Penn Student Agencies welcomed a new program manager, who plans to launch a new strategic plan.
Michael Warren, PSA’s new program manager and a 2020 College graduate, is instituting a plan to revive the businesses managed by the organization after the COVID-19 pandemic caused a loss in the transfer of skills and mentorship from upperclassmen to underclassmen. Warren began in September 2022.
Penn Student Agencies is a student-run organization that manages multiple business ventures serving the student population, including Williams Cafe, Benny’s Diner, and Penn Lens. According to Warren, the program is a way to serve the Penn community as well as teach students in all disciplines “transferable skills” through hands-on business management and real-world career development.
“Every single business within PSA serves Penn students, and, even bigger than that, the local Philadelphia community,” CEO and Nursing sophomore Chris Raboy said.
Warren said that although it is rooted in business training, PSA aims to engage students from all fields, not just business. Warren himself came into Penn as a biochemistry major on the pre-medical track but still found appeal in the skills that PSA offered.
“PSA prides itself on the fact that there are students from all of the schools underneath this leadership. I think everyone can benefit from business skills, and that’s been a big mission and impact of PSA,” Incoming Managing Director of Williams Cafe and College sophomore Sophia Degrands said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, two of PSA’s largest businesses, Benny’s Diner and Williams Cafe, closed as students moved online, interrupting the line of mentorship between student workers.
Raboy said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no structure, and PSA had little guidance from the University until Warren started as program manager.
“We did not have a program manager for [a long time] … but [Warren] has completely taken the ropes and reorganized the entire organization,” Raboy said.
Warren told The Daily Pennsylvanian that his plan to bolster PSA involves three goals: Building up the presence of the businesses on campus, reconnecting with alumni, and restructuring program leadership.
Warren said that during COVID-19, the businesses struggled to continue operating, and as a result, upperclassmen were no longer able to transfer skills to their underclassmen mentees. Warren’s plan aims to “rebuild some of that knowledge and continuity.”
In order to do this, Warren said that he wants to reach out to alumni who worked under PSA when it was last functioning in person before COVID-19. He added that the relationship between alumni and students is key in recreating these transferable skills that will continue to grow the businesses on campus and reinforce the alumni network.
“In the future, we see this relationship between alumni and our current students growing to being much more of a mentorship relationship but then also [including] an involved alumni community post graduation,” Warren said.
Warren’s plan also involves restructuring how PSA operates. After losing much of the management during the pandemic, PSA has created a new managerial team structure in order to "optimize reporting structures" and “make responsibilities very clear.”
Raboy said that the shift in management, especially with Warren’s leadership, has been “phenomenal.”