Connecting, Bringing Closure, through Gratitude

Whether you have just graduated in May 2018, have some final courses to complete during the summer, will be a returning student in the Fall, will be going away for an academic internship next semester, will be taking a gap year, a leave of absence, and/or simply enjoying and relaxing this summer – the end of an academic year and the possibilities of the summer can be emotional, exciting for some and perhaps nerve-wracking for others. Either way, it is helpful to intentionally reflect on bringing closure to the academic year.

Gratitude is a great way to stay connected to others, be they faculty, staff and/or peers. Take some time to reflect and perhaps journal what you are most grateful for this past semester, year, or journey at Penn, thus far.

These need not be major events, but could be moments, passing interactions that made a difference for you, insights gained, thoughts and gestures observed and appreciated, or a concrete act.

You need not be the explicit beneficiary of a direct act of kindness, support or favor. Perhaps you simply observed and appreciated a peer’s contribution to a class or project, or their voice, orientation, views, approach and/or work ethic. In fact, acknowledgment and validation is a great form of expressing gratitude. Gratitude that builds up and encourages is more authentic and valuable.

Even if there were some challenges, starting with gratitude is a great way to gain perspective, find common ground, open up conversation, or gain a sense of closure. Finding the pearl in the sand can help bring resilience and transition us to the next stage. Gratitude is a great counterbalance to challenging situations, as it can be more humanizing to stay connected through gratitude, despite of differences, than to completely disconnect.

Students often ask me if they should purchase an impressive “gift” as a token of gratitude. But that is not necessary at all. In fact, depending on ethical rules, faculty and staff may not accept physical tokens. A simple note or email that expresses your thoughtfulness in gratitude can help you release your appreciation and connect with the individual through acknowledgment. Keep it short, specific/authentic, and professional.

Gratitude is a great way to network, bring closure to milestones, transition to other stages, and connect to your inner self – as you grow and develop alongside others in your academic career. Gratitude will restore your sense of positivity, by affirming your perceptions in relation to others, and as a result, validate, build up and strengthen your own, intentional community.

Thank you!

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Staff Writer: Min Derry, OLR Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

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Wellness Expo: Wellness Resources @ Penn & Beyond

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At Weingarten, we emphasize Academic Wellness beyond academic achievement. Situating your academic achievement goals across the spectrum of Academic Wellness provides more coherence and balance as you transition to post-secondary education, professional career and beyond. Academic / Wellness is the glue, a core bonding element, that holds it all together in your pre-, during and post-Penn life transitions.

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The Division of Campus Recreation and Penn Athletics regularly partners with the broader Penn Community to present a Wellness Expo at least once during the Fall and Spring academic semesters. The Wellness Expo, which is typically located at the Atrium of the Pottruck Fitness Center, provides study tips before finals, stress relief and coping strategies and activities, and other helpful resources for school-life balance, including healthy snacks!

Naturally, the Weingarten Learning Resources Center was represented to provide you with all of your academic wellness support resources! Here’s one of our Learning Instructors, Min Derry:

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Other Penn and Penn Community Resources in attendance were:

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And of course, Penn Athletics had a well-supported and cheered, win-a-t-shirt, Push-Ups competition:

Most importantly (he-he!), there were tons of swags, snacks and even a make your own granola buffet with tons of different types of nuts and grains for your enjoyment!

Be sure to take advantage of all of these resources as you wind down your Reading Days and wrap up your final projects and exams for the semester! Also, be on a lookout for the next Wellness Expo in the Fall 2019!

Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor & Research Fellow

Dos and Don’ts for Reading Days

How many times have you said, “I’ll get this done during Reading Days?” I know I have said it at least ten times this semester. This semester’s reading days are Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27. Reading days (and the weekend before finals) are a great time to get prepared for your final exams and papers, but those two days go by very quickly. In this post, I’ll share some dos and don’ts for Reading Days success.

DO create an action plan. As soon as you can, look at all of your syllabi to get a better understanding of what exactly you have to do for your final assessment for each class. Do you have a final paper? How long is it? What kind of outside research does this paper require? Do you have to do a presentation about your paper in class? Do you have a final exam? Is it cumulative? Is there a study guide? Create fake deadlines for yourself before the actual deadline by bringing your paper or study plan to the Weingarten Center or by taking your paper to the Marks Family Writing Center. Making an appointment will create an accountability measure for yourself.

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DON’T start the day before. The worst time to start looking at exam material is a few hours before you take the test. If you create a plan and familiarize yourself with your professor’s expectations for the final, then you will know how much time you must devote to studying for that particular exam. Similarly, starting your paper the day before the deadline won’t yield the best result. You may need to get books from the library or interview someone to complete your assignment, so advanced planning is critical when completing these papers.

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Do prioritize. The end of the year comes with lots of fun activities that may get in the way of your exam and paper preparation. You are encouraged to balance work and fun, and the best way to do this is by putting all of your activities, fun or not, onto a calendar. We have April-May calendars in the Weingarten Center that are perfect for this activity. Once you see when everything will be taking place, you can make some choices. Perhaps choose one fun activity to do during the weekend before finals, and sandwich it between study/work sessions for your exams and papers.

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Don’t try to cram. Depending on how much time you have to study before your exam, you will have to make some choices about what you study. If you are short on time, focus on reinforcing the material that you know well and reviewing the topics that you can easily learn, rather than getting held up on the most complicated parts of your coursework. This strategy is the best way to get through as much as possible in a short amount of time.

For more tips on making the most of your Reading Days, visit us at the Weingarten Center! We’ll be holding two “Study Hacks for Reading Days” workshops on 4/23 and 4/24. Additionally, we are open for 50-minute appointments or shorter walk-ins if you would like to consult with a learning instructor individually.

Best of luck on your final exams and papers!

By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Sharing Stories at the Penn Faces Speakeasy

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On Thursday, April 5, Penn students, faculty, and staff braved the unseasonably cold, windy, and chilly weather to share and listen to one another’s stories on Penn’s College Green. This event was organized by the student group Penn Faces, which has been supported by the Weingarten Learning Resources Center since its inception.

Penn Faces is a “project that is the product of collaboration among individuals who came together with the common goal of creating a site to foster resilience and encourage honest conversations. Its vibrant color is a blending of Penn’s red and blue, highlighting both the spectrum and the unity of our experiences.”

The Penn Faces website provides students, faculty, and staff with a space to present their stories to the broader Penn community in the hope of breaking down the expectations of perfection that can be found on Penn’s campus.

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Some members of the PennFaces Student Advisory Board

The PennFaces Speakeasy is an annual event, organized by the PennFaces Student Advisory Board, that is held to provide the Penn community a space where they can share their stories with a wider audience.

The speakers exhibited strength through their vulnerability while sharing their personal stories of facing setbacks, experiencing loss, finding different paths, and building their resiliency. Here are some of the speakers from the event:

As an audience member, what stood out to me where some common themes that connected the different stories.

  • While each person shared their own individual stories of facing challenges, of feeling like they needed to hide who they were, or of believing they needed to conceal their struggles behind a mask, what made a difference for each person was finding an individual or a community with whom they could speak and connect with.
These ideas spoke to me about the need to find community and to make connections here at Penn.

Too often, I can feel like I just really need to zone in and focus on my academic and professional work while I am here, but we all need to make time and space for our personal lives.

We can have a richer, happier, and more fulfilling experience if we can be our whole selves on Penn’s campus.

Further, some acknowledged that every resource on campus is not for everybody, and that the first resource you reach out to might not be the best for you.

The speakers touched on ideas that reaching out to others and asking for help is a process, but that when you find the right place, it can make all the difference.

Whether who you reach out to is your friends or family, or a designated resource here on campus, these stories remind us that there are people here who truly care, and that there are people here who may be struggling too, even if they don’t always show it.

The speakers and advisory board hope that one day an event like the Speakeasy is not needed at Penn, because we will all feel more comfortable speaking about our fears, difficulties, and struggles openly in more spaces. For the time being though, PennFaces highlights a real need at Penn for students, faculty, and staff to remove our masks and to share our stories.

If you are interested in becoming more involved with PennFaces, go to Penn Faces to find out more.

For more resources at Penn, here is a helpful guide:

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Additionally, here are some other resources students have found to be helpful:

  • The Tutoring Center
  • Marks Family Writing Center
  • Resource Librarians
  • Professor and TA Office Hours
  • Campus and Community Houses (La Casa Latina, Makuu, Greenfield Intercultural Center, LGBT Center, etc.)
  • Your college major Advisors
Wherever you build your sense of community and decide to share your story, ask for help, or to find camaraderie, know that the Weingarten Learning Resources Center is here for you.

We wish you the best of luck as you finish up this semester!

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Dr. Ryan Miller, Director of the Office of Learning Resources, the PennFaces Student Advisory Board Members, Matthew Lee, Victoria Meeks, and Dr. Myrna Cohen, Executive Director of the WLRC, and Wendy Zhou.

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor & Research Fellow

 

 

Creating Positive Environments

College is advertised as a place where students can learn, grow, and interact with their peers. The college setting is known for bolstering interpersonal relationships in virtually every setting, including college dorms, dining halls, and even group study rooms in open spaces.

Before coming to college, both of us had imagined a college experience that would challenge us to explore the unknown, meet unfamiliar faces, and succeed academically. This image of the perfect college experience soon became dependent on the people in our immediate surroundings. From the friends with whom we became acquainted, to the professors with whom we interacted, these key relationships provided a strong and positive foundation for our now flourishing college careers.

Interpersonal relationships are an important part of students’ academic success. We have found that surrounding ourselves with the right people, inside and outside of the classroom, is an essential component of achieving academic success.

From Chieme:

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At Penn it is easy to be consumed by the daily pressures brought on by academics or extracurriculars. However, Rani and I have found that the constant positive reinforcement of a persistent friend or a model mentor can make these daily difficulties easier to withstand. Whenever I am concerned about a class or overwhelmed with responsibilities, I can turn to Rani to encourage me to get the job done and to put my best foot forward even if I am burnt out and ready to give up. Through my friendship with Rani, I have learned how essential it is to have these constant cheerleaders in my life. Not only have these motivators given me the courage to persist through adversity, but they have also given me the confidence to know that I am capable of achieving the goals that I have set out to accomplish.

From Rani:

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Our relationships outside the classroom are critical for thriving academically, but the attitude we have toward our coursework plays a role as well. Contrary to what we had expected, sometimes, campus culture can also include negativity about schoolwork. It is normal to hear people around you discussing how pointless the class is and refusing to do the homework. During exam week we hear people saying how they are going to fail the exam, and it affects not only their focus and productivity, but it affects others as well. It can be very difficult to do well in a class if one internalizes this type of mindset.

Chieme and I have adopted an attitude of positivity. When we have classes together, we sit near each other and our comments on the coursework classroom material are usually positive and hopeful, if there are any at all. In classes where I don’t have friends like Chieme to foster a positive attitude, I try to sit with quiet people or those who also have a similar outlook on the material. Surrounding oneself with positivity seems to supply the courage and energy necessary to attack the material in a more productive way.

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Overall, we have enjoyed our college experiences. Our friendship, work ethic and positive outlook have gotten us far along our respective paths.

  • So, try to find people who push you towards the goals you have set for yourself.
  • Try to find those constant motivators who will encourage you to think beyond the campus culture and to embrace positivity.
  • Look for ways to create constructive friendships and in-class interactions that will promote academic success.

Contributed by PENN Students: Chiemela Ohanele and Rani Richardson

Tech Tuesday: Rocketbooks and Frixion Pens!

 

Looking for an easy way to upload your class notes to your computer or cloud drives? Sick of wasting paper? Want a neat and easy way to stay organized?     

Then check out the Everlast Rocket Notebook and Frixion Pens! These tools were recently introduced to me by a student, and I wanted to make sure Penn students knew about them.

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

This notebook is reusable, syncs easily to your cloud drive, and works with any of the Frixion pens! It’s perfect for someone who prefers to take and save notes electronically, but that is in a class that requires them to take detailed notes on equations, pictures, or diagrams that don’t always format well in a traditional electronic note-taking devices or applications. It’s also great for those classes where your professors do not allow electronics!

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

How does it work?

  • Using one of the Frixion pens, simply write in the notebook like you would with any others.
  • At the bottom of the pages are icons where you can mark which cloud drive you want to send the notes to.
  • Using your phone, open the Rocketbook App and take a picture of your notes.
  • The phone and app will recognize the code at the bottom of your notebook page and will then send your notes to the proper electronic storage device.
  • After you have saved your notes, use a damp cloth to wipe the pages clean.
  • Give the pages a few minutes to dry, and then repeat the cycle!

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

Any drawbacks to using these tools?

  • The cost of the notebook on Amazon is $34, which is a bit hefty for one notebook. However, if this notebook is used properly, you won’t need to buy another notebook for a long time.
  • The notebook only works with Frixion pens. One is included with the first purchase of a notebook, but after that you will need to purchase more. Conveniently, these pens are erasable and not only work with Rocektbooks, but also with traditional paper.

Do you use the Rocketbooks? Let us know what you think!

Do you have any tools you would want to recommend to other Penn students?

Let us know and we can feature your ideas on our blog!

Disclaimer: Our Tech Tuesdays features are not an ad, we just like to highlight tools we think will be useful for Penn students!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Building an Intentional Support Infrastructure

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Hello Folks! We’re coming up to that time of the year again. With the end of the Spring semester in sight, we’re ramping up for our last mid-terms, formalizing and consolidating major projects, and looking ahead to Reading Days (April 26-27) and Finals (April 30-May 8).

Wait a minute, why is Weingarten asking me to Stop, Pause and Reflect when I’m just ramping up, building momentum, taking the leap???

That’s right! WE CARE ABOUT YOU! Being a critically reflective and conscientious student, professional and human being demands us to hone in our assumptions, mode operands and the automaticity of our belief systems, ideologies and actions/behaviors – TO REFLECT, EXAMINE, INTERROGATE, ADJUST AND EVEN TRANSFORM!

Today, we’re reflecting on how to build an INTENTIONAL SUPPORT INFRASTRUCTURE for ourselves and others! Regardless of where you are in your PENN program, whether you’re a first year undergraduate or advanced post-doctorate professional student, building an intentional support infrastructure is ESSENTIAL to your SELF-CARE. We underline the term, intentional, because intentionality fosters change and growth.

Every member of the PENN community comes from different and unique walks of life. Some of us have had superbly, built-in support infrastructures in the past. If that applies to you, perhaps the support sought you out and you didn’t even have to look for it. Others may have had to be more self-supportive and independent, while being selective about discovering and seeking supports and guidance. Now, we’re at PENN, together, and things may look a little bit different, and/or your personal predicament may have changed a little or a lot. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Check out our PENN FACES website and program for real stories of successes and failures, ups and downs, hardships, self-discoveries and resilience – all here at PENN!

At Weingarten, we want to emphasize that it is not about academic achievement solely, but about personal growth, and developing essential and healthy life skills, right here PENN, that will take you beyond your immediate academic career, and support you in your life beyond PENN. So, what does it mean to build an intentional support infrastructure?

  • First, acknowledging that you cannot do it all alone, that you need an intentional community, and that part of being a successful individual is to be able to identify and optimize what your support resources are. The idea of the self-sufficient Ivy League student operating out of a figurative island is a MYTH! Remember the PENN FACES project! And there is no SHAME in asking for HELP! In fact, we encourage vulnerability, honesty, transparency & candidness! Check out Brené Brown’s TEDxHouston’s talk: The power of vulnerability.
  • Second, accepting that you’re an unique individual, and that your identity, background, needs, experiences, circumstances and contexts are different that others. Push out those old, self-defeating thoughts, “everyone else is doing it… everyone else seems to be handling it fine… I don’t want anyone else to know what I’m really going through…” Instead, try these validating affirmations, “I am enough… My needs are essential for my growth… I will seek out support and utilize resources available to me with agency, confidence and hope… I will consider ways in which services and resources enhance and strengthen my own gifts, talents and strengths.
  • Third, take an inventory of the resources available to you at PENN (and beyond). Check out our VPUL Resources:

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  • Fourth, be open and flexible to the fact that how you may have previously accessed and utilized support resources and services may be different than how you may need and experience them now and in the future. Give it a try! And if it doesn’t work the first time, try again differently! Also, you may need to combine a particular set of services and resources for a particular goal, need, situation or time in your life, so take a creative and hybrid approach to how you build your own, customized and intentional support infrastructure!
  • Fifth, offer your support to others. At a time when everyone is so busy and technology often masks the reality of people’s lives, reach out the be there for someone else, make time, offer your empathy and understanding, and take action where appropriate and consented. Helping others will elevate and strengthen your own intentional network of support.

So, next time you look ahead and/or introspectively, before you charge ahead with actualizing and executing your goals, projects and paths, make sure that you have also take account of the very intentional support infrastructure that you’ll need to inspire, fuel, accompany, scaffold and/or intervene – so that the quality of your trajectory will be a successful one, regardless of outcomes. You may begin by asking:

  • Who will be my study/project partner?
  • Who will give me moral support?
  • Who will be my accountability partner?
  • Who will I go to for inspiration?
  • Who will I go to for consultation, advice and/or mentorship?
  • Who will I turn to for technical support?
  • Who can I go to if I struggle?

And remember, our doors, hearts and support resources are always open and available for you at Weingarten. Come check us out!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow