Students focused on balance during Wharton Well-Being Week by learning tools and techniques to focus on their mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Balancing the pressures of school with your personal and professional life can often feel like an uphill battle. That’s why, last week, Wharton Wellness and the Undergraduate Division teamed up to sponsor Wharton Well-Being Week with more than a dozen sessions focused on helping students improve their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Aman Goyal, associate director of student life in the Undergraduate Division at Wharton, said initiative held October 18–25 was important because it reminded students to practice self-care.

“Students tell me that they’re always trying to get better at taking care of themselves,” Goyal said. “They often get stuck in the cycle of trying to be a good student and make themselves marketable for a job by pursuing activities that will improve their job prospects. But sometimes they forget to take time for themselves — time to just be.”

Robert Sim, W’21, co-chair of the Wharton Council, called the week “great conversation starter.”

“During the week, students had the opportunity to make friends with people they normally wouldn’t interact with,” Sim said. “It was also amazing to see people take into consideration others’ well-being in addition to their own. Initiatives like these are what I believe to be the stepping stones in a larger movement of changing the Wharton culture.”

Coco Wenfei Wang, W’21, said this type of initiative is overdue.

“I think these initiatives highlight the importance of wellbeing and gets students talking about wellness, something that we have neglected for far too long,” Wang said. “Although these initiatives are not going to solve all student problems, it is a great launchpad for students to find resources and tools to cope with stress on campus.”

This sentiment was echoed by Diana Robertson, the new vice dean of Wharton Undergraduate Division, who said in the DP that students should be encouraged to improve the balance between their academic, professional, and recreational lives. Goyal said Wharton Wellness wanted to host the wellness-themed week in October to pair it with other mental health awareness campaigns such as World Mental Health Day and Mental Illness Awareness Week.

The program opened on Friday, October 18 with a workshop featuring Wharton alumnus Elazar Aslan, W’80, director of mindful business leadership at the Nalanda Institute, who discussed ways to manage stress. Monday featured a panel discussion among upperclassmen to a packed crowd of freshmen about the many different job options to take over the summer, other than getting an internship. On Tuesday, MBAs provided some best practices for how to cope with stress during the on-camping interviewing process, co-hosted by Wharton GUIDE.

A student speaker tells a story of a time in her life when she failed, in front of a group of students at United By Blue, as part of a Story Slam on failure.
Six students spoke at a Story Slam held at United By Blue, telling stories of times they failed in an attempt to de-stigmatize failure on campus.

One of the highlights of the week was the Story Slam on Wednesday evening held at United By Blue. Students like Cristina Pogorevici, W’21, stood in front of the crowd to tell stories of times they failed, to spread the message that students are not defined by their success and failure is okay.

“At Wharton, it’s easy to see how people are successful around you and it can often feel like you’re failing when things aren’t going well in your life,” Pogorevici said. “But, hearing other students’ stories was great at de-stigmatizing failure for me.”

She said the best part of the event was the support she received after sharing her story.

“The most impressive thing was all the messages I got afterward. They were so full of love – even from people I’ve never met before,” Pogorevici said.

Thursday offered a breakfast and a “Worrier to Warrior” talk with CAPS@Wharton therapist Courtney Hutchison, about how to manage anxiety. And, the week was capped off with an outdoor yoga class on Koo Plaza with instructor Liz Sutton and a smaller discussion with School of Medicine Professor of Psychiatry Anthony Rostain, who co-authored “The Stressed Years of Their Lives,” a book that’s given out to parents during Family Weekend. Rostain talked to undergraduate student leaders about how family dynamics can impact wellbeing and provided tips on how to have productive conversations with family members.

A yoga instructor is leading students through a yoga class on a lawn outdoors.
Instructor Liz Sutton leads students through an outdoor yoga class at Koo Plaza.

The week was paired with a #WhartonWellness campaign on Instagram and a study launched by the Undergraduate Assembly to learn more about how the School can help students better cope with the struggles they face. The Undergraduate Division invited students in attendance to the week’s events to complete a survey asking for feedback about whether the initiative helped them better integrate wellness into their daily lives.

Lee Kramer, director of student life in the Undergraduate Division at Wharton, said students’ response to the week was positive.

“This was a great pilot,” he said. “We really wanted to put together events that all students could take advantage of, in terms of being proactive about integrating healthy habits into their day.”

Given the success of this year’s well-being week, Kramer said he expects the division to plan another Well-Being Week again next year. Pogorevici agreed.

“I think at Wharton, we need to learn how to relax and enjoy ourselves more,” she said. “Not everything has to be about grades or finding a job. We should be better at living in the moment and learning to unwind.”

Emily O’Donnell

Posted: November 1, 2019

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