Sometimes, it’s hard to be a good person. We get it. Wharton Wellness, however, is hoping to change that with their Just Making Happiness Happen (JMHH) Awards, which is given to three Wharton students nominated by their peers for just being good people. 

According to co–chair Hannah Stulberg (W ’18) Wharton Wellness is a Wharton Undergraduate Division sponsored organization that works with the administration to address Wharton–specific issues across the many dimensions of wellness such as academic, physical, emotional, mental, social, and occupational. The JMHH Awards program is just one of several initiatives Wharton Wellness has started in its one–year history to highlight the importance of living a balanced lifestyle that is not completely overtaken by finance classes and on campus recruiting. 

Nominations for the JMHH Awards have been open over the past couple of weeks, and though Wharton Wellness has finally chosen their winners, Wharton Wellness Events Committee member Giancarlo Marconi (W ’19) says the impact extends beyond the chosen few who were selected. “We really want to emphasize gratitude,” Giancarlo said. “Everyone who gets nominated is sent a personal thank you note from whoever nominated them. And then once people got the nomination, they’re more likely to nominate other people, so it’s kind of a chain reaction.”

Without further ado, here are three Wharton students whose passion for the dollar sign is heavily overshadowed by their passion for others. 

Ryan Leone (W, C ‘19)

A forewarning: you may get secondhand anxiety reading the following sentence about Ryan’s various involvements on campus. During his time at Penn, Ryan has served as president of Kite and Key, competes on the varsity sprint football team as a running back, is involved in research on traumatic brain injury, volunteers at the VA Medical Center, is founder and president of Wharton Neuroscience Initiative’s student society, is founder and president of Armed (a group focused on military–civilian relations on campus), is a member of the Authors at Wharton committee, is a member of Sig Ep and AIR (Penn’s pre–health care fraternity), and works as an RA on campus. He is somehow still alive during his third year as a student here.

Photo provided by Ryan Leone

However, while Ryan has no shortage of things to brag about, he instead focuses his energy on those around him, which is most likely how he won this award. “There’s no point in being mean, or putting someone down, or not taking the time out of your day to be there for someone that seems like they need it,” he tells me. “Penn and Wharton really do push you to put your neck out for yourself and to focus on how to improve yourself, but I think that helping other people is just as effective in getting yourself to be in a better state.”

After speaking with Ryan, I can definitely attest that his interest in others is genuine. For every single question that I asked him, Ryan would follow it up by asking me about my life, my aspirations, and my hobbies, wanting to get to know me as much as I got to know him. 

“The thing that makes me most happy at Penn is just talking to different people about what drives them and pushes them to go on through their own experience at Penn,” Ryan says. 

Ryan’s aspiration for the future is to become an army trauma surgeon and policy maker. His interests outside of academics include going to pop–punk concerts, reading poetry, and doing magic tricks. If you’re ever at a party with Ryan, ask him to pull out a deck of cards and do his signature trick: Solo. You’ll be amazed. 

Elana Fortson (W ‘20)

If you can’t find this Alaska native at a Wharton Real Estate Club meeting or teaching an Operations, Information, and Decisions (OIDD) recitation, she’s probably off on a walk somewhere, exploring what the city of Philadelphia has to offer. 

While Elana’s list of walking destinations is endless—her top spots include La Colombe, the Schuylkill river walk, and anywhere in Center City (“just to see what’s up”)—just making the time to get outside and move around during a busy day of classes is what matters more than the location. 

Photo provided by Elana Fortson

Elana says that this value of making time for what’s important has been the key to her own wellness at Penn, whether it’s going on a walk, hanging out with friends, or getting that extra hour of sleep. “Even if it’s catching someone for a 20 minute meal during a really stressful day or week,” she says. “Yeah, you might have lost 20 minutes of studying time but they may have re–inspired you to think more positively or given you more energy to go about the rest of your day in a productive and focused way.”

Similarly, Elana also carves out time in her days to support various student groups on campus by attending performing arts shows. Supporting others on campus shouldn’t be seen as a burden, Elana tells me. In fact, she says, encouraging a mutually supportive environment on campus can be beneficial for everyone, using the idea of studying for an exam as an example. “Let’s say you have a friend who’s struggling,” she says. “I think it’s important to recognize that when you explain something to them, I mean, yeah, you might be helping them compete against you or whatever, but you also you learn something by being able to teach or explain a concept. I think you’d be very mistaken to assume it’s a zero–sum game. There’s always a value to helping someone out.”

So Elana is happy when taking walks, supporting other people, and making time for what matters most in her life. But when is Elana happiest? “It’s a factor of spending time with friends, with positive people, and also when the sun is shining.”

Akhil Chakravarti (W ‘18) 

Photo: Ethan Wu

The third winner of Wharton Wellness’ JMHH Awards is the only senior on our list, and he is here to offer some wisdom that one can only hope to acquire with age.

Akhil has a naturally content air about him, as if nothing could really disturb his zen at this point in his Penn career. Akhil will earn his Life Sciences and Management (LSM) dual degree in May and is currently preparing for his final presentation for the program, but says that another current priority of his is to find some hobbies that he can sustain post–Penn. These may or may not include getting back into his passion for poetry or learning how to be a better cook. 

“I’d like to make more of my own food, especially after college,” Akhil says. “I feel like at the beginning of every semester I have this one week where I make meals every day and then it just kind of falls apart after that when things get busy.”

Akhil’s main extracurricular focus at Penn was being a member of Penn Dhamaka, the all–male South Asian dance troupe on campus. Akhil had never danced before coming to Penn, but knew he wanted to try something new in college and was attracted to the group because of its performative and athletic nature. He is now the chair of the 2017–2018 board and is very close with the rest of its members, describing Penn Dhamaka as “a home base for everyone involved.”

Throughout his time at Penn, Akhil has learned the importance of focusing attention on what works rather than on what doesn’t. Regarding rejection, for example, he says, ”I, like many others, have definitely applied to things in college that I didn’t get into. But I found that I’m always just gonna make the most of whatever I am doing and not worry too much about what I’m not doing.” 

Akhil defines wellness loosely, saying it is really all about “understanding yourself and understanding what you need at different points in time.” For him, watching The Office on Netflix and practicing meditation help to keep him calm, but the formula is different for everyone. 

“Looking back on college now, it’s really important to pay attention to yourself,” Akhil says. “Look out for yourself, and never feel ashamed for that.”