CogWell @ Penn is a student group committed to building a campus-wide support network to promote mental wellness on campus. We seek to empower students to offer one another compassionate, focused, judgement free support through effective listening strategies. 

CogWell is a Student Activities Council  (SAC) recognized student group, a member of the Penn Wellness organization and the

Penn Undergraduate Health Coalition.

Our Staff

Why We're Great >

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Ephraim is the Director of Lubavitch House and a board member to Tikvah, a socialization and support group for Jewish adults with mental illness. Ephraim received his a B.S. in Psychology from Georgetown in 1981.

Ephraim Levin
Executive Director


Why We're Great >


Melissa is a nationally recognized public speaker. She is the author of the book, "The People You Meet in Real Life" and has served as the program director of CogWell for the past 10 years. 

Melissa Hopely Rice
Program Director

Why We're Great >


Melissa is a nationally recognized public speaker and mental health advocate. She is the author of the book, "The People You Meet in Real Life" and is an adjunct professor at Immaculata University. She has served as the program director of CogWell for the past 12years. 

Melissa Hopely Rice
Program Director

Why We're Great >


Barbra Berley-Mellits is a member of the Advisory Board for Cogwell at Penn, serving as its mental health professional responsible for training design and facilitation of the segment of training that promotes effective communication skills. Barbra received her Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and has a BS in Humanistic and Behavioral Studies from Boston University. Her national work as a program development and curriculum-writing consultant and facilitator for over 25 years has sought to enhance the empowerment, self-esteem and interpersonal skills of people of all ages. She is married to her best friend with whom she raised three kids who are compassionate listeners, even to their parents.

Barbra Berley-Mellits
Head Trainer
Director of Training

Why We're Great >

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Dr. Bleier has been sharing his expertise in the mental health field with our student leaders  for over 10 years. He received his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and has been in practice for more than 20 years.

Dr. Henry Bleier

Why We're Great >

Dr. Silverman is the Coordinator of Prevention Programs like I CARE and a psychologist at CAPS. 

Dr. Alaina Spiegel
Student Counseling Liason

Meet Our Sponsors and collaborators 


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Penn Chaplain's Office

Meet Our Proud Partner

Louis Piatetsky


What does Active Listening mean to you?

Active Listening to me is you experiencing what they are experiencing now and that you can relate it to what they are doing and what they could do. It has to be active and current. It is very important because when you are dealing with a person in active crisis you need to be active. Ask, “what is going on now?”


What’s the importance of listening for you?

As a person who has been through PTSD and anyone who has experienced something similar to that it seems people don’t listen and things go in one ear and out the other. You have to make sure you are focusing on what the issue really is and not opinions of something you have nothing to do with like why this or why that. 


What’s meaningful for you about being a partner with CogWell?

It’s a lifestyle issue because I was raised to leave the earth better than you found it. I believe it’s important to let students know they should choose life over suicide. CogWell is a bridge that brings together people who are compassionate without forcing anything so that you know there are people out there that can help you. I consider it a gentle intervention because if you push too hard or too fast someone will shut down. It’s the whole generalization of cognizant wellness. 


Before I knew you, I did this stuff. I felt I was a critical and clinical caregiver. As a father figure, as a leader people looked up to me and it’s important to help them as much as I can and this is an organized synopsis of what is going on. This is wonderful and a program that you give me a vehicle to spread my compassion of CogWell to everyone I can. 


What are your thoughts on failure?

Failure like pain tells you something is wrong and you investigate and resolve it. Failure is when something in someone’s life fails and it should be a teaching and positive thing to show you it’s okay to fail and an opportunity to improve yourself and correct the situation. 


How was Active Listening useful in your life?

I was in charge of so many people at a higher level and a caregiver to people. I worked in the highest hospital in the Navy and the Surgeon General has given me an honor. To know that the people who direct the programs are aware and appreciate and respect you is important. For me, it’s an honor to not be taken for granted. 


How did you help the veterans and support them?

Through support groups. There are interactive ones that allow you to get your issues out. But if you are in a situation where you feel no one cares you can write yourself a letter explaining your dilemma and negative feelings and hurt and that you’re not being helped by society. When you have done that you have taken the internal and made it external. When you have done that put it in an envelope and rip it up. It’s an excellent tool. Poetry is a way for me to externalize feelings that were really universal. I made them as generalized as possible, but I can’t deny that I am a soldier and warrior and I am proud of that. I stand up for what I believe in and I have had the power and ability to do what I did to help people and to me that is the greatest thing of all. The greatest service you have is the service to others because you never know when you need the service of others to help you as well. 


In my professional and personal life, I have worn many different hats for skills and training that I could help people with when the opportunity presents itself. When you are in charge of people or you are someone they look up to, they can benefit from your skills and training so you wear a hat to help them. We all have different things we do in life and some things give us added skills and a repertoire to draw upon to help people and you should always remember that many people wear many hats and you don’t know how a person can help you until you tap into their knowledge.