COMING BACK TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Melvin Santiago Piña also endured a rough path to business school. His family came to New York City from the Dominican Republic. Growing up, he watched families be evicted and businesses and community centers shuttered in the South Bronx and Harlem because the communities lacked access to resources and decision-makers. Piña joined the Class of 2022 to do something about that.
“These communities lacked the necessary resources in education, healthcare, finance and other areas to enable institutional growth,” he explains. “This led me to pursue a business education so that I could add to the existing intellectual capital in my community and in part shatter the glass ceiling. These experiences have cultivated grit, compassion and resourcefulness – qualities that I believe will be beneficial in business school and throughout my career.”
Alas, Piña is playing the long game…like a chess match. After all, he learned the game in Harlem parks – and is currently on track to become a Grand Master. Not to be outdone, Kristen Meredith was a former competitive figure skater growing up, while André Mota made the U.S. Junior Olympics team in Taekwondo. The Class of 2022 made an impact in the arts. Iris Liu, for one, has been part of choirs that have performed in over 50 concert halls, including Carnegie Hall. Perhaps she could sing a duet online with Clark Brown Jr. at the Wharton Follies.
“In high school, I was part of Men of Note, a men’s acapella group that won the National Championships of High School Acapella three times in a row at New York City’s Lincoln Center,” he tells P&Q.
GETTING AROUND COVID
“Online” is key. After all, that’s how Wharton is conducting classes this fall. Like most MBA programs, the online format yielded mixed results initially last spring. However, first-years are noting that the experience is going better than expected this fall.
“Like many of my classmates, I was initially nervous about how we would make the most of our MBA experience given COVID-related restrictions,” writes Kristen Meredith. “My first month in the program has showed me that my class will have a different, but equally valuable experience—thanks in large part to my professors and other classmates who have shown 100% commitment to making this the case.”
“I was nervous about the uncertainties surrounding a virtual fall semester in the middle of a pandemic and that I wouldn’t be able to make meaningful connections,” adds Iris Liu. “But contrary to my assumption, I was able to build deep, thoughtful relationships in a matter of weeks through virtual coffee chats and events with a diverse group of engaging students.”
The Class of 2022 is undergoing quite a transition – and COVID-19 is only part of that. Angad Guglani is already star-struck: One of his heroes, Richard Mack, is teaching his Real Estate Disruptions course. At the same time, it hasn’t been easy staying up to speed, he says – a worry shared by other classmates.
“I am most nervous about getting the highest return on my time and making sure I am not spread too thin,” notes Melvin Santiago Piña. “I have noticed it is easy to pursue and engage in many groups and activities which makes it harder to manage my time and deliver meaningful value to my peers.”
By the numbers, it was a banner year for the Wharton School. Despite the spring pandemic, Wharton received 7,158 applications for a spot in the Class of 2022, up 1,253 applications from the previous year. In the process, the school enrolled 60 more students than the previous year, bringing the full-time class total to 916 students.
One by-product of opening the flood gates: the class produced a 722 average GMAT. That was down 10 points from the previous year. To put it another way, the Class of 2022 scored lower than corresponding classes at Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Berkeley Haas, and NYU Stern. Along the same lines, average GRE dipped two points to 322. Despite this, the class maintained the previous year’s 3.6 average GPA.
Another area that declined: the percentage of women. This slipped from its all-time high 46% to 41%. The international student population also suffered a stiff drop, going from 30% to 19%. On the plus side, these changes benefited students of color, who compose 41% of the class population, up five points in just the past year. Another 6% of the class is LGBT. As a whole, the class hails from 70 countries, with White and Asian American students representing 39% and 24% of American students respectively, followed by African American (10%) and Hispanic (6%).
Despite the Wharton School’s ‘finance school’ reputation, the largest percentage of students earned undergraduate degrees in the Liberal Arts (38%). Business (34%) and STEM (28%) also make up substantive segments of the class. Technically, Finance is the top feeder to the Class of 2022. It accounts for 32% of the class between Private Equity and Venture Capital (12%), Financial Services (8%), Investment Banking (7%), and Investment Management (5%). The runner-up is Consulting, which encompasses 24% of the class. Technology (10%), Nonprofit and Government (10%), Health Care (5%), Consumer Products and Retail (5%), Energy (2%), and Media and Entertainment (1%) are also represented in the class.
Traditionally, a popular item among Wharton MBAs is a dual degree. 80 members of the Class of 2022 are pairing their MBA with a Master’s in International Studies through the Lauder Institute. Another 76 class members are adding a Healthcare Management Master’s. In addition, 17 students are pulling a dual MBA-JD.
This versatility is one reason why Wharton MBAs are coveted by recruiters. Last year, Wharton grads raked in $172,016 in their first year, higher than any other MBA program, including Stanford GSB ($168,226) and Harvard Business School ($164,872). Another is a proactive, risk-taking mindset that has turned Wharton into a command post for entrepreneurship – both at Penn and among MBA programs globally. Next year, Wharton will be opening Tangen Hall, a dedicated space for the Penn community to come together and commercialize ideas. The building will even include pop up retail space to test concepts with real customers. At the same time, the school maintains a San Francisco campus, where MBAs can spend a semester taking startup coursework, completing internships, and networking with alumni, entrepreneurs, investors, and technical professionals.
“I chose Wharton primarily because of its focus on entrepreneurship,” emphasizes Angad Guglani. “The state-of-the-art Tangen Hall entrepreneurship and innovation hub is just one of many signs of the school’s commitment and focus on entrepreneurship. Additionally, the growing number of successful Wharton alumni-founded startups has fostered an unbeatable startup ecosystem here in the East Coast.”
This past year, the Wharton School continued to make news. In March, the school announced the creation of a new quantitative finance major, courtesy of an $8 million dollar gift from alum Bruce Jacobs. This fall, the school established a Friends of Israel MBA Fund through a $10 million dollar gift from billionaire Yuri Milner, a Wharton dropout. Of course, the year’s big news came in February, when the school revealed that Dr. Erika James would be taking the reins as dean.
A Q&A WITH ADMISSIONS DIRECTOR BLAIR MANNIX
What can Wharton MBAs expect from Dr. James? That was one question that P&Q posed this fall to Blair Mannix, director of MBA admissions. In a short written interview Mannix also outlined the impact of COVID-19 on the school, as well as sharing an update on Tangen Hall and updates on new innovations in the works. Here are her insights…
P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments at your program?
Mannix: “The most exciting new development to the Wharton School and the Wharton MBA program is our new Dean Erika James who took over on July 1. Dean James is a leading expert on crisis leadership, workplace diversity, and management strategy and has already had to use those skills while taking over a school during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been such a positive influence on the culture of the school already. Prior to her Wharton experience, she was named as one of the “Top 10 Women of Power in Education” by Black Enterprise and as one of the “Power 100” by Ebony. She holds a Ph.D. and Master’s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College of the Claremont Colleges in California. We are excited to see how Wharton responds to this crisis and flourishes in the future under her leadership.”
P&Q: What is the two most unique or differentiating features of your full-time program? How do they enrich the MBA experience?
Mannix: “We feel very passionately about the team-based learning environment. Business is a team sport, not a solo sport. We strongly believe that our students need to learn how to work in teams and lead teams. We offer them many opportunities to do so, from the Management 610 class with intensive, immersive coursework on teamwork to the Wharton Customer Analytics Accelerator where teams of students solve real-world data problems. It is not enough in this 2020 world to teach our students how to operate alone within existing organizations, they need to be imbedded in teams and learn how to influence and get work done from the inside.
Another differentiating feature of the Wharton MBA program is the personalization around the curriculum. It really allows each student to come to Wharton with their individual goals and know that there’s a full system in place to help them develop and succeed. Students can choose between any of our 19 majors, including our new quantitative finance major, or pair a major or two if they’d like. We provide a curriculum that is easy for reach individual to tailor to their learning needs and specific goals. This personalization enriches the MBA experience because you’re not going to graduate from Wharton with a general MBA, you’re going to have the skills, knowledge and resources specific to your goals.”
P&Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your business school?
Mannix: “One way that COVID-19 has impacted our school is that we’ve strengthened ties within our community and learned how to not only build community virtually, but maintain bonds when we’re unable to meet in person. One lesson we learned from coronavirus was that no matter where we are, Wharton is a tight knit community that thrives when current and incoming students can engage with each other and the administration. We launched Wharton HQ, housed in Workplace by Facebook, and were able to make connections, foster community and encourage our students to engage with each other during the pandemic. We’ve watched friendships grow and blossom, and have seen clubs and housing come together organically, just as they would in person.”
* To read 13 in-depth profiles of Wharton first-years, go to page 3.