myHR: News from Penn's Division of Human Resources

myHR: June 27, 2018

Charity Payne: Drive and Curiosity Led to Her 2018 Models of Excellence Award

Photograph of Charity Payne and robot

Charity Payne began her career with Penn Engineering as an undergraduate student worker and a member of Penn Women’s Track and Field team. Today, she’s Associate Director of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception (GRASP) laboratory and Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub (PERCH). As a champion shot putter, Payne understands what it takes to push beyond expectations. She continues to propel projects forward for robotics research and education. Payne’s service at Penn earned her a 2018 Models of Excellence Award.

Payne’s work was instrumental in establishing the new PERCH facility in the Pennovation Center. Her outstanding administrative performance led to her Models of Excellence recognition as well as a SEAS Staff Recognition award in 2017. Kostas Daniilidis, Ruth Yalom Stone Professor, CIS, calls Payne one of the “most responsible, brilliant, hard-working administrators I have encountered.”

Payne credits the strong working relationships she has with people across her school for her success. “That’s what makes the wheels turn,” she says. “We’re all here for our students.”

In many ways, Payne’s career path aligns with the growth of robotics research at Penn. “I am a huge nerd at heart,” she says. After graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2006, Payne accepted a full-time Administrative Assistant job with Penn’s Computer and Information Science (CIS) department within the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). She used her tuition benefits towards post-bac courses and eventually earned a master’s in Public Health from the Perelman School of Medicine.

When research at the GRASP lab took off, Payne moved into a new position supporting both CIS and GRASP. Payne’s remarkable drive and curiosity have served her in a range of activities. She’s organized the first official tours of the GRASP lab back in 2009, learned how to operate leading-edge robots, collaborated with partners within and outside SEAS, and enrolled in professional development training.

“It’s not my job to say no,” she says. “It’s my job to figure out how to get it done.”

That approach established a trusting relationship with the faculty and researchers she supports. When she kept taking on responsibilities far beyond “other duties as required,” and the needs of the Robotics department evolved, SEAS was able to reclassify her position and offer her new role as Robotics MSE Graduate Coordinator. In 2016 as GRASP began to develop PERCH, she became an Associate Director. Now Payne has two staff members reporting to her in addition to many student workers.

When others hesitate to delegate or train people, saying they could get things done faster themselves, Payne takes a different position that reflects her commitment to learning. “As a supervisor, you have to realize that you’re investing in professional development.” In recognition, Payne’s staff nominated her for a Models of Excellence award—which came as a heartening surprise to their boss. She says, “The appreciation of your faculty, coworkers, and students goes a long way.”

With over 16 years of experience at Penn, Payne has her eyes on the future. “We’re the number one robotics center world-wide,” Payne says without hesitation. “We like to stay on top. Things are changing. Everyone is excited to see what’s to come.”

Time to Check Up on Retirement Contributions

Photo of reading glasses, notebook, and paper with Retirement Planning written and underlined

Retirement planning is always in season, but the start of a new fiscal year is a great time to recalculate your retirement contributions. Start by asking yourself a couple of questions: How much do you currently contribute to your retirement plan? Could you increase that amount, and if so, by how much?

Financial experts recommend that the combined employee and employer contributions to your retirement plan add up to at least 15% of your current income. But even if you are not saving at that level, making a small increase of just 1% more now can earn you big rewards later. For example, when you contribute up to 5% of your standard pay to the Matching Plan, Penn will match your contributions dollar for dollar.

Penn’s retirement plans help you build the future you want. Benefits-eligible faculty and staff are automatically enrolled in Penn’s Basic Plan. Two other easy ways to save for retirement are Penn’s Matching Plan and Supplemental Retirement Annuity (SRA) Plan. To enroll or make changes to either the Matching or SRA Plans, simply visit and click Enroll or Make Changes. You can also contact the Retirement Call Center at 1-877-PENN-RET (1-877-736-6738), Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm, EST.

Penn’s retirement plan providers, TIAA and Vanguard, provide a number of financial literacy resources to help you set and achieve your goals, including webinars and workshops. They also offer free, confidential counseling for guidance with retirement savings and wise investment choices. Penn encourages you to connect with our retirement plan providers to take full advantage of their services.

Visit the TIAA and Vanguard websites, call toll-free, or schedule a free on-campus counseling session where a representative can help you with your investment choices.


Counseling Sessions with TIAA: 
Schedule online or call 800-732-8353


Counseling Sessions with Vanguard:

Schedule online or call 800-662-0106 ext. 14500

Remember that you can enroll and make changes to Penn’s retirement savings plans at any time during the year.

Free YMCA Family Pass for July 

Photo of Little girl and boy resting in a poolPut the ‘Y’ in July by visiting your local YMCA between July 1 and July 31 with a free one-day family pass! Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about discount YMCA memberships for Penn faculty and staff.

To get your pass, just download this form and present it with your PennCard at any Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA location or Regional Y Alliances.

Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA and Regional Y Alliances offer a 10% monthly membership discount to all Penn employees with valid PennCards. There is no joiner fee for new Penn employee memberships. To receive the discount on a new membership, visit any YMCA location listed here and present your PennCard. Existing members can sign up for a discount at their home branch by showing a valid PennCard.

It’s easier than ever to find discounted Y services near you. There are dozens of participating Y branches in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.

Penn's partnerships with the YMCA, GlobalFit, and Penn Recreation make staying in shape more convenient!

Healthy Meals: Zesty Avocado and Wild Blueberry Smoothie Bowl

Bowl of blueberry smoothie topped with whole blueberries, sliced almonds, mandarin oranges. avocado and cucumber

This healthy, colorful smoothie bowl is the perfect way to start your day.

Find the recipe here.

Click here to send us your healthy recipes and tips.


Did You Know: The Benefits Plan Year Ends June 30

June 30 is the end of the 2017-2018 benefits plan year. It’s also the last day to incur eligible expenses that can be reimbursed from your 2017-2018 Health Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Claim submissions are due September 30. To access your FSA account, visit the Benefits Enrollment website.



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