”We seek to steer the community to a place where Wharton students—undergraduates and MBAs alike—feel they have adequate resources and support, whatever challenges they are facing.” — Eddie Banks-Crosson, Director of Student Life, the Wharton MBA Program

As the meaning of wellness evolves to meet an increasingly complex world, Wharton is embracing integrative initiatives to improve the holistic health of its dynamic student population. Led by Wharton staff and faculty, and with the spirited involvement of several alumni, the School now offers a suite of innovative wellness programs. “The benefit of having different perspectives involved in these efforts is helpful as we seek to steer the community to a place where Wharton students—undergraduates and MBAs alike —feel they have adequate resources and support, whatever challenges they are facing,” says Eddie Banks-Crosson, Director of Student Life for the Wharton MBA Program. 

Similar sentiments resound from Jennifer Murphy, Executive Director of Wharton’s Undergraduate Division. “It’s a holistic strategy for improving wellness opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, and equipping them with tools that will lead to more fulfilling and successful outcomes throughout the rest of their lives,” says Murphy. With this sincere commitment to improving Wharton’s community, both Banks-Crosson and Murphy remain aligned with institutional leadership on the importance of expanding both the reach and the impact of holistic health services available amid the bustle of Penn’s campus.

Eddie Banks-Crosson, M.S., Ed, Director of Student Life, the Wharton MBA Program. (Image: Eddie Banks-Crosson)
Jennifer Murphy, Executive Director of Wharton’s Undergraduate Division. (Image: Jen Murphy)

Fostering community to empower well-being

Along with an ongoing and cross-institutional partnership with Wellness at Penn, the Undergraduate Division maintains the largely student-run Wharton Wellness to create meaningful in-person connections, fosters a culture of well-being, and forges community. For example, it hosts one of the year’s most popular events, “Fitness Before Finals,” with a variety of free fitness classes at local studios for students who need a physical break from the pressures of exam season.

The Undergraduate Division is also launching a new partnership with Headspace Health, a wellness company providing proactive mental and emotional well-being with an emphasis on self-care resources and text-based behavioral health coaching. The partnership allows students to chat 24/7 with a live coach within two minutes for in-the-moment support, or through regularly scheduled sessions. Murphy explains. “It’s important for our students to have access to a one-on-one coach; someone with whom they can connect with to process stress-related concerns, especially as it relates to their grades and careers.”

Student Mengni Yao (in pink) participates in a wellness event via a floating yoga class, held at Penn’s Pottruck Health & Fitness Center. (Image: Scott Spitzer, University Communications)

With a changing landscape comes evolving solutions

The MBA community also has access to exclusive services that are tailored to meet their specific needs. Banks-Crosson explains both the urgency and the intent behind Wharton’s renewed focus on graduate health resources.

“To get better, we need to acknowledge that none of these initiatives will be perfect every time – thus, our approach to student wellness needs to also be constantly evolving, if we truly recognize that fact,” he says. “We’re post-pandemic, the world has changed, and we would be naive to assume that what worked for our students ten years ago is what would or should be working for them now. We’re pivoting where and when we need to pivot, and we’re reassessing when we need to reassess.”

Students decompress with a therapy dog during a finals-week event hosted by Wharton Undergrad Division and the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. (Image: Sara Hoover)

To help the MBA community navigate the complex challenges in their personal, professional and academic lives, Wharton is utilizing two groundbreaking services, each created by Wharton alumni and tailored to meet the needs of the School’s graduate students. Jonathan Saltzburg, WG’07, is committed to supporting students struggling with substance use disorders. After serving on two college admissions committees, including at Wharton, he encountered prospective and current students who struggled with how to communicate about their recovery or sobriety in the context of high-pressure academic settings. That led him to launch Recovery EDU, an organization that aids students with academic planning while they are engaged in treatment and provides executive coaching for professionals engaged in treatment. Now, after his company was acquired by Caron Treatment Centers, Saltzburg and Caron work with Wharton to improve student health in a safe, judgment-free way. “The more we can do to embrace vulnerability and encourage people to get the help they need, the more we can really reduce this stigma,” Saltzburg says. With the expertise offered by Caron, any MBA student struggling with a substance use disorder can receive confidential support from professionals who specialize in mental wellness and long-term recovery.

A holistic approach to MBA wellness

The second alumni-founded, MBA-focused wellness initiative is led by Maria Halpern, W’03, founder of Mula Health. After serving as Wharton’s Director of Student Engagement in MBA Career Management for nearly seven years, Halpern established Mula Health, which offers a variety of professional coaching and wellness opportunities. “With the one-on-one coaching Wharton now offers, we give MBA students the right tools and practices and knowledge to mitigate an individual’s triggers for stress and anxiety, helping them make choices and take next best steps in a way that isn’t sacrificing their overall well-being,” Halpern says. Students can sign up for one-on-one well-being coaching sessions, which are facilitated by Halpern and are sure to address big-picture themes. “One of the most important things we help students with is staying true to their calling and mission,” says Halpern. “We know that the more connected you are to your strengths and the impact you want to make, the more likely you are to thrive personally and professionally.”

Whether a first-year undergrad or Wharton PhD candidate, the School’s immersive cohort model also helps students craft a strong network of support and community. (Image: the Lauder Institute)

Wharton keeps pace as contemporary notions around the public’s awareness of holistic health expand. Exploring one’s calling and mission, embracing vulnerability, and encouraging people to get the help when they need it are all sentiments echoed throughout the School’s individual and collective efforts thus far. This is why now more than ever, Wharton remains committed to creating harmonious spaces and places, encourages the integration of holistic practices into all corners of its wellness ecosystem.

– Grace Meredith

Posted: August 29, 2023

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