Name: Nia Robinson

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

Major: Business Economics and Public Policy with a minor in Psychology

Activities: Wharton Dean's Advisory Board, Wharton Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Group, and Penn Students for Students

Tell us about your involvement in founding Wharton Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Group.

When I was a freshman on the Wharton Dean's Undergraduate Advisory Board (WAB), we saw some stakeholder data that showed that underrepresented students at Wharton had lower satisfaction. I was inspired to create and then ultimately lead an initiative called the Equal Satisfaction Initiative. This initiative looked at what we can do within Wharton to improve the experience of historically underrepresented students that were not as satisfied as their peers. From this initiative, we thought of a couple of ideas: We could have a dean of diversity, we could have the Wharton inequity, diversity, and inclusion group, and a couple of other ideas. 

After some thought and interviews with other schools, it became pretty obvious that creating an entire student group focused on inclusion would be the best way to address the issue. Following this conclusion, the initiative was spearheaded by WAB in collaboration with Wharton Wellness, Wharton Council, and administration. Working with the Wharton administration was a push–pull dynamic for a bit, but we ultimately finally got Wharton Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Group (WEDIG) to be created right before the summer of 2020. This ended up being really good timing because this was around the time when diversity issues became a lot more popularized in the media and everyday discussion.

Tell me about the MOSAIC podcast and some of the interesting stories that are shared on the show.

One of the initiatives that we have worked on within WEDIG is the MOSAIC podcast, which was created by me, Surayya Walters, and Javion Joyner, who was the co–host with me on the podcast. We do the podcast so we can highlight different stories about diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Wharton student experience. We’ve interviewed different students, from organizations like the Wharton Asia Exchange Group, or the diversity consulting firm student group. 

We love to share different stories from students and we’ve even had Wharton alumni come on and talk about their experience in consulting and what that's like being underrepresented. Overall, we wanted the podcast to highlight different diversity and inclusion issues that exist within the Wharton student experience and beyond.

Tell us about Penn Students for Students and your involvement in it.

My freshman year I was exploring clubs, and I thought that they would have a club that focuses on helping youth in the juvenile justice system. Surprisingly, no such club existed, so I started up the club Penn Students for Students, a club where Penn students get to tutor and mentor court–ordered youth within West Philadelphia. We work with the Evening Reporting Center in Philadelphia, which means that about once or twice a week, different Penn students come into a Zoom or a classroom and do different kinds of lessons depending on what the youth are interested in. We used to give lessons about homework and giving homework advice, but it's kind of shifted to more of an arts and creative writing focus. We now help them write unique poetry, short stories, and a lot of them like thinking and examining different songs. We try to do music they might be interested in to keep them engaged. 

Ultimately, we tutor in whatever way addresses their needs. Sometimes, they really want to learn more about things like driving lessons, or job applications, or they have questions about college. Thus, we’ll often create lesson plans that address those needs as well. Right now, I'm the executive director. However, since I'm a senior, we're having elections soon. I'm excited for the club to continue to remain after I graduate.

What's been your most meaningful experience at Penn?

Outside of clubs and work, I think my most meaningful experiences have been [with] the friends and the community that I [have] found. I’ve made a lot of really strong, lifelong friendships here, and that's been really meaningful and memorable. All of the collective experiences I've had with people at Penn have created a really strong support system for me. Additionally, I really got to learn a lot about myself and really grow and strengthen my own self–identity, which has also been a really awesome and important experience for me.

What’s been your biggest struggle in balancing everything you do?

A helpful lesson that someone gave to me is “You can do it all, you just can't do it all at once.” Keeping this in mind throughout my four years has been really helpful. A lot of things I’m involved in happened to me across college, but they didn't all happen at the same time. I focused on WEDIG my sophomore and early junior year, and I was able to make time for Penn Students for Students and the MOSAIC podcast more in the latter half of my four years. 

Overall, I think that quote has really helped in shaping my perspective in terms of having priorities, thinking about what I really want to focus and spend my time and energy on in a semester, and then adjusting accordingly. You definitely can get a lot of stuff done; it’s just not smart to do it all at once.

What’s something you’ve learned throughout this process and your four years at Penn?

In college, there are so many different opportunities, clubs, majors, minors, and things that you can do. I would tell people to trust their gut and listen to how their body is feeling. This will help really direct you into what you'll ultimately be passionate about. Furthermore, what you're passionate about, you end up also being really good at. I think that's something that's really helped serve me during my time here. 

I've worked in a lot of different spaces like WEDIG, but also I've been able to have a psychology minor, take different writing classes, and work for social justice. I think this was possible because I listened to myself and allowed myself to trust my instinct about what I wanted to work on. Ultimately, that led to a really fulfilling college experience.

What's next for you after Penn?

Consulting. I'm really sorry, but you know, it pays the bills, which is great. But I think in the long run, one of the things that I learned from Penn is that I really like creative expression. And I think that's been a really fun part of my Penn experience. So I ultimately hope to end up going into more of an entertainment or media career. I've been really looking up to Shonda Rhimes recently and kind of the work that she's done to really shape stories.

Lightning Round:

Last song you listened to? 

“Here and Now” by Luther Vandross.

Last thing you cooked? 

An omelet.

Death row meal? 

Glazed salmon, four–cheese mac and cheese, and chocolate cake.

Favorite study spot on campus?

My actual study spots are hidden, but the public study spots I really like are the rooftops in the high rises, because you can see the city and I'm a city girl at heart.

There are two types of people at Penn... 

Those who know what they want to do and those who don't.

And you are? 

I am always both because I know what I want to do, but I'm super flexible to change. Especially being in my young 20s and where I am right now, I think that flexibility—but also being focused—has really served me well over the last four years.