P&Q’s MBA Admissions Director Of The Year: The Wharton School’s Blair Mannix

Blair Mannix speaks to students during a Welcome Weekend at The Wharton School. She tells P&Q that the talent of the applicant pool dictates the class profile, not set quotas. Wharton photo


One goal Mannix made for herself in her leadership role is to help candidates prepare the best business school application that they could, not just to Wharton but across the industry. Wharton was among the first B-schools to host application tip webinars and info sessions, and it offers “Ask the AdCom,” a series of virtual events at the start of admission season.

Because data is only as good as its inputs, Mannix and her team constantly re-examine Wharton’s application to create more signals for talent. They’re also always looking for those “pockets of talent” that have traditionally been overlooked by elite business schools – prospective students who may have previously not considered an MBA but have skills and perspectives that can enrich both Wharton and society at large.

While the significance of achieving gender parity for two straight years cannot be overstated for such a premiere institution like Wharton, it’s not a stated goal for the admissions team, Mannix insists. Rather, they will continue to seat Wharton classes based on the talent in the application pool.

That said, the increasing demand for women in boardrooms and leadership positions has impacted the types of applications Wharton receives. A decade is a long time for professional women to start seeing the ROI of an MBA in their mentors and colleagues, and then start to see that path for themselves. While the raw number of women applicants has definitely increased in that time, so has the talent profiles of those applicants.

“This is what the market is asking for,” Mannix says. “The market is asking for more women to come into their companies, more women to rise in leadership. And one of the best ways to do that is to have a top-tier MBA. And so being able to deliver what our employers want and what the market is asking for has just been a delight. It matters because of representation. It matters for the students that they are part of the class that has this milestone. It matters for so many people besides one lowly human.”

Blair Mannix, bottom left, speaks on during a Workplace by Meta virtual panel at Wharton HQ. Wharton photo


In her 11 years in Wharton MBA admissions, Mannix has witnessed distinct changes in the applicant profiles. The industries they come from and hope to move into have changed, as have the reasons people want a Wharton MBA.

Most significantly, Wharton MBAs more and more want to be a force for good. They talk about ESG and DEI and the impact they want to make on the world. Wharton recently launched two new majors: Environmental, Social and Governance Factors for Business; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (both effective 2023-2024 academic year). Lessons in corporate social responsibility, impact investing, and other topics are incorporated into Wharton classrooms.

Colan Wang, the first recipient of Wharton’s Prism Fellowship. Courtesy photo

In 2020, Wharton was also the first elite school to offer a full scholarship to a leader in the LGBTQ+ community. The Prism Fellowship was established by a gift from Wharton MBA Jeffrey Schoenfeld, a 1984 alum and partner at financial services firm Brown Brothers Harriman. When he entered Wharton in 1982, he was one of very few “out” MBA students in his class, Schoenfeld said at the time of his gift.

Prism Fellows are selected by the Wharton Fellowship Committee based on their leadership qualities, community impact, and personal essays submitted with their MBA program application.

“I’m not surprised by Wharton’s leadership on the issue, because when I was looking into business schools and deciding which ones I wanted to apply for, I noticed that Wharton is one of the only schools to publish on their website the percentage of students who identify as LGBTQ,” the first Prism Fellow Colan Wang told Poets&Quants in 2020. “So that immediately stuck out to me, because it demonstrated that Wharton really values the perspectives and the lived experiences that a diverse student body can bring to the classroom.”

There’s power in bringing together a wide range of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds, and putting them together in a place like Wharton. Watching the impact such inclusive MBA classes have on the world is the purpose of Mannix’s work, and the work of the entire admissions team.

“I’m very humbled, very surprised, very grateful,” Mannix says of being named P&Q’s first MBA Admissions Director of the Year. “But this is about the entire team. It’s about everybody at Wharton, from the Dean’s suite on down. This admissions team is made of the best people, and I’m just lucky to lead it.”


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