On March 1, Wharton Wellness and the Wharton Undergraduate Dean’s Advisory Board unveiled the first annual Wellness Dolphin Tank pitch competition. Students were challenged to brainstorm ideas for events or initiatives that filled a need gap related to the eight pillars of wellness: emotional, physical, mental, social, sexual, spiritual, financial, and occupational. The winner would have the opportunity to debut their initiative in the Fall 2021 semester.
When I heard about the pitch competition, I immediately reached out to my friends. The idea of looking back on our experiences these past few years at Wharton to come up with an initiative that we wish we had the chance to participate in was exciting. But it was also challenging.
Our team, 1040EZs, consisted of Yelin Hu, W’21, Stephanie Tian, W’21, and Yan Zhang, W’22. Drawing on two of our group members’ volunteer experience with Campaign for Working Families (CWF), an organization that helps Philadelphia families file their taxes, and our shared background in Accounting, we came up with an initiative that targeted financial wellness.
Our idea combined filing, education, collaboration, and volunteer opportunities, all with the goal to make filing less taxing and more fun. While Wharton and Penn offer financial literacy resources such as courses (FNCE202: Consumer Financial Decision-Making and Inequity and Empowerment: Urban Financial Literacy (Life 101)), a financial literacy module on Canvas, and personal finance seminars, there isn’t a centralized resource for filing taxes.
We were selected as finalists and had the opportunity to present our pitch and field questions at the virtual competition on March 19. While the three-hour session also featured mentorship sessions where students received feedback prior to their pitch and an inspiring keynote speech by Keyon Dooling, assistant coach of the Utah Jazz, the highlight of the event was hearing about seven other unique ideas and having the opportunity to pitch in front of the Wharton Executive Board. Vice Dean Robertson even asked our group a question regarding how many current undergraduate students were filing their taxes.
After the competition, I spoke with student representatives from Wharton Wellness and members of three finalist teams — Blender Bikes, Wharton Recovery, and Gratitude@Wharton — to learn more about other students’ wellness paths at Wharton.
“As a senior, it got me thinking, what am I missing at Penn right now, what have I missed over these four years? If I had budget and support, what would I want to do to make this campus better?” said Janani Kalyan, W’21. “The idea was to rent a couple of stationary bikes that power a blender to make smoothies by the people pedaling, place them in the middle of campus in a prominent location, and make it a morning-to-night event where people sign up in teams, fundraise for a good cause, and just get active and drink smoothies together.”
“Many in our country, but especially in our school, struggle with addiction. Penn currently has no collegiate recovery program, which has been a proven necessity for university students trying to stay sober,” said the student team behind Wharton Recovery. The initiative will seek to create a center on campus to support students in recovery with dependable resources and a network and community to connect with.
“Something that I’ve always noticed while walking through Huntsman Hall is that we pay to power on these TVs and GSRs all day but what’s really on them? The time, the date, the Wharton logo, not much else besides that. I was thinking, what a valuable piece of real estate that we can utilize for something good,” said Louisa Cacchione, W’22.
“Gratitude@Wharton is a platform with some sort of online submission form, where students, faculty, and staff could access and submit notes of gratitude for other people in the Wharton community and display them throughout Huntsman Hall.”
The Future of Wellness at Wharton
Wharton Recovery and Gratitude@Wharton were announced as the two winners and will work alongside Wharton Wellness to implement their ideas in the Fall.
Rachel Johannesen, W’21, one of the Wharton Wellness Board Members behind the initiative, said, “It was actually an idea posed by the Wharton Executive Board as they recently started a wellness-focused committee. We were excited to carry out their proposal since we felt it’d be a fun, creative way to both allow all students a platform to share their wellness ideas and to better source student initiative ideas among the undergrad community.”
“Any change regarding wellness at Penn is a joint collaboration between students and student groups, but also administration and faculty supporting us with those things. It’s great to see that Vice Dean Robertson is so enthusiastic about implementing some of these ideas and I hope that as a graduated Penn student, I’ll at least see some of those later on Facebook,” said Janani.
“We hope more people will get involved with Wharton Wellness and its sponsored initiatives and that everyone else who pitched will find a way to make their ideas happen,” said the Wharton Recovery team.
“It was exciting to see such huge interest especially during a year pressed with Zoom-burnout. Talking about ways to improve and prioritize wellness at Wharton is even more necessary in times like this, and I’m grateful that both the Executive Board and administration are so willing to support this need,” said Rachel. “There were a lot of takeaways from the experience and we’re excited to continue to adapt this event in future years.”
Over my past few years at Wharton, there have been countless events that touch on these eight pillars of wellness. But the Dolphin Tank competition demonstrated that Wharton Wellness and the Wharton Executive Board not only recognize there is more work to be done, but that they’re also making an effort to listen to students. The diverse pitches we saw emphasized that no two students’ experiences with wellness are the same.
I can’t help but be excited for the future of wellness at Wharton, if not a little bit jealous that I didn’t have the chance to experience blender bikes or puppy study sessions for myself.
— Erin Lomboy, W’21
Posted: April 30, 2021