A Culture of Caring
Four years ago, Sharon Smith, Associate Vice Provost for University Life, laid out a new vision for Penn’s Weingarten Center, the University’s home for academic support and disability services.
“We wanted to put all available offerings in front of students and help them map out a plan,” she says. Smith and her team decided to implement a case management approach to improve student experiences. The impact would be seismic—a cultural shift from à la carte support to a more holistic approach that puts all available services in front of students and guides them through graduation.
Smith’s vision has come to life. With a $2.6 million gift from the Moh Foundation, the Center will get a state-of-the-art space for testing accommodations and learning, reimagined services to support every Penn student, additional support staff, and new technology designed for accessible scholarship in the 21st century.
“With a shared interest in promoting equity and inclusion, our foundation was committed to funding Penn’s most urgent priorities 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.”
Slated to open in the fall of 2022, the new testing space, located in the Penn Libraries’ Biotech Commons, will provide an accessible, quiet exam site for students who require testing accommodations. “This is a truly transformative gift,” says Jane Holahan, Executive Director of the Weingarten Center.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to come up with creative ways to proactively connect people to the resources they needed,” says Niko Simpkins, ENG’22, GEng’23, and a Weingarten Center Ambassador. “I’ve hosted various Weingarten workshops through my student organizations, which worked well in the virtual setting to expose a broader audience of students to the resources that Weingarten has to offer.”
At Penn, the rigors of academic life persist for students at all levels. “I’m inspired every day by my peers who aren’t afraid to ask for help, and also by the other Ambassadors who are unbelievably busy but take time to advocate for and spread the word about the Center,” said Hoang-Anh Phan, Gr’28, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry and a Weingarten Center Ambassador.
With a history of past support for the Weingarten Center–like funding a new online platform that also enabled the University’s campus-wide COVID-19 screening testing and vaccine scheduling systems–the Moh Foundation has long championed its mission.
“The Moh Foundation has been a valued partner in removing the stigma of seeking help at Penn,” says Ryan Miller, Director of Academic Support at the Weingarten Center. “Our services are now integrated into a broader network that begins in the classroom and carries over to the rest of campus life at Penn. We find that when students—both with disabilities and without—triangulate the Center’s services, they have a network of support with good outcomes often following.
Weingarten Center receives visionary gift
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 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.”