Meet Wharton’s MBA Class Of 2018

Outside the Wharton School on the University of Pennsylvania campus - Ethan Baron photo

Outside the Wharton School on the University of Pennsylvania campus – Ethan Baron photo


Wharton is the quintessential “big school.” With over 1,700 students in its full-time MBA program alone, the Wharton MBA offers an endless stream of classes, clubs, events, and trips. That makes it difficult for students to find time to sleep, let alone say no. With over 200 electives, Wharton provides “any course that you want is available to take” in the words of Jain. Not only that, but the MBA program boasts an all-star lineup of business professors, including Adam Grant (management), Brian Bushee (accounting), Jeremy Siegel (finance), Barbara Kahn (marketing), and Stewart Friedman (management). Thanks to this level of intellectual firepower, Wharton ranks among the top MBA programs in every conceivable concentration, with U.S. News ranking the program second in accounting, marketing, and operations and third in leadership (along with top 10 rankings in entrepreneurship, information systems, and supply chains).

Such breadth enables the program to excel in more distinct specialties, such as real estate and health care, along with creating synergies among intersecting subject areas.  “My personal interest in a program that combined impact investing, FinTech, gender lens investing, and Islamic finance quickly led me to strongly favour Wharton’s program,” explains Al Jabri. “There is no conventional path at Wharton and the program is designed to be flexible to allow students to pursue their varied interests, whatever they may be.”

Despite the lore surrounding ‘tight-knit’ small schools, Wharton’s size also facilitates networking like no other. With the sheer number of students, there are seemingly non-stop opportunities to build connections and friendships.  A large east coast campus, particularly one with the reputation of Wharton, also draws recruiters and top speakers from every corner. Plus, Wharton alumni number over 90,000, with MBA graduates found in over 150 nations, meaning students can find advice and support in almost every region and industry. Such alumni inspired many 2018 class members to enroll at Wharton.

“My childhood best friend won the Wharton Business Plan Competition, ended up raising over $30,000,000, and just exited his venture,” Steigman says.  “While running my VC-backed startup Soletron, several of my key investors and board members were Wharton Alumni. Their strategic advice, technical skills, networks, and general generosity always made a lasting impression on me.” Wharton’s impact isn’t just limited to the United States, adds Al Jabri. “In the Middle East region (among others), Wharton alumni are among the most revered leaders, pushing the boundaries of convention and introducing innovations in both the public and private spheres.”


University of Pennsylvania Wharton School

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School

Some of this stems from Wharton’s educational philosophy, which Adam Grant describes as the “belief in the power of evidence.” This approach, anchored by facts and figures and crystallized through questioning, debating, and consensus-building, defines the Wharton experience. Ultimately, it becomes the biggest takeaway for Wharton graduates. Going in, that’s exactly what students like Evans are seeking. “I decided that I want to build a more robust quantitative skill-set to balance my liberal arts background, so Wharton’s data-driven, analytical focus on every subject was a huge draw.”

Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Wharton’s value proposition is its Philadelphia locale. Just a few hour away from New York City or DC by train, the city is known for a lower than average cost of living and a cosmopolitan vibe similar to Toronto. It is also emerging as a magnet for startups, says Steigman. “The cultural ecosystem has recently changed in Philly, making the city a great environment for startups. From several Philly incubator programs to numerous angel and VC funds investing smart money into the area, the opportunity is ripe to found or get involved with a startup.”

While some consider big cities to be impersonal and isolating, DeVecchis sees the Wharton-Philadelphia nexus actually strengthening bonds between students. “I think the fact that very few students have built-in network who work in Philadelphia plays to our advantage,” he explains in an August P&Q interview. “It forces our students to get to know one another. They all live in the same neighborhood. They’re eating at the same restaurants. That’s carrying over to campus. The bonds that they develop and the networks they wind up building is stronger as a result of there not being those distractions of maybe having friends or a network in the community at large.”

One way these bonds are built is through a spacious, off campus study space that Wharton sponsors called “the Armory.” Based in Center City, which houses a majority of Wharton students, the Armory also hosts the Thursday evening tradition of Wharton Pub, a popular gathering where Wharton MBA students kick back for free beer and pizza. The class also rallies behind other Wharton traditions, such as Fight Night on Saturday Night, where MBA students channel their inner Rocky against opponents from the other graduate programs at Penn. Before finals, students also bust out their gowns and tuxes for the Winter Ball. Come spring, they deck themselves out in mod 70s fashions like wrap dresses and polyester suits for Wharton 54. “I chose to enroll after meeting some of the exceptional students, alumni and faculty that make up the Wharton community,” says Calcev. “Everyone was accomplished and yet down-to-earth!”

Wharton School

Wharton School


The expectations are high for the Class of 2018. However, their ambitions are even higher. After graduation, Konadu Perbi plans to advise governments and NGOs on economic growth through management consulting. Like past Wharton MBAs like Ernesto Pérez Balladares and Sachin Pilot, she also has an eye turned towards a bigger prize.” In the long term, I plan on being active in Ghanaian politics and eventually run for office, to be the kind of leader we so desperately need – one who collaboratively tackles the big problems in Ghana and beyond with intelligence, persistence, deep empathy and involvement with my community.”

Al Jabri doesn’t intend to run for office. Instead, she is planning to tackle the ‘big problems,’ including economic and social inclusion, using business tools. “In the long term, I hope to found an impact investment fund in Saudi Arabia that can serve to empower investors and fund beneficiaries. The fund will employ gender lens investing techniques (among others), ensuring a social return to women and girls, and it will also seek to pool fund from female investors, increasing their financial inclusion and empowering them to manage and grow their wealth.”

At the same time, Saborio has been touched by seeing how tech and telecom have altered people’s lives. “What I really love about these sectors is how, at their core, they connect people and generate opportunity for them – be it for an entrepreneur with a crazy idea, a kid using his school’s high-speed internet to learn more about physics and chemistry, or a farmer in Africa using his phone’s 3G connection to prepare his crops for increased rainfall.” Ultimately, he plans to make a difference in those fields. “I do have entrepreneurial ambitions and some ideas up my sleeve, and would love to use my time at Wharton to test one out.”

The Class of 2018 also plans to make a difference at Wharton. For most, that means giving back to their peers. “I’d hope that my business school peers saw me as a supportive classmate, fun travel partner, and an effective student leader that took initiative to improve the campus in a meaningful way” says Lauren Baker, a Stanford grad and Deloitte alum. For Hill, the goal is to maximize what he has to offer. “I would like if they could say that they learned as much from me as I them. While I may have not been the smartest person in the room, that I always had something of value to add to the conversation or the task at hand.” Sabario’s goals are more, um, practical. “I’d like my peers to remember me as someone they know and trust, that they shared a few laughs and interesting conversations with, and that at the end of the day, doesn’t owe them any money.”

In a nod to Wharton’s culture of curiosity and questioning, Al Jabri hopes to be remembered for bucking the system entirely. “I would like my peers to say that I am a troublemaker who breaks with convention and enacts feasible business strategies that promote inclusive prosperity and social good. What’s life without a little bit of fun and disruption?”


To read profiles of incoming Wharton students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

Tala Al Jabri / Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Lauren Baker / Los Angeles, CA

Ioana Calcev / Bucharest, Romania

Wynne Evans / Greenwich, CT

Tim Hill / Spokane, WA

Saumya Jain / New Delhi, India

Adwoa Konadu Perbi / Accra, Ghana

James Levy / New York City, NY

Will Saborio / New Orleans, LA

A.J. Steigman / Fort Lauderdale, FL

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