Think back a decade ago. The U.S. economy was still reeling from the financial collapse. iPhones were spreading to the masses. 3D scanners had just been introduced – and Uber, Airbnb, and Spotify were still in their infancies. Back then, business schools were awash in applications, safe havens to ride out the global recession. In the classrooms, digital disruption was treated as social media and social impact was often mistaken for philanthropy. While entrepreneurship was something every MBA wanted to take up, most didn’t picture themselves striking off on their own until their 40s.
Analytics. Fintech. Cryptocurrency. They were just evasive concepts back in 2009, something you touched upon in a second-year elective. Now, they’ve become as foundational to an MBA toolkit as Net Present Value, Porter’s Five Forces, and Product Life Cycles. That begs the question: What is on the horizon in 2029? Whatever it is, you can expect to hear this answer from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania…
“Yeah, we got that.”
Chances are, they originated it too!
Welcome to the Wharton School, the oldest business school in America – and ranked as its best according to U.S. News & World Report and Poets&Quants. Dynamic, diverse, and interdisciplinary, Wharton is the school of firsts. It launched the first center for entrepreneurship, along with the first business radio station and first web-based academic journal – one with 1.8 million subscribers to date. Wharton was also the first to offer degrees in areas like international business and healthcare management. The program’s scope extends beyond its nearly 100,000 alumni across 153 countries. Over the past decade, another 200,000 professionals have earned certificates from Wharton Online – the catalyst behind the MOOCs craze.
Everything is bigger at Wharton. The school is home to 5,000 students, including the top-ranked undergraduate business program. Students are supported by 241 faculty members – including 140 women. The curriculum features over 200 electives, not counting graduate courses available through a dozen of Penn’s other schools. On top of that, Wharton houses nearly two dozen research centers, including emerging areas like environmental management, public policy, health economics, family business, and ethics.
If students get bored in Philadelphia, they can always spend a semester in San Francisco taking entrepreneurship-themed courses, completing internships and networking with alumni.
NEVER STOP INNOVATING
Wharton is academically-rigorous and experiential-driven, carrying a soft spot towards finance, leadership, and technology. Most of all, it is predicated on applying data to make decisions. This approach fits the bill for Sanya Ohri, a Bain & Company and Khan Academy veteran who joined the MBA Class of 2021 this summer.
“As someone coming from the consulting as well as the impact space, I found that a lot of organizations do not necessarily have a sharp outcomes-driven approach towards measuring their actions and success. I knew that Wharton’s MBA program would help me think about prevailing social problems in an analytical manner and help me develop a sharp focus on a data-driven approach to solving these problems at scale.”
Sure enough, Wharton is as prodigious as it is prestigious. You won’t find much complacency here. Just look at 2019. In May, the school announced that it was launching an online Fintech specialization on Coursera. Developing coursework is one thing. However, Wharton also launched the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance in March – a Fintech platform that connects faculty, students, researchers, and companies. This comes on the heels of Wharton students founding the first Fintech club five years ago.
HEAVY INVESTMENT IN ANALYTICS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
For outgoing dean Geoffrey Garrett, the Stevens Center is less a luxury and more of an imperative for staying on the leading edge of finance. “With FinTech morphing from a buzzword into the rocket fuel of financial innovation, information technology is poised to revolutionize financial services — from mobile payments to microcredit, from lending to insurance, from cryptocurrencies to financial planning, and more,” he explains. “The Stevens Center will bring together the best thinkers from academia and industry to ensure that Wharton continues to chart the future of finance.”
Indeed, Wharton isn’t shy about investing in spaces that are proving to be increasing in-demand for Wharton graduates. Take analytics. In May, the school launched Analytics at Wharton, a restructuring that brings the school’s data-related programming, platforms, and tools under one umbrella – including neurosciences, research data sciences, customer and people analytics, and its public policy budget model. The school has further committed to big data through its Data Science and Business Analytics Fund, which will support and accelerate innovations and ventures designed to turn data in actionable business intelligence.
However, Wharton’s biggest investment is unquestionably its $46 million dollar Tangen Hall. Rising seven stories and covering 68,000 square feet, Tangen Hall will bring together the University of Pennsylvania’s entire entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem when it opens next fall. Along with lab, meeting, and co-working spaces, the center will also feature a pop-up retail space to test concepts with real customers, a virtual reality lab, and 3D printers and laser cutters.
“The Venture Lab and Tangen Hall will support our students as never before with critical new resources, tools, and space for product development and business incubations,” writes Karl Ulrich, Wharton Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in a statement. “There is no doubt our students will come to rely on Venture Lab as the starting point in their journey to build innovative concepts into scalable and sustainable businesses.”
SOCCER PRO RETURNS TO CAMPUS
Such ventures requirement teamwork – a core part of the Wharton experience. In fact, teamwork is considered so critical that Wharton candidates complete a team-based project during their interview screening. Sonam Agrawal, who comes to Huntsman Hall from the Bridgespan Group, stood out by helping her teammates synthesize their ideas during her interview. For her, the Wharton approach enables students to continuously practice what makes professionals successful in business over the long haul.
“As we go on to take greater roles and responsibilities in our careers, it is critical to invest in our soft skills as much as our hard skills. I believe that an investment in these skills creates an environment that is conducive to not only one’s personal success but also the success of those working with you.”
Teamwork amplifies talent. And diversity expands possibilities. The Class of 2021 possesses an impressive mix of all four. Exhibit A: Stephanie McCaffrey, who comes to Wharton from professional soccer. In 2015, as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, she scored a goal in her first game against Brazil. As a pro, she was drafted 5th overall in the National Woman’s Soccer League Draft, eventually being dealt to the Chicago Red Stars for four draft picks – a value equivalent to a starting quarterback. In 2018, her career ended when she was diagnosed with a neurological illness, an event that ended a dream that had previously driven her. This misfortune also changed her perspective and freed her to return to school at Wharton.
“It empowered me to develop a new-found capacity for gratitude, for the full recovery I would eventually make, and empathy for those who may be fighting something that is invisible like I was for so long.”
A WELCOME PLACE FOR MILITARY VETERANS
Military service has defined the lives of William Anthony Quadrino, Scott Yang, and Jennifer Grace Million. Quadrino is being sponsored by the U.S. Navy as an active-duty Lieutenant in explosive ordnance disposal. For him, an MBA will provide the “creative problem-solving tools” required to operate a large organization like the U.S. Navy. To do that, he’ll be doing what he has always done: get his hands dirty. “From cleaning the streets of NYC as a sanitation worker to countering weapons of mass destruction in Asia, my career has been anchored in service to others.”
Yang served as a Trooper Commander and Operations Officer in the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces. Here, he says, he was trained to “undertake some of the nation’s most sensitive missions.” However, he takes even greater pride in how he performed his role. “[My defining moment was] bringing every soldier back home physically and emotionally while retaining the moral high ground. This showed me that there is a right way to win.”
Million also brought all 40 of her people home as a Platoon Leader after a year-long deployment to southern Afghanistan. For her, a Wharton MBA is a means to take her leadership acumen to the next level before returning to the service. “Wharton will not only provide me with the technical expertise, it will provide me with opportunities to lead in a non-military setting where peers won’t be subject to following my orders. I’ll be challenged to lead a diverse group of talented individuals who won’t be afraid to counter my argument or challenge me. Wharton will stretch me in areas the military hasn’t, which will make me an even better asset to our army.”
* To read 12 in-depth profiles of Wharton first-years, go to page 3.
* To see profile data on the Class of 2021, go to page 2.
* To read our new interview with Wharton Admissions Director Blair Mannix, go to page 3.