pennfaces

The Undergraduate Assembly will launch a website that aims to deconstruct "Penn Face," the phenomenon where Penn students put on a facade of happiness and self-assuredness even when they are struggling.

Photo: Guyrandy Jean-Gilles / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn is one step closer to deconstructing the "PennFace." By the end of the semester, students will have the chance to share their experiences with the difficult issue — a syndrome in which students feel pressure to act happy and confident, even though they're struggling with sadness and stress. 

Since the spring of 2015, College sophomore and UA Director of the Student Life Committee Emily Hoeven has been working on creating a website called PennFaces. The website will provide students with an online forum where they can post stories, photos and videos in order to connect with one another on issues like stress and failure. Hoeven’s own experience of adjusting to college life inspired the project.

“Coming in as a freshman, it was definitely a transition trying to adjust to the environment and to the workload,” Hoeven — who is also a Daily Pennsylvanian said. “I thought if I [was] struggling, other people must be too — but nobody really has these discussions and it is kind of isolating.”

Myrna Cohen, executive director of the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, worked with Hoeven to spearhead the effort and credited the progress that has been made as a result of student action.

PennFaces will be a web destination where anyone can choose to anonymously or non-anonymously submit a post detailing their ups and downs and their successes and downfalls. Faculty and professor stories will also be featured on the website in order to highlight how they have overcome some of the struggles they faced in college life. Hoeven also encouraged anyone who wants to film their submission to approach the organizers for access to a professional videographer, free of charge.

This past Monday, a group of students who will be involved in marketing, outreach for content, and management of the Facebook and main pages met to discuss further plans for the project. The site is expected to go live towards the end of this semester, and collaborators will continue to add content throughout the summer so that it will be full-fledged by the beginning of the next academic year.

Hoeven hopes that PennFaces will be a useful resource for the incoming class of 2020. Since Penn is funding the project and will provide a link to the site on its main page, it will be readily available to prospective students as well as current students. 

“The goal of this project is to build resilience, because I think people here tend to see a problem or setback as the end of the road,” Hoeven said. “But we hope to have content that shows that you may have an issue now that might make you a stronger or better person five years from now.”

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