2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Malcolm Leverett, Wharton School

Malcolm Leverett

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Empathetic leader who focuses on building connection and developing deep subject matter expertise.”

Hometown: Southfield, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: My twin brother, Matthew, and I were television commercial models growing up! (Sorry, I know that’s sort of two fun facts!)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Dartmouth College, Bachelor of Arts

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? The Vanguard Group (Investment Strategy Analyst)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Percent, Capital Markets MBA Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Percent, Capital Markets Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: African American MBA Association Co-President; Deans’ MBA Advisory Council Co-Chair, Student Life Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my role as a Project Lead for the Dean’s MBA Advisory Council during my first year at Wharton. I have always been a champion of diversity and inclusion, and the opportunity to weave DEI into the fabric of Wharton was enticing. Our project was focused on incorporating DEI education into the Wharton experience. My team partnered with Dean Erika James and her senior leadership team to develop a set of recommendations to ensure every Wharton student leaves with a multidisciplinary understanding of DEI and its often-overlooked value in the corporate world. Many of our recommendations, including hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, are being implemented. I am excited to see how the Wharton experience evolves for future classes! I’ll be following the progress of our efforts!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As I reflect on my time at Vanguard, one achievement of which I felt most proud was my role investing in a bourgeoning region in Pennsylvania. My purview into the complex world of financial services started in the most relatable asset class possible—municipal bonds. Municipal bonds facilitate investments in local, state, and regional communities. Within Pennsylvania, there was an area of the state that was in the middle of a revitalization. The region needed several million in funding to support the infrastructure investments needed to achieve their vision. As a credit associate, I analyzed the growth potential of the region, and ultimately recommended continued investment in the project. Unlike corporate investments, this project allowed me to tangibly see the value and impact of my research and recommendations. The region is now a thriving (and reviving) community, and I am very proud to have been a part of the deal.

Why did you choose this business school? Business school was an opportunity for me to soft pivot from investment management to fintech. Wharton’s Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance offers unique opportunities to learn about cutting-edge financial innovation and to experience it first-hand through consulting engagements and other experiential learning opportunities. Further, Wharton encourages multi-disciplinary learning by encouraging dual degrees. Wharton was the ideal choice because of the potential to integrate a dual degree through Penn’s Carey Law School. The holistic learning I have gained through a Master in Law degree and Wharton MBA has only validated that Wharton was the right MBA program. Finally, Wharton’s robust diverse student body was a major attraction as well. With the largest Black student population of any business school, Wharton was a place where I knew I would find community and support.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Gus Cooney has been one of the most engaging and insightful professors at Wharton. For context, Professor Cooney teaches Negotiations. His class is often over-enrolled, and after the first week I quickly realized why. Professor Cooney seamlessly pairs theory with practical knowledge—giving us a variety of strategies to approach the myriad of negotiating scenarios. Our weekly negotiations and follow-up discussions really drove home the concepts. He truly made learning fun. As a result of my time in his course, I am looking forward to exercising my skills in upcoming negotiations!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Because of the pandemic, many of the first-year traditions were experienced virtually. However, as co-president of Wharton’s African American MBA Association, I was excited to bring back our organization’s marquee event: The Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Conference. This conference focuses on bringing together leaders from the private and public sectors to discuss disruption and innovation. This conference is significant to me because, as an eight-year Philadelphia resident, I am proud of the impact the conference has on Black businesses in Philadelphia. The conference features a Small Business Investment Series that directly donates funds to Black-owned businesses in Philadelphia.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? My parents ask me this question after major decisions, so fortunately I have had some time to reflect. At Wharton, I was able to pursue a joint degree through Penn’s Carey Law School, lead organizations that are meaningful to me, and excel in the classroom. These were all priorities of mine when I applied to business school, and they’ve held constant. If there is anything I would do differently though, it would be pursuing an in-semester internship. In my last semester, I am currently enrolled in an independent study—a one credit project—through Wharton’s Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance. I have found the experiential learning outlet to be rewarding. Being able to apply the concepts learned in the classroom to a real consulting engagement with a business in Philadelphia has only enhanced my understanding of these taught concepts.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I entered Wharton with the impression that a sizeable percentage of my Wharton class would be exclusively interested in finance. Wharton’s historical reputation contributed to that perception. While there was merit in my assumption, finance is certainly not the predominant career pursuit. Entrepreneurship is interestingly top of mind for many students, whether immediately after Wharton or at some point in the future.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was most surprised by how extensive the entrepreneurship curriculum is at Wharton. Prior to Wharton, entrepreneurship felt like a topic was experiences and not learned in the classroom. This could not be further from the truth. Business school has made entrepreneurship much more accessible and has provided the roadmap to get a business off the ground.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe interest in fintech and regulation resonated strongly during the admissions process. Wharton’s Stevens Center and close partnership with Penn Carey Law helped to make my narrative compelling. While I admit I am interested in a fairly niche professional intersection, I believe my interest and experience gave me the potential to add unique texture to the classroom. My interest in a joint degree, MBA/Master in Law, was proof of my passion and interest in the subject matter. Overall, I think this unique facet of my application gave me an edge in the application process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire one of my long-time friends, Melvin Piña (WG’22). Melvin and I both participated in the MLT Career Preparation Program in 2013 and have continued to stay in touch. I have been fortunate to watch Melvin’s career grow, and it was pure coincidence that we both decided to attend Wharton. I have always appreciated Melvin’s maturity, resilience, and focus. Melvin sets his eyes on a goal and is relentless in his pursuit of it. That focus is admirable and inspiring. I consider myself fortunate to call Melvin a friend.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents were the primary influences in shaping my pursuit of a more formal business education. My parents, Lamar & Kyra, both pursued corporate and entrepreneurial careers. At an early age, I was exposed to P&Ls, people leadership, and more. This exposure, I later realized, cultivated my initial interest in business. My parents recognized my passion in this area and enrolled my brother, Matthew, and me in programs focused on financial literacy, business development, and product development. While my interest in business was intrinsic, it was ultimately this intentional exposure that led to me pursuing a business education.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? There are two items that I would consider top on my bucket list as it pertains to my career: the first is to work internationally. At Vanguard, I was involved in an internal consulting engagement supporting the firm’s International business (based in London). Through those experiences, I believe there are many valuable lessons to be learned from other cultures. The second item on my professional bucket list is to ultimately work in higher education. I have enjoyed each step of my education journey, starting from my primary school education to today, as a second year in Wharton’s MBA Program. I strongly believe that faculty and administrators have such a strong impact in shaping students—personally and academically. I would like to play a role in that development (especially at the collegiate level).

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has not changed my career interests; in fact, the pandemic may have actually deepened my desire to go into Fintech. Innovation within the capital markets is on the horizon and the pandemic only accelerated that trend. One thing the pandemic did was highlight the importance of digital platforms. In-person interactions and sales, are valuable; however, there is scale and ultimately revenue that can potentially be unlocked by utilizing digital platforms. I am excited to now be working for a platform-focused company, Percent.

What made Malcolm such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Malcolm is truly exceptional in his commitment to making Wharton a better place. His hard work and leadership on the Deans’ MBA Advisory Council (DMAC) has resulted in a big push toward understanding diversity at Wharton and how our community can implement key interventions in developing inclusive leaders. The care he has for his fellow classmates shines through in all he does. He is willing to ask the hard questions and show up when it matters. Malcolm is a shining example of what it means to be Wharton Proud. He has been such an asset to Wharton in his time here, from his role as advocate and mentor as a Student Life Fellow, to his humility and positive attitude during some very challenging times in our school’s history.

In his role as AAMBAA (African American MBA Association) co-president Malcolm, has worked hard to foster connections within the AAMBA community and to establish new networks with other clubs. Internally, he has worked on providing safe spaces to discuss whatever is top of mind with monthly talks and smaller group connections through the AAMBAA family structure. Externally, he has partnered with other clubs such as WAAAM (Wharton Asian-American MBA Association) to institute dialogue addressing racial trauma and its impact on our students. AAMBAA has also partnered with professional clubs like Media and Entertainment and Private Equity/Venture Capital club to put on dynamic programming.

As DMAC chair, Malcolm has spearheaded work that directly informs senior leadership with data-driven and research-backed recommendations on how to bring DEI work into the MBA Program. Under his tutelage, the DMAC Archetypes project has helped the school identify new perspectives, particularly around students who identify as budget constrained. This work, fueled by real experiences, will serve as a compass as the school charts the path ahead. He is so proud of what he has built during his time here and would love to know that helped to build structures that better prepare and support students of all backgrounds within the Wharton MBA.”

While at Wharton, Malcolm has also been pursuing a Master of Law at The University of Pennsylvania Law School. He has been a huge resource for their admissions team as a liaison for prospective students. In his spare time, he loves to travel, explore the Philadelphia food scene or partake in a spin class.”

Kristen Auch
Associate Director of Student Life, Wharton MBA Program

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