Student Spotlight: Aditi Singh


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

As part of Tutor Appreciation Month, Aditi shares how tutoring impacted her Penn experience.

There are some events that no one prepares you for. I had one of those events happen to me when one of my closest friends ran away from her dorm with a bottle of her antidepressants and almost committed suicide.  My first reaction was shock which soon turned into a deep sadness. You see these things in movies and shows but you would never think that it would happen to you so suddenly with no warning. At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with tutoring. And you’d be surprised to find out that it has a lot to do with it. 

I became a tutor in my freshman spring. I taught MATH 104. For three hours a week, I would sit at the tables at Penn and talk through math concepts and I truly loved every moment of it. It was familiar. It made sense. Being a freshman felt a lot like being a deer in headlights for me. Being an international student, I was exposed to so many novel stimuli. Culture, people, classes — none of it seemed easy. Everything was something to put effort into and not knowing where to look for help did not make it any easier. 

In my sophomore year, I tutored  MATH 114 and became a tutor mentor. I was still lost about what I wanted to do in my four years at Penn but I trudged along. There was a silver lining though– someone who made my days easier and exponentially better- my friend (and roommate). We would roam Penn, make 6 am Starbucks runs, build snowmans in front of my dorm. Suffice to say that I was slowly finding my way.  And that’s when life gave me a jolt. I am sure that we all have these life changing experiences where everything takes a turn for the worse and then nothing is the same again. At 9:30 pm on a Sunday night, my friend was gone. I had no idea where she was, I had no way to contact her because she wasn’t answering her phone. A week later, I received a phone call from a social worker and my friend flew home and we couldn’t be the same anymore. And just like that, everything changed.

Every week I would tutor CHEM 241 and MATH 104– the only truly structured part of my day. The rest of the day, I would sit in my dorm staring at the now empty room wondering how everything changed. I spent a lot of time crying, sitting silently staring out of those large glass windows of Harrison and talking to my friends over the phone or just staying on FaceTime so that I wouldn’t be alone. The only thing that got me up to do things were that I needed to complete my classes and I needed to tutor. I managed to muster up enough strength to get through my semester and keep my promise to myself to not let this get in the way of my dream to go to medical school. 

I mentioned before that tutoring was where I seeked comfort. There is something so wonderful about the look on someone’s face when they have been struggling with something for so long and then finally it makes sense. It made me feel like I truly made a difference. After my experience with my friend, and constantly questioning if I could have done something differently, if I could have helped more– here I was, actually helping. Actively changing something, someone for the better.

Call me a nerd, but in those days when everything was so heavy, tutoring lifted me up. My own tutors taught me subjects that I struggled with, with such care that I made it through my classes and finished strong. And on the day when I got an email from Valerie Wrenn (Associate Director of Tutoring Services) to become the Lead Math Tutor at Penn, all my hard work, all my love for tutoring, something that gave me joy and comfort came into fruition in a whole new way. I had a jump to my step as I walked on that cold winter morning. It was the one thing I needed to give me a real push out of the dreadful period that I couldn’t seem to get through. 

Being the Math Tutor Lead of Penn has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for me. I can help so many students who need help at Penn and also guide the tutors. But the not-so-obvious joy of this position is Valerie. She supervises my position and talking to her makes me feel like all these ideas that constantly pop up in my head can truly be a reality. Talking to someone who takes the time to attentively listen to all your ideas and supports you while grounding you  is invaluable. The support and care that I have received from the tutoring center has shaped the person that I am today. I know that without it, I would probably be lost at Penn. It has impacted me in so many ways– by making me a happier, more confident individual who can dare to dream at Penn. 

The goal of this blog post is to express my heartfelt gratitude to Valerie, Weingarten and all the tutors at Penn who have made Penn a better place for me and for so many other people. I could not have asked for a better support system.

– Aditi Singh

SAS ‘23

Pandemic Life as a Student Parent: A Learning Specialist’s Journey


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Shortly after Penn shut down in March 2020, I learned I was pregnant. I was tremendously excited, but there were moments of anxiety as I dealt with the pandemic and a huge life transition. I loved my life as a grad student at Penn and my work helped me stay grounded amongst chaos. Although the fatigue, nausea, and other pregnancy symptoms led to some rough patches, the strategies I learned as a busy doctoral student and a learning specialist at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center kept me on track. I had a weekly planner where I kept important deadlines, grouped into different categories so they were easier to remember. On days where I felt overwhelmed or exhausted, I wrote a few encouraging words in my planner to help me stay calm. At Weingarten, supporting students over Zoom and working through their challenges together helped me feel connected.

In December, my son was born and eight weeks later I returned to being a student and my fellowship at Weingarten. Many of the time management and study strategies I had previously relied on were now impossible. For example, I often recommend mapping out a weekly and daily schedule as a great way to get started with better time management. Dr. Rashmi Kumar’s Structure the Unstructured Time post provides a helpful guide. Now that I was caring for my son most days, my schedule was extremely unpredictable. Sometimes he would nap for 2-3 hours when I could get work done, other days he might nap in 20 minute increments or not at all. 

Through a mom blogger, I learned a new phrase that became my mantra: “Flexible routine: not rigid schedule!” Each day, I have one or two priorities in mind. I still find it hard, but I am learning to think more about the big picture of my week, versus getting too caught up in what I can’t get done some days. I know I will get to each and every task, it just may take longer than I had anticipated. That is okay.

I want to end with a positive outcome of my new schedule. Being forced to work in small chunks of 20-30 minutes has led to increased creativity and motivation for writing. Somehow I ended up with a 65-page dissertation proposal which I will defend in May! Before my son was born, I often set aside one day a week for writing tasks, but much of that time would be spent on distractions like social media or texting friends. Writing in short chunks almost every day and taking lots of time in between to think about the logical arguments of my proposal has led to a much more positive experience, and helped me become a stronger writer. I would recommend this strategy for any student who is struggling with writing.

Relaxation Room @ Penn’s Biomedical Library


Friday, June 21, 2019

Penn is committed to the heath and well-being of all students, faculty and staff. Dr. Dubé is the University of Pennsylvania’s inaugural Chief Wellness Officer. The Wellness at Penn website provides eight categories of wellness:

Adapted from the Wellness Wheel of SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
https://www.wellnessatpenn.com/

On April 25, 2019, Amanpreet (Aman) Kaur, Community Health and Engineering Librarian at the Biomedical Library, and her team’s idea of “Weekly Themed Walks” was selected as one of the finalists for Penn Wellness’ Big Pitch event, which invited students, staff and faculty to pitch their ideas for innovative wellness programming for the community.

Aman has also developed the Relaxation Room at the Biomedical Library:

Relaxation Room by Amanpreet Kaur
Penn Libraries

On May 30th, Aman provided us with a tour of the Relaxation Room in support of the Sow, Nurture and Grow: Cultivate Your Purpose theme of this year’s SALT (Student Affairs Leadership Team) conference at Penn:

  • There are spaces for physical, intellectual and spiritual relaxation, including yoga mats, chair yoga and prayer mat.
  • There are spaces for drawing, coloring, sensorial manipulatives, puzzles and even an Operation game!
  • There are relaxing sounds stations where you can scan QR codes with your cellular device and listen with a headphone.
  • There is an adjacent room that can be accessed for more interactional activities.

And, of course, get some studying and research done before or after your relaxation, as the Biomedical Library continues to be a great Study Spot at Penn!

For more information about the Biomedical Library, also see our prior blog: Study Spots: Biomed Library.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor, Weingarten Learning Resources Center.

Managing Successful Transitions: Bringing the Skills you Learned at Weingarten Off Campus


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

I remember sitting, terrified, at my college graduation. I clutched the sides of my white plastic lawn chair like it was an ejector seat that could go off at any moment, propelling me from comfortable student life into a reluctant adulthood. At the time, the skills I had perfected through trial and error as a student– like keeping up with class assignments, studying for exams, and writing research papers—seemed entirely disconnected from my new role in the workforce. How would I cope with having a boss and coworkers? What if the pace was too demanding and I couldn’t keep up?

At my first job after college, I worked as an administrative assistant at a busy news magazine. I soon found out that the independent skills I learned from being a college student, such as juggling multiple assignments, keeping a to-do list, and staying on top of my schedule, were all transferrable to the workforce. For example, when I had a big project to tackle at work, I thought of large research papers I had written, and how I had broken them into smaller steps and assigned deadlines.

In my current role as a learning instructor, I often reflect on how the skills we focus on at Weingarten are setting our students up for success not only with coursework, but in their many off campus pursuits. Here are some practical ways you can use Weingarten learning strategies over the summer and beyond:

  1. Plan your syllabus. A syllabus is really just a roadmap, a kind of project plan with a few over-arching goals, and key dates and deliverables. Think about how you might use a similar syllabus or project plan to stay on track this summer. Remember to pick 3-4 big picture goals.
  2. Make a summer calendar. Many students love the colorful Weingarten semester calendars, which provide an overall view of key assignments. Why not make your own to plan out major dates and deadlines this summer?
  3. Use active learning strategies. Whether you are trying to ace an entrance exam for graduate school, or learn a new language for study abroad, remember to use visual diagrams, practice problems, and other techniques to keep your brain active.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow

Wellness: Mindfulness at ICA Museum


Monday, March 11, 2019

Welcome Back from Spring Break, PENN Students! Have you considered how you will practice self-care and prioritize your wellness for the rest of the semester? Consider attending the Mindfulness at the Museum Series at PENN’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA):

“Mindfulness at the Museum is a series of drop-in sessions focused on helping our wider community—inside and outside of the museum—to have access to tools to become more aware. Mindfulness meditation can help us to develop healthier minds and bodies, reduce stress, foster compassion, and increase our memory skills, among many other studied benefits. Participants may discover that this appreciation of the “here and now” extends outside the museum” (Mindfulness Program Series at UPENN-ICA).

  • These free drop-in sessions are open to all. No special clothing is required. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. No prior meditation experience is necessary.
Mindfulness at the Museum

While attending a public Mindfulness program series is not necessary, and you can just as meaningfully practice within the privacy of your own space and in the moments afforded in-between, there is so much support and joy in practicing mindfulness in community.

Also, an aesthetically stimulating, yet peaceful space such as the ICA Museum plays an important role in helping us connect to our sensorial system. Awakening our senses and re-connecting to our inner being and the world through them is an essential part of well-being.

SPRING 2019 SCHEDULE (Register HERE):

Mar 8, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Hariprasad Kowtha

Mar 15, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Sandi Herman

Mar 22, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Kate Johnson

Mar 29, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Shesheena Bray

Take a study break and practice self-care through

Mindfulness at the Museum!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Reflection: What I Have Learned from Weingarten Students


Friday, February 8, 2019
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A Learning Fellow’s Reflection:
What I Have Learned from Weingarten Students

Returning to student life this Fall after over a decade was a humbling experience for me. Although I reveled in all of the opportunities and resources on Campus and the intellectual stimulation of my classes, I also came close to tears trying to figure out the EZ-Borrow system for a book I needed, and ruined my favorite pair of shoes trudging through a flooded walkway because it was the only way I knew how to get to class.

Although I began my position as a Weingarten Learning Fellow (one of several doctoral students in the Graduate School of Education who works as a Learning Instructor) with learning strategies based on my own academic training and life experiences, I soon realized how much I take away from students. I continually find our one-on-one sessions and workshops an opportunity to find out about new tech tools and resources on Campus, talk through different exam preparation and writing strategies, and about a million other things!

Coming from a 9-5 office-type schedule, I originally had a tendency to try and study for five or six hours at once, without taking more than a 15-20 minute break to scarf down my lunch or make a phone call.

One thing I have learned from being able to work with so many students on their own schedules is the importance of taking meaningful breaks throughout the day, whether it’s lunch with a friend, going to the gym, or taking part in a club or activity that you enjoy.

I am proud to say that I now work for only two or three hours at a time, and then enjoy a long walk with my dog or a mindful lunch break where I actually sit computer and phone free to enjoy my food. I also try to embrace the student mindset of continuous learning and reflection, and I gain courage from so many of our resilient students who bounce back from failure and are willing to try again.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow

 

Wellness: Mindful Transitions


Monday, September 17, 2018

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“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”  – Nikki Giovanni

Whether you are an undergraduate living away from home for the first time, a graduate student new to Philadelphia, or even a returning student planning for life after Penn, chances are you are undergoing a period of transition. As the semester begins, it’s important to recognize that we are all experiencing change in one form or another. Although this can bring uncertainty–sometimes manifesting as anxiety, or lack of focus–there is also an upside. Transitions can lead to tremendous personal growth. In the words of the poet Maya Angelou,

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
  • Have there been times when you felt frustrated this semester?
  • Did you get lost on the way to a new class, or struggle to understand an assignment or reading?

In addition to feeling frustrated (because this is a valid way to feel!), try to acknowledge these moments as a vital part of your journey – as a student, a learner, a thinker, and a member of the Penn community.

While transitions are necessary, there are ways to make them gentler on your mind and body. Notice how you are feeling. If you experience negative thoughts, like “this is too hard,” “I’m frustrated,” “I feel lost,” or “I’m not smart enough,” try to stop judging yourself or comparing yourself to others.

Instead, realize these thoughts are normal, take a deep breath, and let them go. Don’t forget to pay attention to your body. You might feel tired, or tense, or hungry at hours that are not normal for you. Try to attend to what your body needs, whether it’s more sleep, a long walk, or eating delicious and healthy food.

Wherever you are in your academic journey, remember that the staff of the Weingarten Learning Resources Center are always here for you. Whether it’s helping with time management skills, identifying additional resources on Campus, or just talking through how you will manage a stressful week, we are committed to helping all Penn students cope with transitions!

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow & Instructor

 

Wellness: Make This Semester Your Best One Yet!


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Welcome Back to Campus!

It’s hard to believe how quickly summer went by. Here at Weingarten we are excited to have you back! We have collected some tips over the years to help you start this semester off strong and make this semester the best one yet.

1. Make a plan.

Before the semester gets too busy, write down all of your obligations, including
exams, projects, quizzes, trips, and parties for your classes, jobs, clubs,
organizations, and personal commitments. Adjust your schedule to ensure you
have time for each.

2. Make your health a priority.

Schedule time for you now. Make taking care of your health a habit early in the
semester. Decide when and how you can take time to ensure you are doing what
you need to do to stay physically healthy and active.

3. Make time for sleep.

Make a night time routine for yourself now. Getting a good night’s sleep increases
your success and focus in your academic and personal pursuits. Try to keep a
schedule so that you can be the healthiest and most productive you.

4. Make personal appointments.

Schedule any appointments you will need this semester (doctor, dentist, therapist,
counselor). Once the semester gets going, it’s easy to brush these to the wayside.

5. Make appointments with campus resources.

Schedule appointments with Penn Libraries, Career Services, Academic Advisors, or
the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. Get to know the resources on campus
now so that you are more comfortable reaching out for help later!

6. Get to know people in your classes, in your residence hall, in your clubs
and organizations.

Attend events and programming here at Penn with your friends, hallmates, and
classmates! The University of Pennsylvania is a place where we can all grow
personally and academically. Make the time to be a part of a community where
we can learn and grow together this semester.

 

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow and Learning Instructor

Wellness: Wellness Expo, Penn Resources & Beyond


Sunday, April 29, 2018

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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

Student Voices: Sharing Stories at the Penn Faces Speakeasy


Friday, April 13, 2018

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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