and what do you enjoy most about being part of the community?
    1. First thing about me is that I'm Chinese. Growing up in a very small town with little diversity, I found that being myself in terms of my sexual identity was a bit hard initially. It was hard because, in most cases, immigrant parents are intolerant to such matters in regards to the LGBTQ + community. Initially, my parents were not very happy with me coming out as gay. However, I'm very lucky that I have such loving parents that really thought it through and said “this is my son and I love him exactly for who he is”. I'm really glad I have such a supportive family. Regarding the LGBTQ+ community at Penn, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of right away. In high school, I didn't really have the chance to advocate for this community as much as I wanted to due to the fact that my school was very homogeneous. So I was very happy that I could do that at Penn, and it was something I knew I wanted to do.
  1. What work do you do with the LGBT center?
    1. I am a program assistant in the LGBTQ+ center, basically, it's a front desk job where I help people find their way and use our resources. I also work by providing confidential and unconditional support to students that come to us for help. I also help with a collective to promote minorities through works of art.

  1. What is QPenn? What is the purpose of this event?
    1. QPenn is a week designed to really celebrate, uplift, and amplify the LGBTQ+ community on campus. It is a week to show the presence of the community on campus, to say, "this is who we are and here we are." QPenn is the week to bring underrepresented minorities to light.
  1. Why did you choose to organize the event this year? What was your goal for this year's QPenn?
    1. When I first came to Penn, I was very interested in joining the Lambda Alliance, which is an umbrella organization of different LGBTQ+ affinity groups on campus. I participated in a pre-orientation called pinnacle and one of the group leaders was an officer for Lambda Alliance, which motivated me even more to join. Thus, I joined Lambda Alliance and during the fall semester, I ran for the board position of vice chair of education. Historically, this position is responsible for organizing QPenn so that is how I fell into the role.

      As for the planning of the event itself. It was great. However, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding whether it would be possible due to the COVID-19 restrictions at the time. We didn't start planning it until February, at which time we were certain the event could be held. Obviously, with such a huge event, we would've loved to start planning sooner, but the circumstances did not allow for it. What made this event possible was the teamwork. We delegated tasks to each other, and we were able to work together to pull this off, for which I am immensely grateful. It was really important to us that this event was held because it is the first QPenn in three years. Our goal was to bring QPenn back and to hold it in person, even if it wasn't as big as it was in previous years. We wanted people to know that this is a week and that it's an event everyone should look forward to. I also want to mention that as a freshman, I feel like I learned a lot not only about planning but about the older folks in the community. Getting to know them while planning the event helped me understand how things work behind the scenes and I'm really grateful for that opportunity.

  1. How was it planning this event? What were your main takeaways and what do you hope students learned or obtained from QPenn?
    1. Planning this event was hectic, but also very fun. Again, I think the main reason why this event worked was for the team behind it. It was really heartwarming to meet so many people willing to collaborate to make this event a reality and also to see such initiative from them. Something that I learned from this experience is that planning should've been done a little earlier, but due to the circumstances it was obviously not the ideal situation.
  1. Which was your favorite event from QPenn?
    1. I really liked the opening event; we had people perform and speak, it was a great vibe to kick off the week. We had a great turnout. Apart from that, I also liked today's event because it seems like a grand gesture. We decorated the whole ring and we even have an inflatable in the back. I love ice skating, so I think this is a fun gesture for the community and it's one of the events I've liked most so far.
  1. What is your fondest memory from your time with the LGBT Center?
    1. I'm not very good at remembering things, but I would have to say my fondest memory is the staff meetings. This is where the staff, the director and the assistant director come together to talk. I like the sense of community and talking to people, so that is what I cherish the most.
  1. What is the best piece of advice or the most valuable lesson you have learned while working with the LGBT Center?
    1. I would say be really open-minded, empathetic and understanding. This is because you never know what someone is going through and as workers in the center, our job is to help people. If we were to assume things, we would have a very skewed view of situations. So definitely a valuable lesson is to approach things with an open mind.
  1. What advice would you give future planners to make QPenn even better? Any ideas?
    1. Something that I did that really helped with the planning was the delegation of certain roles. Initially, I was stressed about QPenn because I thought I would have to plan this whole event by myself. But again, building a community and a group of peers that are there to support you is really important. This not only allows for a creative flow of ideas but also builds that sense of community that QPenn really is all about. Just really seek out help because it's an event that can’t be done by one person. Another tip I would give to future planners is to seek out the community, allow for other cultural resource centers to help and spread the word. Finally, I would just suggest you give yourself ample time to plan QPenn.
Student Spotlight: Aditi Singh

Aditi started working as a tutor during her freshman year. She focused on math and science because she describes herself as a “STEM nerd.”

A charter bus to Chinatown

Launched in 2021 by a student-led initiative, the biweekly bus service connects students with local businesses in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Change of Plan

During the pandemic, Oliver Kaplan transferred to Penn looking for a fresh start. A philosophy class altered his academic focus; he now hopes to shape educational policy for LGBTQ+ students.

Oliver Kaplan knew he had to make a change when, two months after his freshman year on a rural college campus, he was outed. Kaplan, who describes himself as “very closeted” until that point, had recently attended a discussion on LGBT rights, and his roommate started telling, first friends, then Kaplan’s parents, that Kaplan was gay.

“At that point, I thought, Well, do I try to correct people? Because I don’t know if I’m ready to be out, but if I correct people, then people are just going to assume I’m straight, and I’ll have to be closeted for the rest of my time here,” he says.

First, he met with the office of residential life, trying to get his roommate transferred to a different room. But since outing wasn’t a violation of any written rule, they “kind of threw their hands up and said, ‘Well, it’s not in our handbook.’”

Outing is a unique situation, Kaplan says. “If you’re not gay, you don’t understand how important that information is.” People try to equate outing to racial identity, and it’s not the same, says Kaplan, whose mother is Chinese and father is Jewish. “If someone were to say, ‘What if I tell other people that you’re Asian? What does that matter?’ Well, first of all, race and sexuality are not the same; you can tell my race from my face, but you can’t discern my sexuality,” he says.

Coming out, first to friends, then family, was a seven-month process that took place during the pandemic. At that point, Kaplan had become determined to transfer schools and had an interest in Penn. Kaplan contacted Erin Cross, director of the LGBT Center, who connected him with a Penn student who later became a mentor.

“Being outed is having other people share something about you that is so private and personal that, when it happens, it goes straight to your core,” says Cross. “It’s a complete lack of respect for someone’s humanity and agency. Someone’s sexual orientation is only for them to share if they want to,” she says.

Penn is consistently ranked as one of the top schools for LGBTQ+ support, says Cross. The LGBT Center is the second oldest of its kind in the country, she says, “so we’ve had a history to build up community, sub-communities, academic ties, and links across the University.” As a response to homophobic campus incidents, Penn included sexual orientation in the University’s non-discrimination clause during the early 1980s. “We were at the forefront,” Cross says. “Penn and the city of Philadelphia have worked hard to make sure LGBTQ+ folks feel as safe as they possibly can, but there’s always more to do.”

Oliver Kaplan in a blue jacket standing outside on Penn's campus

Read more at Penn today

Winter solace

From the Class of 1923 arena to La Casa Latina, four students speak to what motivates them through the season.

Penn Lions in the Year of the Tiger

Dripping rain falls through barren branches along Locust Walk late on a Thursday night. Students hurry past, unwilling to linger in the unhospitable February weather. But the ARCH building glows golden. Drumbeats reverberate through the structure. Four solemn thumps announce the interplay between two fighting lions engaged in a tug of war. The ornate animals, enhanced with vibrant red, bright gold, and ruffles of sparkling sequin fabric trimmed in faux fur, are tussling over a head of romaine, the lettuce symbolic of wealth. These are the Penn Lions, an undergraduate group that spreads good luck and blessings through the traditional Chinese lion dance, and they are practicing for the Lunar New Year, a reminder of rebirth and new beginnings to come after the cold rain.

The Lions, who have two practices per week during the academic year, are training for Feb. 8 performances in collaboration with Penn Dining, which is featuring a Lunar New Year menu with recipes from Fuchsia DunlopAndrea Nguyen, and David Chang.

Traditionally spent with family, Lunar New Year is a time to root ourselves within all of our connections. The multi-week holiday is celebrated in many parts of Asia, including China, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. It’s a time to prepare and reflect on how we can wish each other and ourselves blessing, prosperity, health, security, and peace for the rest of the year,
Peter Van Do
Peter Van Do
Director of the Pan-Asian American Community House

This year marks the year of the water tiger, says Van Do, as one of the elements—wood, water, metal, fire, and earth—are also associated with the zodiac animal. This year will draw upon the embodiment of both the element and the animal, which is associated with ambition, bravery, courage, and strength, he says. 

The lion dance is believed to good luck throughout the community. “The lion dance wards off evil spirits and brings prosperity,” says Tiffany Lu, a junior from Hershey, Pennsylvania, studying fine arts in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Lu is one of the Penn Lions’ two dozen members. While she came into her freshman year as an experienced dancer in both Western and Eastern traditions, most learn lion dancing mainly through oral tradition, with upperclassmen teaching the newcomers. Only about one person per class has prior experience.

One of these was Zelan von Kaenel, a senior at Wharton specializing in finance and operations. Born to a Dutch father and Chinese and Costa Rican mother in Princeton, New Jersey, von Kaenel went to a Cantonese primary school, where the students were taught lion dancing basics. Reigniting this passion in college has been “one of my best decisions,” von Kaenel says. “The Lions has some of the friendliest and best community of people that I have met at Penn, and very diverse. If I wanted to know someone from a specific school, they are probably in Lions.”

Friendship bonds are consistently cited and praised within the Lions. “You come for the lion dancing; you stay for the community,” says Luke Bandeen, a senior from London. Far from a benign quality, this trust is essential as the two parts of the lion, the “tail” and “head,” work together as one. “The tail stabilizes the head while they do crane stands, wild kicks,” says Bandeen, who dances as a tail. He’s tall and robust—well over 6 feet—which comes in handy with the heavy lifting, called “stacking,” that is part of the tail’s role.

CELEBRATE THE YEAR OF THE TIGER

Penn Cooks—Lunar New Year: February 8th

The Penn Lions will put on 15-minute performances, starting at Hill House and progressing to Lauder College House, Kings Court English College House (KCEH), and 1920 Commons. KCEH will also feature guest speaker Hanh Nguyen, who teaches Vietnamese at the Penn Language Center.

Timeline:

5:30 p.m. —Hanh Nguyen will speak at KCEH
6 p.m. —Penn Lions at Hill House
6:30 p.m. —Penn Lions at Lauder
7 p.m. —Penn Lions at KCEH
7:30 p.m. —Penn Lions at 1920 Commons

The Lions try to train pairs of dancers together when possible, as seamless choreography adds power to the visual illusion of one animal, rather than a head and a tail powered by two people.


The middle pair of dancers practices a “stack,” with one dancer perched on top of another’s head. Both strength and coordination are essential to execute this move.


The group members sitting on the stage (and on Zoom) offer constructive criticism when the dance is over.


The Penn Lions train for Lunar New Year. This year’s choreography features a tussle between two lions.



Read more at Penn Today


Go to PAACH

Taking up Space: Furthering Queer Health Education on Campus

How Steven Chen is revolutionizing LGBTQ inclusivity at Penn and beyond with OurSpace.

Julia Thomas commissioned as an Ensign in US Navy

On December 17, 2021, the Penn community gathered at Houston Hall to celebrate the commissioning of Julia Thomas as an Ensign in the United States Navy. Ensign Thomas, originally from Hagerstown, MD, was this year’s sole Navy ROTC scholarship recipient with the rare fall graduation. During her 4.5 years at Penn, she earned both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a focus on Healthcare Management and Policy.

Known as midshipmen during their undergraduate years, NROTC students participate in drill and physical training, take Naval Science classes, and partake in leadership development curriculum.  

"Ensign Thomas was an exemplary leader during her time here at Penn. We are proud to call her a graduate of our program, and we're excited to see the outstanding contributions she'll make to our nation's military medical community."
Lieutenant Dan Westcott
Lieutenant Dan Westcott
NROTC Battalion and Senior Class Advisor

Ensign Thomas will be joining the Navy Nurse Corps at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA. She follows a long, rich history of leadership between University of Pennsylvania and the Navy, dating back to the founding of our nation. In 1798, President John Adams appointed Penn graduate Benjamin Stoddert to oversee the newly established Department of the Navy. Stoddert’s leadership and vision helped lay the groundwork for the extraordinary US Navy we possess today.

University of Pennsylvania’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program seeks to train the most technically and tactically proficient officers to serve in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Half of participants enter the program as freshmen with a full academic scholarship. Program participants are supported by Navy officers based at Penn and are commissioned upon graduation.


University of Pennsylvania’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps

NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021

Get Involved

Student Spotlight: Chris Raboy, Chief Executive Officer for Penn Student Agencies

During the Fall '22 semester, I met up with Chris Raboy, formerly the Marketing Director for Penn Student Agencies (PSA) and now currently serving as the  Chief Executive Officer. Apart from the funny bits about juicy tomato costumes and the debate over which cafe is best, our conversation was enlightening. I’m glad I was able to talk to him about, among other things, his time at PSA, a very interesting organization here at Penn that allows students to create and run their own businesses.  

As a nursing student, Chris has no background in marketing, networking, or website building. So how did he become the Marketing Director for PSA and eventually, the Chief Executive Officer? Chris applied for the Executive Director position of First Services, sadly he did not get the job. But luckily his supervisors saw something in him. They saw that he was passionate about the job and offered him the Marketing Director position for Penn Student Agencies during. This meant he had to learn how to market these businesses, how to build websites, and how to network. How did he manage this? Email. Chris asked for help, he emailed everyone he could, asked 100 questions, he experimented, and saw first-hand what worked and what didn't. By persevering Chris was not only able to do his job efficiently, he also learned a lot of skills he uses for his personal and professional goals. Additionally he was able to find mentors that would be instrumental in not only guiding him but PSA as a whole. Similarly, that perseverance allowed Chris to promote his own passions. Currently he has his own website and social media platforms in which he promotes fitness and wellness. As for PSA, he is currently working along with the team to establish continuity within the organization and develop new businesses.  

Chris is one of those people who you look up to, partly because he actually goes to the gym and can maintain that routine, but also because he is proof that one can achieve anything. The only condition is that one must not be afraid to try, to fail and to ask for help. As I’m writing this I am reminded of this popular phrase that says “El que tenga miedo a morir que no nazca”. It translates to “whoever is afraid of dying, don't start living”. It's mostly satirical, but there is a message behind it, if you're afraid of failure you will never succeed. That's why I implore anyone to take a page from Chris’ book. Try, send a thousand emails, and ask a million questions. Learn from your failures instead of letting them define you, and most importantly never give in to self-doubt.  

Introduce yourself:

My name is Chris Raboy. I'm a sophomore in the School of Nursing studying nursing and nutrition. I am currently working at Penn Student Agencies as the Chief Executive Officer, previously the Marketing Director, and I recently began working as a fellow at Venture Labs at a startup.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working out, and I am very interested in preventative medicine through nutrition and exercise. Additionally, I enjoy movies, specifically psychological thrillers, as well as dancing, going out with friends, and having a good time.

What's your favorite psychological thriller?

My favorites are usually those movies with a crazy last-minute twist like Shutter Island. Anything IMDB 7 or higher is usually pretty good.

I saw that you have a website, why did you choose to make one and what would you want other people to know about it?

Making a website actually came from my experience at PSA. PSA’s department recently transitioned everything to WordPress which meant that everything in regards to the websites had to be redesigned. My administrator at the time Kelly Hartman asked me to take a look and see what I could do with it. I started looking at it and realized that I was unfamiliar with a lot of things so I decided to educate myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked a lot of questions. I would try, mess up, and ask questions. It's funny because I’m known as the guy who sends a lot of emails and asks 100 questions, but I think that's the best way to learn. That process of trial and error taught me that website building is not as hard as I thought it would be. From that experience, I thought why don't I build my own website. I used everything I learned from PSA, kept asking questions, and over the summer I created my own website. That helped me build a skill set  that I could use not only for my website but for other things that could contribute to PSA.

What's your favorite video you've made on your social media?

My favorite video was when I challenged myself to do a 1,000 squats. Sometimes I feel like things get too monotonous so I try to switch it up. The challenges seem like a good idea at first but very quickly you realize that it's not as easy as you thought. However, no matter how hard it is, I always force myself to see it through.

What's your favorite workout? Any tips?

My favorite exercise is squats. It's such a functional exercise, a lot of people run and do a lot of leg exercises, but simple squats can make you very strong.

Finally, what was your Halloween costume this year?

This year I dressed as a juicy tomato. I ordered it on Amazon and it was great.

Penn Student Agencies

What are Penn Student Agencies? What do they do? What is their mission

Penn Student Agencies is a collection of student-run businesses on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. There were originally 10 businesses. Due to the pandemic we had to shut down, not entirely in terms of the businesses, but the university as a whole. As of recently, we have been absorbing some businesses together to centralize some processes and help establish continuity between each of the businesses. We are focusing on establishing continuity because some of the processes have been lost since a lot of people graduated and we want the processes to stay in place even if people graduate. Our mission is to teach transferable skills and business management to Penn students by providing hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities to make them competitive in the workplace environment. People who graduate from Penn that have worked in PSA get a jump start into business in the US or internationally. PSA is also good because we have a wide range of opportunities from retail, hospitality, and creative design.

Outside of on campus, we are also part of the Student Run Business Association which is an intercollegiate organization that hosts conferences to discuss different operations and provide networking opportunities for students.

Very recently you were promoted to Chief Executive Officer of PSA. Congratulations! Can you share what this promotion means to you and what your vision for PSA is headed into the Spring ’23?

As a Nursing and Nutrition student, PSA has proved to be a vital resource not only for my continued professional development but for my academic studies as well. I have not had any exposure to business prior to working as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). My time spent working over the summer and into the school year as CMO made me increasingly passionate about the program and providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities outside the classroom. I wanted to be an integral part of PSA’s future growth and development.

The promotion to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) allows me to be at the forefront of furthering PSA’s mission, vision, and growth while also increasing my knowledge to gain a comprehensive view of business and employee management skills.

As PSA heads into Spring 23’ I envision the expansion of our organization’s presence on/off campus for students, the local community, and alumni; the development of a community with on and off-campus networks ranging from clubs, departments, local businesses, and Student-Run Business Organizations; and a restoration of continuity that PSA has had in the past through an all-new management board training program.

Tell us about your role as Marketing Director before being promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

I served as the Marketing Director prior to starting my new role. I actually applied for the Executive Director of First Services position but I did not get the job. Instead, they offered me the Marketing Director position in the Spring '22 position since they liked some of my ideas and saw that I was passionate about the job.

As the Marketing Director, I was responsible for the entire marketing portfolio for PSA businesses. This means that I work in the marketing of each individual business, whether that means recruiting, inter-departmental relations, newsletters, events, list serves, I try to get PSA involved.

How would you describe your experience running the marketing for these businesses?

Very exciting. Over the summer with everything, with learning how to build the website, branding, meeting with people to talk about future plans for PSA, I learned a lot. I learned the psychology behind marketing, how to catch people's attention, and also how to market yourself. By doing this I’ve been able to get PSA out there.

What is your favorite part of working at PSA?

The people and the experience. My administrators and my program manager are amazing. I'm very grateful that they took a chance on me and for their unbelievable support. They helped me navigate this job and stay motivated to keep making PSA better. As for the experience, it's unmatched. I've learnt so much, marketing, communication skills, website building and so many other things. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Time management. I'm taking 5.5 credits so scheduling is very important in order to keep up with classes and my job. I feel like it makes me more efficient because if I know that's the only time I have available to get a particular thing done, I can focus solely on that task. Additionally, scheduling blocks of time for certain things helps me get organized and find more time to work, find fellowships and in general pursue more things.

Do you have a favorite business? If so, let's put your marketing to the test! In one minute, promote your favorite business. Tell Penn students why they should go to that business.

Williams Cafe: coffee, bagels, pastries. Best prices on campus, located in the language building 2nd floor. At Williams Cafe you may hear Penn Records who occasionally play on Fridays, and you can get a nice warm espresso.

A Renewed Vision for Penn Student Agencies

Penn Student Agencies thrived on continuity as one of the oldest student organizations at the University of Pennsylvania. Each graduating class passed the baton to the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives, and business-minded students.  

When the pandemic shuttered most of its student-run organizations into a virtual state, it disrupted the clockwork transfer of skills that kept PSA in business for 89 years. The handed-down experience of running a business and knowing the ins-and-outs from a financial, operational, and community perspective was all but lost. Without the training from students with experience, current PSA students missed the baton and were left putting puzzle pieces together from scratch. 

The expertise was retained by PSA alumni. Naturally, the first place they looked to revive the organization was with one of its own.  

Michael Paul Warren ‘20/‘21 took over as the Program Manager at Penn Student Agencies in September ‘22. The former PSA Executive Vice President of Operations 2018-2020, now titled PSA Chief Operating Officer, looks to reinvigorate PSA back to its pre-pandemic state and reimagine the organization to better meet the needs of Penn students.  

“The pandemic showed us the importance of resilience, both for organizations and individual student leaders. That resilience is what made Penn Student Agencies what they are now. We have a foundation to continue building from the pandemic.”  

At its heart, PSA is student-run. It is comprised of four organizational clusters: central corporate, creative services, dining and hospitality, and retail and delivery divisions. Within that, there are currently seven PSA enterprises, consisting of firstServices, Penn Student Design, Penn Lens, Special Deliveries, Penn Closet, Williams Café, and Benny’s Diner. It aims to teach transferable business skills to Penn students through hands-on experience outside of the classroom.  

As a student, Michael oversaw many of PSA’s human resource functions, organizational effectiveness, and the compliance policies and procedures of the businesses. He and fellow PSA director Jazzy Ortega ‘20 created a proposal to start a quick-service, all-day breakfast restaurant that became Benny’s Diner in Houston Hall.  

PSA changed the course of Warren’s career ambitions. He entered Penn as a pre-med student. When he joined PSA, he gained an appreciation for interpersonal relationships. He wanted to learn the dynamics of people working collectively in groups. The experience led him to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Law in Society from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“I really loved understanding process design and process optimization — how different policies, laws, and structures are set up based on how humans interact with each other. PSA led me down a career path more on the operations and instructional design side of things. In business, I’ve always enjoyed the ambiguity that came with the startup environment and entrepreneurship.”   

A PSA Homecoming

Warren graduated from Penn shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started. He moved to New York City to work in client services serving private equity firms, but quickly shifted back to the entrepreneurial space. Michael helped lead the build out of the global logistics team at a unicorn e-commerce startup based in New York that specialized in consumer goods. Launching in February 2022, he was one of the original team members, and oversaw global inventory movements and relationships on the end-to-end supply chain.  

Michael maintained his involvement to PSA as an advisor. He was appointed as co-president of the Student-Run Business Association in 2022 after serving as a Vice President and on the Board of Directors since 2019. He continued to cultivate different relationships at universities throughout the country.  

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Penn student Chris Raboy ‘25 was looking for advice on how PSA operated outside of a COVID context. Upon researching pre-pandemic PSA documents and websites, Raboy reached out to several alumni hoping to discover historical information that would improve his ability to reignite the program post-pandemic. He messaged Warren via LinkedIn, and the two stayed in touch after Raboy took over as the Chief Marketing Officer. When the full-time Program Manager position became available, Raboy immediately thought of Michael. The ideal candidate was someone familiar with PSA, who could create continuity, guide PSA post-pandemic, and help grow the program in an increasingly digital world.  

“From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency,” said Raboy, who is PSA’s Chief Executive Officer for 2023-24. “I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions. He gave insight into a ton of the strategies I ended up utilizing throughout the summer.” 

Warren's interests in operations and organizational dynamics enable him to expand upon a network of institutions and nonprofits that run similar programs. For example, the business proposal for Benny’s Diner was inspired by student-run food service ventures presented at the 2019 Student-Run Business Association conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“I'm bringing the knowledge of what it was like operating in a pre-pandemic world, the challenges that we faced when I was a student and the challenges that the students before me had encountered. I can share that knowledge and bridge the connections between young alumni and the current students.” 

The biggest hurdle for PSA students is navigating the people element of business and entrepreneurism. A lot of businesses that were “heavy on in-person interaction had to alter those interactions to be able to operate virtually or digitally.” As organizations become more focused on e-commerce, the student-run businesses need to understand how to keep their staff engaged and ensure positions are appropriately filled. 

PSA’s focus for the 2022-23 academic year and beyond is setting up that continuity between leadership, turnover, and new students joining the organization. Warren looks to recreate the consistency that allowed PSA to thrive and replicate a consistent experience on a yearly basis, allowing Penn students to build off what individuals accomplished before them.  

Michael and Christ sitting down and speaking to each other
Chris Raboy (left) and Michael Warren (right) discuss PSA strategy at Houston Hall.

From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency. I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions.

Chris Raboy
PSA’s Chief Executive Officer

Building A Bridge With Alumni

Warren has noticed a renewed interest in PSA alumni. He said that there is an extensive number of Penn graduates from multiple generations that want PSA to succeed and bounce back from the pandemic. One of Warren’s biggest pushes is to establish an alumni network. There is an “untapped potential” of interested and influential grads that can serve as a significant resource for PSA students. 

Because PSA is not tied to any undergraduate or graduate school, one of the advantages that it offers is a wide array of perspectives. Warren said that its leadership and general body consists of a substantial cross-section of different academic disciplines.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to showcase their mindset and how they approach thinking. A nursing student isn’t going to approach the problem the same way a Wharton or an engineering student would. Putting them together on the same team and having them brainstorm and navigate the ambiguity that is the startup environment allows them to come up with these creative and interesting solutions to problems.” 

A large part of learning for the students in PSA is supported through the introduction of frameworks that help distill large complex problems into more manageable concepts. 

“For many students this is the first time they are taking on considerable responsibility and decision making. Understanding the impact of those decisions can be difficult with limited experience – which brings us to a framework I use with the students – FORTS.  

“FORTS stands for financial impact, operational impact, reputational impact, team impact, and strategic impact. This framework helps student leaders understand what the implications of their decisions may or will have on various aspects of their business and help create a figurative mental fort around their decision making.” 

Heading into its 90th anniversary, PSA has always been financially self-sufficient, the money that they make goes back into the programs and students. First known as Self-Supporting Students, PSA began in 1933 as part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, an early model of what is now the Federal Work-Study Program. It started as three student-run businesses: Dorm Laundry Agency, Parking Squad, and Trunk Moving Squad. Under the name of Associated Student Agencies, it grew to more than 10 businesses in the 1950s, including Coat Checking at the Palestra, Railway Express, and a birthday cake shop. PSA students worked at Pennsylvania’s central control point to call in vote tallies during the 1964 presidential election. Adopting its current name in 1975, the organization has since adopted several ventures to its portfolio including apparel manufacturing, tourism guide publications, newspapers, and a bartending school.  

There have been a few success stories, such as Penn Closet, that have prevailed with continued interest in the student body after the organization’s founders graduated. Some alumni have gone out and become entrepreneurs on their own by starting competing businesses. It has created unique experiences for students to compete with one of their former colleagues.  

Its alumni have each gone off to their own different paths, whether it is med school, law school, or serial entrepreneurism. Warren said, “the nice thing about PSA is that you have students who join for different reasons and get different values from it." 

As a professional and an alumnus, Warren views his role as a coach and a mentor. Sticking to the organization’s for-students mantra, he offers students the freedom to conduct day-to-day operations, think through business decisions, and determine whether they made the correct choices. 

“PSA fosters that environment where you have the support, you have the resources, and it’s up to the students to decide how they use them. Providing them direction, giving them experience, allowing them to manage teams before even going out in the corporate world gives them a lot of different exposure and experience that they wouldn’t have had if they were simply taking a class.” 

Historically each graduating class in PSA is between 30-50 students each year. Currently, PSA retains a database of 600-plus alumni ranging from the class of 2022 all the way back to some as early as 1955. PSA is looking to grow this network! 

University Life Represented at ’22 AFA Conference

Jessica Ryan, Director for Leadership Community in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award at the '22 Association of Fraternity / Sorority Advisors Annual Conference.

The Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award was established in 2003 and re-named for Shelley Sutherland upon her retirement in 2011. The purpose is to annually recognize outstanding volunteer service by an association member in an official AFA volunteer role. The individual has devoted significant time and energy supporting association initiatives or efforts through their volunteer role. They are consistent and reliable, communicative, and committed to the values and mission of the association as demonstrated through their service.

Ryan shared her excitement about attending the conference and receiving the award; "What an amazing experience! Thank you to the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors for letting me chair the Educational Programs for the Annual Meeting Planning Team these last two years, and serve in volunteer roles with the association for the last decade. Truly a goal accomplished and amazing experience. Thankful to be recognized for volunteering with the association."

The Clothing Closet

A new partnership between Wellness at Penn and the LGBT Center offers a sustainable way for students, faculty, staff, and community members to recycle outfits and shop for new ones.

4th Class Midshipmen Leadership Lessons

4th Class Midshipmen and active duty staff from the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University Naval ROTC units took part in an overnight retreat to Outdoor Odyssey in western Pennsylvania.

Pathways to Purposeful Careers: The Unique Narratives of Penn’s Career Advisors 

As part of an ongoing effort to explore the people that make University Life a diverse community of educators and humans, I sat down with an ordained minister, a chicken expert, a geographer, an actor, and a podcaster.

The Penn Community Celebrates Campus Pride​

The University of Pennsylvania Recognized as one of Campus Pride’s 2022 “Best Of The Best” Colleges & Universities for LGBTQ+ Students

Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion and advocacy within higher education,  announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, naming the University of Pennsylvania to this year’s list of campuses creating a safe, welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff alike.

The announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the  Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.

Check out video messages from our campus colleagues celebrating the Center.


LGBT Center's website

The significance of Indigenous People’s Day

Two Penn students, Nyair Locklear, of the Tuscarora Nation and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and Ryly Ziese, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offer their points of view.

Student Spotlight: Melissa Echeverry, Master’s in Social Work Program, Graduate Teaching Fellow, and Graduate Resident Advisor in La Casa Hispanica

“According to what someone told me: They say the moon is always one, By the sea or by the mountains. So I yell to the villain, I would be Boricua Even if I was born on the moon.”

Reopening the ARCH building

A Sept. 7 event celebrated the building’s new incarnation as a centrally located space dedicated exclusively to cultural resource centers and affiliate groups.

Penn dedicates ARCH building to cultural centers after decades of student advocacy

After years of campaigning and student advocacy, Penn has begun renovations on the Arts, Research, and Culture House, designating it as the home to the University’s main minority coalition groups and cultural resource centers.

Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life Models Leadership and Inclusive Excellence

OFSL staff serve on national leadership positions for their alumni sororities

Reimagining Space, Place, & Belonging

In all of our spaces, we are making sure we consider the needs of our undergraduate and graduate students, both in terms of formal programmatic use and their needs for interaction and building relationships across identities.

Philadelphia Gayborhood with Malik Muhammad

In celebration of Pride Month, University Life took a trip to the Philadelphia Gayborhood with Malik Muhammad, Associate Director of the LGBT Center.

Sharon Smith, AVP for University Life Receives Penn Dental Honor

As part of Penn Dental Medicine’s commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022, the school recognized Sharon Smith, Associate Provost for University Life, with a special certificate of appreciation for her service to students. In her role at the University, Ms. Smith oversees a number of campus support programs and endeavors to holistically serve students navigating Penn. 

Presently a member of Penn Dental Medicine’s Committee for Cultural Growth, Ms. Smith supports Penn Dental Medicine students and the administration in wide-ranging areas, including assisting with issues such as personal and academic emergencies, food insecurity, provision of urgent medical care, and providing assistance to the school’s international students.

Ms. Smith came to Penn in 1987, serving in various leadership positions throughout campus, including the Penn College Achievement Program, New Student Orientation, and Open Expression.  She was instrumental in helping to create the mission and framework of the Student Intervention Services Office (SIS), which leads Penn’s response to emergencies and critical incidents involving students.

“For over 20 years, Sharon has been a dedicated and passionate supporter of Penn Dental Medicine students,” said Uri Hangorsky, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. “She has selflessly made herself available to work with us not only during regular working hours, but also during nights, weekends, and major holidays. She embodies the very best humanity has to offer—wisdom, compassion, integrity, and dedication.”

Embracing Intersectionality: Sean Massa

Before Sean Massa (C’15) could apprehend the intercultural understanding needed to launch a career in foreign diplomacy, he first had to discover his own individual identity.

Projection and Pursuit: A Two-Fold Meaning of Longing

University Life shares the wisdom of Sam Strickberger, ’22 Class Board President and speaker at this year’s Commencement Baccalaureate Ceremony. Sam’s speech, Projection and Pursuit: A Two-Fold Meaning of Longing, is an inspiring reflection on pursuing your passion.

Leadership from the Lens of a Former Lawyer

Forty years ago, Tamara Greenfield King, J.D. would have never imagined herself working in higher education, let alone in a senior leadership role on a college campus.

Triple S Show Student Spotlight

Today’s spotlight features Zaria Franklin, a senior in the College who has been actively involved with Greek Life at Penn. Zaria has been part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority since 2019, surrounded by like-minded women with a purpose to serve their communities and build lifelong bonds along the way.

Houston Hall to be revamped into ‘hub for students’ by Vice Provost for University Life

Houston Hall, the oldest student union in the nation, will undergo a renovations process to become a central hub of student life on campus, according to Penn’s Division of the Vice Provost for University Life.

Students have expressed for years that Houston Hall felt like "more of a dining area and study space than a hub of student activity." This project, while still in early stages, hopes to address that sentiment, according to project leads Saleem Curry and Laurie Hall from University Life, who said they shared that the primary aim is to transform Houston Hall into a more inclusive, welcoming, and inviting space for students by restoring its status as a focal point of student life on Penn's campus.

Before 2017, Houston Hall operated on a conference center model and was self-funded, according to Hall, the assistant vice provost for strategic planning and operations. She added that Interim President Wendell Pritchett has worked to dismantle that model to create a student hub during his tenure as provost.

Houston Hall
“There was a very deliberate mandate from Provost Pritchett to return Houston Hall to its mission of being a student center. Penn was the first university in the country to put capital funds — meaningful contributions — into the student leisure experience.”
Laurie Hall outside on campus copy
Laurie Hall
Assistant Vice Provost for Strategic Planning and Operations

Curry, director of University Life Space and Events Management, said that although this project is rather abstract, he and Hall hope to involve students in the process as much as possible. He added that Pritchett’s idea to transform Houston Hall into a student-focused center came from students in the first place.

“What we [are] looking to do very shortly is to have a University Life space steering committee that is made up of students,” Hall said. She added that this committee would serve as a connection between all the different needs of the students. 

Curry said that he hopes Houston Hall can “situate itself as a centralizing point” on campus and be a center for all types of campus involvement. In the future, Curry said he hopes that Houston Hall can host events on the weekends for students. 

Students expressed that although there is nothing wrong with the current state of Houston Hall, there is a possibility for improvement into a more robust hub of student life.

College first year Sarah Garrison, who works as a Welcome Ambassador at Houston Hall, said she is excited about the potential of this project to welcome and bring together students on campus.

“In my personal experience, I have seen Houston Hall trying to implement some of these changes, and I think that it’s absolutely great. It would be nice to have [Houston Hall] to be a hub for students,” Garrison said.

Garrison noted that some students may feel cut off from Houston Hall when it is being used by specific clubs or for planned events. 

College first year Julia Rotgin performed in the One Acts Festival hosted by the Theatre Arts Council in Houston Hall earlier this semester. Even so, she said that she does not have a reason to spend time in Houston Hall, and rarely frequents the space.

Students playing table hockey

“Outside of that experience, I have not spent that much time in Houston Hall,” Rotgin said. “I haven’t been involved in anything else that used that space.” 

While Rotgin frequents Houston Market, Penn’s food market located on the lower level, she said she does not frequent any other part of Houston Hall. 

“We have the space. We should definitely take advantage of it,” Rotgin said. 


Read more at the DP


Visit Houston Hall

The problem solvers

SIS identifies and meets student’s most urgent needs. When a pattern emerges, like when students go from bringing a pen and notebook to class to taking notes on personal laptops, SIS works to formalize partnerships with other offices to anticipate the shift

Student Spotlight: Harley Haas

Hi everyone! My name is Isha Reddy, and I’m a freshman at Wharton, and a Strategic Planning and Communications intern here at Penn University Life. Working for University Life, I get the unique opportunity to highlight some of the amazing cultural and student life events at Penn, as well as feature the exceptional students behind them through our Student Spotlight series. 

 

Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Harley Haas, a sophomore in the College, and a member of the Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Club (ASAP) at Penn. Nearing 2 years with the club, Harley is currently ASAP’s Internal Chair, and has been working tirelessly with the ASAP team to organize the first in-person Take Back the Night (TBTN) event at Penn since 2019. 

Students march at rally for Take Back the Night
Students march at rally for Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night is an international campaign to combat sexual violence in all forms and foster collective awareness around consent and sexual misconduct. At Penn, ASAP, along with Penn Violence Prevention (PVP) and Penn Women’s Center (PWC), strives to continue the conversation about the need for consent education and share important information about resources that can help support survivors. The event typically includes a poster-making session, a rally on College Green, a march around campus, and a survivor speak-out. This year, due to unfortunate weather conditions, Take Back the Night was held in the Graduate School of Education Tent, and could not include a march around campus, though the rally and survivor vigil were successfully held.

Take Back the Night creates a safe and supportive environment for survivors of sexual misconduct to share their experiences surrounded by their community, as well as for student allies to learn about how to support survivors, access vital resources, and advocate for change. This year, the rally and vigil took place on Thursday, April 7th, 2022, between 5 and 9 PM. 

Students creating signs for the TBTN march at the poster-making session on April 6th 2022.
Students creating signs for the TBTN march at the poster-making session on April 6th 2022.

Through ASAP, Harley has seen firsthand the positive impact that Take Back the Night can have on others who have had similar experiences. As she emphasized, “Everyone is welcome at the event, and we hope that this night sparks the conversation about the change that needs to happen on campus.” She and ASAP believe that there is always more Penn can do in terms of supporting survivors, raising awareness about consent, and encouraging victims to speak out. 

As Internal Chair, Harley helps direct ASAP’s website, through which she aims to promote the club’s message, help students access the resources they need, and educate others about the problem and the ways in which they can get involved. Rape culture and sexual misconduct are undoubtedly still extremely prevalent issues in today’s time, and it is vital that we, as students and members of this community, raise our voices and make ourselves seen and heard. It is only through collective action that we can truly make any difference. 

Students march at rally for Take Back the Night
Students march at rally for Take Back the Night

Although I myself am fortunate enough to have never been exposed to any form of abuse, I am inspired by Harley, and many others like her, who have found strength in their experience and grown from it. Learning about her work with ASAP and TBTN has really opened my eyes to the gravity of the issue, and the power we each hold. As a young female, and an international student, I am no stranger to worried texts from my mother about my whereabouts, warnings about walking alone late at night without pepper spray, or numerous “… started sharing their location with you” notifications. Events like TBTN exist so that hopefully and eventually some of these things we’ve grown so accustomed to might not be the norm anymore. Whether you are a survivor or a supporter, there are so many ways you can get involved. From attending the rally and speaking at the vigil, to simply posting on social media or volunteering at the event, the smallest of actions can have the biggest of impacts, for your peers and for your future.

Until next time,

Isha Reddy


Penn Women's Center


Penn Violence Prevention

Student Spotlight: Xandro Xu

If you don't already know, I am Carola Agostini, a freshman here at the University of Pennsylvania. My goal, with the help of University Life, is to show the real college experience at Penn and to showcase the bright students that make this place so special. Recently, I interviewed Aditi Singh, a bright young woman who overcame very difficult circumstances and found herself after getting lost. If you are interested in reading Aditi’s story you can check it out here.

Fast forward a few weeks later, I interviewed yet another bright young student named Xandro Xu. Midterm week was particularly difficult for Penn students, especially those in the Psychology department. As I took brief breaks between studying, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a poster for events happening in the incoming week. The list was titled QPenn week. Interestingly enough, I was coordinating an interview with Xandro Xu to discuss the planning of this event, but since I was focused on my midterm, I had scheduled it for the following week. It was Wednesday, March 23. I just took my midterm, and I revised the event list for QPenn to see if I could report on a specific event for the interview. Then I saw there was an ice skating event that very night. An idea brewed in my head, "What if I interview Xandro at the ice rink?"

To be completely honest, I thought he would decline my proposal because it was so last minute. Little did I know that two minutes later, he responded to my email by saying yes to the interview.

I was shocked, to say the least, but also very excited. At night, I went to the ice rink and had the pleasure of interviewing Xandro Xu.

Xandro Xu is a Chinese freshman here at Penn. He works with the LGBT Center, and he is a Vice Chair of Education at Lambda Alliance, an umbrella organization of the LGBTQ+ affinity groups for queer students. In that role, he is tasked with the great responsibility of organizing QPenn, a week of events, to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community presence on campus. When speaking to him at this event, I could tell just how passionate he was about representing and fighting for this community. I could also tell just how important this event was for him and his team. They were all very welcoming, and I could tell how much effort they put into making QPenn a success.

Xandro and I come from very different backgrounds, but I found I could relate to a lot of what he was saying. I think a lot of people would benefit from learning from Xandro mainly because he is unapologetic about his background. Despite feeling difficult to express himself and his sexual identity, he was able to not only come to terms with who he is, but be proud of it. That, to me, is not only honorable but brave. We also had a meaningful conversation on the concept of trust. I'm sure we are not the only ones who have experienced this, but trust can be a very tricky thing. Our families encouraged us to not trust anyone for a variety of reasons. Particularly, as a student from an underrepresented community, it can be very daunting to let your guard down in the face of uncertainty or intolerance; however, during our talk, we both agreed it is necessary. As humans, we need to be able to trust, to have friendships and to love, because that's something we deserve. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy because we are not machines meant to be perfect, unemotional, and merely productive — we are human.

Another thing that I noted whilst talking to Xandro was how he valued spontaneous outings with his friends as the best times he's had on campus. He very much reminded me of all the memories I made since coming here: the multiple adventures and laughs made on a whim. That is what the Penn experience is and should be. Penn is hard, don't get us wrong. We are not saying you shouldn't study, but the Penn experience should be more than that. Your time at Penn should be about growth and connection. Moreover, what makes Penn special is not the academics or the aesthetics, it's the people. It's the people, as Xandro says, who go on spontaneous strolls down Locust Walk or make you laugh after a long day. It's especially those people who support you unconditionally. Thus, like Xandro suggests, there is nothing wrong in giving up one or two hours of studying to have a fun time. Who knows what could happen. Maybe you meet your soulmate. Maybe you'll have a night that you'll remember for the rest of your life. What you should learn from Xandro is to be open-minded and open to the possibilities, be unapologetically yourself, and fight for the things you believe in. That is what the Penn experience is all about.

Before I sign off, I want to extend my gratitude to Xandro Xu for this interview and welcoming me to this event with open arms. I can report the event was extremely fun, even for an island girl that can't skate. I also strongly recommend that everyone look forward to and attend next year's QPenn as a way to support and uplift the LGBTQ+ community in our campus.

Until next time,

Carola Agostini

The Interview

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, how did you come to join the center, and what do you enjoy most about being part of the community?
    1. First thing about me is that I'm Chinese. Growing up in a very small town with little diversity, I found that being myself in terms of my sexual identity was a bit hard initially. It was hard because, in most cases, immigrant parents are intolerant to such matters in regards to the LGBTQ + community. Initially, my parents were not very happy with me coming out as gay. However, I'm very lucky that I have such loving parents that really thought it through and said “this is my son and I love him exactly for who he is”. I'm really glad I have such a supportive family. Regarding the LGBTQ+ community at Penn, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of right away. In high school, I didn't really have the chance to advocate for this community as much as I wanted to due to the fact that my school was very homogeneous. So I was very happy that I could do that at Penn, and it was something I knew I wanted to do.
  1. What work do you do with the LGBT center?
    1. I am a program assistant in the LGBTQ+ center, basically, it's a front desk job where I help people find their way and use our resources. I also work by providing confidential and unconditional support to students that come to us for help. I also help with a collective to promote minorities through works of art.

  1. What is QPenn? What is the purpose of this event?
    1. QPenn is a week designed to really celebrate, uplift, and amplify the LGBTQ+ community on campus. It is a week to show the presence of the community on campus, to say, "this is who we are and here we are." QPenn is the week to bring underrepresented minorities to light.
  1. Why did you choose to organize the event this year? What was your goal for this year's QPenn?
    1. When I first came to Penn, I was very interested in joining the Lambda Alliance, which is an umbrella organization of different LGBTQ+ affinity groups on campus. I participated in a pre-orientation called pinnacle and one of the group leaders was an officer for Lambda Alliance, which motivated me even more to join. Thus, I joined Lambda Alliance and during the fall semester, I ran for the board position of vice chair of education. Historically, this position is responsible for organizing QPenn so that is how I fell into the role.

      As for the planning of the event itself. It was great. However, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding whether it would be possible due to the COVID-19 restrictions at the time. We didn't start planning it until February, at which time we were certain the event could be held. Obviously, with such a huge event, we would've loved to start planning sooner, but the circumstances did not allow for it. What made this event possible was the teamwork. We delegated tasks to each other, and we were able to work together to pull this off, for which I am immensely grateful. It was really important to us that this event was held because it is the first QPenn in three years. Our goal was to bring QPenn back and to hold it in person, even if it wasn't as big as it was in previous years. We wanted people to know that this is a week and that it's an event everyone should look forward to. I also want to mention that as a freshman, I feel like I learned a lot not only about planning but about the older folks in the community. Getting to know them while planning the event helped me understand how things work behind the scenes and I'm really grateful for that opportunity.

  1. How was it planning this event? What were your main takeaways and what do you hope students learned or obtained from QPenn?
    1. Planning this event was hectic, but also very fun. Again, I think the main reason why this event worked was for the team behind it. It was really heartwarming to meet so many people willing to collaborate to make this event a reality and also to see such initiative from them. Something that I learned from this experience is that planning should've been done a little earlier, but due to the circumstances it was obviously not the ideal situation.
  1. Which was your favorite event from QPenn?
    1. I really liked the opening event; we had people perform and speak, it was a great vibe to kick off the week. We had a great turnout. Apart from that, I also liked today's event because it seems like a grand gesture. We decorated the whole ring and we even have an inflatable in the back. I love ice skating, so I think this is a fun gesture for the community and it's one of the events I've liked most so far.
  1. What is your fondest memory from your time with the LGBT Center?
    1. I'm not very good at remembering things, but I would have to say my fondest memory is the staff meetings. This is where the staff, the director and the assistant director come together to talk. I like the sense of community and talking to people, so that is what I cherish the most.
  1. What is the best piece of advice or the most valuable lesson you have learned while working with the LGBT Center?
    1. I would say be really open-minded, empathetic and understanding. This is because you never know what someone is going through and as workers in the center, our job is to help people. If we were to assume things, we would have a very skewed view of situations. So definitely a valuable lesson is to approach things with an open mind.
  1. What advice would you give future planners to make QPenn even better? Any ideas?
    1. Something that I did that really helped with the planning was the delegation of certain roles. Initially, I was stressed about QPenn because I thought I would have to plan this whole event by myself. But again, building a community and a group of peers that are there to support you is really important. This not only allows for a creative flow of ideas but also builds that sense of community that QPenn really is all about. Just really seek out help because it's an event that can’t be done by one person. Another tip I would give to future planners is to seek out the community, allow for other cultural resource centers to help and spread the word. Finally, I would just suggest you give yourself ample time to plan QPenn.
Student Spotlight: Aditi Singh

Aditi started working as a tutor during her freshman year. She focused on math and science because she describes herself as a “STEM nerd.”

A charter bus to Chinatown

Launched in 2021 by a student-led initiative, the biweekly bus service connects students with local businesses in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Change of Plan

During the pandemic, Oliver Kaplan transferred to Penn looking for a fresh start. A philosophy class altered his academic focus; he now hopes to shape educational policy for LGBTQ+ students.

Oliver Kaplan knew he had to make a change when, two months after his freshman year on a rural college campus, he was outed. Kaplan, who describes himself as “very closeted” until that point, had recently attended a discussion on LGBT rights, and his roommate started telling, first friends, then Kaplan’s parents, that Kaplan was gay.

“At that point, I thought, Well, do I try to correct people? Because I don’t know if I’m ready to be out, but if I correct people, then people are just going to assume I’m straight, and I’ll have to be closeted for the rest of my time here,” he says.

First, he met with the office of residential life, trying to get his roommate transferred to a different room. But since outing wasn’t a violation of any written rule, they “kind of threw their hands up and said, ‘Well, it’s not in our handbook.’”

Outing is a unique situation, Kaplan says. “If you’re not gay, you don’t understand how important that information is.” People try to equate outing to racial identity, and it’s not the same, says Kaplan, whose mother is Chinese and father is Jewish. “If someone were to say, ‘What if I tell other people that you’re Asian? What does that matter?’ Well, first of all, race and sexuality are not the same; you can tell my race from my face, but you can’t discern my sexuality,” he says.

Coming out, first to friends, then family, was a seven-month process that took place during the pandemic. At that point, Kaplan had become determined to transfer schools and had an interest in Penn. Kaplan contacted Erin Cross, director of the LGBT Center, who connected him with a Penn student who later became a mentor.

“Being outed is having other people share something about you that is so private and personal that, when it happens, it goes straight to your core,” says Cross. “It’s a complete lack of respect for someone’s humanity and agency. Someone’s sexual orientation is only for them to share if they want to,” she says.

Penn is consistently ranked as one of the top schools for LGBTQ+ support, says Cross. The LGBT Center is the second oldest of its kind in the country, she says, “so we’ve had a history to build up community, sub-communities, academic ties, and links across the University.” As a response to homophobic campus incidents, Penn included sexual orientation in the University’s non-discrimination clause during the early 1980s. “We were at the forefront,” Cross says. “Penn and the city of Philadelphia have worked hard to make sure LGBTQ+ folks feel as safe as they possibly can, but there’s always more to do.”

Oliver Kaplan in a blue jacket standing outside on Penn's campus

Read more at Penn today

Winter solace

From the Class of 1923 arena to La Casa Latina, four students speak to what motivates them through the season.

Penn Lions in the Year of the Tiger

Dripping rain falls through barren branches along Locust Walk late on a Thursday night. Students hurry past, unwilling to linger in the unhospitable February weather. But the ARCH building glows golden. Drumbeats reverberate through the structure. Four solemn thumps announce the interplay between two fighting lions engaged in a tug of war. The ornate animals, enhanced with vibrant red, bright gold, and ruffles of sparkling sequin fabric trimmed in faux fur, are tussling over a head of romaine, the lettuce symbolic of wealth. These are the Penn Lions, an undergraduate group that spreads good luck and blessings through the traditional Chinese lion dance, and they are practicing for the Lunar New Year, a reminder of rebirth and new beginnings to come after the cold rain.

The Lions, who have two practices per week during the academic year, are training for Feb. 8 performances in collaboration with Penn Dining, which is featuring a Lunar New Year menu with recipes from Fuchsia DunlopAndrea Nguyen, and David Chang.

Traditionally spent with family, Lunar New Year is a time to root ourselves within all of our connections. The multi-week holiday is celebrated in many parts of Asia, including China, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. It’s a time to prepare and reflect on how we can wish each other and ourselves blessing, prosperity, health, security, and peace for the rest of the year,
Peter Van Do
Peter Van Do
Director of the Pan-Asian American Community House

This year marks the year of the water tiger, says Van Do, as one of the elements—wood, water, metal, fire, and earth—are also associated with the zodiac animal. This year will draw upon the embodiment of both the element and the animal, which is associated with ambition, bravery, courage, and strength, he says. 

The lion dance is believed to good luck throughout the community. “The lion dance wards off evil spirits and brings prosperity,” says Tiffany Lu, a junior from Hershey, Pennsylvania, studying fine arts in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Lu is one of the Penn Lions’ two dozen members. While she came into her freshman year as an experienced dancer in both Western and Eastern traditions, most learn lion dancing mainly through oral tradition, with upperclassmen teaching the newcomers. Only about one person per class has prior experience.

One of these was Zelan von Kaenel, a senior at Wharton specializing in finance and operations. Born to a Dutch father and Chinese and Costa Rican mother in Princeton, New Jersey, von Kaenel went to a Cantonese primary school, where the students were taught lion dancing basics. Reigniting this passion in college has been “one of my best decisions,” von Kaenel says. “The Lions has some of the friendliest and best community of people that I have met at Penn, and very diverse. If I wanted to know someone from a specific school, they are probably in Lions.”

Friendship bonds are consistently cited and praised within the Lions. “You come for the lion dancing; you stay for the community,” says Luke Bandeen, a senior from London. Far from a benign quality, this trust is essential as the two parts of the lion, the “tail” and “head,” work together as one. “The tail stabilizes the head while they do crane stands, wild kicks,” says Bandeen, who dances as a tail. He’s tall and robust—well over 6 feet—which comes in handy with the heavy lifting, called “stacking,” that is part of the tail’s role.

CELEBRATE THE YEAR OF THE TIGER

Penn Cooks—Lunar New Year: February 8th

The Penn Lions will put on 15-minute performances, starting at Hill House and progressing to Lauder College House, Kings Court English College House (KCEH), and 1920 Commons. KCEH will also feature guest speaker Hanh Nguyen, who teaches Vietnamese at the Penn Language Center.

Timeline:

5:30 p.m. —Hanh Nguyen will speak at KCEH
6 p.m. —Penn Lions at Hill House
6:30 p.m. —Penn Lions at Lauder
7 p.m. —Penn Lions at KCEH
7:30 p.m. —Penn Lions at 1920 Commons

The Lions try to train pairs of dancers together when possible, as seamless choreography adds power to the visual illusion of one animal, rather than a head and a tail powered by two people.


The middle pair of dancers practices a “stack,” with one dancer perched on top of another’s head. Both strength and coordination are essential to execute this move.


The group members sitting on the stage (and on Zoom) offer constructive criticism when the dance is over.


The Penn Lions train for Lunar New Year. This year’s choreography features a tussle between two lions.



Read more at Penn Today


Go to PAACH

Taking up Space: Furthering Queer Health Education on Campus

How Steven Chen is revolutionizing LGBTQ inclusivity at Penn and beyond with OurSpace.

Julia Thomas commissioned as an Ensign in US Navy

On December 17, 2021, the Penn community gathered at Houston Hall to celebrate the commissioning of Julia Thomas as an Ensign in the United States Navy. Ensign Thomas, originally from Hagerstown, MD, was this year’s sole Navy ROTC scholarship recipient with the rare fall graduation. During her 4.5 years at Penn, she earned both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a focus on Healthcare Management and Policy.

Known as midshipmen during their undergraduate years, NROTC students participate in drill and physical training, take Naval Science classes, and partake in leadership development curriculum.  

"Ensign Thomas was an exemplary leader during her time here at Penn. We are proud to call her a graduate of our program, and we're excited to see the outstanding contributions she'll make to our nation's military medical community."
Lieutenant Dan Westcott
Lieutenant Dan Westcott
NROTC Battalion and Senior Class Advisor

Ensign Thomas will be joining the Navy Nurse Corps at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA. She follows a long, rich history of leadership between University of Pennsylvania and the Navy, dating back to the founding of our nation. In 1798, President John Adams appointed Penn graduate Benjamin Stoddert to oversee the newly established Department of the Navy. Stoddert’s leadership and vision helped lay the groundwork for the extraordinary US Navy we possess today.

University of Pennsylvania’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program seeks to train the most technically and tactically proficient officers to serve in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Half of participants enter the program as freshmen with a full academic scholarship. Program participants are supported by Navy officers based at Penn and are commissioned upon graduation.


University of Pennsylvania’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps

NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021

Resources by Class

Student Spotlight: Chris Raboy, Chief Executive Officer for Penn Student Agencies

During the Fall '22 semester, I met up with Chris Raboy, formerly the Marketing Director for Penn Student Agencies (PSA) and now currently serving as the  Chief Executive Officer. Apart from the funny bits about juicy tomato costumes and the debate over which cafe is best, our conversation was enlightening. I’m glad I was able to talk to him about, among other things, his time at PSA, a very interesting organization here at Penn that allows students to create and run their own businesses.  

As a nursing student, Chris has no background in marketing, networking, or website building. So how did he become the Marketing Director for PSA and eventually, the Chief Executive Officer? Chris applied for the Executive Director position of First Services, sadly he did not get the job. But luckily his supervisors saw something in him. They saw that he was passionate about the job and offered him the Marketing Director position for Penn Student Agencies during. This meant he had to learn how to market these businesses, how to build websites, and how to network. How did he manage this? Email. Chris asked for help, he emailed everyone he could, asked 100 questions, he experimented, and saw first-hand what worked and what didn't. By persevering Chris was not only able to do his job efficiently, he also learned a lot of skills he uses for his personal and professional goals. Additionally he was able to find mentors that would be instrumental in not only guiding him but PSA as a whole. Similarly, that perseverance allowed Chris to promote his own passions. Currently he has his own website and social media platforms in which he promotes fitness and wellness. As for PSA, he is currently working along with the team to establish continuity within the organization and develop new businesses.  

Chris is one of those people who you look up to, partly because he actually goes to the gym and can maintain that routine, but also because he is proof that one can achieve anything. The only condition is that one must not be afraid to try, to fail and to ask for help. As I’m writing this I am reminded of this popular phrase that says “El que tenga miedo a morir que no nazca”. It translates to “whoever is afraid of dying, don't start living”. It's mostly satirical, but there is a message behind it, if you're afraid of failure you will never succeed. That's why I implore anyone to take a page from Chris’ book. Try, send a thousand emails, and ask a million questions. Learn from your failures instead of letting them define you, and most importantly never give in to self-doubt.  

Introduce yourself:

My name is Chris Raboy. I'm a sophomore in the School of Nursing studying nursing and nutrition. I am currently working at Penn Student Agencies as the Chief Executive Officer, previously the Marketing Director, and I recently began working as a fellow at Venture Labs at a startup.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working out, and I am very interested in preventative medicine through nutrition and exercise. Additionally, I enjoy movies, specifically psychological thrillers, as well as dancing, going out with friends, and having a good time.

What's your favorite psychological thriller?

My favorites are usually those movies with a crazy last-minute twist like Shutter Island. Anything IMDB 7 or higher is usually pretty good.

I saw that you have a website, why did you choose to make one and what would you want other people to know about it?

Making a website actually came from my experience at PSA. PSA’s department recently transitioned everything to WordPress which meant that everything in regards to the websites had to be redesigned. My administrator at the time Kelly Hartman asked me to take a look and see what I could do with it. I started looking at it and realized that I was unfamiliar with a lot of things so I decided to educate myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked a lot of questions. I would try, mess up, and ask questions. It's funny because I’m known as the guy who sends a lot of emails and asks 100 questions, but I think that's the best way to learn. That process of trial and error taught me that website building is not as hard as I thought it would be. From that experience, I thought why don't I build my own website. I used everything I learned from PSA, kept asking questions, and over the summer I created my own website. That helped me build a skill set  that I could use not only for my website but for other things that could contribute to PSA.

What's your favorite video you've made on your social media?

My favorite video was when I challenged myself to do a 1,000 squats. Sometimes I feel like things get too monotonous so I try to switch it up. The challenges seem like a good idea at first but very quickly you realize that it's not as easy as you thought. However, no matter how hard it is, I always force myself to see it through.

What's your favorite workout? Any tips?

My favorite exercise is squats. It's such a functional exercise, a lot of people run and do a lot of leg exercises, but simple squats can make you very strong.

Finally, what was your Halloween costume this year?

This year I dressed as a juicy tomato. I ordered it on Amazon and it was great.

Penn Student Agencies

What are Penn Student Agencies? What do they do? What is their mission

Penn Student Agencies is a collection of student-run businesses on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. There were originally 10 businesses. Due to the pandemic we had to shut down, not entirely in terms of the businesses, but the university as a whole. As of recently, we have been absorbing some businesses together to centralize some processes and help establish continuity between each of the businesses. We are focusing on establishing continuity because some of the processes have been lost since a lot of people graduated and we want the processes to stay in place even if people graduate. Our mission is to teach transferable skills and business management to Penn students by providing hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities to make them competitive in the workplace environment. People who graduate from Penn that have worked in PSA get a jump start into business in the US or internationally. PSA is also good because we have a wide range of opportunities from retail, hospitality, and creative design.

Outside of on campus, we are also part of the Student Run Business Association which is an intercollegiate organization that hosts conferences to discuss different operations and provide networking opportunities for students.

Very recently you were promoted to Chief Executive Officer of PSA. Congratulations! Can you share what this promotion means to you and what your vision for PSA is headed into the Spring ’23?

As a Nursing and Nutrition student, PSA has proved to be a vital resource not only for my continued professional development but for my academic studies as well. I have not had any exposure to business prior to working as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). My time spent working over the summer and into the school year as CMO made me increasingly passionate about the program and providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities outside the classroom. I wanted to be an integral part of PSA’s future growth and development.

The promotion to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) allows me to be at the forefront of furthering PSA’s mission, vision, and growth while also increasing my knowledge to gain a comprehensive view of business and employee management skills.

As PSA heads into Spring 23’ I envision the expansion of our organization’s presence on/off campus for students, the local community, and alumni; the development of a community with on and off-campus networks ranging from clubs, departments, local businesses, and Student-Run Business Organizations; and a restoration of continuity that PSA has had in the past through an all-new management board training program.

Tell us about your role as Marketing Director before being promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

I served as the Marketing Director prior to starting my new role. I actually applied for the Executive Director of First Services position but I did not get the job. Instead, they offered me the Marketing Director position in the Spring '22 position since they liked some of my ideas and saw that I was passionate about the job.

As the Marketing Director, I was responsible for the entire marketing portfolio for PSA businesses. This means that I work in the marketing of each individual business, whether that means recruiting, inter-departmental relations, newsletters, events, list serves, I try to get PSA involved.

How would you describe your experience running the marketing for these businesses?

Very exciting. Over the summer with everything, with learning how to build the website, branding, meeting with people to talk about future plans for PSA, I learned a lot. I learned the psychology behind marketing, how to catch people's attention, and also how to market yourself. By doing this I’ve been able to get PSA out there.

What is your favorite part of working at PSA?

The people and the experience. My administrators and my program manager are amazing. I'm very grateful that they took a chance on me and for their unbelievable support. They helped me navigate this job and stay motivated to keep making PSA better. As for the experience, it's unmatched. I've learnt so much, marketing, communication skills, website building and so many other things. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Time management. I'm taking 5.5 credits so scheduling is very important in order to keep up with classes and my job. I feel like it makes me more efficient because if I know that's the only time I have available to get a particular thing done, I can focus solely on that task. Additionally, scheduling blocks of time for certain things helps me get organized and find more time to work, find fellowships and in general pursue more things.

Do you have a favorite business? If so, let's put your marketing to the test! In one minute, promote your favorite business. Tell Penn students why they should go to that business.

Williams Cafe: coffee, bagels, pastries. Best prices on campus, located in the language building 2nd floor. At Williams Cafe you may hear Penn Records who occasionally play on Fridays, and you can get a nice warm espresso.

A Renewed Vision for Penn Student Agencies

Penn Student Agencies thrived on continuity as one of the oldest student organizations at the University of Pennsylvania. Each graduating class passed the baton to the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives, and business-minded students.  

When the pandemic shuttered most of its student-run organizations into a virtual state, it disrupted the clockwork transfer of skills that kept PSA in business for 89 years. The handed-down experience of running a business and knowing the ins-and-outs from a financial, operational, and community perspective was all but lost. Without the training from students with experience, current PSA students missed the baton and were left putting puzzle pieces together from scratch. 

The expertise was retained by PSA alumni. Naturally, the first place they looked to revive the organization was with one of its own.  

Michael Paul Warren ‘20/‘21 took over as the Program Manager at Penn Student Agencies in September ‘22. The former PSA Executive Vice President of Operations 2018-2020, now titled PSA Chief Operating Officer, looks to reinvigorate PSA back to its pre-pandemic state and reimagine the organization to better meet the needs of Penn students.  

“The pandemic showed us the importance of resilience, both for organizations and individual student leaders. That resilience is what made Penn Student Agencies what they are now. We have a foundation to continue building from the pandemic.”  

At its heart, PSA is student-run. It is comprised of four organizational clusters: central corporate, creative services, dining and hospitality, and retail and delivery divisions. Within that, there are currently seven PSA enterprises, consisting of firstServices, Penn Student Design, Penn Lens, Special Deliveries, Penn Closet, Williams Café, and Benny’s Diner. It aims to teach transferable business skills to Penn students through hands-on experience outside of the classroom.  

As a student, Michael oversaw many of PSA’s human resource functions, organizational effectiveness, and the compliance policies and procedures of the businesses. He and fellow PSA director Jazzy Ortega ‘20 created a proposal to start a quick-service, all-day breakfast restaurant that became Benny’s Diner in Houston Hall.  

PSA changed the course of Warren’s career ambitions. He entered Penn as a pre-med student. When he joined PSA, he gained an appreciation for interpersonal relationships. He wanted to learn the dynamics of people working collectively in groups. The experience led him to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Law in Society from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“I really loved understanding process design and process optimization — how different policies, laws, and structures are set up based on how humans interact with each other. PSA led me down a career path more on the operations and instructional design side of things. In business, I’ve always enjoyed the ambiguity that came with the startup environment and entrepreneurship.”   

A PSA Homecoming

Warren graduated from Penn shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started. He moved to New York City to work in client services serving private equity firms, but quickly shifted back to the entrepreneurial space. Michael helped lead the build out of the global logistics team at a unicorn e-commerce startup based in New York that specialized in consumer goods. Launching in February 2022, he was one of the original team members, and oversaw global inventory movements and relationships on the end-to-end supply chain.  

Michael maintained his involvement to PSA as an advisor. He was appointed as co-president of the Student-Run Business Association in 2022 after serving as a Vice President and on the Board of Directors since 2019. He continued to cultivate different relationships at universities throughout the country.  

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Penn student Chris Raboy ‘25 was looking for advice on how PSA operated outside of a COVID context. Upon researching pre-pandemic PSA documents and websites, Raboy reached out to several alumni hoping to discover historical information that would improve his ability to reignite the program post-pandemic. He messaged Warren via LinkedIn, and the two stayed in touch after Raboy took over as the Chief Marketing Officer. When the full-time Program Manager position became available, Raboy immediately thought of Michael. The ideal candidate was someone familiar with PSA, who could create continuity, guide PSA post-pandemic, and help grow the program in an increasingly digital world.  

“From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency,” said Raboy, who is PSA’s Chief Executive Officer for 2023-24. “I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions. He gave insight into a ton of the strategies I ended up utilizing throughout the summer.” 

Warren's interests in operations and organizational dynamics enable him to expand upon a network of institutions and nonprofits that run similar programs. For example, the business proposal for Benny’s Diner was inspired by student-run food service ventures presented at the 2019 Student-Run Business Association conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“I'm bringing the knowledge of what it was like operating in a pre-pandemic world, the challenges that we faced when I was a student and the challenges that the students before me had encountered. I can share that knowledge and bridge the connections between young alumni and the current students.” 

The biggest hurdle for PSA students is navigating the people element of business and entrepreneurism. A lot of businesses that were “heavy on in-person interaction had to alter those interactions to be able to operate virtually or digitally.” As organizations become more focused on e-commerce, the student-run businesses need to understand how to keep their staff engaged and ensure positions are appropriately filled. 

PSA’s focus for the 2022-23 academic year and beyond is setting up that continuity between leadership, turnover, and new students joining the organization. Warren looks to recreate the consistency that allowed PSA to thrive and replicate a consistent experience on a yearly basis, allowing Penn students to build off what individuals accomplished before them.  

Michael and Christ sitting down and speaking to each other
Chris Raboy (left) and Michael Warren (right) discuss PSA strategy at Houston Hall.

From our first meeting, I was awed by what I was seeing: structure and efficiency. I realized that I had to change the ways I was organizing materials, communicating, and the importance of the first impressions.

Chris Raboy
PSA’s Chief Executive Officer

Building A Bridge With Alumni

Warren has noticed a renewed interest in PSA alumni. He said that there is an extensive number of Penn graduates from multiple generations that want PSA to succeed and bounce back from the pandemic. One of Warren’s biggest pushes is to establish an alumni network. There is an “untapped potential” of interested and influential grads that can serve as a significant resource for PSA students. 

Because PSA is not tied to any undergraduate or graduate school, one of the advantages that it offers is a wide array of perspectives. Warren said that its leadership and general body consists of a substantial cross-section of different academic disciplines.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to showcase their mindset and how they approach thinking. A nursing student isn’t going to approach the problem the same way a Wharton or an engineering student would. Putting them together on the same team and having them brainstorm and navigate the ambiguity that is the startup environment allows them to come up with these creative and interesting solutions to problems.” 

A large part of learning for the students in PSA is supported through the introduction of frameworks that help distill large complex problems into more manageable concepts. 

“For many students this is the first time they are taking on considerable responsibility and decision making. Understanding the impact of those decisions can be difficult with limited experience – which brings us to a framework I use with the students – FORTS.  

“FORTS stands for financial impact, operational impact, reputational impact, team impact, and strategic impact. This framework helps student leaders understand what the implications of their decisions may or will have on various aspects of their business and help create a figurative mental fort around their decision making.” 

Heading into its 90th anniversary, PSA has always been financially self-sufficient, the money that they make goes back into the programs and students. First known as Self-Supporting Students, PSA began in 1933 as part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, an early model of what is now the Federal Work-Study Program. It started as three student-run businesses: Dorm Laundry Agency, Parking Squad, and Trunk Moving Squad. Under the name of Associated Student Agencies, it grew to more than 10 businesses in the 1950s, including Coat Checking at the Palestra, Railway Express, and a birthday cake shop. PSA students worked at Pennsylvania’s central control point to call in vote tallies during the 1964 presidential election. Adopting its current name in 1975, the organization has since adopted several ventures to its portfolio including apparel manufacturing, tourism guide publications, newspapers, and a bartending school.  

There have been a few success stories, such as Penn Closet, that have prevailed with continued interest in the student body after the organization’s founders graduated. Some alumni have gone out and become entrepreneurs on their own by starting competing businesses. It has created unique experiences for students to compete with one of their former colleagues.  

Its alumni have each gone off to their own different paths, whether it is med school, law school, or serial entrepreneurism. Warren said, “the nice thing about PSA is that you have students who join for different reasons and get different values from it." 

As a professional and an alumnus, Warren views his role as a coach and a mentor. Sticking to the organization’s for-students mantra, he offers students the freedom to conduct day-to-day operations, think through business decisions, and determine whether they made the correct choices. 

“PSA fosters that environment where you have the support, you have the resources, and it’s up to the students to decide how they use them. Providing them direction, giving them experience, allowing them to manage teams before even going out in the corporate world gives them a lot of different exposure and experience that they wouldn’t have had if they were simply taking a class.” 

Historically each graduating class in PSA is between 30-50 students each year. Currently, PSA retains a database of 600-plus alumni ranging from the class of 2022 all the way back to some as early as 1955. PSA is looking to grow this network! 

University Life Represented at ’22 AFA Conference

Jessica Ryan, Director for Leadership Community in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award at the '22 Association of Fraternity / Sorority Advisors Annual Conference.

The Shelley Sutherland Outstanding Volunteer Award was established in 2003 and re-named for Shelley Sutherland upon her retirement in 2011. The purpose is to annually recognize outstanding volunteer service by an association member in an official AFA volunteer role. The individual has devoted significant time and energy supporting association initiatives or efforts through their volunteer role. They are consistent and reliable, communicative, and committed to the values and mission of the association as demonstrated through their service.

Ryan shared her excitement about attending the conference and receiving the award; "What an amazing experience! Thank you to the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors for letting me chair the Educational Programs for the Annual Meeting Planning Team these last two years, and serve in volunteer roles with the association for the last decade. Truly a goal accomplished and amazing experience. Thankful to be recognized for volunteering with the association."

The Clothing Closet

A new partnership between Wellness at Penn and the LGBT Center offers a sustainable way for students, faculty, staff, and community members to recycle outfits and shop for new ones.

4th Class Midshipmen Leadership Lessons

4th Class Midshipmen and active duty staff from the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University Naval ROTC units took part in an overnight retreat to Outdoor Odyssey in western Pennsylvania.

Pathways to Purposeful Careers: The Unique Narratives of Penn’s Career Advisors 

As part of an ongoing effort to explore the people that make University Life a diverse community of educators and humans, I sat down with an ordained minister, a chicken expert, a geographer, an actor, and a podcaster.

The Penn Community Celebrates Campus Pride​

The University of Pennsylvania Recognized as one of Campus Pride’s 2022 “Best Of The Best” Colleges & Universities for LGBTQ+ Students

Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion and advocacy within higher education,  announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, naming the University of Pennsylvania to this year’s list of campuses creating a safe, welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff alike.

The announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the  Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.

Check out video messages from our campus colleagues celebrating the Center.


LGBT Center's website

The significance of Indigenous People’s Day

Two Penn students, Nyair Locklear, of the Tuscarora Nation and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and Ryly Ziese, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offer their points of view.

Student Spotlight: Melissa Echeverry, Master’s in Social Work Program, Graduate Teaching Fellow, and Graduate Resident Advisor in La Casa Hispanica

“According to what someone told me: They say the moon is always one, By the sea or by the mountains. So I yell to the villain, I would be Boricua Even if I was born on the moon.”

Reopening the ARCH building

A Sept. 7 event celebrated the building’s new incarnation as a centrally located space dedicated exclusively to cultural resource centers and affiliate groups.

Penn dedicates ARCH building to cultural centers after decades of student advocacy

After years of campaigning and student advocacy, Penn has begun renovations on the Arts, Research, and Culture House, designating it as the home to the University’s main minority coalition groups and cultural resource centers.

Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life Models Leadership and Inclusive Excellence

OFSL staff serve on national leadership positions for their alumni sororities

Reimagining Space, Place, & Belonging

In all of our spaces, we are making sure we consider the needs of our undergraduate and graduate students, both in terms of formal programmatic use and their needs for interaction and building relationships across identities.

Philadelphia Gayborhood with Malik Muhammad

In celebration of Pride Month, University Life took a trip to the Philadelphia Gayborhood with Malik Muhammad, Associate Director of the LGBT Center.

Sharon Smith, AVP for University Life Receives Penn Dental Honor

As part of Penn Dental Medicine’s commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022, the school recognized Sharon Smith, Associate Provost for University Life, with a special certificate of appreciation for her service to students. In her role at the University, Ms. Smith oversees a number of campus support programs and endeavors to holistically serve students navigating Penn. 

Presently a member of Penn Dental Medicine’s Committee for Cultural Growth, Ms. Smith supports Penn Dental Medicine students and the administration in wide-ranging areas, including assisting with issues such as personal and academic emergencies, food insecurity, provision of urgent medical care, and providing assistance to the school’s international students.

Ms. Smith came to Penn in 1987, serving in various leadership positions throughout campus, including the Penn College Achievement Program, New Student Orientation, and Open Expression.  She was instrumental in helping to create the mission and framework of the Student Intervention Services Office (SIS), which leads Penn’s response to emergencies and critical incidents involving students.

“For over 20 years, Sharon has been a dedicated and passionate supporter of Penn Dental Medicine students,” said Uri Hangorsky, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. “She has selflessly made herself available to work with us not only during regular working hours, but also during nights, weekends, and major holidays. She embodies the very best humanity has to offer—wisdom, compassion, integrity, and dedication.”

Embracing Intersectionality: Sean Massa

Before Sean Massa (C’15) could apprehend the intercultural understanding needed to launch a career in foreign diplomacy, he first had to discover his own individual identity.

Projection and Pursuit: A Two-Fold Meaning of Longing

University Life shares the wisdom of Sam Strickberger, ’22 Class Board President and speaker at this year’s Commencement Baccalaureate Ceremony. Sam’s speech, Projection and Pursuit: A Two-Fold Meaning of Longing, is an inspiring reflection on pursuing your passion.

Leadership from the Lens of a Former Lawyer

Forty years ago, Tamara Greenfield King, J.D. would have never imagined herself working in higher education, let alone in a senior leadership role on a college campus.

Triple S Show Student Spotlight

Today’s spotlight features Zaria Franklin, a senior in the College who has been actively involved with Greek Life at Penn. Zaria has been part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority since 2019, surrounded by like-minded women with a purpose to serve their communities and build lifelong bonds along the way.

Houston Hall to be revamped into ‘hub for students’ by Vice Provost for University Life

Houston Hall, the oldest student union in the nation, will undergo a renovations process to become a central hub of student life on campus, according to Penn’s Division of the Vice Provost for University Life.

Students have expressed for years that Houston Hall felt like "more of a dining area and study space than a hub of student activity." This project, while still in early stages, hopes to address that sentiment, according to project leads Saleem Curry and Laurie Hall from University Life, who said they shared that the primary aim is to transform Houston Hall into a more inclusive, welcoming, and inviting space for students by restoring its status as a focal point of student life on Penn's campus.

Before 2017, Houston Hall operated on a conference center model and was self-funded, according to Hall, the assistant vice provost for strategic planning and operations. She added that Interim President Wendell Pritchett has worked to dismantle that model to create a student hub during his tenure as provost.

Houston Hall
“There was a very deliberate mandate from Provost Pritchett to return Houston Hall to its mission of being a student center. Penn was the first university in the country to put capital funds — meaningful contributions — into the student leisure experience.”
Laurie Hall outside on campus copy
Laurie Hall
Assistant Vice Provost for Strategic Planning and Operations

Curry, director of University Life Space and Events Management, said that although this project is rather abstract, he and Hall hope to involve students in the process as much as possible. He added that Pritchett’s idea to transform Houston Hall into a student-focused center came from students in the first place.

“What we [are] looking to do very shortly is to have a University Life space steering committee that is made up of students,” Hall said. She added that this committee would serve as a connection between all the different needs of the students. 

Curry said that he hopes Houston Hall can “situate itself as a centralizing point” on campus and be a center for all types of campus involvement. In the future, Curry said he hopes that Houston Hall can host events on the weekends for students. 

Students expressed that although there is nothing wrong with the current state of Houston Hall, there is a possibility for improvement into a more robust hub of student life.

College first year Sarah Garrison, who works as a Welcome Ambassador at Houston Hall, said she is excited about the potential of this project to welcome and bring together students on campus.

“In my personal experience, I have seen Houston Hall trying to implement some of these changes, and I think that it’s absolutely great. It would be nice to have [Houston Hall] to be a hub for students,” Garrison said.

Garrison noted that some students may feel cut off from Houston Hall when it is being used by specific clubs or for planned events. 

College first year Julia Rotgin performed in the One Acts Festival hosted by the Theatre Arts Council in Houston Hall earlier this semester. Even so, she said that she does not have a reason to spend time in Houston Hall, and rarely frequents the space.

Students playing table hockey

“Outside of that experience, I have not spent that much time in Houston Hall,” Rotgin said. “I haven’t been involved in anything else that used that space.” 

While Rotgin frequents Houston Market, Penn’s food market located on the lower level, she said she does not frequent any other part of Houston Hall. 

“We have the space. We should definitely take advantage of it,” Rotgin said. 


Read more at the DP


Visit Houston Hall

The problem solvers

SIS identifies and meets student’s most urgent needs. When a pattern emerges, like when students go from bringing a pen and notebook to class to taking notes on personal laptops, SIS works to formalize partnerships with other offices to anticipate the shift

Student Spotlight: Harley Haas

Hi everyone! My name is Isha Reddy, and I’m a freshman at Wharton, and a Strategic Planning and Communications intern here at Penn University Life. Working for University Life, I get the unique opportunity to highlight some of the amazing cultural and student life events at Penn, as well as feature the exceptional students behind them through our Student Spotlight series. 

 

Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Harley Haas, a sophomore in the College, and a member of the Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Club (ASAP) at Penn. Nearing 2 years with the club, Harley is currently ASAP’s Internal Chair, and has been working tirelessly with the ASAP team to organize the first in-person Take Back the Night (TBTN) event at Penn since 2019. 

Students march at rally for Take Back the Night
Students march at rally for Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night is an international campaign to combat sexual violence in all forms and foster collective awareness around consent and sexual misconduct. At Penn, ASAP, along with Penn Violence Prevention (PVP) and Penn Women’s Center (PWC), strives to continue the conversation about the need for consent education and share important information about resources that can help support survivors. The event typically includes a poster-making session, a rally on College Green, a march around campus, and a survivor speak-out. This year, due to unfortunate weather conditions, Take Back the Night was held in the Graduate School of Education Tent, and could not include a march around campus, though the rally and survivor vigil were successfully held.

Take Back the Night creates a safe and supportive environment for survivors of sexual misconduct to share their experiences surrounded by their community, as well as for student allies to learn about how to support survivors, access vital resources, and advocate for change. This year, the rally and vigil took place on Thursday, April 7th, 2022, between 5 and 9 PM. 

Students creating signs for the TBTN march at the poster-making session on April 6th 2022.
Students creating signs for the TBTN march at the poster-making session on April 6th 2022.

Through ASAP, Harley has seen firsthand the positive impact that Take Back the Night can have on others who have had similar experiences. As she emphasized, “Everyone is welcome at the event, and we hope that this night sparks the conversation about the change that needs to happen on campus.” She and ASAP believe that there is always more Penn can do in terms of supporting survivors, raising awareness about consent, and encouraging victims to speak out. 

As Internal Chair, Harley helps direct ASAP’s website, through which she aims to promote the club’s message, help students access the resources they need, and educate others about the problem and the ways in which they can get involved. Rape culture and sexual misconduct are undoubtedly still extremely prevalent issues in today’s time, and it is vital that we, as students and members of this community, raise our voices and make ourselves seen and heard. It is only through collective action that we can truly make any difference. 

Students march at rally for Take Back the Night
Students march at rally for Take Back the Night

Although I myself am fortunate enough to have never been exposed to any form of abuse, I am inspired by Harley, and many others like her, who have found strength in their experience and grown from it. Learning about her work with ASAP and TBTN has really opened my eyes to the gravity of the issue, and the power we each hold. As a young female, and an international student, I am no stranger to worried texts from my mother about my whereabouts, warnings about walking alone late at night without pepper spray, or numerous “… started sharing their location with you” notifications. Events like TBTN exist so that hopefully and eventually some of these things we’ve grown so accustomed to might not be the norm anymore. Whether you are a survivor or a supporter, there are so many ways you can get involved. From attending the rally and speaking at the vigil, to simply posting on social media or volunteering at the event, the smallest of actions can have the biggest of impacts, for your peers and for your future.

Until next time,

Isha Reddy


Penn Women's Center


Penn Violence Prevention

Student Spotlight: Xandro Xu

If you don't already know, I am Carola Agostini, a freshman here at the University of Pennsylvania. My goal, with the help of University Life, is to show the real college experience at Penn and to showcase the bright students that make this place so special. Recently, I interviewed Aditi Singh, a bright young woman who overcame very difficult circumstances and found herself after getting lost. If you are interested in reading Aditi’s story you can check it out here.

Fast forward a few weeks later, I interviewed yet another bright young student named Xandro Xu. Midterm week was particularly difficult for Penn students, especially those in the Psychology department. As I took brief breaks between studying, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a poster for events happening in the incoming week. The list was titled QPenn week. Interestingly enough, I was coordinating an interview with Xandro Xu to discuss the planning of this event, but since I was focused on my midterm, I had scheduled it for the following week. It was Wednesday, March 23. I just took my midterm, and I revised the event list for QPenn to see if I could report on a specific event for the interview. Then I saw there was an ice skating event that very night. An idea brewed in my head, "What if I interview Xandro at the ice rink?"

To be completely honest, I thought he would decline my proposal because it was so last minute. Little did I know that two minutes later, he responded to my email by saying yes to the interview.

I was shocked, to say the least, but also very excited. At night, I went to the ice rink and had the pleasure of interviewing Xandro Xu.

Xandro Xu is a Chinese freshman here at Penn. He works with the LGBT Center, and he is a Vice Chair of Education at Lambda Alliance, an umbrella organization of the LGBTQ+ affinity groups for queer students. In that role, he is tasked with the great responsibility of organizing QPenn, a week of events, to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community presence on campus. When speaking to him at this event, I could tell just how passionate he was about representing and fighting for this community. I could also tell just how important this event was for him and his team. They were all very welcoming, and I could tell how much effort they put into making QPenn a success.

Xandro and I come from very different backgrounds, but I found I could relate to a lot of what he was saying. I think a lot of people would benefit from learning from Xandro mainly because he is unapologetic about his background. Despite feeling difficult to express himself and his sexual identity, he was able to not only come to terms with who he is, but be proud of it. That, to me, is not only honorable but brave. We also had a meaningful conversation on the concept of trust. I'm sure we are not the only ones who have experienced this, but trust can be a very tricky thing. Our families encouraged us to not trust anyone for a variety of reasons. Particularly, as a student from an underrepresented community, it can be very daunting to let your guard down in the face of uncertainty or intolerance; however, during our talk, we both agreed it is necessary. As humans, we need to be able to trust, to have friendships and to love, because that's something we deserve. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy because we are not machines meant to be perfect, unemotional, and merely productive — we are human.

Another thing that I noted whilst talking to Xandro was how he valued spontaneous outings with his friends as the best times he's had on campus. He very much reminded me of all the memories I made since coming here: the multiple adventures and laughs made on a whim. That is what the Penn experience is and should be. Penn is hard, don't get us wrong. We are not saying you shouldn't study, but the Penn experience should be more than that. Your time at Penn should be about growth and connection. Moreover, what makes Penn special is not the academics or the aesthetics, it's the people. It's the people, as Xandro says, who go on spontaneous strolls down Locust Walk or make you laugh after a long day. It's especially those people who support you unconditionally. Thus, like Xandro suggests, there is nothing wrong in giving up one or two hours of studying to have a fun time. Who knows what could happen. Maybe you meet your soulmate. Maybe you'll have a night that you'll remember for the rest of your life. What you should learn from Xandro is to be open-minded and open to the possibilities, be unapologetically yourself, and fight for the things you believe in. That is what the Penn experience is all about.

Before I sign off, I want to extend my gratitude to Xandro Xu for this interview and welcoming me to this event with open arms. I can report the event was extremely fun, even for an island girl that can't skate. I also strongly recommend that everyone look forward to and attend next year's QPenn as a way to support and uplift the LGBTQ+ community in our campus.

Until next time,

Carola Agostini

The Interview

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, how did you come to join the center, and what do you enjoy most about being part of the community?
    1. First thing about me is that I'm Chinese. Growing up in a very small town with little diversity, I found that being myself in terms of my sexual identity was a bit hard initially. It was hard because, in most cases, immigrant parents are intolerant to such matters in regards to the LGBTQ + community. Initially, my parents were not very happy with me coming out as gay. However, I'm very lucky that I have such loving parents that really thought it through and said “this is my son and I love him exactly for who he is”. I'm really glad I have such a supportive family. Regarding the LGBTQ+ community at Penn, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of right away. In high school, I didn't really have the chance to advocate for this community as much as I wanted to due to the fact that my school was very homogeneous. So I was very happy that I could do that at Penn, and it was something I knew I wanted to do.
  1. What work do you do with the LGBT center?
    1. I am a program assistant in the LGBTQ+ center, basically, it's a front desk job where I help people find their way and use our resources. I also work by providing confidential and unconditional support to students that come to us for help. I also help with a collective to promote minorities through works of art.

  1. What is QPenn? What is the purpose of this event?
    1. QPenn is a week designed to really celebrate, uplift, and amplify the LGBTQ+ community on campus. It is a week to show the presence of the community on campus, to say, "this is who we are and here we are." QPenn is the week to bring underrepresented minorities to light.
  1. Why did you choose to organize the event this year? What was your goal for this year's QPenn?
    1. When I first came to Penn, I was very interested in joining the Lambda Alliance, which is an umbrella organization of different LGBTQ+ affinity groups on campus. I participated in a pre-orientation called pinnacle and one of the group leaders was an officer for Lambda Alliance, which motivated me even more to join. Thus, I joined Lambda Alliance and during the fall semester, I ran for the board position of vice chair of education. Historically, this position is responsible for organizing QPenn so that is how I fell into the role.

      As for the planning of the event itself. It was great. However, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding whether it would be possible due to the COVID-19 restrictions at the time. We didn't start planning it until February, at which time we were certain the event could be held. Obviously, with such a huge event, we would've loved to start planning sooner, but the circumstances did not allow for it. What made this event possible was the teamwork. We delegated tasks to each other, and we were able to work together to pull this off, for which I am immensely grateful. It was really important to us that this event was held because it is the first QPenn in three years. Our goal was to bring QPenn back and to hold it in person, even if it wasn't as big as it was in previous years. We wanted people to know that this is a week and that it's an event everyone should look forward to. I also want to mention that as a freshman, I feel like I learned a lot not only about planning but about the older folks in the community. Getting to know them while planning the event helped me understand how things work behind the scenes and I'm really grateful for that opportunity.

  1. How was it planning this event? What were your main takeaways and what do you hope students learned or obtained from QPenn?
    1. Planning this event was hectic, but also very fun. Again, I think the main reason why this event worked was for the team behind it. It was really heartwarming to meet so many people willing to collaborate to make this event a reality and also to see such initiative from them. Something that I learned from this experience is that planning should've been done a little earlier, but due to the circumstances it was obviously not the ideal situation.
  1. Which was your favorite event from QPenn?
    1. I really liked the opening event; we had people perform and speak, it was a great vibe to kick off the week. We had a great turnout. Apart from that, I also liked today's event because it seems like a grand gesture. We decorated the whole ring and we even have an inflatable in the back. I love ice skating, so I think this is a fun gesture for the community and it's one of the events I've liked most so far.
  1. What is your fondest memory from your time with the LGBT Center?
    1. I'm not very good at remembering things, but I would have to say my fondest memory is the staff meetings. This is where the staff, the director and the assistant director come together to talk. I like the sense of community and talking to people, so that is what I cherish the most.
  1. What is the best piece of advice or the most valuable lesson you have learned while working with the LGBT Center?
    1. I would say be really open-minded, empathetic and understanding. This is because you never know what someone is going through and as workers in the center, our job is to help people. If we were to assume things, we would have a very skewed view of situations. So definitely a valuable lesson is to approach things with an open mind.
  1. What advice would you give future planners to make QPenn even better? Any ideas?
    1. Something that I did that really helped with the planning was the delegation of certain roles. Initially, I was stressed about QPenn because I thought I would have to plan this whole event by myself. But again, building a community and a group of peers that are there to support you is really important. This not only allows for a creative flow of ideas but also builds that sense of community that QPenn really is all about. Just really seek out help because it's an event that can’t be done by one person. Another tip I would give to future planners is to seek out the community, allow for other cultural resource centers to help and spread the word. Finally, I would just suggest you give yourself ample time to plan QPenn.
Student Spotlight: Aditi Singh

Aditi started working as a tutor during her freshman year. She focused on math and science because she describes herself as a “STEM nerd.”

A charter bus to Chinatown

Launched in 2021 by a student-led initiative, the biweekly bus service connects students with local businesses in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Change of Plan

During the pandemic, Oliver Kaplan transferred to Penn looking for a fresh start. A philosophy class altered his academic focus; he now hopes to shape educational policy for LGBTQ+ students.

Oliver Kaplan knew he had to make a change when, two months after his freshman year on a rural college campus, he was outed. Kaplan, who describes himself as “very closeted” until that point, had recently attended a discussion on LGBT rights, and his roommate started telling, first friends, then Kaplan’s parents, that Kaplan was gay.

“At that point, I thought, Well, do I try to correct people? Because I don’t know if I’m ready to be out, but if I correct people, then people are just going to assume I’m straight, and I’ll have to be closeted for the rest of my time here,” he says.

First, he met with the office of residential life, trying to get his roommate transferred to a different room. But since outing wasn’t a violation of any written rule, they “kind of threw their hands up and said, ‘Well, it’s not in our handbook.’”

Outing is a unique situation, Kaplan says. “If you’re not gay, you don’t understand how important that information is.” People try to equate outing to racial identity, and it’s not the same, says Kaplan, whose mother is Chinese and father is Jewish. “If someone were to say, ‘What if I tell other people that you’re Asian? What does that matter?’ Well, first of all, race and sexuality are not the same; you can tell my race from my face, but you can’t discern my sexuality,” he says.

Coming out, first to friends, then family, was a seven-month process that took place during the pandemic. At that point, Kaplan had become determined to transfer schools and had an interest in Penn. Kaplan contacted Erin Cross, director of the LGBT Center, who connected him with a Penn student who later became a mentor.

“Being outed is having other people share something about you that is so private and personal that, when it happens, it goes straight to your core,” says Cross. “It’s a complete lack of respect for someone’s humanity and agency. Someone’s sexual orientation is only for them to share if they want to,” she says.

Penn is consistently ranked as one of the top schools for LGBTQ+ support, says Cross. The LGBT Center is the second oldest of its kind in the country, she says, “so we’ve had a history to build up community, sub-communities, academic ties, and links across the University.” As a response to homophobic campus incidents, Penn included sexual orientation in the University’s non-discrimination clause during the early 1980s. “We were at the forefront,” Cross says. “Penn and the city of Philadelphia have worked hard to make sure LGBTQ+ folks feel as safe as they possibly can, but there’s always more to do.”

Oliver Kaplan in a blue jacket standing outside on Penn's campus

Read more at Penn today

Winter solace

From the Class of 1923 arena to La Casa Latina, four students speak to what motivates them through the season.

Penn Lions in the Year of the Tiger

Dripping rain falls through barren branches along Locust Walk late on a Thursday night. Students hurry past, unwilling to linger in the unhospitable February weather. But the ARCH building glows golden. Drumbeats reverberate through the structure. Four solemn thumps announce the interplay between two fighting lions engaged in a tug of war. The ornate animals, enhanced with vibrant red, bright gold, and ruffles of sparkling sequin fabric trimmed in faux fur, are tussling over a head of romaine, the lettuce symbolic of wealth. These are the Penn Lions, an undergraduate group that spreads good luck and blessings through the traditional Chinese lion dance, and they are practicing for the Lunar New Year, a reminder of rebirth and new beginnings to come after the cold rain.

The Lions, who have two practices per week during the academic year, are training for Feb. 8 performances in collaboration with Penn Dining, which is featuring a Lunar New Year menu with recipes from Fuchsia DunlopAndrea Nguyen, and David Chang.

Traditionally spent with family, Lunar New Year is a time to root ourselves within all of our connections. The multi-week holiday is celebrated in many parts of Asia, including China, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. It’s a time to prepare and reflect on how we can wish each other and ourselves blessing, prosperity, health, security, and peace for the rest of the year,
Peter Van Do
Peter Van Do
Director of the Pan-Asian American Community House

This year marks the year of the water tiger, says Van Do, as one of the elements—wood, water, metal, fire, and earth—are also associated with the zodiac animal. This year will draw upon the embodiment of both the element and the animal, which is associated with ambition, bravery, courage, and strength, he says. 

The lion dance is believed to good luck throughout the community. “The lion dance wards off evil spirits and brings prosperity,” says Tiffany Lu, a junior from Hershey, Pennsylvania, studying fine arts in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Lu is one of the Penn Lions’ two dozen members. While she came into her freshman year as an experienced dancer in both Western and Eastern traditions, most learn lion dancing mainly through oral tradition, with upperclassmen teaching the newcomers. Only about one person per class has prior experience.

One of these was Zelan von Kaenel, a senior at Wharton specializing in finance and operations. Born to a Dutch father and Chinese and Costa Rican mother in Princeton, New Jersey, von Kaenel went to a Cantonese primary school, where the students were taught lion dancing basics. Reigniting this passion in college has been “one of my best decisions,” von Kaenel says. “The Lions has some of the friendliest and best community of people that I have met at Penn, and very diverse. If I wanted to know someone from a specific school, they are probably in Lions.”

Friendship bonds are consistently cited and praised within the Lions. “You come for the lion dancing; you stay for the community,” says Luke Bandeen, a senior from London. Far from a benign quality, this trust is essential as the two parts of the lion, the “tail” and “head,” work together as one. “The tail stabilizes the head while they do crane stands, wild kicks,” says Bandeen, who dances as a tail. He’s tall and robust—well over 6 feet—which comes in handy with the heavy lifting, called “stacking,” that is part of the tail’s role.

CELEBRATE THE YEAR OF THE TIGER

Penn Cooks—Lunar New Year: February 8th

The Penn Lions will put on 15-minute performances, starting at Hill House and progressing to Lauder College House, Kings Court English College House (KCEH), and 1920 Commons. KCEH will also feature guest speaker Hanh Nguyen, who teaches Vietnamese at the Penn Language Center.

Timeline:

5:30 p.m. —Hanh Nguyen will speak at KCEH
6 p.m. —Penn Lions at Hill House
6:30 p.m. —Penn Lions at Lauder
7 p.m. —Penn Lions at KCEH
7:30 p.m. —Penn Lions at 1920 Commons

The Lions try to train pairs of dancers together when possible, as seamless choreography adds power to the visual illusion of one animal, rather than a head and a tail powered by two people.


The middle pair of dancers practices a “stack,” with one dancer perched on top of another’s head. Both strength and coordination are essential to execute this move.


The group members sitting on the stage (and on Zoom) offer constructive criticism when the dance is over.


The Penn Lions train for Lunar New Year. This year’s choreography features a tussle between two lions.



Read more at Penn Today


Go to PAACH

Taking up Space: Furthering Queer Health Education on Campus

How Steven Chen is revolutionizing LGBTQ inclusivity at Penn and beyond with OurSpace.

Julia Thomas commissioned as an Ensign in US Navy

On December 17, 2021, the Penn community gathered at Houston Hall to celebrate the commissioning of Julia Thomas as an Ensign in the United States Navy. Ensign Thomas, originally from Hagerstown, MD, was this year’s sole Navy ROTC scholarship recipient with the rare fall graduation. During her 4.5 years at Penn, she earned both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a focus on Healthcare Management and Policy.

Known as midshipmen during their undergraduate years, NROTC students participate in drill and physical training, take Naval Science classes, and partake in leadership development curriculum.  

"Ensign Thomas was an exemplary leader during her time here at Penn. We are proud to call her a graduate of our program, and we're excited to see the outstanding contributions she'll make to our nation's military medical community."
Lieutenant Dan Westcott
Lieutenant Dan Westcott
NROTC Battalion and Senior Class Advisor

Ensign Thomas will be joining the Navy Nurse Corps at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA. She follows a long, rich history of leadership between University of Pennsylvania and the Navy, dating back to the founding of our nation. In 1798, President John Adams appointed Penn graduate Benjamin Stoddert to oversee the newly established Department of the Navy. Stoddert’s leadership and vision helped lay the groundwork for the extraordinary US Navy we possess today.

University of Pennsylvania’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program seeks to train the most technically and tactically proficient officers to serve in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Half of participants enter the program as freshmen with a full academic scholarship. Program participants are supported by Navy officers based at Penn and are commissioned upon graduation.


University of Pennsylvania’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps

NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021


NROTC Commission Ceremony 2021

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