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

 

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Wrapping Up Spring Semester!

While it might not feel like spring outside, the semester is starting to come to a close. As we start to prepare for final papers and projects, it can be too easy to start to feel overwhelmed. Don’t let your impending deadlines get the better of you this semester. Weingarten has some tools that can help.

  • First, we suggest laying out all your deadlines on a calendar. This helps you see what tasks are coming up (Stop by Weingarten to pick up one of these calendars).

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  • Next, work backwards from your larger project deadlines and/or exams. Break down these tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  • Create deadlines for these mini-tasks and write these deadlines on the calendar as well.
    • These mini-deadlines will help to make sure you are staying on track with your assignments. These deadlines are personal, so if you need to move some around or reschedule, you can! Just make sure you are not falling too far behind.
  • Make sure to note any other personal obligations you have on this calendar.

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  • Call Weingarten at 215-573-9235 to schedule an appointment with a learning instructor who can help you utilize this calendar, make a plan for your studying, or help you manage multiple papers and assignments.
  • Schedule time to attend the Study Hacks for Reading Days workshops:
    • Monday, April 23rd from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Weingarten Center
    • Tuesday, April 25th from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. in ARCH 110
    • Register at goo.gl/iGH4rk
Enjoy the rest of your spring semester!

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Remember Weingarten is here to help!

By: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Foregrounding Identity in Academia & Scholarship

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Right about now, we find ourselves knees-deep (maybe waists-deep!) in final projects. It is that time of the year in the Spring semester, Folks! At Weingarten, we empathize with the criticality and rigorousness of your final projects: term papers, capstone projects, portfolios, program thesis papers, and the list goes on! We also know our students, yes, YOU! You have been diligently examining your syllabus requirements, going through the assignment/project rubric with a fine-tooth comb, consulting with the Professor and/or the TA, integrating your course citations and materials, aggregating your own research references, and perhaps even disaggregating, coding and analyzing your collected data!

As you sit down in front of your computer to write your introduction, thesis or opening paragraph, BREATHE! Close your eyes, inhale deep, exhale loud, and CENTER YOURSELF… Yes, that’s it! We want to locate the YOU back in the research project!

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Due to the increasing professionalization of the Academy and the scientification of research, even social science research, it is easy to loose sight of our own IDENTITIES in being enveloped by the research process. But remember, YOUR PERSPECTIVES are UNIQUE and VALUABLE! You are part of a diverse University Community, which is bonded by all that makes us different, inasmuch as there is synergy in our factors in common. Your IDENTITY fundamentally influences your approach, methods and interpretations – whether or not you acknowledge it explicitly in your work.

YOUR IDENTITY OCCUPIES A CRITICAL SPACE IN YOUR CONCEPTUALIZATIONS

Here are a few tips in bringing back, centering and honoring the YOU in your research process:

What Inspired You?

Identify and track the source of  your inspiration. Was it a person, object or moment in time that served as catalyst for your inspiration? Was it a personal, academic or professional experience? Is there a story, a narrative behind your inspiration? Don’t lose sight of this inspiration as it will not only serve as fuel to sustain your academic work, but it will also serve as an interpretive lens in helping contextualize your conclusions and implications based on the source or triggering axis of your inspiration.

Look Back: What is your Legacy?

Reflecting on and examining your legacy will help you flesh out the theoretical framework to your project. Your legacy may involve histories, stories, narratives, memories and experiences that shaped who you are today. They often inform the ideologies, orientations and interpretive lenses, which can be teased out of your theoretical framework. Other times, they serve as counter-narratives, arguments or positions relative to your own or society’s dominant stances.

Explore Your Intersectionality

You are a phenomenally complex individual whose legacy, orientations and identity are deeply and richly rooted. The work of understanding the intersections of our identities, the matrix of their categorical representations (e.g. gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, citizenship status, etc.), how our identities are socially constructed, fluid and negotiated, and ultimately, what socio-political and economic power they afford or limit in different contexts can be labor intensive, but will prove invaluable to your research process. It will help reveal blind spots and assumptions in the research design, analysis and/or interpretations of findings. Identifying, wrestling with coherences, dissonances and/or boundaries of the scope of our research project is our duty as researchers.

Localizing and interrogating your own IDENTITY within Research is a critical means to Embracing and Valuing the authentic YOU and WORLD around YOU!

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

Tech Tuesday: Text Help with Read and Write

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Read and Write is a technology software recently introduced to our office by Amrou Ibrahim, our Assistive Technology Specialist. It’s an amazing application that can assist many students with their reading and writing needs. The tool offers support through various features, including highlighting texts, reading texts aloud, and utilizing talk-to-text features.

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Read and Write can be installed through a Google Chrome or Safari add-ons. Once it is installed, the application installs a toolbar that can be used with any tab in your web browser. Additionally, there is a desktop feature that can be downloaded so that Read and Write can be used offline as well.

This tool includes many different features which can benefit students here at Penn. Here are a few :

  • Text-to-speech features for selected passages or entire documents (works with emails, web browsers, PDFs, and more!)
    • While the text is read aloud, the associated words are highlighted on the screen. (This can help keep the reader focused)
  • Text and picture dictionaries to aid in students’ reading
  • A speech to text feature that can aid in students’ writing
  • A simplifying text features that gets rid of ads and other distracting features from web pages
  • Tools to highlight and underline while you are reading

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This is a great tool to try, especially because it is free! If you are interested in learning more about this tool or other technology that can be useful, call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center at (215) 573-9235 to make an appointment with Amrou or with one of our other learning instructors!

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

How to Succeed at Long-Term Project Management Part 2: Self-Care

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Now that you’ve figured out date goals and to-do lists, let’s talk about focusing on wellness.

A large factor of being able to maintain a grueling work schedule is being able to balance that work with things that provide mental wellness and support.

With an intentional wellness plan carved out of a few moments each day, you will be more productive. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Start off the day with exercise

When working on a large project or paper, I find exercising for a few minutes each morning a valuable way to get both my mind and body moving. Head to Pottruck for a quick class or cardio session or do an exercise video from the comfort of your own home.

  1. Make lunch/dinner plans with friends

Everyone needs to eat. Use your meals as a social break time from doing work. Meet your friends at the dining hall for brunch at 11 a.m. on Saturday or at Chipotle at 6 p.m. on Tuesday for dinner. Plan to work for an hour or two before and after dinner. Socializing while eating will nourish your mind and body, and it will give you time to vent about this pesky project that you’re working on.

  1. Celebrate small accomplishments

After you complete a few steps on your to-do list, celebrate! I had a mini-celebration every time I finished a chapter of my dissertation. Whether it was taking a break to watch a movie or baking (and then enjoying) some cookies, a small celebration will motivate you to keep going.

  1. Maintain your sleep routine

Research shows that pulling an all-nighter one night and “making up for it over the weekend” doesn’t actually restore your body as well as a consistent sleep pattern can. Try to go to sleep and wake up at around the same time each day. I also recommend that you work a “wind down hour” into your nightly routine so that you have an hour or so to shut your brain down and focus on something relaxing before you try to sleep.

Rather than thinking of these breaks as distractions or time taken away from doing work, they will help you maintain productivity. Just remember: There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This semester will end, and you will get a break. There are only a few more weeks to go before you can return to Netflix binging and serious relaxing! For more tips on how to successfully complete your final papers and projects, please stop by the Weingarten Center to meet with any of our Learning Instructors. We would be happy to help!

By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Instructor

Scheduling Self-Care: Reflections from Penn’s Teach-In 2018

Link to video: https://vimeo.com/255294916

Here at Weingarten we like to emphasize making time for students’ self-care. When we are taking care of ourselves, not only are we happier and healthier, but we also perform better academically and professionally.

One aspect of self-care that we often don’t focus on is challenging and stimulating our mind. This can be done through reading new books, learning a new skill, or attending a museum or art exhibit. This month, Penn’s Teach-In, demonstrated one way to think about stimulating your mind, learning new things, and making time for self-care .

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Penn’s Teach-In occurred on campus from March 18th – March 22nd. The theme for this year’s event was The Production, Dissemination, and Use of Knowledge. There were 32 events over 5 days in 16 different venues across campus. All events were free and open to the public. Different faculty from across Penn came together to discuss different topics including discussions around sexual harassment, purposes of a Penn education, teaching race, vaccine denial, the future of technology, thinking about evolution, and a Bioethics film festival. Check out their schedule of events here:

http://www.upenn.edu/teachin/index.html#schedule

These are just some of the captivating and stimulating events that were addressed by our Penn Professors. Moral of the story?

Take this time to learn something new that is perhaps out of your comfort zone.

While we know everyone is busy with academic, professional, social, and extra-curricular commitments, don’t forget to take advantage of the many wonderful programs (that are often free) happening on Penn’s campus. These programs can be an enriching addition to your undergraduate or graduate experience here at Penn.

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Photo from the International Collegiate Science Journal

By: Kelcey Grogan, Weingarten Learning Fellow and Learning Instructor

How to Succeed at Long Term Project Management Part One: Goal-Setting

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I submitted my dissertation earlier this month. A dissertation is essentially a book that takes years of writing and researching to complete. Now that I can look back and reflect on the process, I want to share some tips that really helped me get through the longest project of my life. In this post, I’ll talk about specific strategies for setting goals and sticking to deadlines. Check back next week for part two of this series, where I will cover the self-care initiatives I pursued while writing in order to stay well while completing my dissertation. If you have a final paper or project looming in the not-so-distant future, read on to see how you can create a plan for success!

  1. Identify the due date.

Most, if not all, of your big projects will have a definitive due date. If there is not one, create a due date for yourself that fits best in with your other final exams, projects and papers. We have 2018 – April-May Calendar available at the Weingarten Center to help organize all of your final obligations. See when your busy times are, and plan around them. If you have all set dates for your exams, papers and projects, write them in now so that you can begin preparing in advance.

  1. Work backwards to plan intermediate due dates.

Some of you may have intermediate dates included in your final project description (i.e. Writing Seminar Portfolio). For everyone else, creating intermediate due dates along the way for small steps is a great way to keep chipping away at a larger project. Once you’ve identified the due date, work backwards from that date to today’s date and create a to-do list. We have Long Project Planning Sheet (pictured below) available at the Weingarten Center to help you plan things out, but you can also do this on an app (such as Wunderlist) or on a regular piece of paper.

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  1. Create manageable goals for small chunks of time.

Once you begin creating a to-do list, break your project up into a series of very small steps in order to be successful. For example, the first task on my to-do list is always to re-familiarize myself with the prompt or task. Reread the assignment description, and then check that off your list! You’re already making progress. After that, your steps should never take more than 1-2 hours to complete, and you should take a break in-between. If you’re writing a paper, break the paper up into sections (introduction, argument 1, conclusion, etc.) and make each section a different task.

  1. Find an accountability partner.

Speaking your goals aloud to someone else will make you more likely to complete them. Once I set my intermediate deadlines, I shared them with everyone from my friends and classmates to my dissertation advisor. That way, when the deadline neared, I knew I had to turn something in because others were expecting drafts. Find someone in your class, a friend or roommate who you can check in with periodically. Make an appointment at the Weingarten Center or the Marks Family Writing Center and bring a section of your paper there. Check in with your professor during office hours so you can share your progress.

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Long-term projects and papers can sometimes feel like isolating, daunting tasks, but if you involve others and make the project more manageable through smaller deadlines, you’ll definitely be successful. Good luck!

By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Instructor