Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Grace Eun Ko, Wharton School

Grace Eun Ko

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“An empathetic people-person who enjoys taking on new challenges to keep life interesting.”

Hometown: Falls Church, Virginia

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have been to both South Korea and North Korea.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Virginia; Double major in Foreign Affairs and Chinese Language and Literature

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: US Government, Political Analyst

What word best describes the Wharton MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Diverse. I really didn’t want to use that word because it’s so widely used, but it truly does describe the group of people I’ve met so far. I’ve come to look forward to hearing where everyone has come from or what their background or interests are because of the vast range of answers. It’s exciting to witness how big the world is through their stories and experiences. Our class is so diverse that when our Learning Team was asked to find three things we had in common with each other, it took a long time for us to come up with the answers!

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the Wharton School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was really intrigued by Wharton’s Semester in San Francisco program. Not many schools offer the opportunity to attend school on both the East and West Coasts, and I valued the opportunity to spend time at both locations and explore the career opportunities that both offer.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at the Wharton School? I’m very excited to join the Food Club. Everyone who has lived in Philadelphia always talks about the great food, but now I’ve seen first-hand how amazing the food is here. Separately, the Partners Club at Wharton has been so welcoming to our partners. It really helps to have a community that recognizes the potential difficulties in the transition for our partners, who often relocate and give up a lot of their time and their own career opportunities to be supportive and join in on the Wharton experience. The club does a great job of taking care of our partners.

When you think of the Wharton School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Big. Wharton’s size is part of why I initially hesitated to attend. I wasn’t sure if I would feel lost among the many students. Even in the short time that I’ve been here, the school has been great in forming smaller groups to build a strong sense of community and unity. The bigger size also means such a wide breadth of activities, resources, and opportunities that you can tap into and get involved in. If there’s something you’re interested in, you can definitely find someone who shares your interest or has experience that they can and are willing to share with you.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was the sole analyst and non-manager to be involved in crafting the strategy and presenting recommendations for a sensitive project on a high-priority U.S. foreign policy effort. The relationships I fostered during this project led to the creation of a new position for me to serve as liaison between analytic and operations components that had been stovepiped to improve collaboration and integration.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I have a greater appreciation for everything outside of work. Before the pandemic, frequent travel and long hours meant that my time outside of work was primarily spent sleeping and watching Netflix. Through spending a lot of time at home, with loved ones, and developing new hobbies, I have come to prioritize the things in life that matter to me and identify what rejuvenates me. While I still have the same career goals, I want to become better at balancing so that I can spend the time I have with the people I love before it’s too late, rather than pushing things off until after the next job or the next promotion.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I have learned and grown so much in my time working for the US Government, but as with all things there comes a time when you reach a point of diminishing returns. I am ready to expand and take on new challenges, and hope to transition to the technology industry after graduation.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford GSB, HBS, Berkeley Haas

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Wharton School’s MBA program? Be confident. There’s not much you can do about the things you have or haven’t done up to this point to include on your resume. Your confidence is one of the few things you have some control over during the admissions process, and it has a big impact. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on the things you have accomplished, your strengths, and what you know you can bring to the table. Boosting your confidence will hopefully make the process less miserable for you, mentally and emotionally, but also translate into an application and interview that leave a strong impression.


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