Student Voices: 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

 

 

Wellness: Positive Psychology & Volunteering

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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.

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/
  2. 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
  3. Check out Penn’s Civic House: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/civichouse/

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

 

Bigger Pictures: Pondering Priorities

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“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
    ~  Andy Warhol

I spend a lot of my time here at your learning center working with students who are in a steel cage death match with time management.  And you don’t need to be a learning specialist to see the reason is clear.  

Graduate, professional and undergraduates here at Dear Penn, from our 12 graduate and professional schools to our four undergraduate colleges, across divisions and departments and other seemingly arbitrary lines of demarcation, will all, at some point, come face to face with the grim, irreducible non-expanding 168 hour week.  

Granted, your humble blogger returns to the 168 hour week like any monomaniac returns to his obsession.  (That’s my problem, not yours.)  But the 168 hour mark does give us a necessary point of perspective when it comes to deciding what gets done, in what order, and when.

Even if you’re already good at “getting it all done” there is something to be said for taking a closer look at your priorities, not just for the sake of some calendar-based time allotment but to answer a bigger picture question:  What am I doing, anyway?

It happens to all of us, sooner or later.  We get grooved into academic and/or career tracks.  We find ourselves devoting time to pursuits from which we derive less and less pleasure.

We get bored.

We also get confused.  We confuse priorities and responsibilities.  We confound our own priorities with the expectations of others.  We fill our time with busy-ness for no other reason than busy is the coin of our 21st century realm.

We get to this spot of confusion legitimately.  Our responsibilities shape our priorities, just as the expectations of others prioritize for us, even if only in the short term.  And in today’s labor market, if you’re not really busy you better at least look busy or you may suddenly have many, many free hours to ponder all sorts of things.

All I’m suggesting is take a couple of those hours and spend them thinking through your priorities.  Ask where they came from.  And decide if something needs to change.  You owe it to yourself.  

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Study Strategies: We’re Open for the Summer!

Congratulations! You made it through the Spring semester. For some, Summer classes will be starting up in a few weeks. For others, class is a distant memory until the Fall semester begins in August. Regardless of your course situation, we wanted to let you know that we are open for the summer! The Weingarten Learning Resources Center is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday all summer long and we’re able to meet in person or over the Bluejeans online platform if you are not on campus. While your next set of courses may seem far away, we are always here for you to get a head start on planning or to help tie up any loose ends from the semester. Here are some ways we can support you this summer:

  1. Resolve incompletes:

Work with a learning instructor to create a plan to finish any incompletes you may have. We can make a schedule with realistic, manageable goals that you can accomplish during your summer vacation. We can also discuss how to communicate your action plan with professors.

  1. Time management/exam preparation strategies for summer courses:

Summer courses are unique because they meet several times a week for many hours at a time. Midterms and finals are also closer together due to the short timeframe of the summer session. Because of the time demands for each summer course, it is helpful to set up a study/work schedule in order to get everything accomplished. We have summer planning calendars available at the office!

  1. Prepare for the upcoming Fall semester:

Spend some time reflecting on what went well during this past semester while setting goals for the upcoming semester. You can also discuss new study strategies that you hope to try, or new time management tools that may work for you.

Once you’re back on campus in the Fall, be sure to reach out to us for an appointment ASAP. We are excited to help you prepare for the new academic year. Have a great summer!

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo

Get Moving with Some Brain Breaks!

With finals just around the corner, it is important to set up “brain breaks” in order to increase productivity. Studying is most effective when done in relatively short chunks of time to ensure focus. Once you’re feeling distracted or have been studying for a decent amount of time, consider taking a brain break. Since the weather is finally warming up (hello, Spring!), now is a great time to get outside during your study breaks and enjoy the weather. Here are three ideas that will get your body moving and give your brain a break.

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Meditation is a perfect study break because it can be done anywhere for any duration of time. For guided meditation, check out three weekly offerings from Campus Health. On Mondays, meditation is offered at the Office of the Chaplain from 12-1 p.m. and on Thursdays meditation is held at the Graduate Student Center from 12-1 p.m. and in the Mayer Seminar Room at Stouffer College House from 6-7 p.m. These free meditation sessions end on May 8, so be sure to stop by a session before they’re gone!

 

  1. Walk/Run the Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail is a beautiful path that spans over 60 miles. You can pick up the trail right on Spruce Street and stroll north to see some beautiful Philadelphia sights. Additionally, Campus Health has developed 1, 2 and 3 mile walking/jogging loops around campus. Check it, and other valuable information, out here.

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk

  1. Visit the Morris Arboretum

Visit this beautiful garden for a quick break from city living! It is free for Penn students and you can hop on a shuttle at the Penn Bookstore to get there. Some highlights include the rose garden (pictured here) and an amazing rock wall garden. The Morris Arboretum is open year round and offers seasonal specials, including a Cherry Blossom festival in the Spring and Fall foliage events.

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Staff Writer: Cassie Lo

 

Time Management/Study & HW Strategy: The Tomato Method

With readings days fast approaching and finals week close behind, we are all struggling at the end of the semester to find motivation for this last push before the summer break. Ugh, why can’t it be here already? If you’re like me right now, who is so close to feeling burned out, finding the patience and determination to stay focused on small or large tasks seem daunting and unrealistic. One method that I have heard and used as a great strategy for those with short attention spans or low drive would include The Pomodoro Technique, also more simply and commonly known as The Tomato Method.

This time management technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. It’s super easy to implement and can increase productivity when doing tasks. Look at it this way: it’s like you have to run miles and miles to get to your destination, but with the Tomato Method, you accomplish this by doing many sprints with short breaks in between. That way you don’t just procrastinate and give up at the beginning of the line. There are tasks when we can just fly through them, but others times, its just such a drag. In a way, this technique is a lot like chunking your time and task. Check out this short 2 minute video that explains how to get started. Here is a quick summary on how to it all works: tumblr_nnjxvcPVbz1senxz2o1_1280

If you want to use some other websites or other apps on your tech besides a simple time keeper, here’s a list from LifeHacker.com that might be useful as well:

  • Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp we’ve highlighted before that you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything.
  • Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timer that you can fire and forget, following the traditional Pomodoro rules, or use to customize your own work and break periods.
  • Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress.
  • Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks.
  • Focus Timer (iOS) used to be calledPomodoroPro , and is a pretty feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break durations, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.

Say “bye bye procrastination!” with this technique. Try it out! Or come into Weingarten to try it out with a Learning Instructor.

Staff Writer: Victoria Singh Gill

Scheduling to Reduce Stress Part 2: Google Calendar Edition

As promised, here is part 2 in the scheduling series. This time we will be focusing on the features of Google Calendar to schedule, plan, create and keep track of tasks.

Calculating Hours and Setting up Google Calendar

As in the last article, I recommend starting with a list of your classes and calculated estimated weekly hours needed to maintain academic success. A typical schedule may look like this:

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The next step involved is also the same as before with a few extra steps that will save you time in the long run. Create a schedule in Google Calendar on an hour by hour basis starting first with weekly events (such as classes, meals, meetings, etc.) that are consistent from week to week. Set each weekly item to repeat by clicking on “edit event” in the event creation pop up box. Below the time and date you’ll see a checkbox to repeat the event. Once you check the box, you’ll see a pop up that allows you to select different options:

Repeat box

 

I recommend setting the repeats to automatically end on the last day of classes. This is an important step because when you set up notifications later on, you won’t be left with notifications over the summer that you get used to ignoring.

 

Once you’ve finished building the schedule, it should look something like this:

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Calendar Notifications and How to Use Them

Google calendar has a multitude of notification options and I suggest trying out different ones to see what works for you. There are options for SMS notifications, traditional phone notifications and a daily agenda. The daily agenda is a rarely used and well hidden feature that I highly recommend. The daily agenda is an email agenda sent automatically every morning at 5am to your Gmail account that gives you an hour by hour schedule to follow for the day. You can turn on the daily agenda by clicking the small gear icon at the top right of the screen under your Google avatar then select the following: settings> calendars. Then find your main calendar and on the same row select “edit notifications.” On the next screen you’ll see many options to add notifications but scroll to the bottom to find the “daily agenda” and click the checkbox to activate it. The other options are available for both hourly events and all-day events with distinct options for both including email, SMS and notifications (via phone or browser).

Using Google Tasks with Google Calendar

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 2.45.07 PMIf you’re using Google Calendar for your scheduling, I highly recommend using the integrated Google Tasks function along with the calendar. It is somewhat limited in that tasks are only available on the desktop version and not the app, but the seamless integration is worth the minor inconvenience. By default, Google Calendar integrates “reminders” in place of tasks. To use tasks to you have to click the small triangle next to the reminders option and choose “switch to tasks” as seen in the screenshot above. Once you switch to tasks you can now add a task either by adding an item to the task list on the left-hand side or to a specific day. To add a task to a specific day, click on the day the same way you would to add an event and you’ll see an option to switch from event to task in the create an event popup widget.

Once you add tasks they will show up on the task list, and on the calendar day if they are added to specific date.

 

Staff Writer: Randall Perez