Wharton AdCom Makes An Abrupt Exit

by John A. Byrne on

Ankur Kumar is leaving as Wharton's MBA admissions director

Ankur Kumar is leaving as Wharton’s MBA admissions director

Five days after a critical story on Wharton in The Wall Street Journal, Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid Ankur Kumar has resigned her job.

Kumar, who had been in the position for just two years, apparently told staff last week that she was resigning. In a note to colleagues on Wednesday–two days before the publication of the Journal article–Kumar said she had been “pursuing several different opportunities in New York City in the past few months.”

In a blog post today to Wharton’s prospective applicants, Kumar announced that her last day would be Oct. 4. “As they say, all good things must come to an end, and after nearly five years–and one of the most professionally and personally rewarding experiences–it’s time for new adventures,” wrote Kumar.

The timing of her announcement is both unusual and awkward, coming only one day after Wharton’s round one deadline.  “It’s like Santa Claus quitting on Dec. 24th after spending the summer touring shopping malls around the world asking toddlers what they wanted for Christmas,” said Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, a leading MBA admissions consultant.

NOT AN IMPETUOUS DECISION

“This is not a decision I made impetuously; I did not want to start an application cycle that I could not commit to finishing. Nothing would be less fair to you, to my team, the school, and our alumni and other important stakeholders. It has been an absolute privilege to serve my alma mater in this role and a true honor to bring five incredible classes to the MBA program.”

Her abrupt resignation means that the school will end up having five different admission directors in just eight years, a highly unusual amount of turnover at such a prominent business school. Her predecessor, J.J. Cutler, also left after two years in 2011, only to return to Aramark where he had worked as marketing. Thomas Caleel took over the job in 2005 with the departure of Rose Martinelli who left for the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. But Caleel left within three years in 2008.

In an Oct. 2 memo to students and faculty, Wharton School Dean Tom Robertson said that the admissions team will continue to operate under Maryellen Lamb, the school’s former careers director who was named deputy vice dean in September for M.B.A. admissions, financial aid and career management.

LED WHARTON TO RECORD ENROLLMENTS OF FEMALE MBA STUDENTS

To her credit, Kumar helped to lead Wharton to record female enrollment, even when applications were declining. For years, the percentage of women enrolled in top-ranked business schools stubbornly remained in the 33% to 36% range. Kumar helped Wharton assume a lead over all top schools three years ago by putting together an incoming class that was composed of 40% women. The following year she did even better, pushing the number of first-year women to 45% of the class. “It’s a pretty significant accomplishment especially during a downward trend in application volume,” added Stacey Oyler, an admissions consultant with Clear Admit.

And though applications continued to decline this past year, the MBA class that entered this fall boasts record GMAT scores–a 725 average, up seven points from the previous year.

Dean Robertson noted her accomplishments in his memo today. “Under Ankur’s leadership,” he wrote, “the MBA program reached record breaking enrollment of women, with an unprecedented five years in a row of 40% or more women in the class. In addition, the entrepreneurial community grew triple fold. Under Ankur, MBA Admissions also emerged as an innovator in evaluation, with the successful launch of the Team Based Discussion as part of the admissions process last year. Ankur has been an outstanding administrator, an exemplar alumna, and an important asset to the school.”

Still, for Kumar, who joined Wharton’s admissions staff as senior associate director in 2009, it has been a turbulent ride. In the past five years, applications to Wharton’s MBA program have fallen by 17.2%. Kumar had earlier attributed the decline to new competition from B-schools in Europe and Asia. But while many rival schools also suffered declines, the falloffs have not been nearly as steep and in the past year applications to many peer schools have turned around. Not at Wharton where the school had a 5.8% drop. Rival Chicago Booth reported a 10% increase. Finance rival and powerhouse Columbia Business School had a 7% rise, and Harvard was also up, with a more modest 4% increase.

Many believe her decision to leave was prompted by year after year of application declines. “I’m sorry to see her go,” said Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com, another prominent admissions consulting firm. “It is not unusual for admissions directors to resign or be “reassigned” if applications dip. My guess is that she decided to go before she was shown the door.”

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  • inchicago

    I’m a student at Booth and along with many of my classmates, had to choose between Wharton and Booth (and Kellogg). I almost chose Wharton because the brand is still stronger in my home country (Latam). Nowadays, I’m very happy I chose Booth and can see the brand of the school rising by the… days? Still, I feel like people are being way too hard on Wharton. I have a bunch of friends there and none of them are entitled brats. Actually, only one of my friends is a prep school/Princeton stereotype guy and he’s just the most genuine and nice person I know. People need to stop with this idea that the top schools are full of “trapped elitism”. People at Booth are completely down to earth. Intense, focused, competitive… but definitely not entitled. Same with all the other schools, even HBS has mostly hard working kids. To say that kids on the top 5 or so schools are entitled and elitist is completely misguided. You should all go to a developing country and see what rich and entitled kids are really like. Hint: they don’t even finish high school, let alone get into a top business school.

  • Missioninja

    All things being equal, HBS and GSB enjoy tremendous name recognition from association with the parent university. In comparison, the UPenn brand can’t do the same for Wharton.

  • Jimmy

    Is there any “Bear the pressure and criticisms” class at Wharton ? :)

  • peopleandmore

    typical arrogant doucehbag wharton alumni. Thank you for your too much seriousness.

  • haapi

    Good to hear your perspective, hermano. Some of my clients, who went into the TBD kicking and screaming (for the reasons already mentioned) also came out realizing that this format was/is very good for filtering out the jerks and letting them shine even though English is not their first language. Though I did work with several applicants who chose not to apply to Wharton (again, reasons already covered), the ones who did go through with it all made it, and are really quite happy. Personally, I think it is a brilliant format for Wharton even though it makes my job much harder ;-)

  • Shaniqua James!!!

    Now I get it. OK, but you do realize that no American cares whether Modi was denied an opportunity to speak at Wharton, no American cares whether some guy writing for “India Real Time” chose to boycott a conference at Wharton and no American has the slightest interest in attending or hearing about a Wharton India Economic Forum?

  • Simone

    an expected reply from a typical wharton alumni! always insist on side things and forget the main points.

  • Kumar2

    thats right, most americans think the known world is only between the two costs, what outside that is Mars and another universe.

  • avivalasvegas

    This is MY country too. And I’ll gladly welcome any contributing member of society, immigrant or otherwise, to it. Every single one of us are here because someone in their bloodline had to triumph over protectionist, close minded, entitled individuals like yourself. Fortunately for all of us, your kind is a dying breed.

  • avivalasvegas

    I think Tuck’s a great program – I’ve said before that the only major obstacle the school faces is geography. I’d call it a top 7 program easily, on par with Columbia.

  • LoveTUCK

    Sorry I disagree. Tuck is clearly top 5 school.

  • avivalasvegas

    You’re welcome to! I think the rankings tend to keep tuck between rank 6-9 on most occasions but that’s just one way of evaluating a school. In my opinion, Tuck will never be a top 5 program because of its location. Place a school like Tuck in a major city and you’ve now got a top 5 program.

  • LoveTUCK

    the economist ranking places Tuck first or top 2. That is enough for the passionate to consider it top 5 :)

  • Shaniqua James!!!

    Then why are you worried about some obscure Indian politician being denied an opportunity to speak at Wharton? Doesn’t make sense. It’s revealing that you believe Wharton’s reputation suffered as a result of refusing him an opportunity to appear at their forum. I had no idea he even existed till yesterday.

  • MBAApplicant

    To look at the bright side, this also could prove to be a great opportunity for those who have Wharton as their top choice. And also for those who would not have considered applying previously. I’m not a finance person myself but I find myself intrigued by their health care management program, and all this negative press may actually make it a great time to give it a shot. Wharton is still Wharton, even if it slips.

  • avivalasvegas

    If you go past your topical understanding and dig a little bit deeper, you’ll see that he is no obscure politician – there is a very high probability that he will lead 1/6th of the world’s population soon – and that the events that surrounding his removal from the forum are brimming with scandal. Don’t justify your lack of awareness by labeling international events as uninteresting or unimportant to other Americans. Any sharp business school student, American or International, knows that the days of global ignorance are over. You should learn this fact while you still can.

  • avivalasvegas

    But its the Economist! Try Business week or U.S. News or even Poets and Quants rankings instead and you’ll get a more accurate picture. Again, dont get me wrong. I love Tuck. I just think it isn’t at the same level as the M7 schools.

  • LoveTUCK

    No, and sorry. It is at the same level of the M7, if not even higher than some of them (Kellogg and MIT in particular). and why ignore economist ranking? despite some of its ridiculous (or we consider it ridiculous because its results challenge the status quo that we used to know), yet, it is a considerable ranking and I have the right to argue based on it. It is even included as major ingredients of P&Q rankings. You can not be selective based on your own preferences.

  • Shaniqua James

    Doesn’t look like a scandal to me. Certain very peculiar Indian faculty members at Penn (Toorjo Ghosh, Ania Loomba and Suvir Kaul) opposed Modi’s appearance on the ground that Modi has blood on his hands. He does. He isn’t allowed into this country and the shame is that freaks like Ghosh, Loomba and Kaul were allowed in and provided faculty positions at an American university. I’m not very interested in hearing either side of the question.

  • LoveTUCK

    sorry, but you are also weighing the location more than its accurate weight. Based on your rationale, someone should pick UCLA or NYU over Duke or Yale. But that is not true at all. Yes, I understand a bit that you mean the location is a differentiating factor when comparing schools that are in same league. However, I still consider (and many actually) Tuck a top 5 school and nick to nick to Harvard and Stanford. For me, it is definitely away ahead of Columbia, Kellogg, and slightly better than Sloan. While you can earn Wharton MBA, Columbia MBA, and Stanford MS, in many different and easier ways (EMBAs, PT MBAs, ..etc), Tuck, however, offers only one degree Full Time MBA, it is the FLAGSHIP of the school and ALL the school’s resources dedicated to this degree. More, it is small class, not a mass production. People who are looking for real, premium, and original MBA experience, should go for Tuck.

  • PN

    You should work on your own English.

  • IESE Believer

    Betsy, I applied and got into IESE in Barcelona, who helped Wharton model their team-based interview on the IESE ‘Assessment Day’. In my experience, the majority of applicants got through. I honestly don’t think the students are competing against each other any more than they would be on the normal application.

    The experience was great. I got to see the case-method first-hand in addition to getting a feel for the school’s teaching method. It cemented my interest in the school. Also, by putting the applicants chosen for the interview together, I got a feel for what profiles the school was looking for. I felt like I belonged among them.

    Throughout the process, the adcoms stressed that we weren’t competing against each other and made an effort to talk with everyone. The assessment was a combination of many activities that forced practically everyone to participate. Even if I did not get in, I would have thought it was a fantastic experience.

    In the end, its a superior way to better understand the applicants instead of just an essay and resume.

  • avivalasvegas

    Your web search skills are impressive. Are you a consultant? I won’t waste more time debating with you because you’re clearly reactive and ignorant, a sad combination.

    I also won’t speak about the faculty you mention because I don’t know much about Wharton faculty. But I will say that some of the best faculty at my institution were “allowed in” from other countries. The perspectives they bought into the classroom were new to Americans and internationals alike and probably beyond the comprehension of the close minded .

  • avivalasvegas

    I’d pick NYU over Yale…but it’d be close. I’d pick Tuck over both but not over any of the M7 (top 5) schools. But that’s just me. I can see you’re proud of your institution and I don’t blame you. I’m proud of mine.

    But when you discount every major ranking save one and discount schools like Kellogg, Columbia and Sloan, you instantly lose credibility.

    To me, Tuck is like the IMD of the United States. Focused, credible, small and in the middle of nowhere. It takes a very special person to wanna go to Tuck over the higher ranked programs. And they probably deserve to be there.

    Cheers mate!

  • somo

    You mean IMD is the TUCK of europe ;)

  • Shaniqua James

    It’s not hard to research this because various online organs of the Indian press covered it to death, which is strange because it’s unlikely anyone in the US would get worked up if Scott Walker were denied an opportunity to speak at one of the IITs.

    Ghosh teaches social work at Penn and the other two, Loomba and Kaul, teach in Penn’s English Dept., specializing in postcolonial theory and feminism — the usual nonsense found in humanities departments.

    Modi was invited to Wharton by an organization of Indian students. Those students came under pressure from other non-Wharton Indians at Penn to rescind Modi’s invitation and they capitulated. You mistakenly assign blame to the school when it was your fellow Indian business school students who made the decision. You should take it up with them. Here are some names I found in Linkedin: Alvira Rao, Neha Mittal, Salil Gupta, Pranshu Maheshwari, Karan Sharma, Jalaj Garg, Raju Penmatcha. Good luck!

  • SADtruth

    anyway, I do not like indians in america. They seem to have a “struggling identity”

  • avivalasvegas

    My mistake :)

  • http://www.vinceprep.com/ Vince Ricci

    Thanks, Ace!

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