Category Archives: Nicole M.

Be Well Penn ’95: A Conversation with Penn’s New Chief Wellness Officer

by Nicole C. Maloy, M.S, W’95, SPP’18

Recall the calming voices and speech patterns of PBS icons Bob Ross and Mr. Rogers, add a medical degree, and top with a former Directorship of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at Penn Medicine. You can now begin to imagine what it is like to be in the presence of Dr. Benoit Dubé.

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Nicole Maloy:     Greetings. Would you please introduce yourself?

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       Good afternoon. My name is Benoit Dubé. I am the University’s Chief Wellness Officer and Associate Vice Provost.

Nicole Maloy:     What does it mean to be a Chief Wellness Officer?

Dr. Benoit Dubé:      That is a simple question on the surface, but is actually something that we are figuring out beyond the general campaign for wellness that really spearheaded the creation of this position and the reorganization of our health & wellness services. This position didn’t exist before, so I have both the privilege and the daunting task of defining what it is exactly that it means. And while it’s a simple question, the answer has multiple layers because, as the university’s Chief Wellness Officer, I am responsible for the entire Penn community. So that means students, that means staff, that means faculty. And even that is an oversimplification because if we just limit ourselves to students, there’s over 25,000 [Ed. total undergraduate + graduate & professional, full time + part time], and of the 25,000 there are 12 different schools, and we have to be very humble and acknowledge that there is not a wellness solution for students. Maybe 25,000 wellness solutions, but we have to identify the common thread.

We have to create a space where synergies can happen. We have to create an environment where innovation and collaboration are fostered, nurtured. If the School of Nursing, who has learners across the whole spectrum, has initiatives that have been successful for them, then we must provide them with the resources so that the College can share some of the applicable resources, and so on and so forth.

And you’ll notice that I’ve just been talking about students. We can talk just as much and wax and wane poetic about staff. If we don’t address the wellness needs of staff, we can’t expect staff to promote a wellness culture for students. And then there’s faculty. So, thank you for allowing me to explain why it is a complicated question. It’s both thrilling and exciting to create something new, but the emphasis is on creating something that wasn’t there, that was implied, but has now been given its place at the table.

Nicole Maloy:     And you mentioned the campaign for wellness. Can you tell us more about that? What should alumni – and anybody who’s interested in Penn – know about this campaign?

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       So, the campaign for wellness is a multifaceted initiative and effort that was spearheaded by the President and the Provost in 2017 to really start creating community. To engage members – its members – in dialogue. Dialogue that values and cherishes vulnerability, that reframes stress and struggles as opportunities for growth, that reminds all of us that we are in this together.

The world is a stressful place. It’s not stressful because of politics exclusively, which is the go-to, right? But if we even remove politics from the world, it’s really stressful to keep up. We’re connected always. Are we missing out on anything? Are we responding quickly enough? E-mail. E-mail was touted as making workers more efficient. Nobody likes e-mail. I mean, everybody hates e-mail, but we all e-mail all the time. Is it OK not to e-mail my boss, or my professor, or my students after 5? Over the weekend? We’re learning this. Technology has forced us to adapt faster than we have actually been able to adapt in recent history. That’s why the world is stressful.

We’re dealing with new, unseen political situations. Look at what’s going on, the divisive political agendas that people are grappling with. All of these things make us collectively all of us, red and blue – we’re talking about Penn here, not politics – they make us stressed out. How do we feel that we have agency in all of this? How can we give ourselves permission to slow down? These are the hot topics that we’re trying to figure out.

Penn is uniquely positioned to offer solutions. If we take a step back, what we want to do is offer our learners the skills and tools they need to be successful academically. That is not new. But the rules have changed because of expectations, because of how quickly information spreads, how reactive people have become. We want to give our learners, our graduates, the skills and tools so that they can go out and continue to make the world a better place. That’s what Benjamin Franklin said. By the way, happy birthday Ben! It’s your 313th birthday today. So, that’s collectively, big picture, what we want to do. We want to use the remarkable resources we have here to make the world a better place so that our graduates can go out and become change agents. So that we get to tame our inbox. So that we become better equipped at integrating self-care with ambition.

Nicole Maloy: Integrating self-care with ambition. Oh, that’s fantastic. So, speaking of graduates, we can now move into the world of Penn alumni, who are all around the world doing all manner of different things. What can we learn from what you’re doing and what Penn is doing around wellness in general, and how can we better balance our ambition with our self-care?

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       What I have learned, and what I have benefited from, is the importance of listening. And let me qualify that because it sounds like it’s a simple, rehearsed talking point, but it’s actually not. Your question led me to pull a few things together. I’m relatively new to this. I’m not new to the Penn community, but I’m new to this role, I’m new to this mandate and these tasks. And the first thing I decided to do was, well, you know, we’re not starting with a blank slate here. Penn has done wonderful wellness-related things. So, before I start asking for resources to create new things, I need to start from a position of humility and say, hey, what great things are we doing now? Can we make them greater? And then decide what new things we should be doing. And the only way we can figure this quandary out and resolve it is by listening.

Right now, I’ve mostly been listening to students. Remember, there are 25,000 of them. So, I’ve been on a listening tour, and I’ve heard successes, I’ve heard challenges. And by listening to the students, by being present in the moment without judgement or expectations, it’s reminded me that I need to listen to myself. I need to give myself permission to manage my own expectations, to realize that this is not a 6-month contract. This is a commitment. There is not going to be one solution. There will be many, and I need to remind myself of that. Because there may be a little bit of pressure associated with this new job, right? And as I listen to students, I’ve been reminded that I also need to listen to myself and give myself permission to be patient, to think through things, to really reverse this cycle of reactivity. Just because we’re connected quickly, instantly with each other doesn’t mean that I’m expected to have the answer by the next school year. I can be reflective, contemplative, and realize that it’s not just a one-person thing. We are part of a community. Which brings me back to your question.

The worldwide community of Quakers is still accessible, and technology, in this case, does facilitate the creation of community, the pool of resources, the creation of collaborations that may not have been otherwise possible absent e-mail, absent instant message, Facebook, and other social media tools. That’s how what I’ve learned in my first few months in this role can be applied to graduates and alumni. We are part of a community. The wellness quandary, the wellness challenges, solutions we need to identify, are not one person’s goal. We will figure this out together by valuing humility, by recognizing and allowing vulnerability to be part of our dialogue. Not to create a culture of “woe is me,” but rather for people to be comfortable enough to say, “This is challenging for me, and this is how I’ve overcome the challenge,” so that others on the receiving end of this conversation can pick and choose what works for them.

“We can change and forge a new lens that allows us to see stress as an opportunity for growth. If we approach a stressful situation this way, we’re much less likely to become overwhelmed. It’s not going to make it easy, but it will make it easier. And that is within our power.”

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       You know, when we talk about wellness, usually within the first five minutes we talk about mindfulness meditation and yoga. OK? So, a little bit of self-disclosure here, I hate yoga.

Nicole Maloy:     (Laughter)

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       I’m terrible at it. It stresses me out.

Nicole Maloy:     Yoga stresses you out.

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       It totally does. Like, I cannot touch my toes. I’m just not a flexible guy. But, I don’t know, maybe you like yoga, right? Maybe, for you, being in the moment, being at peace with your body, being connected inwardly is the perfect solution to give you respite from the stress of the outside world. Doesn’t work for me. At all. So, there is no wellness solution. There must be wellness permissions that we must give ourselves. And a lot of it is trial and error. Of course, everybody’s going to try yoga and mindfulness meditation first. And by the way, mindfulness meditation is easy to say – it takes practice. You get better at it over time. Guided breathing for me, like, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes every hour, does the trick. I breathe better than I stretch.

Nicole Maloy and Dr. Benoit Dubé:       (Laughter)

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       I have learned through experience that yoga was just not the thing for me. Am I going to mandate guided breathing exercise for everyone? Of course not. Because other people may have my yoga reaction to this solution. But maybe if they hear this, it’s going to be another tool in their toolbox as they try to give themselves permission to find their solution.

Nicole Maloy:     So, what you would advise alumni to do is to be active members of the community so we can share our experiences with other alumni, with students, staff, and faculty, to be open to other people’s experiences so we might learn from them, and also to balance self-care and ambition, and give ourselves permission to be vulnerable, to try new things to see what works for us.

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       Oh, absolutely. And to always remember that stress is a part of life. We must expect it, we must embrace it rather than fear it. And we have the ability to change our perception. We can’t change the facts, but we can change and forge a new lens that allows us to see stress as an opportunity for growth. If we approach a stressful situation this way, we’re much less likely to become overwhelmed. It’s not going to make it easy, but it will make it easier. And that is within our power.

Nicole Maloy:      For our pre-reunion year in the Class of ’95, we’ve asked our classmates to identify something that is within their power to improve or change, or at least focus on more, in a few key areas of health, whether physical, mental/emotional, or social. How can we best identify the things that are within our control and things that aren’t to reduce the frustration of identifying an area to improve?

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       That’s really interesting because I don’t think there’s a master key here, I don’t think that there is one directive or one solution. Rather, each alum should give themselves permission to just try different solutions on for size and see what works for them. The subjective experience is what’s going to determine what is the best fit. It’s ultimately about giving folks the ability to, through lived experience, come to the realization that this is helpful and this is not.

Maybe yoga works for some people, but it’s not within your control whether or not you can escape to the gym during your lunch hour because of things that you have no say over, right? So, your boss may not let you take a lunch break that allows you to leave the office. Or maybe if that’s possible, maybe there’s not a shower facility that you have access to so that you can come back refreshed. So, while deciding that yoga works for you, whether you can do that during the weekday may not be under your control. And all of these things each alum will figure out and come to that realization. A simple solution would be, well, go after work, or go before work, or do something else.

You touched on community, and I think that this is where we have the biggest challenges despite having the easiest solutions at our disposal. The biggest challenge is because, in the digital era, in a world where social media essentially guides what we do, we’ve become very individualized. And we’ve lost some of our socialization skills. How do we stay in touch? Through Facebook. And that’s fantastic because we couldn’t do that before. But we forget to nurture our relationships that are closer. These are the relationships that we tend to neglect because we’re so drawn by the awesomeness of being able to connect with our college buddies all over the world. I’m not saying to stop doing that, but in the process not forget about your inner circle. You need to prioritize. We are dealing with a slew of demands, professionally, personally, and that maybe we can’t do it all, and that we have to decide, OK, there’s an order here. First, take care of yourself. It’s not about being selfish or entitled. It’s about making sure that you can take care of other people.

Nicole Maloy:     Put on your mask before you put a mask on the person next to you.

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       That’s exactly where I was going with that. So, if you put the oxygen mask on your traveling buddy, well, then you may not be around to take care of them after the fact. So that’s why self-care is important. It’s about prioritizing. And prioritizing relationships. Finding meaning in what we do. Seeing purpose beyond ourselves. Giving back to the community. Those are values that I hope that have been ingrained in all of our alum, but we need to remember, the world is going on like really fast and sometimes we forget. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing we can do to re-center, refocus, recalibrate, and then go about your day after that. That’s what deep breathing does for me. It stops the noise, outside, inside, and then I can move forward.

Nicole Maloy:     You’ve touched on the fact that yoga is not your thing, but deep breathing is, so that fits into that mental and emotional health piece. What is something, if you’re comfortable sharing, that you do to promote your social health, and something you do to promote your physical health?

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       So, physical health, I like to run. And running on city sidewalks is no longer a thing for me because my knees are telling me that’s not a good thing, so I’ve learned to adapt to the treadmill and to books on tape. (Laughter) I have also, as I’ve grown older, needed to make adjustments to what I eat, and concentrated sweets don’t agree with me anymore. And that was not within my control. I had to adapt, I had no choice.

Social health – I think that my professional responsibilities have allowed me to thrive in that respect. In the responsibilities I have been given at Penn, I get to meet outstanding, brilliant, creative, and innovative students all the time. And that is something that is energizing for me. It’s a source of inspiration, creating a community that didn’t exist before. It’s very energizing for me to be asked to do that.

The other life hack I’d like to share with you is, I am an avid traveler. I love to travel. And so one of my life rules is before you end your current vacation or your current trip, you must know where your next one is. You must always have a reward for yourself. You must always be working towards something. Because, hey, there will be stress. There will be challenges. But if you know that you will be rewarded, there’s something you’re looking forward to. That’s a life rule that I figured out a while back.

Nicole Maloy:     Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, and have a wonderful spring semester.

Dr. Benoit Dubé:       Thank you. It was a pleasure chatting with you.

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Nicole Maloy is a Penn Class of 1995 Reunion Co-Chair. Through the Be Well Penn ’95 Wellness & Self-Care Initiative, she, Casey Ryan, C’95, and Jordana Horn Gordon, C’95 urge their classmates – and the entire Penn alumni family – to be both thoughtful and proactive about making mental, emotional, physical, and/or social health a higher priority in 2019.

 

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One Penn Sculpture, Revisited

By Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

On a recent day trip with friends to visit a few art museums in Washington, D.C., I saw a familiar sight. This sculpture, on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is the roughly two-foot-tall “King Solomon” by Alexander Archipenko. I noticed it and stopped. “I’ve seen this before,” I said. “But bigger. Way bigger. I think it’s somewhere on the Penn campus.”

But where? I could not remember, so I snapped this photo for reference and made a mental note to keep my eyes open for it.

Solomon-DC

“I shall call him ‘Mini-Me.'”

Solomon-DClabel Back at Penn the following week, I was on my way to a meeting when I saw it. Eureka! There it was on 36th Street between Locust Walk and Walnut Street, and I was right. It is way, way bigger.

Solomon-Penn

Ta-dah!

For more on the King Solomon sculpture in particular, check out this Frankly Penn blog post by Bart Miltenberger. But do yourself a favor and take a moment to learn about some of Philadelphia’s other outdoor sculptures – where they are, what they represent, and who brought them from concept to reality – from the Clothespin to the China Gate, from various memorials and tributes to our own beloved “Covenant” in Superblock, known more commonly among students and alumni by (ahem) a slightly different name. Enjoy.

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Spring In My Step

By Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

On my way to work, I sometimes walk through the beautiful courtyard between Vance Hall and the McNeil Building. I am grateful that, in recent days, this path has revealed the promise of spring. My favorite part of the transition from the season of gray and white to that of blue and green is the dazzling display of flowers blossoming on the trees. I never tire of these lovely and fragrant halos; the impression is always so stunning that it offers an immediate boost to my spirit. After the winter that we have endured here in Philadelphia, I believe that all of us have earned the pleasure of witnessing the trees as they adorn themselves to celebrate the arrival of spring.

The beginning stages are captured below.

Here they come...

Here they come…

And they're off!

And they’re off!

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ARTiculture: Philadelphia Flower Show 2014

by Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

My interest in art has been rather well documented. So, though flowers may be pleasant enough on their own, the Philadelphia Flower Show became doubly appealing thanks to its 2014 theme: “ARTiculture: where art meets horticulture.” What does this mean? It goes a little something like this:

For fans of Piet Mondrian.

And this:

Inspired by Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny.

And that is just a taste. Beyond the fabulous, large displays, which I expected, I encountered something entirely new to me. Did you know that pressed flower art is a thing? I did not, but it turns out there are societies and guilds devoted to it. And I don’t mean pressing a flower and framing it. I mean taking pressed flowers and turning them into something else. A new creation. A work of art. For example:

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I truly thought this was a painting at first. Surprise! It’s pressed flowers! If only Soylent Green had been pressed flowers.

I had never seen anything quite like this. Scroll down to see more, and enjoy! For an even better view of these, and all of the fascinating plant life that you would expect from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (including herbs, hairy cacti, and yes, FLOWERS EVERYWHERE), get thee to the Philadelphia Convention Center by this Sunday, March 9 and celebrate one of Philadelphia’s most beautiful traditions.

P.S. I bought a bonsai tree at the show! It lives in my office at Penn now, so I have named it BENsai. 🙂

And now for more stunning pressed flower art:

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Penn colleague, alumni volunteer and ARTIST . . .

Author: Kristina Clark

Nicole Maloy, W’95, is one of my colleagues in Alumni Relations. She is the Director of the Multicultural Outreach program. I thought I’d share a post about her simply because she is interesting!

Nicole not only works in Alumni Relations, she is a very active volunteer on Penn’s Association of Alumnae Board, members with whom I work closely. This post is not about Nicole’s role as an employee or as an alumna however, this is about Nicole’s personal creativity. For example and most recently, Nicole taught a few of her Alumni Relations colleagues how to knit. She is a patient teacher (for which we are most grateful) and now my ten-year old daughter wears a beautiful purple knit hat that I finished last month. Nicole has many talents — she’s a dancer, a singer, an athlete, and most certainly an artist, as confirmed by being chosen last week to exhibit her portrait drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. This honor is what I wanted to share with you.

Here’s the story . . . Nicole once wrote a Penn Alumni Blog post about exploring art resources in Philadelphia (includes a photo of her at age 17 with several jean jackets that she painted for her high school classmates in the late ’80s and early ’90s). One resource that she had not yet taken advantage of is the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), the first school of fine arts in the United States. Its origin dates from 1791, when Penn was still located at 4th & Arch Streets.

In fall 2013, Nicole took a weekly evening class called “Intermediate Portrait Drawing” through PAFA’s Continuing Education program. Students who had been enrolled in CE classes or workshops from spring 2013 through spring 2014 were invited to submit artwork for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Continuing Education Programs Annual Juried Student Exhibition.

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PAFA received nearly 180 submissions, and 80 were accepted. Among them is Nicole’s piece, a portrait in charcoal entitled “Waiting,” which was drawn from a live model in class. If you would like to see it, along with the other 79 drawings, paintings, and sculptures, the exhibition runs from February 28 – April 6 in Gallery 128, Hamilton Building, 128 North Broad Street, at PAFA.

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Congratulations, Nicole!

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898-MELT

We have all called the number. Knowing what we’ll hear. That guy. That voice. You remember, even now, years later, as alumni: “The University is open and operating on a normal schedule.” I hated that guy.

Back in my day, we had phone receivers to slam down in disgust. Now, all students can do is think mean thoughts as they gently press “End Call” on their mobile phones. They may never know the evil glee of slamming down a phone. At least not until it’s time for an upgrade.

Penn never closes. It’s a thing. So much of a thing that, when it actually does close, part of us is incapable of believing that it is true. Yet, on Friday, January 3 I received a text message early in the morning to notify me that only “essential personnel” were required to go in that day. I have never been so pleased to be non-essential. I read it again. SNOW DAY!

The only time Penn closed during my entire time here as a student was during what I call “The Ice Storm of ’93.” I had never seen anything like it. Some strange mix of precipitation and temperature fluctuations left the entire city covered in about an inch of solid ice. The trees were beautiful, but things like, oh, walking or even standing still on an incline became both treacherous and highly entertaining. Want to learn patience? Walk a city block on an impenetrable sheet of ice. I guarantee that you will be in no rush to arrive anywhere, and you will develop near-meditative focus on each step. We would all laugh at how ridiculous we looked, how we flailed, how we slid. But arriving at any destination more than two steps away became cause for celebration.

On the downside, I found out that one friend of mine slipped, fell, and got a concussion. But he wasn’t walking to class at the time, because of the upside: classes had been canceled. Our buddy at 898-MELT had actually recorded a new message for us! I don’t remember what he said, but I do know I listened to it more than once, possibly gathering around the phone with my roommates to listen to it again and again. And despite having already received a text message on Friday, I still called the number. I was not the only one, because it is such a rare treat to hear anything – ANYTHING – other than the message playing once again today: “The university is open and operating on a normal schedule.” Sigh. I still hate that guy.

Seen on College Green in December. This is not from our recent “snow day,” but I think it captures the appropriate spirit.

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Penn Gymnastics Did What?

By Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

Hanging out at the bar with Carissa Lim, C’16, Penn Varsity Gymnastics team member. You may notice a subtle size differential. (Side note – this is me demonstrating the full extent of my skills on this apparatus.)

Penn Gymnastics will open the season TONIGHT at Hutch! Details in red later in this post.

This past summer I was leaning forward, elbows on my knees, eyes wide, completely unaware of anything but the superhero-like feats of strength and agility executed by the spandex-clad individuals on my television screen during an elite gymnastics competition. This sport has always had this effect on me, as it has on many other fans, partially because the things that gymnasts do are simply not possible. And yet, there they are, doing them anyway.

One particularly tiny athlete on the uneven bars did not need to pike or straddle or otherwise adjust herself quite as much as the others did when swinging around the low bar. It struck me that, if the “tall” gymnasts are 5’4”, and they have to make big adjustments, what would the fantastic gymnastic life have been like for me at 5’9 ½”, hanging from arms that are disproportionately long? I had never seen uneven bars up close, and now I was curious to know how I, quite literally, measured up to them.

Enter Penn Gymnastics Assistant Coach Kimberly Parsons, who opened the doors of the team’s brand new, shiny, spectacular new training facility to me (the Nalitt Family Gymnastics Center was made possible by a gift from Penn gymnastics alumna, and proud Penn parent, Beth (Wasserstein) Nalitt, MD). The facility was dedicated last month at Homecoming 2013, after the team was honored at halftime for winning back to back Eastern conference championships in 2012 and 2013.

Wait, what?

Yes, dear alumni. Penn Gymnastics took first place at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division I Championships twice in a row, which is a first for any school in the Ivy League. Two team members went on to win additional honors at the 2013 USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals.

Go Penn!

Go Penn!

I have to draw attention to this, because, as you know, the University of Pennsylvania does not offer athletic scholarships. When one of our Varsity teams shines as brightly as this, I want the world to know! I mean, check out this hardware. Penn Quakers earned these! I feel the need to high-five someone!

Oh, these? These are just a few of their championship rings.

Oh, these? These are just a few of their championship rings.

You must see some brief clips from the 2013 ECAC Championships this past spring. Seriously. Take a moment to watch these highlights of our Penn athletes dominating the competition on each apparatus.

Now I want you to see them in person so they can hear you cheer. If you are in Philadelphia, come support Penn Gymnastics TONIGHT, Friday, December 6 at 6PM at Hutchinson Gymnasium for the “Philadelphia Jamboree” against Temple University. Their next competition will be the GW Invitational in Washington, DC on Sunday 1/12 at 1PM, followed by one at home on Saturday 1/18 at noon against Illinois State. Check out the full 2013-2014 competition schedule to see when they might be near you so you can show your support wherever you can. And be sure to wear your red & blue! Let them know how proud you are. Mark your calendar for Saturday 3/22 at noon, when Penn Gymnastics will attempt to defend their title at the 2014 ECAC Division I Championships right here in Philadelphia at Temple University.

As for me, here I am grabbing the low bar, from my knees, arms still bent. To be fair, there is a woman on the team who is 5’7” tall, so perhaps there would have been hope for me afterall. And they can adjust the bar height a bit depending on the athlete. Still… let’s just say I’m glad I found the high jump.

NMwithLowBar

For updates, you can follow Penn Gymnastics on YouTube at UPennGym, Twitter @PennGym, and Facebook at Penn Gymnastics. Special thanks to the Penn Gymnastics coaching staff for their hospitality, and I send them my very best wishes for a wonderful 2014 season!

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