Penn upperclassmen shared their advice on “Deconstructing the Penn Face” at a College Dean’s Advisory Board panel on Wednesday evening.
DAB — an organization devoted to improving undergraduate academics and student life within the College of Arts & Sciences — organized the event, which was held in New College House West, to provide guidance on balancing the pressures Penn students face and building a supportive network of friends.
The panel featured four College seniors: Regan Mizrahi, John Ta, Kendall Roseboro, and Mia Kriegel, who answered questions from DAB moderators and College first years Ava Cima and Savanna Cohen.
When asked what “Penn Face” meant to them, all four panelists weighed in — while Roseboro said that Penn Face is the pressure to appear perfect, Mizrahi and Kriegel said that they defined the concept as a fear of being honest and showing vulnerability. Ta added that he views Penn Face as putting on a “facade.”
All of the panelists emphasized that the best way to combat Penn face is to build a community of supportive friends who share common interests.
“Building positive emotions about this place, beyond the Penn Face, will help you stay focused on what you want to accomplish here,” Kriegel said.
The panelists spoke about their struggles transitioning to Penn — Ta said that he had to learn to navigate a completely different environment.
“I would never really talk about where I came from, it was very difficult for me to relate to people,” said Ta. “When I came into college, I couldn't really count the number of states I've been to on one hand, and then there were some people that could count the number of continents they've been to on both hands.”
After the moderators asked what advice they would give to a student who is feeling the pressure to be perfect, or sees their friends putting up a Penn Face, panelists said that they would recommend reaching out to Penn Counseling and Psychological Services. Roseboro said that she reached out to CAPS when she was struggling her first year at Penn, and talking to someone helped her a lot.
Mizrahi spoke about the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and said that during the transition to in-person classes and events, it’s important for students to monitor their social batteries — since the online space can be less mentally draining.
The panelists agreed that there is no “one-size-fits-all” community for combating pressures at Penn.
“Reach out to these organizations,” Mizrahi said. “If you see something that interests you, you'll be surprised how many upperclassmen and current members are willing to just engage and help integrate you into that community.”
Cohen, one of the moderators and organizers of the event, said that she wanted to ensure that a diverse array of perspectives was featured on the Panel.
“I reached out to different communities on campus when trying to find panelists,” Cohen said. “It was important to make the panel relatable to and representative of the Penn community by including a range of voices.”
Audience member and Wharton first year Tina Zhang said that she really enjoyed the panel, adding that it was refreshing to hear upperclassmen validate her experiences at Penn so far.
“It was very comforting to hear how they didn’t have everything together their freshman year,” Zhang said. “I really related to Regan and his experiences.”
Another College first year, Olivia West, said that she attended the event hoping to gain insight from the experiences of upperclassmen and support her roommate Cohen.
“The panel was very informative and helpful,” West said. “I enjoyed learning from their first-hand experiences and recommendations for how to cope with stress and how to navigate life as a college student.”