Weingarten Center receives visionary gift

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The University of Pennsylvania today announced a $2.6 million gift from the Moh Foundation that will be used to enhance academic support, disability services, and tutoring at the Weingarten Center.

The Moh Foundation Integrated Learning Care Initiative gift will directly impact Penn students by providing support for innovative, cross-campus collaborations; state-of-the-art space for accommodations and learning; and reimagined services that benefit every student on campus. 


“This gift is reflective of the Moh Foundation’s deep awareness of the greatest needs of our students,. Peggy Moh’s mentorship and advocacy, along with the generosity of the Moh Foundation, are great acts of love in service of justice and tenderness for Penn students.”
Mamta Accapadi
Vice Provost for University Life

This landmark gift from the Moh Foundation will provide new resources that will enable the Weingarten Center to better support the academic experience of every Penn scholar, especially those with unique learning needs. 

“With a shared interest in promoting equity and inclusion, our foundation was committed to funding Penn’s most urgent priorities around accessibility and support services for students with disabilities,” says Peggy Moh, president of the Moh Foundation, proud Penn parent, and member of the Weingarten Advisory Board. “By providing resources for programmatic experimentation, new technology and capital enhancements, we hoped to help solidify the Center’s position as the leader of student support services in the country.”

A new testing center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022 in Penn Libraries’ Biotech Commons. The space will provide an accessible, quiet exam site for students requiring testing accommodations. Previously, students who needed extra time, specific lighting, or other exam requirements used assigned spaces scattered across Penn’s campus. With this centralized testing location, a wide variety of accommodations will be offered in one space including services for students with visual and/or audial impairments. “This is a truly transformative gift,” says Jane Holahan, executive director of the Weingarten Center. “We are destigmatizing disability and empowering all of our students through an integrated learning model.” 

A hub for academic support services outside the classroom, the Weingarten Center is an important element of student achievement. The Moh Foundation’s gift will allow Penn to pilot a case management approach designed to increase student success. By offering personalized academic support, the Center enables all students to be fully supported throughout their Penn journey through holistic, accessible, and equitable disability services and learning resources. “This gift highlights the importance of the Weingarten Center as a destination for all students who seek academic support to optimize their success,” says Sharon Smith, Associate Vice Provost for University Life.

Technology and new programming are also part of the gift that will enhance the student experience. “Student feedback is a key part of this gift,” Smith adds. “We are interested in continually evaluating our initiatives, experimenting, and offering what’s most urgent for our student population.”

Hey Day 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Penn announces plans for new student performing arts center

Monday, August 9, 2021

Penn President Amy Gutmann today announced that the University has begun the planning process to build a new student performing arts center at 33rd Street and Woodland Walk, adjacent to Lauder and Hill College Houses and proximate to King’s Court English College House. The University has issued a request for a proposal for a feasibility study for the proposed $31-million, 36,000-square-foot center, a project which Gutmann said has been in high demand by the collective undergraduate student body.

“We are thrilled to be undertaking this extraordinarily exciting project at Penn in support of the thousands of students avidly involved in the performing arts and the dozens and dozens of thriving, talented student performing arts groups on campus. This project would augment the incredible resources now serving student-run performance organizations, with Platt Student Performing Arts House providing leadership in the creation and implementation of arts programming for students at Penn.The proposed center would serve along with the Platt House, Irvine Auditorium, Houston Hall, Iron Gate Theatre, as well as additional spaces at the ARCH, to create a consortium of spaces for undergraduate students who are making important, imaginative, and innovative strides in theater, dance, instrumental and vocal music, comedy, and spoken word. Responding to the expanding needs of Penn’s vibrant performing arts community, a terrific team has been quietly at work over the last year to discuss and consider this project. We are now excited to share this proposed vision for a new creative space at Penn.”

Founder of Penn LGBT Center Bob Schoenberg dies at 76

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Founder and long-time Director of the Penn LGBT Center Bob Schoenberg died suddenly on Monday from cancer.

Schoenberg — who received a master of social work and a doctor of social work from the School of Social Policy & Practice in 1968 and 1989, respectively — founded the LGBT Center in 1982 after witnessing a Penn sophomore being severely beaten and targeted on Locust Walk for being gay. He served as the LGBT Center’s director for 35 years until retiring in 2017.


Schoenberg was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1944 and died at a residential hospice in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, according to his obituary.

According to the LGBT Center website, while Schoenberg was a doctoral student at Penn, he was hired to work three days per week as a “point person for lesbian and gay student concerns.” He was the second person in the country to have such responsibilities at a college or university, his obituary reads.

“Bob was an ardent advocate for, and mentor to, a countless number of LGBTQ+ students during his 35 year career. We will never know exactly how many people his work touched, but we do know he will live on in each of their hearts.”

University staff reflect on assisting LGBTQ college students during pandemic

Monday, May 3, 2021

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, college students have had to live their lives a little differently than initially planned. This includes taking online classes and not engaging with that same sense of camaraderie they would have felt if they attended college in person. 

Many LGBTQ students, in particular, felt a specific form of isolation. But how did campus staff members assist these students? PGN spoke with representatives from departments specializing in diversity and inclusion at Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania on how students felt, what the staff did to combat these issues, and how they plan to move forward.

Erin Cross, the director for UPenn’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, noted the impact of financial issues on transgender and gender-nonconforming students. She said there was a huge uptick in students who applied for UPenn’s Townsend Munro Fund, which assists students making gender transitions. She noted that a high number of students applied for it during the pandemic as they now had to pay for food and rent in addition to medical supplies and other things necessary for transition.

“That was something we were pretty shocked by during the first six months of the pandemic in particular. Our trans students were struggling financially a great deal.”
Erin Cross photographed outside on Locust Walk
Erin Cross
Director of UPenn’s LGBT Center

Penn community honors victims of mass shootings at vigil

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

On Tuesday night, about 50 Penn students gathered on College Green for a candlelight vigil commemorating victims of recent acts of gun violence. 

The vigil was organized by Penn Democrats, the Pan-Asian American Community House, the Spiritual and Religious Life Center, and Amnesty International at Penn, and featured City Councilmember and Penn alumna Jamie Gauthier, along with a number of community leaders. Speakers shared their thoughts regarding the recent shootings, particularly the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, the March 22 Colorado grocery store shooting that killed 10 people, and the April 15 Indianapolis FedEx shooting that killed eight people, including four people from the area’s Sikh community. 

The Indianapolis attack was at least the 50th mass shooting — defined as having four or more casualties excluding the shooter — in the United States since the Atlanta shootings.

"Islamophobia is real, and there are many South Asians and Southeast Asians and other communities that are impacted, whether they identify as Muslim or not. "Let's remember that the act of anti-Asian racism and violence due to Islamophobia is happening to this day, and it needs to be recognized and addressed now."

He added that anti-Asian violence is made possible due to “anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity.”

Throughout the vigil, attendees and speakers wore solemn faces, with some tearing up.

College first year Mira Sydow, a Penn Dems member and the main organizer of the event, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that their goal in organizing the vigil was to offer support to the Penn community.  

“Even one person showing up and feeling a bit better and feeling like they are supported in this community would have been enough,” Sydow said. “Seeing that we got as many people as we did and that we were all so touched by the remarks from the speakers is incredible.”

Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Sydow explained that she was very involved with Atlanta’s Asian American community and local activists last semester when she was mobilizing Asian American voters for the January runoff elections for U.S. Senate.

How to engage academic wellness services

Friday, April 16, 2021

I’m here to tap into my full potential,” says Niko Simpkins, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “That’s the quote that I live by.” Simpkins envisions excellence, which is why he found himself at the Weingarten Center, poring over past exams with STEM learning specialist Gabriel Angrand. Weingarten is Penn’s hub for tutoring, disabilities services, and academic supports for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students across all 12 schools. Weingarten staff collaborate with campus partners including Academic Advising, Athletics, Counseling & Psychological Services, International Student and Scholar Services, and Penn First Plus.

Academic learning isn’t just about attending lectures and taking notes. It’s about engaging with the textbook, reading the syllabus to see what the professor wants, understanding how tests are graded and where students may be losing points, and for some students seeking counseling or a diagnosis for undiagnosed learning disabilities.

Weingarten looks at student wellness comprehensively, says associate vice provost Sharon Smith. “So, if a student is with us in tutoring and it turns out they are struggling with concentration, we have the resources and expertise to help them with that within Weingarten,” she says. The goal, she says, is to provide multidisciplinary case management and connect students directly with the help they need.

Weingarten Center by the Numbers [Fall 2020]

Students who sought tutoring
Total tutoring hours
Students who sought a total of 1,098 virtual appointments
Students who attended a total of 156 workshops and programs offered
Students who sought 623 appointments, resulting in 77 referrals
Total accommodated disability exams

Students Engage with Philadelphia

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Monday, April 12 had neither course assessments nor asynchronous classes. The University offered self-directed activities that advanced our community, both to engage with Philadelphia for our Year of Civic Engagement and to explore opportunities and faculty expertise at Penn, including asynchronous preceptorials and other events with campus organizations.

Photos from Engagement Day

If you have other images you would like to share with us, email them to smccann@upenn.edu

Penn Glee Club becomes fully gender inclusive

Monday, April 12, 2021

Penn Glee Club becomes fully gender-inclusive after 159 years of all-male singers. In a merger with the Penn Sirens, the chorus will add soprano and alto voices and be open to singers of all genders.

The University of Pennsylvania Glee Club and the Penn Sirens have decided to merge their choral groups, meaning that for the first time since its founding 159 years ago the Glee Club will include singers of all genders and will perform repertoire for soprano and alto voices, in addition to tenor and bass, and for all four voice parts.

In the final step in a yearslong process to make the Glee Club fully gender-inclusive, currently active members voted unanimously Friday afternoon to approve an amendment to the Club’s constitution and by-laws to allow singers of all genders and all voice parts.

This is a discussion that we are seeing across student groups about equity and access and social justice. Students across campus are embracing a movement where gender is not a requirement for membership, and gender is not considered to be binary.
Laurie McCall
Laurie McCall
Director of Penn’s Platt Student Performing Arts House

“It’s a milestone day for sure; we are all really excited. It’s quite the accomplishment for all of us. It’s incredible that it’s done. It’s one for the history books,” said senior Jake Milner, Glee Club president, minutes after the vote. 

“This merger will provide amazing performance opportunities to all Penn students and creates a more inclusive performing arts community,” says junior Marina Dauer, Sirens President.

“The Penn Glee Club and Penn Sirens—two student groups near and dear to my heart who often perform at our most coveted celebrations on campus—have decided to merge, singing a most beautiful song of their commitment to gender inclusivity,” says President Amy Gutmann. “This change is historic, as the all-male choir component of Penn Glee Club is almost 160 years old. Both groups have exhibited enormous care, with the thoughtful direction of advisers and leaders at Penn, during the process of making this transformative shift, and I am proud to see where they’ve landed.”

The Penn Glee Club and Penn Sirens board members on College Green in the week before the Glee Club’s vote to merge.
The Penn Glee Club and Penn Sirens board members on College Green in the week before the Glee Club’s vote to merge.

Race-based hate is out there, but it’s inside of us, too

Monday, April 5, 2021

I’m concerned that even though vaccines will usher us closer to herd immunity, it still won’t be safe to gather. Why? Because hate and anger are raging, and there’s just no way to know when and where it’s going to boil over. When it gets to the point that bullets are flying, it’s too late because bullets don’t have names. Just ask the victims of the recent Atlanta shootings.

Those who study hate are predicting that hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islanders will, unfortunately, continue to rise. And as Philadelphia and national officials relax COVID-19 restrictions, additional hate crimes will likely pick up steam, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of of Hate and Extremism at California State University. We’ve had a year filled with economic hardship and death, Levin said. People are angry. We’ve all been isolated so our discontent has grown out of control. People are looking for scapegoats. And gun sales, although they dipped in February, still remain at record highs.

All too often we cling to our beliefs because they play a role in defining who we are and at the end of the day we have to wonder if we are more interested in learning from a new opportunity or holding on to old ideas that don’t serve us? Isolation has led many of us to double down on our beliefs. And the separation has intensified this sense of other. When we feel the pull to resist a shift in thinking, we should consider the following: Do we want our resistance to turn into hate, or do we want to embrace the new ideas and look at them as an opportunity to do better?
Mamta Accapadi
Vice Provost for University Life