Meet the MBA Class of 2022: William Rene’ Roberts, Wharton School

William Rene’ Roberts

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Curious and energetic teammate, I love meeting new people and getting excited about big ideas.”  

Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am an ordained minister and officiated my brother’s wedding!

Undergraduate School and Major: United States Naval Academy, B.S. in Operations Research

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Director of Research and Assessment for Communication Strategy, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I have competed on athletic teams throughout my life, from early childhood playground leagues to Division 1 college sports. I wanted an MBA program that emphasized teamwork. I am also originally from New Orleans, an incredibly diverse city. Wharton’s class profile and learning dynamic has blown me away; the opportunity to meet people with such incredibly diverse perspectives, and work with them in a team learning environment immediately drew me to the school.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Gracious and humble. As a military veteran, I transitioned out of the service with very different skills from my civilian peers. I have found that all of my classmates respond to my questions about their experiences with graciousness and humility. It is an incredibly impressive group, but equally as approachable. Studying alongside them while sharing my unique professional experiences has been a joy thus far.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? It has got to be small group dinners! I originally enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America for my undergraduate degree and I am still a true foodie at heart! There is something so magical about sharing an amazing meal with people you love and care about. That sort of quality time is invaluable and like nothing else. I cannot wait to share it with my classmates!

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Wharton? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? It is my opinion that Wharton is the leader in both financial and entrepreneurial education, and the curriculum demands a team mentality. I cofounded Paintru, a direct to consumer artwork company, as a team, so naturally I was drawn to Wharton. While I look forward to exploring different courses that apply to everything from startups to mature industries – which will of course deeply benefit my career growth – I am most excited about doing it as a team. I am most nervous about staying laser focused while stretching myself as much as possible through various courses and extracurriculars. Wharton is great at teaching and emphasizing that balance, so I’m sure the nerves will fade with time.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Bootstrapping and launching Paintru with my cofounders is without a doubt this is the biggest accomplishment of my career so far and it is something I am really proud of personally. Also, transitioning out of the Marine Corps and proactively taking a leave of academic absence from Paintru to attend Wharton were also enormous undertakings. I am incredibly grateful to my Paintru teammates and the Wharton Veterans Club for their continued support throughout the journey.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? While I was a student at the U.S. Naval Academy, I became fascinated by streamlining operations to benefit complex problems. However, I learned through my startup experience that I needed to fill some educational gaps to better understand complex financial problems. An MBA is a big investment, but it has been the best decision of my career thus far. It is a two-year incubation period which will allow me to strengthen those weaker areas, gain an unparalleled business education, and pivot into the next chapter of my career.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I transitioned out of the Marine Corps and made it just in time for round three at Wharton. I had an unpredictable timeframe when transitioning out of the military, so I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted by my number one and only choice.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? What are your short term goals? On paper, this is an easy question. However, working alongside my wife to understand how we wanted to position our family was a great learning experience for us. I don’t think it was meant to be challenging, but it turned out to be…in a great way! My wife is an active duty U.S. Naval Officer in the Nurse Corps serving our country and fighting on the front lines against CoVID-19. I want to support her through this challenging time, while also using these next two years to gain the education and internship experience required to pivot into banking or private equity. We also want to start our family at some point!

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I left absolutely no stone unturned during my school research. I spoke with countless Wharton MBA alumni and current students and felt immediately welcomed. The team and family dynamic coupled with the strong financial course load made Wharton an easy choice in my case. I feel truly fortunate to have found the best MBA program for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? It was Hurricane Katrina and seeing the devastation in my hometown. Although I don’t talk about it much, I think about it every day. Families across New Orleans, including my own, lost their homes and everything they owned. Through all of it, the city and people of New Orleans have shown some incredible grit, and that is something I am sure I will need during the late hours at Wharton.

What have you been doing since you were accepted to prepare for business school? Getting to know my classmates remotely. All of our collective practice throughout the pandemic has actually made connecting really easy and natural throughout pre-term. While I am excited to get on campus again and meet everyone in person, I fully support and stand behind UPenn for ensuring we are all safe during the pandemic. I thought the decisions were spot on and were a good choice by university leadership.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I am obviously very biased here, but I have to say Paintru. But honestly, relationship aside, it is a fascinating young company solving remarkably complex things. Paintru would have caught my attention even without my involvement because, from an operations perspective, I would have wanted to ask 1,000 questions. I think other students can learn a great lesson from Paintru – how to be ‘small but mighty’ in a massively addressable market.


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