myHR: News from Penn's Division of Human Resources

myHR: November 11, 2020

Winter Vacation Update

Boathouses decorated with lights in the winter.

With 2021 approaching, we are pleased to remind you of the Winter Break announcement in today's message to faculty and staff from the President, Provost, Executive Vice President (EVP), Vice President for Human Resources, and Vice Provost for Faculty.

Special Winter Vacation Extended Three Days 
To show gratitude for the extraordinary work of Penn faculty and staff this year, the University has extended winter break. Faculty and staff will have three additional Special Winter Vacation days this fiscal year: December 24, 2020, and January 4 and 5, 2021.

The entire Special Winter Vacation granted to faculty and staff will be December 24, 28, 29, 30, and 31, 2020, as well as January 4 and 5, 2021.

Here’s a reminder of Penn’s upcoming holiday observances.


Thanksgiving--Thursday and Friday, November 26 & 27, 2020

Christmas Day--Saturday, December 25, 2020

New Year’s Day--Friday, January 1, 2021

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day--Monday, January 18, 2021

Memorial Day--Monday, May 31, 2021

For a complete list of this fiscal year’s holidays and details on policies regarding work over Special Winter Vacation, visit the Almanac.

November and December Volunteer Opportunities

Graphic of gift boxes.

Each year, Penn’s Volunteers in Public Service (VIPS) organizes holiday drives to collect donations to support local families and agencies. Although COVID-19 has posed significant challenges to our daily lives, Penn faculty and staff volunteers will continue to have a positive impact during the holidays. Please join them to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors and minimize the impact of COVID-19.

Here are three opportunities to share holiday cheer with local families, coordinated by Penn VIPS.

Holiday Food Drive, November 2 – November 16

In the season of thanks and giving, please contribute to the Annual Food Drive to provide wholesome Thanksgiving fare. Instead of bringing food to campus for collection, please contact your school or center’s Dropsite Committee member listed below. They will provide a list of agencies and organizations who will be accepting your contact-free donations. You may also use services like Amazon to deliver items directly to the agency.

Holiday Giving with Penn Volunteers in Public Service, November 17 – December 12

As you buy toys and presents for the holiday season, please consider spreading extra cheer to neighbors in need through the Annual Penn Volunteers in Public Service Holiday Drive.

All items for the holiday drive must be new and unwrapped.

For contact-free donation delivery instructions, refer to the Penn VIPS contact list at the end of this article. They will provide a list of agencies and others who will be accepting your non-contact donations. Online retailers can be used to send items directly to aid agencies.

Penn VIPS Adopt a Family Program

The Adopt a Family program is a gratifying opportunity for your department or team to give directly to a specific family in the Philadelphia area. The adoption is usually done in lieu of departmental gift exchanges. The assigned family is treated to presents and sometimes holiday dinner in December. Assignments are made during and prior to mid-December.

Your department chooses the size of the family they would like to adopt. Participating departments will be provided with the names and address of the family, or the family may wish to remain anonymous. Departments may request a "wish list" from the family or they may choose their own gifts for the family members. Departments choose the number and types of gifts they will provide. Departments are provided with size of the family, names, ages and sizes of each family member.

Your department has many options for divvying up the gift gathering for the adopted family. For example, you may pool resources to purchase a gift card, elect one person in your department to shop and deliver your online purchases to the family, or allow individuals in your department to choose their own gifts to send directly to the family.

Families are selected from clients of the Baring House Family Service Agency, People’s Emergency Shelter, and other local agencies and shelters. A small number of referrals are also accepted. Families participate in the program on a one-time basis.

To adopt a family, contact Isabel Sampson-Mapp at Netter Center for Community Partnerships at

Dropsite Committee Members List

Thanks to these Penn VIPs staff members for leading this effort to spread generosity this winter, while reducing the risk of COVID-19.



E-mail Address

President’s Office

Brenda Gonzalez

Human Resources

Syreeta Gary

Van Pelt Library

Rachelle Nelson

Van Pelt Library

Ilene Rubin

Netter Center

Isabel Sampson-Mapp


Jennifer O’Keefe

Research Services

Evelyn Ford


Gretchen Ekeland

Comptroller’s Office

Celestine Silverman


Carole Mercaldo

Physics & Astronomy

Michelle Last


Pat Adams

Stouffer Common

Linda Kromer

Public Safety

Stacy Ritchey


Katharine Miller

Flexible Spending Account Due Date Reminder

Ben Franklin on the $100 bill wearing a face mask.

If you participate in a Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) there is still time for you to incur expenses and submit claims for reimbursement from fiscal year 2020. Thanks to changes in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, the last day to incur 2019-2020 expenses for HCFSA and DCFSA claims is December 31, 2020. The last day to submit claims for those expenses is January 31, 2021.

You can submit your claims online by logging in to the WageWorks website and clicking the submit receipt or claim button to upload electronic copies of your receipts or Explanation of Benefits (EOBs). You can also use the WageWorks EZ receipts mobile app to manage your benefits. 

Keep in mind that the rollover amount for Health Care FSAs has been increased from $500 to $550. If you participate in a Health Care FSA and have an unused balance below $550 on December 31, 2020, that money will be carried over for the current plan year after January 31, 2021. If you have an FSA balance above $550, you will forfeit those funds so be sure to estimate your expenses carefully. Rolling over funds does not change the maximum amount you can contribute for the following plan year.

If you have questions about your FSA or submitting a claim, call the Benefits Solution Center at Health Advocate at 1-866-799-2329.

For more information about FSAs, visit the Flexible Spending Accounts webpage.

Assertive to the Core

Handicapped woman smiling, while talking at the phone, sitting at desk.As members of a diverse work force, one thing we all have in common is the desire to be respected. Sharing our individual goals or perspectives with co-workers usually builds mutual respect, but it can also reveal gaps in understanding or lead to an impasse. These situations can be especially challenging as we interact with our colleagues remotely. Whether you’re communicating in person, over the phone, or in writing, assertiveness helps you express your views and goals while respecting other people’s perspectives.

The virtual Assertiveness Skills workshop on December 2 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. will help you bridge gaps and keep productive dialog flowing, even when our opinions conflict. Assertiveness Skills covers key concepts and practices anyone can use to create better, more effective interpersonal relationships at work, at home, or in your community. At this free program, you’ll learn to recognize the assertiveness continuum (from passive to assertive to aggressive), demonstrate assertive language and behaviors, and practice confidence in everyday situations.

“Assertiveness at its core is stating your needs and views clearly, articulately, and respectfully and not violating the needs of others in the process, says Jamie Apgar, Talent Development Coordinator and Assertiveness Skills workshop facilitator. “When we look at approaching assertiveness online vs. face-to-face, assertiveness at its core will look very similar.”

Apgar notes that when engaging in assertive communication online, it’s still important to:

  • Make clear, direct requests and avoid vague directives
  • Give a high-level of thought to other’s opinions and perspectives

The major difference between electronic and face-to-face interactions is that some visual and vocal cues, such as facial expressions and tone of voice, are now removed from the equation.

“When we engaged in communication face-to-face, we needed to make sure that our vocal behaviors and body language were also assertive,” says Apgar. When speaking face-to-face or on a video conference call, Apgar recommends avoiding less assertive speech habits, such as nervous laughter, verbal fillers like “um”, “uh”, or “you know”, and raising the pitch of your voice at the end of a sentence as if you’re asking a question. She also recommends assertive body language, such as direct eye contact, a confident posture, and—when appropriate-- a genuine smile.

For some people using email, phone or text makes it easier to be assertive because you can to focus on your written words. However, without real-time visual and verbal cues, your respectful tone might not come through and you have less information about how your message is being received.

Mindfulness and consideration for the human at the other end of the line keeps your online communication clear and helps you avoid passive, vague language or aggressive steamrolling over other people’s dignity.

“We need to ensure that the crafting of our message is still being respectful of others,” says Apgar. “When writing your messages, keep in mind to still be clear and direct with your needs and wants, but always recognize other’s opinions and aim to consider win-win solutions.”

For more guidance on mutually respectful communication, register for the  Assertiveness Skills workshop online and prepare to create win-win solutions for you and your coworkers.

More professional development opportunity information is available at the Learn & Grow section of

Onboard@Penn Reopens Its Doors

Sign with text saying

Onboard@Penn reopened its doors on Walnut Street for in-person operation on November 9. All new hires returning to work on campus can now visit the office by appointment only, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to  present Form I-9 Section 2 documentation in person. Remote service hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

When Onboard@Penn implemented remote operations eight months ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted temporary flexibility for new hires allowing them to complete the I-9 process virtually. This flexibility deferred the requirement to inspect original documents in person. This virtual process will continue for new hires working entirely remotely. Everyone else is expected to schedule an appointment at Onboard@Penn to present their original identification and work authorization documents in person.

To schedule an appointment, visit Onboard@Penn or access the scheduler.

When visiting the office, you will be required to present original Form I-9 Acceptable Documents and a green PennOpen Pass. You will also need to wear a face covering and practice physical distancing.

For more information, please visit the Onboard@Penn website. If you have questions about the reopening, please contact the Penn Employee Solution Center at or 215-898-7372.

Healthy Meals: Sheet Pan Salmon and Squash with Miso Mojo

Sheet pan salmon and squash with miso mojo.

This quick one-pan dish is packed with crunch flavor, protein, and vitamins. A vegetable medley of delicata squash and cauliflower is oven-roasted with a salmon filet. Top with a zesty miso dressing, pumpkin seeds, and serrano chilis for an added kick.

Find the recipe here.

Click here to send us your healthy recipes and tips.

Did You Know: Updated Return to Campus Guide

Penn’s COVID-19 Return to Campus Guide for Faculty and Staff has been updated. The latest edition is available online at Be sure to review the guide’s revised information about face coverings, PennOpen Pass symptom checking, post-travel quarantine, and other important public health measures within the Penn community and our region. The upcoming edition will include information on testing for on-campus faculty and staff.



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