Spring Clean Your Academic Life


Image from UPenn Facilities website

While it might not feel like spring outside yet, it is definitely around the corner. Spring break is over, and this semester is already halfway complete. Before we become busy with spring social commitments, with enjoying the nice weather (it’s coming, I promise!), and with beginning to study for finals, this point in the semester can be a great time to do some academic spring cleaning.

Sound new to you? Often, we often only think of spring cleaning as a chore we complete with our dorms, houses, or apartments, but actually this can be a great point in the semester for taking time to reorganize your academic life. Spending a few hours clearing out old papers and organizing important files can help you feel recharged and ready to take on the rest of the semester.


Image from NewBridge Recovery

So turn on some music, open up the curtains to let some sunlight in, and get ready to get organized. Here are some suggestions for how to spring clean your academic life:

  • Take some time to go through your folders (or the paper crumpled at the bottom of your backpack).
    • Recycle the papers you don’t need anymore.
    • If papers will be useful or helpful later in the semester or in future classes, place them in a labeled folder.
  • Organize the files on your computer.
    • Make sure you have created file folders for each of your courses this semester. Sort your files accordingly. Make sure to add any downloaded files that will be useful.
    • Delete the computer files you no longer need.
    • If you are reading a lot of PDFs, make sure you are keeping them organized for easy reference when you are writing future essays. Tools like OneNote, Notability, or Zotero can be great for helping to keep PDFs organized.
  • Sort out your Inbox!
    • This task can be dreaded, but now can be a good time to take charge of your email if it’s gotten out of hand.
    • Delete unread or unneeded messages.
    • Place important emails in their applicable folders
    • Take yourself email chains that you don’t need or send them directly all an advertisement folder so they aren’t clogging up your main inbox.
  • Take stock of your books and textbooks.
    • If you’re like me and you have too many books, make sure you’ve made any returns to the library.
    • See if you can sell back any books on Amazon or another site.
    • Donate books you no longer need to on-campus donation sites or a local library.
  • Review your planner and/or schedule.
    • Make sure your spring commitments are updated.


Image from Waterford Technologies

What else do you do to recharge and reorganize during the spring? Let us know!

Remember, instructors at Weingarten are here to help with any of your academic needs! Call 215 – 573 – 9235 to make an appointment. Or, stop by Monday thru Friday from 12pm to 3pm and Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 4pm  to 7pm for walk-in appointments.

By: Kelcey Grogan, Weingarten Learning Instructor and Learning Fellow


Tech-Tuesday – Meditation and Mindfulness Apps

Shining a spotlight on different technology services and applications that may be helpful for students, faculty, and staff here in the Penn Community!


It appears that mindfulness has become the hot new buzzword on campuses and on various blog sites across the country. This is with good reason! Practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve general health, reduce stress, improve immunity, and boost recovery. For college students, practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce overall stress, reduce depressive symptoms, enhance focus, and improve overall grades (Ackerman, 2017).


While many of us may want to incorporate mindfulness practices into our daily lives, it can be difficult to make time in our schedule to read a book on mindfulness or to attend a meditation class. Luckily, there are a few apps that make it simpler to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines! This blog will highlight two different applications that have helped me incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my weekly routine.


  1. Headspace (www.headspace.com)

The first is app is called Headspace (www.headspace.com), and it has become quite popular. Headspace is great because it takes you through the meditation process if you are unfamiliar or new to the practice. The app has a beginner 10-day meditation guide that can be a great place to start! Each day leads you through a 10-minute meditation practice. It even incorporates tracking into the app to motivate you to stick with keeping mindfulness as a part of your daily routine.  The app is initially free to download, and then will take you through its app to purchase different meditation exercises.


   2.  Stop, Breathe, & Think (www.stopbreathethink.com)

Stop, Breathe, & Think (www.stopbreathethink.com) is another great app to help you practice meditation and mindfulness (Full disclosure – this is the app I love and use most often). The app has short guided meditations, starting at just two minutes, that help you make time to breathe and check in with yourself throughout your hectic day. The app helps you learn how to meditate. You can then choose from a variety of sessions depending on what you need each day. The sessions include titles such as: Breathe, Gain Resilience, Connect with Your Body, Be Kind, Sleep, and Chill. (I highly recommend the Falling Asleep meditation in the Sleep session. It really helps me unwind at the end of the day, and has even helped me conquer some of my insomnia). While some parts of the app are free, other sessions require you to pay; however, 10% of the revenue go towards the nonprofit Tools for Peace, which helps at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Knowing this, you can feel good about taking care of yourself while knowing you are helping to pay the gift of mindfulness forward!

These are just two of the many apps out there to help us practice self-care. What apps do you use? Do you have any you recommend?

This blog was based on information from the following sites:





By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, WLRC Learning Instructor

Positive Psychology – Volunteer!


Taking time to volunteer

can help improve your mental health & wellbeing!


Positive Psychology strategies and techniques have shown to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase happiness
  • Correlate with increased college achievement 

It is important to approach volunteering in college differently than how we approached community service in high school or simply for the purpose of strengthening our resumes or applications:

  • It is about taking time out of our busy lives to offer our time, skills, or experience to help an organization on Penn’s campus or within the broader Philadelphia community.

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In terms of Positive Psychology, volunteering has been shown to improve people’s emotional wellbeing. 

Here are 3 suggestions for how to get involved here at Penn:
  1. Find volunteer opportunities! Here is a link to the Netter Center on Penn’s campus which works to establish partnerships with the broader Philadelphia community: https://www.nettercenter.upenn.edu/


  1. Check out ABCS courses at Penn. “ABCS students and faculty work with West Philadelphia public schools, communities of faith, and community organizations to help solve critical campus and community problems in a variety of areas such as the environment, health, arts, and education.” https://www.nettercenter.upenn.edu/what-we-do/courses
  2. Check out Penn’s Civic House: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/civichouse/

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Have you found other ways to meaningfully engage with different organizations here on campus or within the Philadelphia community? Let us know!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor


Positive Psychology – Keep a Gratitude Journal


Positive Psychology is a new, exciting, and constantly developing field!

Positive psychology is the “science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions’ promises to improve quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014, p. 5).

Positive psychology has been shown to increase happiness and reduce stress

(Goodmon et al., 2016; McDermott et al., 2017).

At PENN, we have the Penn Positive Psychology Centre, which is doing incredible work in the field:

  • We are just beginning to understand how implementing positive psychology techniques can reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve achievement in college students.
  • While more research still needs to be done, early studies have shown that implementing positive psychology techniques have improved students’ mental well-being.


Keep a Gratitude Journal!
  • Gratitude journals are a way to keep track of the positive and good things in your life that you have to be grateful for.
  • In the hurried nature of our daily lives, it can be easy to lose track of all the things, big and small that we can appreciate and be thankful for.
  • A gratitude journal helps you slow down and reflect on the good things in your life.
  • Taking time to notice the positive things each day helps you keep a more positive outlook.


How to keep a gratitude journal?
  1. There is no right or wrong way to keep a gratitude journal. Do what works best for you.
  2. You can just use a plain notebook, or keep the list right in your diary or journal if you already use one. There are gratitude journals that you can buy that often come with prompts or different quotes to make you think, but buying one isn’t necessary.
  3. While you can keep write your entries in a way that is meaningful for you, it is recommended that people take time each night to write down 1-5 things you are grateful for each day.
  4. It is a helpful way to keep track of what went well that day, even on days that are stressful and feel like nothing went the way it was supposed to.
  5. Furthermore, writing in your gratitude journal can be a relaxing way to help people prepare for bed and can even make sleeping easier.


No matter how you use your gratitude journal, take some time to appreciate the people, places, and things in your life!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor


Goodmon, L. B., Middleditch, A. M., Childs, B., & Pietrasiuk, S. E. (2016). Positive psychology course and its relationship to well-being, depression, and stress. Teaching of Psychology, 43(3), 232–237. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628316649482

McDermott, R. C., Cheng, H.-L., Wong, J., Booth, N., Jones, Z., & Sevig, T. (2017). Hope for help-seeking: a positive psychology perspective of psychological help-seeking intentions. The Counseling Psychologist, 45(2), 237–265. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000017693398

Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. in M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed.), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology: the collected works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pp. 279–298). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9088-8_18

Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003066X.60.5.410

Making It Stick!

What has Research about the Science of Successful Learning taught us about Making It Stick?


Brown, Roediger & McDaniel (2014) identified 6 Research-based Principles and Strategies for committing information to long-term memory and increasing the probability of retrieving it as applicable knowledge:

➔  (1) Rereading text and massed practice are ineffective
➔  (2) Active retrieval interrupts forgetting
➔  (3) Create a mental model for new knowledge that connects to larger context and prior knowledge

A conceptual approach to active information processing and retrieval helps interrupt forgetting and deepen your understanding. Conceptual Mapping helps you:

  1. Synthesize the big picture,
  2. Do a deep dive where you need to be more granular,
  3. Establish simple-complex relationships and hierarchies,
  4. Identify gaps, and
  5. Try a variety of Conceptual Mapping tools:
1. Concept Map Anywhere!

All you need is any blank “canvas”: scrap paper, notebook, white board, etc.

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2. Concept Map Online: Search for a Variety of Free and Subscription Software Apps


3. Try this Free Online Concept Mapping Tool by Google: Coggle


(Click icon above to watch introductory video)
➔  (4) Space out practice and interleave subjects

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There is a minimum of 3 levels of time management for the semester:

  1. Semester: Major Deadlines
  2. Week: Logistical
  3. Daily: Individual Tasks
Think strategically before, during and after coursework


  1. Office Hours: Professor and Teaching Assistant
  2. Sleep
  3. Meals and Snacks
  4. Breaks
  5. Self-Care Activities (e.g. exercise, therapy/counseling, health care, etc.)
  6. Extra-curricular, volunteer and social activities
➔  (5) Extract underlying principles that differentiate problem types to prepare for unfamiliar problems/situations
➔  (6) Try problems before being taught solution

As you prepare weekly problem sets for class, recitation or online submission, OR before you compare your sample prior exam answers, step back and take time to:

  • Evaluate and differentiate types of problem by concept categories.
Conceptual Problems
Algorithmic Problems

Make It Stick

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, WLRC Learning Instructor

Work-Life Balance: 4 Suggestions for Optimizing Your Personal Time!


Wow! Spring semester is here and charging forward at full speed!
(I don’t know about you, but for me the winter break flew by!)

Now, the spring semester has kicked off, Canvas sites have been published, syllabi collected, books ordered, first classes attended, preliminary assignments completed, and first projects and/or exams scheduled…


It’s time to balance the semester workload with time to relax and recharge on your own and with friends.

Maybe you have weekend plans or you’re already planning your spring break, or maybe your plans are to squeeze in watching some of your favorite shows on TV or Netflix in-between studying.


We here at Weingarten have four suggestions for how to make the most out of your personal time while on campus in order to remain as relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated in the spring semester as possible:

1. Read a book that you want to read!


Often, during the semester, the only reading students have time to do are the readings that are assigned for classes. Use your scheduled and dedicated study breaks to read a book you have been wanting to read. So many wonderful books were published this year, check out these lists for some suggestions:

2. Write a thank you note!

thank you

Stay connected and send a thank you note or an email to a professor, staff member, friend, or classmate who was a big help to you last semester. Your kind words of appreciation will mean more than you know.

3. Plan your spring semester strategically!


Take an afternoon to lay out important dates on your calendar and planner for the spring semester.

4. Form an exercise habit!


With each new semester, it’s the perfect time to start building a new habit! Do you have plans this semester to walk each day or to go to the gym or to do yoga or to meditate each week? Do these plans fall to the wayside when the semester get busy? Exercising regularly is one of the best things we can do for our mind and body, but it can be easy to push these commitments to the side when the semester gets busy.

It takes three weeks to form a new habit and make it stick! 
No matter what your plans are, we hope you optimize your personal time while maintaining your work-life balance!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Shhh!!! Super Secret Study Spot!

secret-1142327_960_720 In need of a new study spot? 
Bored of the same old?
Search no more! 



If you are a sensory-modal, visual learner, and/or share a love for the arts,  you will love our newest Super Secret Study spot: UPENN-ICA

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Location: 118 South 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Phone: (215) 898-7108

Museum Hours: 

Elixir Coffee Bar: 

Admission: FREE for ALL


As soon as you walk into the ICA-UPENN, you will notice the essential Elixir Coffee Bar to your left:


Grab your favorite caffeine fuel or otherwise, gourmet pastry, and head up the stairs to your left alongside the mega glass walls to the museum’s mezzanine:


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Your long-awaited soft-landing will be a brightly-lit mezzanine area flooded in natural light from two adjacent walls:

Depending on the configuration of the space, you may find different types of table set-ups, but typically, you will have the option of at least 3 small tables with chairs on all sides, enough to support 1 person to a group of 3-4 people:



When the weather is nice outside, you can head out to the Tuttleman Terrace, and enjoy the elements:

Studying + Sunbathing = Bliss!

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So next time you find yourself needing a little pick-me-up, try a change of scenery…


  • Galleries are currently closed for installation, but the Elixir Coffee Bar and Mezzanine remain open regular hours.
  • Winter Opening Celebration: February 2, 2018.
  • Winter Exhibit:
Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show

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So grab your FREE ICA-UPENN Museum Membership, and enjoy your Super Secret Study Spot!

Secret Concept

Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor