Resources & Activities

Fall Semester 2021
Content Last Updated 7/13/2021

Undergraduate School COVID-19 Pages 

Student Requirements

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.

Penn Announcements & Campus Information

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.

Move-in, Getting Settled

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.

Wellness Resources

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.

‘Selflessness and service’

Most 17-year-olds don’t know what they want to do for the next 10 years of their lives. However, May graduates Robert Blend, Allan Cate, and Madeline McAvoy made a commitment back in high school. All three went to Penn on NROTC scholarships, completing their commissioning ceremony on May 14. Later this summer, they will ship out for training and spend at least the next four to five years giving back to the U.S. Navy.

“It’s personal development for the service of others,” says Cate, a double major in political science and science, technology, and society from Burke, Virginia. “We’re told, right now, it’s about you. It’s about building you up into an officer who’s going to lead others.”

But there’s a switch. Once the students graduate and become active-duty naval officers, it’s not about them anymore, Cate says. “It’s about the people that you’re serving. The people that you’re taking care of and managing, leading.”

NROTC students are responsible for taking an additional class per semester in naval sciences, in addition to physical training at least twice a week. By the time students arrive at the commissioning ceremony, “they’ve achieved a ton,” says Daniel Westcott, a lieutenant and NROTC battalion advisor. “They’re probably the most driven students in any university setting. And they have to be.”

Time management is crucial, he says, not just in the day-to-day but also in long-range planning. “They’re not just thinking about tomorrow. They’re thinking about years from now,” Westcott says. “At the end of the day, we are training them to become leaders.”

NROTC students can enter one of a multitude of career paths after graduating; Navy option students can pursue Surface Warfare, Naval Aviation, Submarine Warfare, Nursing, or Naval Special Warfare. Marine Corps options can include Marine Corps Aviation or Marine Corps Ground careers.

“You have to love it,” Blend says of serving in the Navy. “You have to be good at it. Because if you don’t, then bad things happen.”
“You have to love it,” Blend says of serving in the Navy. “You have to be good at it. Because if you don’t, then bad things happen.”

Cate, who will be reporting for the Basic Division Officer Course followed by duty as a surface warfare officer out of San Diego, hopes to follow his naval service with a career in government. He says he is interested in climate security, “preventing troop deployments, preventing state breakdown by kind of fixing things at the source and making areas more resilient to climate pressures.”

Originally from Farmers Branch, Texas, Blend will report for basic underwater demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, California, for training as a Navy SEAL officer. He graduated in May from the Wharton School with a concentration in finance and real estate.

Blend fell in love with the idea of being a Navy SEAL. “It’s something about the way that they approach life: with two feet first, with no hesitation,” he says. “That’s the type of person I wanted to be: hard charging, never quitting, resilient.”

McAvoy was drawn to nursing. Originally from Fairfax Station, Virginia, she is a caregiver, the one friends turn to. Nursing is oriented towards patient care, she says. “You’re able to really give your whole self.”

This summer, McAvoy will report to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in Camp Pendleton, California, for duty in the Navy Nurse Corps.

“You’re committing to this path, but in a way it has been freeing,” she says. Rather than stressing about an acute-care nurse externship, McAvoy has been able to use her summers to complete a community health internship, work as a camp nurse, and even fit shoes at a running store.

She, Blend, and Cate have been “able to kind of play around and explore, without having to worry about the implications for our future careers,” she says. “It’s weird, because we’re on such a straight path, but we were able to do more with a little bit less risk.”

For Blend, there was a freedom in this structure. “I didn’t have to worry about recruiting and all the classic Wharton stuff,” says Blend, who spent the summer after his junior year working at a tech startup.

“I feel like we really got the best deal of both worlds,” he says. “I found that the connections and the network that I’ve been able to make at Penn have been extremely impactful and probably will carry that through my naval career.”

The commissioning ceremony is a rite of passage as the students move through their evolution, says Blend. “It’s supposed to signify the transition from professional development and working on yourself to now becoming a selfless leader,” he says. “Everything from this point forward is not about us but about the people we’re leading, and the team and the mission.”


Visit NROTC Website


Read more at Penn Today

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

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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.



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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

On stage at Carnegie Hall

Seven Penn student performing arts groups were featured at the ‘Toast to Dear Old Penn’ showcase in New York City.

Penn’s Kwanzaa celebrates ‘regrounding our purpose’

Normally, you get gifts at the end of Kwanzaa,” said Brian Peterson, director of Makuu: The Black Cultural Center. But as with most things, this year was a little different. A Dec. 9 event was hosted not in the Hall of Flags but in the ARCH building, and the communal meal had shifted to pre-boxed food. Nevertheless, it was a time to come together and foster a sense of community, he says.

Given past few semesters, it was vital to close out the year with this celebration, says Peterson. “Kwanzaa at Penn, celebrated for the past 30 years, is a moment to recognize the seven core principles—unity, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity, self-determination, purpose, and faith—and to inspire students as they head into final exams. It also brings together faculty, staff, community partners, and alumni and allows Makuu to share a small gift and a meal, which for this year, was grab-and-go,” he says.

Chime Amaefuna, a junior from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, majoring in biology and minoring in Africana studies, was among those passing out gifts as co-chair of the Black Student League (BSL). “This has already exceeded my expectations,” Amaefuna said of this year’s Kwanzaa event.

Amaefuna’s main aspiration was a sense of unity. Because of remote learning, many first and second year students did not have a chance to meet upperclassmen, he said. “There’s a disconnect.”

BSL is trying to make some of these connections, Amaefuna said. “We want to create a safe space for Black underclassmen, create that space for them to be in Black community.”

The Kwanzaa gift offered this year was crewneck sweatshirts reading “Black Penn” in greyscale against a black background. The sweatshirts were first introduced in May during a BSL trip and have since became a coveted item, said BSL vice president Zaria Franklin, a senior from Atlanta majoring in psychology.

“Seeing ‘Black Penn’ is very empowering,” Amaefuna said. The sweatshirts will “get more people talking about the Black experience.”


Read more at Penn Today

University Chaplain Chaz Howard greets students via video.


As Kwanzaa gifts, Makuu and the Black Student League gave sweatshirts to students.


Brian Peterson lights candles at the 30th annual Kwanzaa at Penn. - Eric Sucar Photographer

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life | Preparing for Recruitment

At Penn, fraternities and sororities provide students myriad opportunities to participate in an already vibrant campus life. Our values-based organizations offer experiences to foster friendship, engage with the community, increase cultural and social competency, and support academic success.

Student culture has evolved over the years, and Fraternity and Sorority Life at Penn can be confusing, even for parents who are alumni members of fraternities or sororities. As you talk with your student about recruitment and intake, please take the time to learn more about the fraternity and sorority community and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, or OFSL.

Penn recognizes chapters in the Intercultural Greek CouncilInterfraternity Council, and the Panhellenic Council. All of these chapters are supported and advised by OFSL. Importantly, members interact regularly with inter/national leaders and distinguished alumni. All recognized OFSL chapters are required to follow University health and wellness protocols and responsible event planning mandates.

We strongly encourage all undergraduate students and family members to refer to our How to Join OFSL website.

Academic Requirements

Joining a fraternity or sorority can be a different process depending on the organization or council; however, Penn has academic requirements which apply to all students. Due to the increased demand on their time and energy, first-year students are prohibited from joining a fraternity/sorority until their second semester, when they have a stronger sense of what it will take to be successful at Penn. All students must have a minimum of 4 completed course units at Penn and a GPA of 2.50 or higher to be eligible to join a fraternity/sorority. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are welcome to join!

What about off-campus groups?

There are some “identified off-campus groups” which operate independently of the University, without advising or regulation. This can be confusing for students and families because they are not Recognized Student Organizations, although some utilize Greek letters or refer to themselves as a fraternity. They recruit members independently, host social events in private off-campus residences, and operate new member processes separately from Penn advisement on risk reduction practices. They often formed after a national fraternity or sorority closed its Penn chapter due to policy violations (sometimes including hazing and alcohol/substances). They do not receive University funding and no longer have the rights and privileges afforded to Recognized Student Organizations. They are not able to verify official academic standards for their members, do not follow the established rules, procedures, or risk management procedures required of recognized social fraternity and sororities, are not covered with general liability insurance, and are not affiliated with a national organization.

Some current identified off-campus groups may include male groups (Apes, Owls, Oz, Phi, Theos) and female groups (OAX, Tabard). They are not Recognized Student Organizations and are not members of the Penn Fraternity & Sorority Life community.

When talking with your student about joining a social fraternity/sorority, please discuss with them the risks associated with joining unrecognized off-campus groups.

Please visit the OFSL Joining Website for a list of recognized fraternities and sororities in our three councils: Intercultural Greek Council, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council.


OFSL Joining Website

Campus Pride Features Penn’s LGBT Center

Penn’s LGBT Center, the second oldest LGBT Center in the country, was featured by Campus Pride during the Fall ’21 semester. Intern Ayla Azim, from Campus Pride, (she/her) interviewed Malik Muhammad (he/him), the Associate Director of the LGBT Center and Erin Cross (she/her), the Director of the LGBT Center to learn more about their work and advocacy on campus. In the interview, Malik and Erin highlight the programming provided by the center and share the ease with which students can get involved on campus in a variety of LGBTQ+ organizations.

The University of Pennsylvania has more than 25 student organizations are dedicated to LGBTQ+ life. These organizations include Penn J-Bagel, a Jewish LGBTQ+ group, the Lambda Alliance,umbrella group of undergraduate LGBTQ+ organizations, and oSTEM, a group for LGBTQ+ people in STEM fields.

The LGBT Center and the University of Pennsylvania are exceptionally proud of their efforts to make campus more inclusive. In the interview, Erin and Malik share that the foundation of their work stems from Penn's non-discrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation, and gender identity. The creation of this policy has led to the development of health care plans that are available to students, faculty, and staff that include trans and gender affirming care. The creation of all gender housing and bathrooms across campus have also been major projects to increase comfort and inclusion. Students who go through the existing name process receive two diplomas; one with their legal/dead name and another with their name. Currently, the Center is partnering with the Office of the Registrar and others to enable students to designate their pronouns and name in campus systems. Students may also elect to receive multiple diplomas; one document with their legal/dead name and another with their chosen name. Currently, the center is partnering with the Office of the Registrar to make it easier for students to designate their preferred pronouns and preferred name on university documents.

Erin and Malik are excited to see the university grow in its inclusive practices and will continue advocating and improving ways in which the LGBTQ+ population is supported at Penn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQNsTu3njps

A Culture of Caring

Four years ago, Sharon Smith, Associate Vice Provost for University Life, laid out a new vision for Penn’s Weingarten Center, the University’s home for academic support and disability services.

“We wanted to put all available offerings in front of students and help them map out a plan,” she says. Smith and her team decided to implement a case management approach to improve student experiences. The impact would be seismic—a cultural shift from à la carte support to a more holistic approach that puts all available services in front of students and guides them through graduation.

Smith’s vision has come to life. With a $2.6 million gift from the Moh Foundation, the Center will get a state-of-the-art space for testing accommodations and learning, reimagined services to support every Penn student, additional support staff, and new technology designed for accessible scholarship in the 21st century.

We are destigmatizing disability and empowering all of our students through an integrated learning model.
Jane F. Holahan, Ed.D., Executive Director, Weingarten Center
JANE HOLAHAN
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE WEINGARTEN CENTER

“With a shared interest in promoting equity and inclusion, our foundation was committed to funding Penn’s most urgent priorities for students with disabilities,” says Peggy Moh, president of the Moh Foundation, proud Penn parent, and member of the Weingarten Advisory Board. “By providing resources for programmatic experimentation, new technology and capital enhancements, we hoped to help solidify the Center’s position as the leader of student support services in the country.”

Slated to open in the fall of 2022, the new testing space, located in the Penn Libraries’ Biotech Commons, will provide an accessible, quiet exam site for students who require testing accommodations. “This is a truly transformative gift,” says Jane Holahan, Executive Director of the Weingarten Center.

Architectural rendering of the future Stemmler Testing Center.
Architectural rendering of the future Stemmler Testing Center.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to come up with creative ways to proactively connect people to the resources they needed,” says Niko Simpkins, ENG’22, GEng’23, and a Weingarten Center Ambassador. “I’ve hosted various Weingarten workshops through my student organizations, which worked well in the virtual setting to expose a broader audience of students to the resources that Weingarten has to offer.”

At Penn, the rigors of academic life persist for students at all levels. “I’m inspired every day by my peers who aren’t afraid to ask for help, and also by the other Ambassadors who are unbelievably busy but take time to advocate for and spread the word about the Center,” said Hoang-Anh Phan, Gr’28, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry and a Weingarten Center Ambassador.

With a history of past support for the Weingarten Center–like funding a new online platform that also enabled the University’s campus-wide COVID-19 screening testing and vaccine scheduling systems–the Moh Foundation has long championed its mission.

“The Moh Foundation has been a valued partner in removing the stigma of seeking help at Penn,” says Ryan Miller, Director of Academic Support at the Weingarten Center. “Our services are now integrated into a broader network that begins in the classroom and carries over to the rest of campus life at Penn. We find that when students—both with disabilities and without—triangulate the Center’s services, they have a network of support with good outcomes often following.


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Students: Screening Testing Reminder

As a reminder, all students must receive regular COVID-19 screening tests (at least once every other week).

Alumni share their favorite campus spots—and how they found a niche at Penn.

“There’s so much that happens here: Sister, Sister and Black Men United [both discussion groups], Makuu’s open house, Penn Spectrum events. Having Makuu be in the middle of campus is representative of the work we do; how important it is.”

Get Involved

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.

‘Selflessness and service’

Most 17-year-olds don’t know what they want to do for the next 10 years of their lives. However, May graduates Robert Blend, Allan Cate, and Madeline McAvoy made a commitment back in high school. All three went to Penn on NROTC scholarships, completing their commissioning ceremony on May 14. Later this summer, they will ship out for training and spend at least the next four to five years giving back to the U.S. Navy.

“It’s personal development for the service of others,” says Cate, a double major in political science and science, technology, and society from Burke, Virginia. “We’re told, right now, it’s about you. It’s about building you up into an officer who’s going to lead others.”

But there’s a switch. Once the students graduate and become active-duty naval officers, it’s not about them anymore, Cate says. “It’s about the people that you’re serving. The people that you’re taking care of and managing, leading.”

NROTC students are responsible for taking an additional class per semester in naval sciences, in addition to physical training at least twice a week. By the time students arrive at the commissioning ceremony, “they’ve achieved a ton,” says Daniel Westcott, a lieutenant and NROTC battalion advisor. “They’re probably the most driven students in any university setting. And they have to be.”

Time management is crucial, he says, not just in the day-to-day but also in long-range planning. “They’re not just thinking about tomorrow. They’re thinking about years from now,” Westcott says. “At the end of the day, we are training them to become leaders.”

NROTC students can enter one of a multitude of career paths after graduating; Navy option students can pursue Surface Warfare, Naval Aviation, Submarine Warfare, Nursing, or Naval Special Warfare. Marine Corps options can include Marine Corps Aviation or Marine Corps Ground careers.

“You have to love it,” Blend says of serving in the Navy. “You have to be good at it. Because if you don’t, then bad things happen.”
“You have to love it,” Blend says of serving in the Navy. “You have to be good at it. Because if you don’t, then bad things happen.”

Cate, who will be reporting for the Basic Division Officer Course followed by duty as a surface warfare officer out of San Diego, hopes to follow his naval service with a career in government. He says he is interested in climate security, “preventing troop deployments, preventing state breakdown by kind of fixing things at the source and making areas more resilient to climate pressures.”

Originally from Farmers Branch, Texas, Blend will report for basic underwater demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, California, for training as a Navy SEAL officer. He graduated in May from the Wharton School with a concentration in finance and real estate.

Blend fell in love with the idea of being a Navy SEAL. “It’s something about the way that they approach life: with two feet first, with no hesitation,” he says. “That’s the type of person I wanted to be: hard charging, never quitting, resilient.”

McAvoy was drawn to nursing. Originally from Fairfax Station, Virginia, she is a caregiver, the one friends turn to. Nursing is oriented towards patient care, she says. “You’re able to really give your whole self.”

This summer, McAvoy will report to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in Camp Pendleton, California, for duty in the Navy Nurse Corps.

“You’re committing to this path, but in a way it has been freeing,” she says. Rather than stressing about an acute-care nurse externship, McAvoy has been able to use her summers to complete a community health internship, work as a camp nurse, and even fit shoes at a running store.

She, Blend, and Cate have been “able to kind of play around and explore, without having to worry about the implications for our future careers,” she says. “It’s weird, because we’re on such a straight path, but we were able to do more with a little bit less risk.”

For Blend, there was a freedom in this structure. “I didn’t have to worry about recruiting and all the classic Wharton stuff,” says Blend, who spent the summer after his junior year working at a tech startup.

“I feel like we really got the best deal of both worlds,” he says. “I found that the connections and the network that I’ve been able to make at Penn have been extremely impactful and probably will carry that through my naval career.”

The commissioning ceremony is a rite of passage as the students move through their evolution, says Blend. “It’s supposed to signify the transition from professional development and working on yourself to now becoming a selfless leader,” he says. “Everything from this point forward is not about us but about the people we’re leading, and the team and the mission.”


Visit NROTC Website


Read more at Penn Today

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

On stage at Carnegie Hall

Seven Penn student performing arts groups were featured at the ‘Toast to Dear Old Penn’ showcase in New York City.

Penn’s Kwanzaa celebrates ‘regrounding our purpose’

Normally, you get gifts at the end of Kwanzaa,” said Brian Peterson, director of Makuu: The Black Cultural Center. But as with most things, this year was a little different. A Dec. 9 event was hosted not in the Hall of Flags but in the ARCH building, and the communal meal had shifted to pre-boxed food. Nevertheless, it was a time to come together and foster a sense of community, he says.

Given past few semesters, it was vital to close out the year with this celebration, says Peterson. “Kwanzaa at Penn, celebrated for the past 30 years, is a moment to recognize the seven core principles—unity, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity, self-determination, purpose, and faith—and to inspire students as they head into final exams. It also brings together faculty, staff, community partners, and alumni and allows Makuu to share a small gift and a meal, which for this year, was grab-and-go,” he says.

Chime Amaefuna, a junior from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, majoring in biology and minoring in Africana studies, was among those passing out gifts as co-chair of the Black Student League (BSL). “This has already exceeded my expectations,” Amaefuna said of this year’s Kwanzaa event.

Amaefuna’s main aspiration was a sense of unity. Because of remote learning, many first and second year students did not have a chance to meet upperclassmen, he said. “There’s a disconnect.”

BSL is trying to make some of these connections, Amaefuna said. “We want to create a safe space for Black underclassmen, create that space for them to be in Black community.”

The Kwanzaa gift offered this year was crewneck sweatshirts reading “Black Penn” in greyscale against a black background. The sweatshirts were first introduced in May during a BSL trip and have since became a coveted item, said BSL vice president Zaria Franklin, a senior from Atlanta majoring in psychology.

“Seeing ‘Black Penn’ is very empowering,” Amaefuna said. The sweatshirts will “get more people talking about the Black experience.”


Read more at Penn Today

University Chaplain Chaz Howard greets students via video.


As Kwanzaa gifts, Makuu and the Black Student League gave sweatshirts to students.


Brian Peterson lights candles at the 30th annual Kwanzaa at Penn. - Eric Sucar Photographer

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life | Preparing for Recruitment

At Penn, fraternities and sororities provide students myriad opportunities to participate in an already vibrant campus life. Our values-based organizations offer experiences to foster friendship, engage with the community, increase cultural and social competency, and support academic success.

Student culture has evolved over the years, and Fraternity and Sorority Life at Penn can be confusing, even for parents who are alumni members of fraternities or sororities. As you talk with your student about recruitment and intake, please take the time to learn more about the fraternity and sorority community and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, or OFSL.

Penn recognizes chapters in the Intercultural Greek CouncilInterfraternity Council, and the Panhellenic Council. All of these chapters are supported and advised by OFSL. Importantly, members interact regularly with inter/national leaders and distinguished alumni. All recognized OFSL chapters are required to follow University health and wellness protocols and responsible event planning mandates.

We strongly encourage all undergraduate students and family members to refer to our How to Join OFSL website.

Academic Requirements

Joining a fraternity or sorority can be a different process depending on the organization or council; however, Penn has academic requirements which apply to all students. Due to the increased demand on their time and energy, first-year students are prohibited from joining a fraternity/sorority until their second semester, when they have a stronger sense of what it will take to be successful at Penn. All students must have a minimum of 4 completed course units at Penn and a GPA of 2.50 or higher to be eligible to join a fraternity/sorority. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are welcome to join!

What about off-campus groups?

There are some “identified off-campus groups” which operate independently of the University, without advising or regulation. This can be confusing for students and families because they are not Recognized Student Organizations, although some utilize Greek letters or refer to themselves as a fraternity. They recruit members independently, host social events in private off-campus residences, and operate new member processes separately from Penn advisement on risk reduction practices. They often formed after a national fraternity or sorority closed its Penn chapter due to policy violations (sometimes including hazing and alcohol/substances). They do not receive University funding and no longer have the rights and privileges afforded to Recognized Student Organizations. They are not able to verify official academic standards for their members, do not follow the established rules, procedures, or risk management procedures required of recognized social fraternity and sororities, are not covered with general liability insurance, and are not affiliated with a national organization.

Some current identified off-campus groups may include male groups (Apes, Owls, Oz, Phi, Theos) and female groups (OAX, Tabard). They are not Recognized Student Organizations and are not members of the Penn Fraternity & Sorority Life community.

When talking with your student about joining a social fraternity/sorority, please discuss with them the risks associated with joining unrecognized off-campus groups.

Please visit the OFSL Joining Website for a list of recognized fraternities and sororities in our three councils: Intercultural Greek Council, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council.


OFSL Joining Website

Campus Pride Features Penn’s LGBT Center

Penn’s LGBT Center, the second oldest LGBT Center in the country, was featured by Campus Pride during the Fall ’21 semester. Intern Ayla Azim, from Campus Pride, (she/her) interviewed Malik Muhammad (he/him), the Associate Director of the LGBT Center and Erin Cross (she/her), the Director of the LGBT Center to learn more about their work and advocacy on campus. In the interview, Malik and Erin highlight the programming provided by the center and share the ease with which students can get involved on campus in a variety of LGBTQ+ organizations.

The University of Pennsylvania has more than 25 student organizations are dedicated to LGBTQ+ life. These organizations include Penn J-Bagel, a Jewish LGBTQ+ group, the Lambda Alliance,umbrella group of undergraduate LGBTQ+ organizations, and oSTEM, a group for LGBTQ+ people in STEM fields.

The LGBT Center and the University of Pennsylvania are exceptionally proud of their efforts to make campus more inclusive. In the interview, Erin and Malik share that the foundation of their work stems from Penn's non-discrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation, and gender identity. The creation of this policy has led to the development of health care plans that are available to students, faculty, and staff that include trans and gender affirming care. The creation of all gender housing and bathrooms across campus have also been major projects to increase comfort and inclusion. Students who go through the existing name process receive two diplomas; one with their legal/dead name and another with their name. Currently, the Center is partnering with the Office of the Registrar and others to enable students to designate their pronouns and name in campus systems. Students may also elect to receive multiple diplomas; one document with their legal/dead name and another with their chosen name. Currently, the center is partnering with the Office of the Registrar to make it easier for students to designate their preferred pronouns and preferred name on university documents.

Erin and Malik are excited to see the university grow in its inclusive practices and will continue advocating and improving ways in which the LGBTQ+ population is supported at Penn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQNsTu3njps

A Culture of Caring

Four years ago, Sharon Smith, Associate Vice Provost for University Life, laid out a new vision for Penn’s Weingarten Center, the University’s home for academic support and disability services.

“We wanted to put all available offerings in front of students and help them map out a plan,” she says. Smith and her team decided to implement a case management approach to improve student experiences. The impact would be seismic—a cultural shift from à la carte support to a more holistic approach that puts all available services in front of students and guides them through graduation.

Smith’s vision has come to life. With a $2.6 million gift from the Moh Foundation, the Center will get a state-of-the-art space for testing accommodations and learning, reimagined services to support every Penn student, additional support staff, and new technology designed for accessible scholarship in the 21st century.

We are destigmatizing disability and empowering all of our students through an integrated learning model.
Jane F. Holahan, Ed.D., Executive Director, Weingarten Center
JANE HOLAHAN
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE WEINGARTEN CENTER

“With a shared interest in promoting equity and inclusion, our foundation was committed to funding Penn’s most urgent priorities for students with disabilities,” says Peggy Moh, president of the Moh Foundation, proud Penn parent, and member of the Weingarten Advisory Board. “By providing resources for programmatic experimentation, new technology and capital enhancements, we hoped to help solidify the Center’s position as the leader of student support services in the country.”

Slated to open in the fall of 2022, the new testing space, located in the Penn Libraries’ Biotech Commons, will provide an accessible, quiet exam site for students who require testing accommodations. “This is a truly transformative gift,” says Jane Holahan, Executive Director of the Weingarten Center.

Architectural rendering of the future Stemmler Testing Center.
Architectural rendering of the future Stemmler Testing Center.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to come up with creative ways to proactively connect people to the resources they needed,” says Niko Simpkins, ENG’22, GEng’23, and a Weingarten Center Ambassador. “I’ve hosted various Weingarten workshops through my student organizations, which worked well in the virtual setting to expose a broader audience of students to the resources that Weingarten has to offer.”

At Penn, the rigors of academic life persist for students at all levels. “I’m inspired every day by my peers who aren’t afraid to ask for help, and also by the other Ambassadors who are unbelievably busy but take time to advocate for and spread the word about the Center,” said Hoang-Anh Phan, Gr’28, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry and a Weingarten Center Ambassador.

With a history of past support for the Weingarten Center–like funding a new online platform that also enabled the University’s campus-wide COVID-19 screening testing and vaccine scheduling systems–the Moh Foundation has long championed its mission.

“The Moh Foundation has been a valued partner in removing the stigma of seeking help at Penn,” says Ryan Miller, Director of Academic Support at the Weingarten Center. “Our services are now integrated into a broader network that begins in the classroom and carries over to the rest of campus life at Penn. We find that when students—both with disabilities and without—triangulate the Center’s services, they have a network of support with good outcomes often following.


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Go To Weingarten Center


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Students: Screening Testing Reminder

As a reminder, all students must receive regular COVID-19 screening tests (at least once every other week).

Alumni share their favorite campus spots—and how they found a niche at Penn.

“There’s so much that happens here: Sister, Sister and Black Men United [both discussion groups], Makuu’s open house, Penn Spectrum events. Having Makuu be in the middle of campus is representative of the work we do; how important it is.”

Resources by Class

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.

‘Selflessness and service’

Most 17-year-olds don’t know what they want to do for the next 10 years of their lives. However, May graduates Robert Blend, Allan Cate, and Madeline McAvoy made a commitment back in high school. All three went to Penn on NROTC scholarships, completing their commissioning ceremony on May 14. Later this summer, they will ship out for training and spend at least the next four to five years giving back to the U.S. Navy.

“It’s personal development for the service of others,” says Cate, a double major in political science and science, technology, and society from Burke, Virginia. “We’re told, right now, it’s about you. It’s about building you up into an officer who’s going to lead others.”

But there’s a switch. Once the students graduate and become active-duty naval officers, it’s not about them anymore, Cate says. “It’s about the people that you’re serving. The people that you’re taking care of and managing, leading.”

NROTC students are responsible for taking an additional class per semester in naval sciences, in addition to physical training at least twice a week. By the time students arrive at the commissioning ceremony, “they’ve achieved a ton,” says Daniel Westcott, a lieutenant and NROTC battalion advisor. “They’re probably the most driven students in any university setting. And they have to be.”

Time management is crucial, he says, not just in the day-to-day but also in long-range planning. “They’re not just thinking about tomorrow. They’re thinking about years from now,” Westcott says. “At the end of the day, we are training them to become leaders.”

NROTC students can enter one of a multitude of career paths after graduating; Navy option students can pursue Surface Warfare, Naval Aviation, Submarine Warfare, Nursing, or Naval Special Warfare. Marine Corps options can include Marine Corps Aviation or Marine Corps Ground careers.

“You have to love it,” Blend says of serving in the Navy. “You have to be good at it. Because if you don’t, then bad things happen.”
“You have to love it,” Blend says of serving in the Navy. “You have to be good at it. Because if you don’t, then bad things happen.”

Cate, who will be reporting for the Basic Division Officer Course followed by duty as a surface warfare officer out of San Diego, hopes to follow his naval service with a career in government. He says he is interested in climate security, “preventing troop deployments, preventing state breakdown by kind of fixing things at the source and making areas more resilient to climate pressures.”

Originally from Farmers Branch, Texas, Blend will report for basic underwater demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, California, for training as a Navy SEAL officer. He graduated in May from the Wharton School with a concentration in finance and real estate.

Blend fell in love with the idea of being a Navy SEAL. “It’s something about the way that they approach life: with two feet first, with no hesitation,” he says. “That’s the type of person I wanted to be: hard charging, never quitting, resilient.”

McAvoy was drawn to nursing. Originally from Fairfax Station, Virginia, she is a caregiver, the one friends turn to. Nursing is oriented towards patient care, she says. “You’re able to really give your whole self.”

This summer, McAvoy will report to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in Camp Pendleton, California, for duty in the Navy Nurse Corps.

“You’re committing to this path, but in a way it has been freeing,” she says. Rather than stressing about an acute-care nurse externship, McAvoy has been able to use her summers to complete a community health internship, work as a camp nurse, and even fit shoes at a running store.

She, Blend, and Cate have been “able to kind of play around and explore, without having to worry about the implications for our future careers,” she says. “It’s weird, because we’re on such a straight path, but we were able to do more with a little bit less risk.”

For Blend, there was a freedom in this structure. “I didn’t have to worry about recruiting and all the classic Wharton stuff,” says Blend, who spent the summer after his junior year working at a tech startup.

“I feel like we really got the best deal of both worlds,” he says. “I found that the connections and the network that I’ve been able to make at Penn have been extremely impactful and probably will carry that through my naval career.”

The commissioning ceremony is a rite of passage as the students move through their evolution, says Blend. “It’s supposed to signify the transition from professional development and working on yourself to now becoming a selfless leader,” he says. “Everything from this point forward is not about us but about the people we’re leading, and the team and the mission.”


Visit NROTC Website


Read more at Penn Today

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

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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.



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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

On stage at Carnegie Hall

Seven Penn student performing arts groups were featured at the ‘Toast to Dear Old Penn’ showcase in New York City.

Penn’s Kwanzaa celebrates ‘regrounding our purpose’

Normally, you get gifts at the end of Kwanzaa,” said Brian Peterson, director of Makuu: The Black Cultural Center. But as with most things, this year was a little different. A Dec. 9 event was hosted not in the Hall of Flags but in the ARCH building, and the communal meal had shifted to pre-boxed food. Nevertheless, it was a time to come together and foster a sense of community, he says.

Given past few semesters, it was vital to close out the year with this celebration, says Peterson. “Kwanzaa at Penn, celebrated for the past 30 years, is a moment to recognize the seven core principles—unity, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity, self-determination, purpose, and faith—and to inspire students as they head into final exams. It also brings together faculty, staff, community partners, and alumni and allows Makuu to share a small gift and a meal, which for this year, was grab-and-go,” he says.

Chime Amaefuna, a junior from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, majoring in biology and minoring in Africana studies, was among those passing out gifts as co-chair of the Black Student League (BSL). “This has already exceeded my expectations,” Amaefuna said of this year’s Kwanzaa event.

Amaefuna’s main aspiration was a sense of unity. Because of remote learning, many first and second year students did not have a chance to meet upperclassmen, he said. “There’s a disconnect.”

BSL is trying to make some of these connections, Amaefuna said. “We want to create a safe space for Black underclassmen, create that space for them to be in Black community.”

The Kwanzaa gift offered this year was crewneck sweatshirts reading “Black Penn” in greyscale against a black background. The sweatshirts were first introduced in May during a BSL trip and have since became a coveted item, said BSL vice president Zaria Franklin, a senior from Atlanta majoring in psychology.

“Seeing ‘Black Penn’ is very empowering,” Amaefuna said. The sweatshirts will “get more people talking about the Black experience.”


Read more at Penn Today

University Chaplain Chaz Howard greets students via video.


As Kwanzaa gifts, Makuu and the Black Student League gave sweatshirts to students.


Brian Peterson lights candles at the 30th annual Kwanzaa at Penn. - Eric Sucar Photographer

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life | Preparing for Recruitment

At Penn, fraternities and sororities provide students myriad opportunities to participate in an already vibrant campus life. Our values-based organizations offer experiences to foster friendship, engage with the community, increase cultural and social competency, and support academic success.

Student culture has evolved over the years, and Fraternity and Sorority Life at Penn can be confusing, even for parents who are alumni members of fraternities or sororities. As you talk with your student about recruitment and intake, please take the time to learn more about the fraternity and sorority community and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, or OFSL.

Penn recognizes chapters in the Intercultural Greek CouncilInterfraternity Council, and the Panhellenic Council. All of these chapters are supported and advised by OFSL. Importantly, members interact regularly with inter/national leaders and distinguished alumni. All recognized OFSL chapters are required to follow University health and wellness protocols and responsible event planning mandates.

We strongly encourage all undergraduate students and family members to refer to our How to Join OFSL website.

Academic Requirements

Joining a fraternity or sorority can be a different process depending on the organization or council; however, Penn has academic requirements which apply to all students. Due to the increased demand on their time and energy, first-year students are prohibited from joining a fraternity/sorority until their second semester, when they have a stronger sense of what it will take to be successful at Penn. All students must have a minimum of 4 completed course units at Penn and a GPA of 2.50 or higher to be eligible to join a fraternity/sorority. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are welcome to join!

What about off-campus groups?

There are some “identified off-campus groups” which operate independently of the University, without advising or regulation. This can be confusing for students and families because they are not Recognized Student Organizations, although some utilize Greek letters or refer to themselves as a fraternity. They recruit members independently, host social events in private off-campus residences, and operate new member processes separately from Penn advisement on risk reduction practices. They often formed after a national fraternity or sorority closed its Penn chapter due to policy violations (sometimes including hazing and alcohol/substances). They do not receive University funding and no longer have the rights and privileges afforded to Recognized Student Organizations. They are not able to verify official academic standards for their members, do not follow the established rules, procedures, or risk management procedures required of recognized social fraternity and sororities, are not covered with general liability insurance, and are not affiliated with a national organization.

Some current identified off-campus groups may include male groups (Apes, Owls, Oz, Phi, Theos) and female groups (OAX, Tabard). They are not Recognized Student Organizations and are not members of the Penn Fraternity & Sorority Life community.

When talking with your student about joining a social fraternity/sorority, please discuss with them the risks associated with joining unrecognized off-campus groups.

Please visit the OFSL Joining Website for a list of recognized fraternities and sororities in our three councils: Intercultural Greek Council, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council.


OFSL Joining Website

Campus Pride Features Penn’s LGBT Center

Penn’s LGBT Center, the second oldest LGBT Center in the country, was featured by Campus Pride during the Fall ’21 semester. Intern Ayla Azim, from Campus Pride, (she/her) interviewed Malik Muhammad (he/him), the Associate Director of the LGBT Center and Erin Cross (she/her), the Director of the LGBT Center to learn more about their work and advocacy on campus. In the interview, Malik and Erin highlight the programming provided by the center and share the ease with which students can get involved on campus in a variety of LGBTQ+ organizations.

The University of Pennsylvania has more than 25 student organizations are dedicated to LGBTQ+ life. These organizations include Penn J-Bagel, a Jewish LGBTQ+ group, the Lambda Alliance,umbrella group of undergraduate LGBTQ+ organizations, and oSTEM, a group for LGBTQ+ people in STEM fields.

The LGBT Center and the University of Pennsylvania are exceptionally proud of their efforts to make campus more inclusive. In the interview, Erin and Malik share that the foundation of their work stems from Penn's non-discrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation, and gender identity. The creation of this policy has led to the development of health care plans that are available to students, faculty, and staff that include trans and gender affirming care. The creation of all gender housing and bathrooms across campus have also been major projects to increase comfort and inclusion. Students who go through the existing name process receive two diplomas; one with their legal/dead name and another with their name. Currently, the Center is partnering with the Office of the Registrar and others to enable students to designate their pronouns and name in campus systems. Students may also elect to receive multiple diplomas; one document with their legal/dead name and another with their chosen name. Currently, the center is partnering with the Office of the Registrar to make it easier for students to designate their preferred pronouns and preferred name on university documents.

Erin and Malik are excited to see the university grow in its inclusive practices and will continue advocating and improving ways in which the LGBTQ+ population is supported at Penn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQNsTu3njps

A Culture of Caring

Four years ago, Sharon Smith, Associate Vice Provost for University Life, laid out a new vision for Penn’s Weingarten Center, the University’s home for academic support and disability services.

“We wanted to put all available offerings in front of students and help them map out a plan,” she says. Smith and her team decided to implement a case management approach to improve student experiences. The impact would be seismic—a cultural shift from à la carte support to a more holistic approach that puts all available services in front of students and guides them through graduation.

Smith’s vision has come to life. With a $2.6 million gift from the Moh Foundation, the Center will get a state-of-the-art space for testing accommodations and learning, reimagined services to support every Penn student, additional support staff, and new technology designed for accessible scholarship in the 21st century.

We are destigmatizing disability and empowering all of our students through an integrated learning model.
Jane F. Holahan, Ed.D., Executive Director, Weingarten Center
JANE HOLAHAN
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE WEINGARTEN CENTER

“With a shared interest in promoting equity and inclusion, our foundation was committed to funding Penn’s most urgent priorities for students with disabilities,” says Peggy Moh, president of the Moh Foundation, proud Penn parent, and member of the Weingarten Advisory Board. “By providing resources for programmatic experimentation, new technology and capital enhancements, we hoped to help solidify the Center’s position as the leader of student support services in the country.”

Slated to open in the fall of 2022, the new testing space, located in the Penn Libraries’ Biotech Commons, will provide an accessible, quiet exam site for students who require testing accommodations. “This is a truly transformative gift,” says Jane Holahan, Executive Director of the Weingarten Center.

Architectural rendering of the future Stemmler Testing Center.
Architectural rendering of the future Stemmler Testing Center.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to come up with creative ways to proactively connect people to the resources they needed,” says Niko Simpkins, ENG’22, GEng’23, and a Weingarten Center Ambassador. “I’ve hosted various Weingarten workshops through my student organizations, which worked well in the virtual setting to expose a broader audience of students to the resources that Weingarten has to offer.”

At Penn, the rigors of academic life persist for students at all levels. “I’m inspired every day by my peers who aren’t afraid to ask for help, and also by the other Ambassadors who are unbelievably busy but take time to advocate for and spread the word about the Center,” said Hoang-Anh Phan, Gr’28, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry and a Weingarten Center Ambassador.

With a history of past support for the Weingarten Center–like funding a new online platform that also enabled the University’s campus-wide COVID-19 screening testing and vaccine scheduling systems–the Moh Foundation has long championed its mission.

“The Moh Foundation has been a valued partner in removing the stigma of seeking help at Penn,” says Ryan Miller, Director of Academic Support at the Weingarten Center. “Our services are now integrated into a broader network that begins in the classroom and carries over to the rest of campus life at Penn. We find that when students—both with disabilities and without—triangulate the Center’s services, they have a network of support with good outcomes often following.


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Support University Life

Students: Screening Testing Reminder

As a reminder, all students must receive regular COVID-19 screening tests (at least once every other week).

Alumni share their favorite campus spots—and how they found a niche at Penn.

“There’s so much that happens here: Sister, Sister and Black Men United [both discussion groups], Makuu’s open house, Penn Spectrum events. Having Makuu be in the middle of campus is representative of the work we do; how important it is.”

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Excuse us while we update the Resources & Activities to best serve the entire Penn community.

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