A Q&A WITH BLAIR MANNIX, DIRECTOR OF WHARTON MBA ADMISSIONS
P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments in your program?
Mannix: “The single most exciting thing that we have going on at Wharton right now is new additions to our campus. We are opening two new Wharton buildings in the next year-and-a-half. Tangen Hall is set to open in Fall 2020. It will be home to Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship and house all of the University of Pennsylvania’s entrepreneurship resources, as well as be the hub of student entrepreneurship and innovation. In the Summer of 2020, we will also open the Wharton Academic Research Building (WARB), which will be a student-centric home for research, group study, and classroom space.”
P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about?
Mannix: “I wish applicants knew more about the Semester in San Francisco. We have a beautiful campus on the Embarcadero in San Francisco and we give our students the opportunity to spend a semester studying in San Francisco, taking classes in entrepreneurship and technology while working with some of the best Wharton faculty. A lot of prospective students don’t realize that as full-time MBA students, they have the opportunity to spend one of two semesters in our West Coast campus: the spring semester of your 1st year or the fall semester of your 2nd year. It’s a great opportunity to make connections and even line-up an internship in the area; at least one-third of the cohort during the Semester in San Francisco complete internships in the Bay Area during the semester, connecting with venture capital firm and building their own startups. Wharton really is a bicoastal MBA program.”
P&Q: Despite Wharton’s reputation as a finance school, 40%-50% of your students traditionally hail from backgrounds in the Humanities. What makes Wharton such a magnet for students with such academic backgrounds?
Mannix: “We’re really proud of our heritage in the pedagogy of finance but certainly, the idea that Wharton is just a finance school is a misnomer. Wharton offers 18 majors, most of which are top-rated in their respective fields. That expertise, combined with the optionality and ability for students to choose a major attracts many people from finance backgrounds with the expressed desire to pivot their careers into a different industry. And because of our reputation as a strong finance school, many students come to Wharton without finance backgrounds with the expressed goal of academically studying finance. We see it from a lot of different angels at Wharton.
The future of Wharton is finance and much more! Dean Geoffrey Garrett has done a great job leading Wharton into the next frontier in finance opening two centers in his tenure as Dean. In the last two years, Wharton has opened the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance with the goal of facilitating the intersection of research, education, thought leadership in the world of financial technology. The Harris Center for Alternative Investments opened to act as the global hub for the development of cutting edge research in alternative investments. We’re proud of our finance pedigree but our students are much more varied than just this one discipline.”
P&Q: Wharton is known for both its large size and across-the-board excellence in every academic concentration. What area(s) are you seeing increasing student interest in recent years? How do you offer an unmatched experience in this concentration?
Mannix: “We’re proud of our strong rankings across a variety of our academic departments and, in particular, we are very proud of the energy our students have in entrepreneurship here at Wharton. Many people don’t always think about entrepreneurship when they think about Wharton and they really should. Entrepreneurship and Innovation has been one of our top three majors for students for the last five years. There is a huge entrepreneurship ecosystem here at Wharton and one that will be newly anchored at our newest building, Tangen Hall. There is a lot of momentum here for that space and we’re excited to continue to find candidates to populate that growing ecosystem.”
TRADE STOPS WAR
For the Class of 2021, Wharton’s centers headline the marquee – with the main act being the Lauder Institute, a joint MBA-MA in international studies. This two-year language and cultural immersion is paired with rigorous coursework and a summer immersion, which includes eight weeks of research and projects in the region where students are concentrating. This year’s class includes 67 students, with the Lauder community boasting 2,000 alumni. In two years, Scott Yang hopes to be one of them.
“Countries that trade and do business together are less likely to go to war,” he observes. “International business requires a grasp of not only the mechanics of business but also an even more nuanced understanding of human relationships. The Wharton and Lauder combination lets me build on the skills I developed and used as a Special Forces soldier, and allows me to continue serving after graduation by promoting a more interconnected and, hopefully, peaceful world.”
Think Lauder is popular? Healthcare Management netted 78 members of the Class of 2021. The Wharton Health Care Management program is an interdisciplinary tour-de-force, covering everything from center management to policy development to technology and devices. What’s more, students can explore areas like health care analytics, entrepreneurship, economics, and reform, with a field project included to meet requirements.
LEADERSHIP PAR EXCELLENCE
Chiaka Aribeana describes the program as “renowned” and “comprehensive” – and she believes it will position her to make an impact in the field. The alumni, she adds, makes the program all the more potent. “Being a part of the HCM program provides me with access to an extensive alumni network comprised of individuals who are radically transforming the field of health care. The HCM network is truly unmatched and I knew that this valuable source of potential mentors was unique to the program.”
Leadership development is on the minds of many Class of 2021 members too. For that, Wharton developed the McNulty Leadership Program, a set of immersive experiences that facilitate self-knowledge by stretching students’ self-imposed limits. For example, students can choose from “Intensive” ventures – which include team-building and problem-solving exercises with the New York City Fire Department and the U.S. Marine Corps Training School at Quantico. For students who elect an “Expedition” venture, they will spend 1-2 weeks completing, for example, treks across Patagonia or Australia or sailing around Grenada or New Zealand. Such activities are only a fraction of the programming, which ranges from the CEO Academy to team retreats.
“Wharton truly attacks leadership education and development from all angles, through programs such as their one-on-one executive coaching and feedback program, the Wharton speaker series, and opportunities to lead different ventures across the world,” explains Stephanie McCaffrey. “This was pivotal in my decision-making process because of my desire to translate my leadership capabilities in sport to a leadership toolkit in business in the most effective way possible.”
International business, healthcare, and leadership aren’t the only avenues for the Class of 2021. As evidenced by the school’s investment in Tangen Hall, entrepreneurship has emerged as one of Wharton’s signature programs – just as analytics is expected to someday rival finance among students. That said, Real Estate is another program where Wharton traditionally excels. For Jibran Khan, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, Wharton’s Real Estate program did far more than simply hammer home the fundamentals of development and financing.
“Wharton’s Real Estate program and its Zell-Lurie Real Estate Center offer unparalleled resources for any student – including career switchers with no background in real estate – to become proficient industry practitioners within two years. Of course, there’s no comparison to obtaining real-world experience in any career – in that regard, real estate is no different. That being said, my two years spent at Wharton have helped me meet and learn from dozens of industry leaders, engage in innovative industry research, and (most importantly) build strong relationships with classmates equally passionate about making an impact in the industry.”
Khan also credits Wharton for its flexibility and openness to students taking courses in other graduate programs. “Thanks to Wharton’s waiver exams, I was able to waive out of a number of the general requirement courses subsequently focus more class time toward areas and courses of particular interest.”
What’s next for the Class of 2021? In ten years, Andrew Crane is looking forward to “raising a family, running another start-up, and brewing even better beer.” Jennifer Grace Million harbors similar ambitions, which encompass “growing a company with my husband, all while raising a family grounded on the principles of faith, family, and force.”
Other class members are more specific. Stanislav Zolotukhin, for example, plans to invest in and guide promising tech entrepreneurs. Instead of tech, Karlos Bledsoe, a Princeton-trained consultant, intends to work in the finance sector, where he’ll help healthcare companies improve patient care. “I hope to do this by bringing funding to novel therapeutics as well as by increasing access to existing treatment and management options,” he explains.
Then again, Stephanie McCaffrey is happy just happy where she is…and looking forward to what’s ahead after Wharton. “In ten years, I can’t say with full confidence with “what” exactly I’ll be doing,” she admits. “I do know I will be using business as a tool to positively impact our society’s perception about the role women play in our world. Furthermore, I see someone who is unapologetically herself in whatever environment I may be in and hope that inspires confidence in others to do the same.”
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.
DON’T MISS: MEET THE MBA CLASS OF 2021: THE GO-GETTERS
|MBA Student||Hometown||Undergrad Alma Mater||Last Employer|
|Sonam Agrawal||Kathmandu, Nepal||Delhi University||The Bridgespan Group|
|Chiaka Aribeana||Pompano Beach, FL||Harvard University||Stanford Medical School|
|Sarah Biondich||Atlanta, GA||University of Georgia||Boston Consulting Group|
|Karlos Bledsoe||St. Louis, MO||Princeton University||Trinity Partners|
|Andrew Crane||Dalton, MA||Brown University||Shire Breu-Hous|
|Stephanie McCaffrey||Winchester, MA||Boston College||Chicago Red Stars|
|Jennifer Grace Million||San Jose, CA||United States Military Academy||U.S. Army|
|Peixin Mo||Houston, TX||University of Pennsylvania||Deloitte Consulting|
|Sanya Ohri||Mumbai, India||Institute of Technology Delhi||Bain & Company|
|William Anthony Quadrino||Staten Island, NY||Embry Riddle Aeronautical University||U.S. Navy|
|Scott Y. Yang||Darien, IL||United States Military Academy||U.S. Army|
|Stanislav Zolotukhin||Kyiv, Ukraine||Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv||Chernovetskyi Investment Group|