Meet Wharton’s MBA Class Of 2020

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

In terms of industry experience, the Class of 2020 is rich with experience in a variety of industries. Like previous classes, consultants account for the largest block of students at 27%. In fact, consulting is only one of three segments that reaches double digits, with private equity and venture capital (13%) and technology (10%) also achieving that mark. The rest of the class is comprised of students with backgrounds in investment banking (9%), nonprofit and government (9%), diversified financial services (8%), healthcare (5%), and investment management (5%).


What’s new at the Wharton School? For starters, the program is in a building mode. Currently, the Wharton Academic Research Building is under construction along Spruce Street. Four stories high and covering 65,000 square feet, the $75 million dollar project will include 15 conference rooms, 45 group study rooms, and 48 workstations. Slated to open in 2020, this space is part of a larger plan, writes Blair Mannix, the school’s interim director of admissions, in a statement to P&Q.

“The Wharton School is currently in the process of building two new buildings as part of our physical plant. One will serve as the center for academic research and will reside in the heart of the University of Pennsylvania campus. We are also proud to report that we are opening an additional building as a home for continual Wharton innovation.”

Mannix also calls attention to Wharton’s Business Analytics major, which she calls the “fastest growing major at Wharton.” In fact, Eric Bradlow, the school’s faculty director and co-founder of Wharton’s Customer Analytics Initiative, notes that analytics has become one of the program’s pillars, thanks to Dean Garrett “pushing all the chips behind [it].” In a 2018 interview with P&Q, Bradlow outlines Wharton’s vision for analytics, which is to put it “on the Mount Rushmore with finance and entrepreneurship and marketing.”

Wharton’s Blair Godfrey Mannix


The school is off to a fast start in analytics and big data, thanks to the University of Pennsylvania’s statistics department being embedded in the Wharton School. Capitalizing on this advantage, Wharton has developed 30-40 new analytics courses and now employs 50 professors in the field…and all for very good reason. “My students tell me that when they go for job interviews at McKinsey or Amazon, they ask about an experience at Wharton that has shaped how they think about things,” Bradlow explains. “Increasingly, it’s an experience in smartly using data. There will be a cement ceiling sitting on top of you if you don’t have an understanding of data analytics today.”

Tim Cooney has witnessed the value of data-driven decision-making first-hand. “I saw the analytics revolution in MLB unfold during my career, so it was very obvious to me how data and analytics can completely change an industry. I wanted a school that placed an emphasis on data and that would provide me ample opportunities to learn more and learn ways to apply it in the future.”

That’s one reason why Wharton formed its People Analytics Center, which Mannix calls a “world-class facility that brings together some of the first practitioners in people analytics” – a strain that uses data sets and tools to make better decisions both in hiring talent and maximizing the value of existing staff. In addition, Wharton is investing heavily inbBlockchain, a platform-driven online ledger. This summer, the program joined The Ripple Project, a $50 million dollar venture focused on research and innovation in the discipline. Like analytics, blockchain has stirred the imaginations of the Wharton student community.

“Student interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies at Wharton is overwhelming,” says Kevin Werbach, associate professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton in a 2018 interview with P&Q. “The Penn Blockchain Club has nearly 400 members, including a large Wharton contingent. I constantly had students approaching me last year asking about how to learn more about the area, or seeking feedback on projects they were already developing. Technology and entrepreneurship are already among the fastest growing areas of interest for our MBAs. Wharton’s strength in finance and our growing focus on analytics make blockchain a natural fit for our students.”


Entrepreneurship is also rapidly growing in popularity at Wharton, according to Dean Garrett. He notes that Wharton now offers a 2nd semester for full-time MBA candidates on its San Francisco campus, effectively doubling the number of students who can complete Bay Area coursework and internships to 140. Such efforts position Wharton MBAs for jobs in the exploding Bay Area sector says Nekkanti, who ranks landing a West Coast internship among her biggest first year goals.

Wharton was my top choice from day one. It’s the only school that offers the opportunity to spend a semester at the San Francisco campus, giving students a unique East Coast cum West Coast experience. Given my entrepreneurial goals, this opportunity is essential to my b-school experience as it would expand the exposure I would get to the startup scene in the US.”

View from Wharton’s San Francisco campus.

Expanding the use of the San Francisco campus offers other benefits too. Already ranked 3rd for the highest-funded venture capital backed startups over the past five years, Wharton’s expansion better enables students to tap into the school’s deep-rooted and deep-pocketed alumni base. That said, Dean Garrett cautions students not to narrowly define entrepreneurship as simply launching a business. The Wharton experience, he says, show entrepreneurship to be something far wider.

“We know that Wharton graduates have become entrepreneurs, but not often in fields that people think about in entrepreneurship,” he tells P&Q. “If you think about the growth of private equity or hedge funds, very often those industries were created by Wharton people who used to work in big banks and then struck out on their own to create their own firms. I call that entrepreneurship. We tend to think that financial entrepreneurship is some kind of oxymoron but it isn’t. And then if you look in Silicon Valley, there are a lot of Wharton people there. The CEOs of Google, LinkedIn, Oracle are all Wharton alums. Business schools are places where you need to turn ideas into outcomes, and you need a lot of skills to turn the best ideas into really good outcomes. Wharton is a good place to do that. It means that the joiners, not the founder but the next five or fifty employees are absolutely catalytic for the firm. Well, Wharton is really good at that, too.”


Beyond analytics and entrepreneurship, Wharton is also increasingly emphasizing hands-on learning. The program is already well-known for its storied Field Application Project (FAP), where 4-6 member teams complete 200-300 consulting projects for clients to sharpen their research, strategic planning, and presentation skills. Such exercises, however, are being increasingly infused throughout Wharton’s courses, says Dean Garrett.

“I think we are at the beginning stages of a process where there will be more learning by doing than learning by studying,” he maintains. “All of the stuff that used to be non-core is becoming more core. I think it’s what our students want. They want to learn some core skills, but they absolutely want to apply them.”

To do that, they need a community that supports them. That’s exactly what Logan Piper, who is transitioning from engineering to finance, enjoyed early on in the recruiting process. Along with intensive alumni guidance, Piper found her peers to be very similar to alumni: authentic, engaging, and generous. “When I attended Winter Welcome Weekend with my future peers, I was further impressed by the number of highly accomplished yet approachable members of the class of 2020. I met all four of my current roommates during the weekend! I found that Wharton was a place that would prepare me for the next step in my career, challenge me socially, and allow me to be an integral member of a community that lasts a lifetime.”


Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett

The resources…the innovations…the people…the opportunities: That’s all ahead for the Class of 2020. That doesn’t even include the payout, with Wharton grads averaging $209,501 in starting pay – second-best among full-time MBA programs. As the class looks to the next nine months, the journey takes center stage.

Richard Rasco, for example, intends to build his skills in financial technology, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. Tim Cooney also plans to take the road that veers from the comfortable, joining clubs and participating in activities that are “unfamiliar” to him. At the same time, Kaila Squires is committed to pursuing her passions even further as a Wharton student. “I want to work to empower local Philadelphia youth in achieving educational success—continuing work similar to what I achieved during my time with Junior Achievement—and also support my spiritual growth within a local Christian community.”

Sylvie Shi, however, plans to take advantage of everything that Wharton has to offer. Her goals? “Having made a group of diversified, interesting and intelligent friends and colleagues; having a good understanding of future global trends and the ability to utilize data in predicting future directions; gaining a heightened sense of cultural and international awareness from peers and professors; and finally, hopefully having learned something more about myself. It’s always a self-learning and improvement process.”

What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates. 


Student Hometown Alma Mater Employer
Julio A. Cabral-Corrada San Juan, Puerto Rico Cornell University Stone Lion Capitalo
Dheeraj Chowdary Nekkanti Hyderabad, India Indian Institute of Technology Madras ITC Limited
Tim Cooney Collegeville, PA Wake Forest University Cleveland Indians
Brittany Fearnside Niskayuna, New York U.S. Military Academy U.S. Army
Logan Piper Houston, TX University of Oklahoma Chevron Corporation
Thurgood Powell Harrisburg, PA Pomona College PIMCO
Richard A. Rasco Miami, FL U.S. Naval Academy U.S. Navy SEALS
Daniel M. Rooney Pittsburgh, PA Dartmouth College Pittsburgh Steelers
Katharina Schwarz Salzburg, Austria Harvard University Salzburg Global Seminar
Sylvie Shi Toronto, Canada York University Ernst & Young
Julia Stock Rio de Janeiro, Brazil UFRJ (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro McKinsey & Company
Kaila Squires Queens, NY Cornell University General Electric

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