Wharton Stories

What Wharton EMBA Students Learn about Leadership on the Historic Gettysburg Battlefield

Image: Prof. Michael Useem takes a group of EMBA East students on a trip to Gettysburg to learn leadership lessons.
From Leadership Ventures to a weekly radio show, Prof. Michael Useem wants to help everyone improve their leadership skills.

Wharton Prof. Michael Useem leads students in the MBA Program for Executives on a Leadership Venture annually to Gettysburg National Military Park. The one-day optional program takes them on a tour of the U.S. Civil War battlefield where they learn about decision making, strategy, and leadership through the eyes and experiences of the Union and Confederate commanders who engaged there. “Our Venture puts students in a place where the concepts from our leadership class become that much more indelible,” he explained. Prof. Useem is faculty director of Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management and McNulty Leadership Program, editor of the Wharton Leadership Digest, co-host of Leadership in Action on Wharton Business Radio, and the author of several books about leadership. We talked with Prof. Useem about his class, Leadership Ventures, and current research projects. 

A large group of Wharton Executive MBA students stand on the Gettysburg battlefield on a cold day.
Wharton Executive MBA East students stand on the Gettysburg battlefield on October 21, 2018, as part of a Leadership Venture led by Prof. Mike Useem.

Why did you choose Gettysburg as the location of a Leadership Venture?

The Civil War battle at Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863 could have gone either way. Much of the outcome – the Union ultimately prevailed – came down to the leadership decisions that the army commanders made during the deadly engagement that resulted in more than 50,000 casualties. We stop during our battlefield visit at several key points that provide for detailed discussion and reflection on the engagement’s historic actions.  

At one of those venues, for instance, we reflect on how a Union commander, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, creatively devised and then decisively executed a successful defense of the Union line against a forceful Confederate attack. We stand where Chamberlain stood to help us recreate and better appreciate that moment when his resistance made an enormous difference in the battle’s outcome. We seek to make that instant as graphic as possible and then ask participants to reflect on how this commander had acted in ways that might help them address moments of decision in their own workplace.

We do the same at several other decisive locations on the battlefield, and we conclude with a visit to the venue where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address during the dedication of a national cemetery after the battle. The speech numbered fewer than 300 words, but they were extremely well-turned for advancing the president’s long-term agenda for reunifying the country. We are here reminded how important it is for leaders to think not just about the present day, but also the distant future – and to make a persuasive case for building it.

What are some of the lessons that you want students to take from this Venture?

We focus on how to build confident and credible leadership throughout the ranks before it is needed – for whatever challenges lie ahead. In the case of both the Union and Confederate armies at Gettysburg, we identify instances when their mid-level leadership – or its absence – proved decisive on the battlefield. Here we are reminded of the importance for the business world of mentoring managers one or two levels below you to ensure that you have the bench strength for the challenges that lie ahead.

We also review examples in both armies at Gettysburg of the power of a commander’s reputation for leadership in moving others into action. Whatever the formal powers of the office, a commander’s ability to inspire troops during the battle was significantly enhanced by an aura of respect and authority. We ask how those who led on both sides at Gettysburg acquired that reputation, and here we identify a range of actions that are as important today as they were at the time of the battle, including the articulation of a compelling vision, confidence in oneself and others, and the communication of high- performance expectations.

What other Leadership Ventures can EMBA students participate in?

Several of our Ventures are open to all MBA students, including one with the U.S. Marine Corps and a second with the Fire Department of New York. Others are designed just for executive MBA students, including our Gettysburg visit and a venture in Alaska.

How did the Leadership Ventures begin?

The Ventures came out of my personal experience in offering an EMBA course on leadership. A student pointed out that while classroom learning is good for thinking through theories of leadership and for dissecting dilemmas in leadership, we could do more to drive home the enduring principles of leadership in ways that makes them more memorable and more readily applicable when students are back at work. That’s why I first began taking executive MBA students to Gettysburg, and since then the Wharton Leadership Center and McNulty Leadership Program have added a host of other hands-on learning experiences for MBA, executive MBA, and undergraduate students across a broad range of venues.

What class do you teach in the EMBA program? What do you want students to learn from that class?

I offer a core first-year course on both coasts that is an introduction to leadership and teamwork. Many students come to this program with extensive work experience, and they express a high need to learn more about the exercise of leadership since they have moved well up their firms’ ladders and have increasingly taken personal responsibility for groups, operations, and sometimes the entire enterprise. I work to bring in research, experiences, and cases that help them strengthen their personal and team leadership capacities, including an ability to think strategically, communicate persuasively, and act decisively.

What do you like about teaching EMBA students?

Since our EMBA students arrive with extensive work experience and have personally experienced many of the challenges in leading others, there is a very high level of classroom engagement. Also, with a decade or more of work, students come with a wonderful repertoire of leadership moments and personal experiences, making for richly informed classroom discussions. One of my personal goals has long been to help others in developing their leadership, and it has thus been a privilege to be part of this program.

What is your motivation for hosting a weekly radio show on leadership?

I cohost Leadership in Action on SiriusXM Wharton Business radio, channel 132, with my colleagues Anne Greenhalgh and Jeff Klein to help leadership ideas and methods reach an even broader audience. Our weekly show seeks to help listeners learn more about tangible practices and enduring principles for strengthening their own leadership. We hear directly from other leaders about what they are thinking when they lead, and what happens in and around their office when it comes to their most consequential decisions.

What research projects are you working on these days?

I recently finished a book with a colleague on enterprise risk management, focusing on what companies are doing to prepare themselves against low-probability but high-consequence setbacks, whether from natural disasters or management-induced calamities. I have also completed a book with three others on how company executives and directors can think more long-term, and I am now working on what’s new and emerging in enterprise leadership, how innovations and disruptions are changing what is required to grow and lead an enterprise.

Posted: November 16, 2018

Wharton Stories

Wharton Analytics Accelerator Summit Gives Students an Opportunity to Apply Classroom Knowledge to Real Business Problems

The Wharton Analytics Accelerator Summit offers students across the University a chance to team up with others to build models for real companies to solve business problems.

On a gloomy Friday morning, analytics enthusiasts gathered at the Wharton School for the Wharton Analytics Accelerator Summit.

Now in its second year, the Analytics Accelerator, a program of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, once again paired student teams with corporate partners to solve real problems with analytical solutions. The program is competitive — only 24 students were chosen out of 200 applicants. Similarly, four companies were chosen out of the 30 that requested to partner with WCAI: the Barnes Foundation, Fuel Cycle, Hachette Book Group, and Reed Smith. To kick off the Accelerator, the students were split into teams and given four weeks to work with the data sets provided by the organizations. Their hard work culminated with the final Summit, where they presented their findings to an audience of corporate partners, students, and other analytics enthusiasts.

The four companies featured this year spanned a range of industries, operating in the arts, publishing, market research, and the legal sector. The participating students were equally diverse, coming from undergraduate, MBA, and even post-doc levels and across Penn’s numerous academic departments.

Question and answers during the WCAI Analytics Accelerator Summit

Developing Valuable Skills

The Accelerator Challenge is designed to be a well-rounded and immersive learning experience. Students not only had to show exceptional modeling and statistical analysis skills but also present their work to an audience with varying levels of experience in analytics and statistical methods. In addition, the students had to balance this with their classes and other extracurricular activities at Penn.

Kelly Herring, WG’20, was part of the team that partnered with market research firm Fuel Cycle to work with data provided by their client Rent-A-Center.

“In the real world, work is everyone’s clear first priority, whereas here [at Penn] folks have schoolwork and extracurriculars. This adds another interesting challenge to teamwork, because you’re trying to work around so many schedules and competing priorities and still ensure there’s a quality product. So I really appreciated the team’s willingness to make time for this and really crank when needed,” she said.

The Fuel Cycle student team answering the audience's questions
The Fuel Cycle/Rent-a-Center team answering questions from the audience.

Analytics in Real-Life Conditions

Since the datasets that students used came directly from the participating companies, teams had to manage all the issues that arose when using data collected by companies at various times using different methodologies. In some cases, this meant that some data was missing or multiple different datasets that had to be merged and standardized.

For Kelly and her team, the data they were given posed many challenges that they had to circumnavigate. They had multiple different datasets and had to decide which fields should be merged and which ones they could discard as irrelevant to their analysis.

“Our team had to think very carefully about exactly which analyses we wanted to do and what the goal was, so we could be sure to include all necessary data fields,” she said.

The lack of perfect data pushed Kelly’s team to come up with ways to get more out of what they were given. This, she says, was similar to what she has done in previous professional settings.

“I think working with the data was about as real as it could be — the data was true, messy, and incomplete client data. Because of that, making assumptions to use for analyses and finding creative ways to pull out insights were pretty similar to what I’ve seen in true client services.”

Two members of the Fuel Cycle student team presenting their work
Teammates Kelly Herring, WG’20, presenting their project

Navigating Group Dynamics

The Accelerator was not only an exercise in data analytics but in agile teamwork. Since teams were put together by the organizers, the students had to get to know their group members quickly. Since participating students came from across Penn’s schools and from various degree levels, they also had to leverage their individual strengths to create optimal models and solutions and give well-crafted presentations.

“At the beginning of the project, we had folks go around and highlight what ‘stretch’ experiences they wanted to get out of the accelerator. Some said working with more data, some said presenting. As we were working, we tried to allow folks opportunities to work on these stretch goals while making sure we were still being practical about what could be accomplished feasibly given existing skills to make sure team members were not overexerting themselves to finish tasks by deadlines.”

The Accelerator is not designed to be a competition. The impact of the models that the student teams built remains to be seen as the partner companies put them into use and observe the results over the next several months. Meanwhile, the students walked away with valuable experience that will help them succeed in their future careers.

— Elis Pill, C’19

Posted: November 13, 2018

Wharton Stories

How Wharton’s EMBA Program Adds Value for Military Students

Wharton helps students accelerate their careers whether they are staying in the military, planning a future transition, or working in the private sector.

Rebecca Bennett, WG’19

Sarah Bennett in a flight uniform in front of a military helicopter

Test Pilot, U.S. Navy

Based In
Lexington Park, MD

Wharton Campus

Prior Education:
Cornell University, B.S. Chemical Engineering

Military Experience

“I joined the Navy in college to be part of something bigger than myself and to serve my country. I’ve always done things that challenge me because I believe you grow when you go outside your comfort zone, so I chose to become a pilot and headed to flight school. I opted to fly helicopters because I was passionate about the helicopter missions, which often involve hurricane relief and search and rescue, and I wanted to fly with a crew. I did a few deployments around the world, and then I was selected and attended the U.S Naval Test Pilot School. Now, I work as a test pilot where my job is to help develop and test new technology and equipment for Navy helicopters before those products are deployed to helicopter units around the world.”

Getting an MBA

“When my commitment to the military is up in the summer of 2019, I plan to separate from the military and get into business. I believe companies have incredible opportunities to tackle some of the problems facing society today, and I want to be on the leading-edge of the technologies being developed to solve those problems. I want an MBA to learn how to leverage my military background and gain new business knowledge to transition into the private sector.”

Military Students

“One of the great things about this program is that it brings people with all sorts of backgrounds together. Even so, sometimes I find there can be a stark divide between veterans and civilians – we speak a different language and it’s sometimes hard for each side to understand what the other does for their job. This program has helped me bridge that divide. It has also allowed me to better understand my opportunities in the private sector as well as explain how my military background adds value.”

Value of Wharton for Military Students

“The Wharton network is an incredible benefit. I’ve sent cold emails to alumni with an almost 100% response rate. Alumni are willing to get on the phone and talk about their jobs, which is something I didn’t expect when I came here. I’ve also learned a lot from my fellow classmates. And, of course, the academics are phenomenal. I am getting the business knowledge necessary to make a smooth transition to the private sector.”
Military Benefits: “I used the application fee waiver for military students and the GI Bill.”

Chris Robinson, WG’19

Chris Robinson in a flight suit with his wife and four young children on a tarmac with military planes
F/A-18 Instructor Pilot, U.S. Marine Corps.

Position After Graduation
Investment Banker, Goldman Sachs

Based In
San Diego, CA

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
Boston College, B.A. Economics and Political Science

Military Experience

“I joined the Marines as an undergraduate student to serve something greater than myself. I served on two deployments, including one to the Western Pacific and one to the Middle East. More recently, I’ve served as an instructor pilot teaching newly winged aviators to fly the F/A-18. This year, I’m transitioning off active duty to the Reserves and will continue to serve as a flight instructor.”

Getting an MBA

“I knew I would be transitioning out of the military to the private sector and getting an MBA was a way to accelerate that transition. I wanted to gain high-level, relevant knowledge about different facets of business and learn alongside an experienced cohort from different industries. I needed a program for executives because as a full-time active duty officer with four kids, going back to school full-time was not an option. I explored some other EMBA programs, but they didn’t compare to Wharton.”

Military Students

“Coming from the military, I wasn’t aware of all of the opportunities the private sector has to offer or the paths to those careers. This program has a dedicated career director, who also has military experience, who provides one-on-one career coaching and is a great resource for students wanting to make a transition. After graduation, I will be joining Goldman Sachs.” [Wharton EMBA career directors are Steve Hernandez in San Francisco and Dr. Dawn Graham in Philadelphia.]

Value of Wharton for Military Students

“Military students bring some intangible leadership qualities such as having presence in a room and being able to cut through things quickly, which is valued in team settings. We also are good at time management. I’m always the guy who wants to begin meetings on time. On the other hand, we also tend to speak more bluntly. My peers have helped coach me about cultural norms in the private sector, which has served me well as I go through my transition process.”

Military Benefits

“I used the application fee waiver for military students and the GI Bill. As I transition off active duty, I plan to use the Yellow Ribbon Program and the part of the GI Bill that provides a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). I also received some scholarship funds from Wharton.”

Marty Pendleton, WG’20

Marty Pendleton in a naval uniform in front of vessel
Management Consulting Manager, Accenture

U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer

Based In
Washington, D.C.

Wharton Campus

Prior Education
Vanderbilt University, B.S. Communication Studies

Military Experience

“After college, I served in the U.S. Navy for five years because I wanted to give back and do something service oriented. After getting out of the military, I wanted to continue working to support our defense and intelligence communities. I did that through consulting and joined Accenture’s federal practice. I work with law enforcement, intelligence and defense agencies to improve technology and processes. My service to the country is continuing, but I have a broader impact in this role and it is very rewarding.”

Getting an MBA

“I wanted to continue learning about business, and sometimes you have to step away from your day-to-day and learn in a classroom surrounded by people doing different things. I learn a lot from my classmates and the professors – more than I could learn on the job.”

Military Students

“We bring a unique perspective to the classroom because we have led teams, often under life and death circumstances. Those high stakes teach a person how to filter out the noise in decision-making and how to focus on what really matters. One critical factor is building and empowering a team you trust.”

Value of Wharton for Military Students

“Military people have great leadership experience that makes us good generalists, but we tend to come out of the service with knowledge gaps. While we know how to lead teams, we may not know how to read a balance sheet or build a marketing plan. Wharton helps us develop these skills, while also broadening our network outside of the military.”

Military Benefits

“I used the application fee waiver for military students, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and the GI Bill.”

Craig Replogle, WG’15

Craig Replogle holding a baby with two young children, one of whom is wearing his army cap
Manager, Strategic Account Operations, Nike
Navy SEAL Commander, U.S. Navy Reserve

U.S. Navy SEAL

Based In
Beaverton, OR

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
U.S. Naval Academy, B.S. Ocean Engineering

Military Experience

“I grew up watching Top Gun and went to the Naval Academy to be a fighter pilot, but eventually discovered the SEAL Teams. During my senior year, 9/11 occurred and that had a big impact on my trajectory. I was fortunate to earn an opportunity to enter the Navy SEAL selection and training program and even more fortunate to make it through the arduous program. I then went on to spend the next decade as a SEAL officer, deploying overseas six times. I transitioned off active duty in the Wharton EMBA program and continue to serve in the Navy Reserves while growing my new career at Nike.”

Getting an MBA

“Towards the end of my time on active duty, I decided I wanted to be home more for my wife and kids. I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill to get my MBA and help transition to the private sector. In the Navy, the things that mattered most to me were the amazing people I worked with, the impact of culture on an organization, and the ability to maintain an active lifestyle. At Wharton, I explored possible career paths with those factors in mind. Wharton EMBA Career Director Steve Hernandez coached me as I narrowed my search to various sports and outdoor companies. When I dove into the deep end to pursue a career at Nike, both the veterans’ and Wharton networks were instrumental in helping me land a role at the Swoosh.”

Military Students

“We bring a different leadership experience having led teams in high-risk critical situations. As a result, we know that every midterm and final is just one piece of the entire puzzle. It’s important, but no one’s life is on the line. We have a unique perspective on the big picture, which can be helpful for our classmates, because we know the stakes are less in the classroom than they are on the battlefield.”

Value of Wharton for Military Students

“This program helps shore up any lack of business experience for military students. The knowledge, brand, and network from Wharton are priceless. Employers know you have a solid business foundation and understanding of the levers that are pivotal to a company. Just as important, you learn from and how to work with your classmates who come from a variety of backgrounds outside of the military. They are your first and most important network you’ll grow outside of the military.”

Military Benefits

“I used the application fee waiver for military students and the GI Bill. In my second year, I used the Yellow Ribbon Program and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).”

Posted: November 8, 2018

Wharton Stories

Wharton Sophomores’ New Gender Balance Consulting Club Is the First of Its Kind

While there are many student consulting groups and various feminist organizations on Penn’s campus, Becca Bean, C’21, W’21, and Sarina Divan, W’21, saw a gap in the intersection between the two and started a club to fill it.

The Gender Balance Consulting (GBC) Club founded by Becca Bean, C’21, W’21, and Sarina Divan, W’21, is the first student-run gender consultancy in the country. The Wharton sophomores have high ambitions for the organization.

Their inspiration  dates back to before Becca and Sarina started their undergraduate careers at Wharton. Although they attended different high schools, they first met in their senior year of high school as Teen Advisors for the UN Foundation Initiative “Girl Up,” a global movement of empowered young women leaders who defend gender equality. As Teen Advisors, Becca and Sarina were central to Girl Up decision-making including advocacy, fundraising, and communications strategy.

Fast forward one year, and they both ended up at Wharton. Becca was involved in Global Research Consulting as a Project Leader and in Own It (a women’s leadership club). Sarina was involved with the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative. When the two of them met up, they both wanted to get involved with something that would allow them to have greater impact.

Said Becca, “Fusing this pre-professional idea with an idea focused on gender equality and women’s leadership is really how this club came about.”

Strong Convictions, Big Goals

The club is founded on the duo’s strong belief in the cause of gender equality. An important point that Sarina highlighted is the fact that “research consistently shows that gender balance and equality in the workplace lead to financial success for companies. It’s not just for optics; it genuinely leads to higher productivity, better decision making, and greater innovation.”

Given their commitment to this belief, Becca and Sarina faced a dilemma when thinking about how to execute their idea. At first, they considered pitching their proposal to form a separate branch within an already-existing club, but they felt that by doing so, they would reduce the importance of the issue of gender balance to a secondary concern; establishing GBC as a stand-alone organization emphasizes the importance of the club’s mission and goals.

The Wharton sophomores set themselves a high bar with what they hope to achieve. After all, they founded the club with the explicit mission to “encourage individuals all over the world to recognize gender balance as a priority.”

Real Impact for the Penn Community and Beyond

In addition to their focus on gender balance, Becca and Sarina are differentiating their club from other student-run consulting groups by working not only with external clients, but also within Penn itself – after all, gender balance also remains a pressing issue amongst student clubs and the Penn community at large.

They use a wide variety of diagnostic methods and tools to assess an organization’s gender balance, which they learned about from Lauder alumna Jennifer Shannon Flock, WG’18, G’18. When they reached out to Jennifer, who at the time was the COO of gender consultancy 20-first, Becca and Sarina learned about quantitative and qualitative methods to measure gender balance. They have already had a student group reach out to them for their consulting services, and will soon begin working with local coffee chain Saxbys on assessing their gender balance, but their work is not limited to advising and consulting – they are also engaging the Penn community in learning more about the topic of gender balance.

Additionally, they want to expose the undergraduate community to prominent figures in the field of gender balance. The club recently hosted Stephenie Foster, L’86, in a discussion on how and why business can focus on gender equality. Stephenie is a partner at Smash Strategies, a consulting firm that works with organizations to leverage their commitment to women and girls.

Wharton’s Role and What the Future Holds

Becca and Sarina have gotten off to a strong start, and they credit part of their successes to the resources available at Wharton.

Through her connection with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII), Becca ran the idea for GBC past an employee in the initiative, and also got in touch with an expert in gender lens investing that she met on a WSII social impact business trek last year.

Said Sarina, “We’re uniquely positioned at Penn to examine this issue and see how we can change it, being in a major city with Wharton as our business school and a female president of our school too.”

— Jonathan Lahdo


Wharton Stories

Why This CFO Calls Wharton’s EMBA Program a ‘Powerful Credential’

Image: Jeff Hedges (left) in Zambia during Global Business Wee
After transitioning from consulting to real estate following graduation, Jeff Hedges, WG’15, found that his MBA training and credential helped him move quickly into the C-suite.

A few years after graduating from college, Jeff Hedges, WG’15, thought about going back to school full-time for an MBA. However, that was at the height of the economic downturn and he was busy working on interesting consulting projects, including several assignments in the UK and Ireland related to the European debt crisis. He decided that it wasn’t the right time to step away from his consulting career.

By the time he was ready to consider school again, Jeff was on a partnership track at his consulting firm and didn’t necessarily need an MBA. However, he was interested in exploring other opportunities down the road, and he knew that a Wharton MBA could provide the knowledge, skills, and network needed to open doors.

“I came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives thinking this may be nothing more than just an investment in myself with minimal career return, although I was hopeful it would turn into more and it did,” he said. Now, Jeff is CFO and executive vice president of PS Business Parks (affiliated with Public Storage) in Glendale, CA.

Post-Graduation Transition

While he continued to work at the consulting firm during the EMBA program, his career moved into a new phase after graduation. Just a few days after his commencement ceremony, he “took a leap of faith” and joined Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust, an entrepreneurial business that owned 12,000 single-family rental homes.

Within three months, Starwood merged with Colony American Homes to create Colony Starwood Homes in Arizona. “The CFO of Colony was a Wharton alumnus and we hit off. I moved to Scottsdale, AZ as senior vice president of accounting and had a great experience helping to lead the company,” he said. A few years later, the company entered into another merger with Invitation Homes in Dallas and Jeff was asked to stay on as chief accounting officer, but he ultimately decided to forgo that opportunity as it wasn’t the right fit for him and his family at that time.

As soon as he announced his decision to leave, Jeff’s phone started ringing. “Within two months, I had at least half a dozen conversations with different companies about very interesting opportunities. During those conversations, I was surprised at how many times my Wharton MBA came up. People would routinely pick that up on my resume and knew about Wharton’s EMBA program. This program is a powerful credential.”

In addition to the credential, Jeff noted that Wharton also gave him confidence to tackle new and bigger challenges. “The business knowledge and softer leadership skills that I gained at Wharton were absolutely valuable and applicable to my real-world situation. I also sharpened my critical thinking skills and feel that I am much more balanced in how I assess complicated grey-area decisions and am more careful not to rush to judgment.”

Ultimately Jeff decided to accept an offer to become CFO at PS Business Parks, a REIT that acquires, develops, owns, and operates commercial properties, primarily multi-tenant industrial, flex, and office space. “This is a finance and strategy role, as I’m focused on capital markets, the portfolio, and asset management for the company, which owns just under 30-million square feet of industrial, flex and office space around the country with 5,000 commercial customers. It is a very exciting role and opportunity,” he said.

Jeff credits Wharton with helping him to get to the next level of his career. “The Wharton EMBA program is a testament to the individuals who go through it because of its intensity and rigor. It’s a valuable program that can help you to open doors and discover new opportunities.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted: November 6, 2018

Wharton Stories

7 Resources to Help PhD Students Succeed on Their Doctoral Journey

It takes a village and a variety of skills to succeed in the doctoral world. Here are a few of the many resources Wharton Doctoral Programs offers to help.

Like most of our doctoral students, perhaps you’re preparing to go into academia after completing your PhD. Being a professor and researcher today often involves opportunities to share your research with a larger audience than a classroom of students. The doctoral journey is meant to prepare you with the wide array of skills you’ll need to be effective whether you’re in front of the classroom or a conference stage.

That includes the polish to present and speak publicly with ease, the writing and communication skills to craft your dissertation and journal articles, the analytical know-how to research thoroughly and gather meaningful data, and the ability to teach — colleagues, pupils, or the general public, whatever the case may be. And, if you have family, you’ll need support in getting them through this journey with you.

Wharton Doctoral Programs offers a wide range of resources to help you thrive in the PhD program and prepare you for life beyond it. Here are a few of the top Wharton resources our students have highlighted as most beneficial:

1. 5 Slides 5 Minutes

Researchers often have the opportunity to share their work with a larger audience through social media and mass media outlets — but it requires nuanced communication skills. How do you take complex findings and communicate them to a general audience concisely without oversimplifying the message?

That’s the focus of 5 Slides 5 Minutes. Launched in 2014, this low-stakes, high-potential event enables PhD students to present an abstract to students, faculty, and staff to practice engaging non-experts in their research topic. Students receive an invitation to participate via email from the Doctoral Programs Office.

After students present, they can work with Wharton Communications Program to review their presentation and get tips on how to improve their communication skills. Wharton’s renowned faculty also share valuable insights with students about these presentations.

“We focus on individuals. We help them convey their research content most effectively given their style and personality,” said Lisa Warshaw, Director of the Wharton Communications Program.

2. Dissertation Boot Camp

The name might sound intimidating, but some students think of Dissertation Boot Camp as a two-week writers’ retreat. Hosted twice a year by the Graduate Student Center, it’s designed for students who have dissertation status but haven’t presented their proposal yet.

The camp offers an environment and support for intense, focused writing time as well as a review on the steps, deadlines, and University policies. Limited to 20 students, the small group gives writers a chance to make connections with others who are going through the dissertation process and provides participants with the structure and motivation to overcome typical roadblocks along the way.

3. Wharton Communications Program

The Wharton Communication Program helps Wharton PhD students become more effective communicators and thus better presenters, public speakers, and writers — all critical skills in academia. All doctoral students are provided with access to on-site, one-on-one writing coaching during the academic year.

Wharton PhD students are required to attend two workshops: First-Year Communications Workshop in the fall and First-Year Writing Workshop in the spring. The skills-based approach adopted in the workshops helps students develop their personal style and strengthen their confidence as communicators.

Through multiple practice opportunities, video recording of speeches, and rigorous feedback, the program provides students with a thorough foundation in communication theory and for doctoral students, focuses on research presentations and job talks.

4. Teacher Development Program Workshop

Offered in conjunction with the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Teacher Development Program is a four-session course. It gives doctoral students a foundation in core teaching practices to support their teaching at Penn.

By helping with presentation skills and academic job placement, the workshop prepares students to become faculty in the future. Ian Petrie, Senior Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning described the workshop as “a collective, collaborative program.” Each week features “microteaching” demonstrations, where participants conduct a brief lesson and get feedback from their peers and the directors.

The intent is that faculty and graduate students will engage and learn from each other to master fundamental teaching methods. “Every PhD student can leave the program having gained some new tools for teaching,” Petrie said. This exchange happens when doctoral students observe “talented colleagues from other departments to get a glimpse of how they teach.”

Students also have the opportunity to enroll in the CTL Teaching Certificate program to hone teaching skills and grasp a commitment to developing as teachers.

“I’d like everyone to come out of the experience feeling more confident about their skills as an instructor or presenter,” Petrie said. “Anything I can do to support doctoral students in achieving their goals is extremely gratifying.”

5. Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS)

With more than 50,000 corporate, academic, and government users, Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) is the global gold standard in data management, research analytics, and thought leadership. Researchers at more than 450 institutions in 36 countries across the globe depend upon this award-winning research platform and business intelligence tool — and researchers are doing the work to grow it right here on Wharton’s campus.

“The fact that the people who create the data, research analytics, and tools are here is super important,” said Prof. Cathy Schrand, Vice Dean of Wharton Doctoral Programs. “I’ve had early access to WRDS before it even became available to other subscribers. Top universities all over the world that have subscriptions to WRDS may only have access to certain elements of it, but we have access to all of it and it’s here on site which does provide an advantage.”
The platform allows researchers to access more than 350 terabytes of data in one location that spans across multiple disciplines, including accounting, banking, economics, ESG (environmental, social, and governance), finance, health care, insurance, marketing, and statistics.
“WRDS is by far the most important source of datasets for academic researchers. As a Wharton PhD student, you automatically get unrestricted access to every one of these databases,” said Itamar Drechsler, associate professor of finance at Wharton and NYU’s Stern School of Business, who has experience on both sides of the classroom – he earned his PhD from Wharton in 2009.

6. Wharton Behavioral Lab

A shared resource for all Wharton faculty, the Wharton Behavioral Laboratory (WBL) provides a variety of services that support data collection for behavioral research on business-related topics. The primary goal is to enhance the research productivity of Wharton faculty by minimizing the operational costs, both time and money, of conducting research.
With two locations — one in Steinberg Hall Dietrich Hall and another in Jon Huntsman Hall, doctoral students can gather original data through lab experiments and panels, instead of using secondary data created by others. Each year, the lab collects about 23,000 subject hours of data.
Research from WBL can consistently be found in national and international publications such as the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, and the Journal of Business Ethics.

7. Support for Families

For some PhD students, attending Wharton means relocating their families to a new city. To help students and their families ease the transition to PhD life, the Wharton Doctoral Program Office hosts the Maternity/Paternity Workshop, an annual event that talks about the resources available to PhD students with families.

Here are a couple of the key resources they highlight in the workshop:

  • The Doctoral Programs Office allows eligible students to apply for up to one year of additional school-level funding beyond their allotted funded year. Furthermore, students are eligible for up to eight weeks of time-off for childbirth and adoption and have the option of taking unpaid Family Leave of Absence.
  • At Penn, the Family Resource Center provides additional resources and facilities, such as a children’s playroom and two private lactation rooms, which cater to the needs of students with families. The Center also has two grant programs for PhD students to help offset the cost of childcare and family expenses, and health insurance for dependents.
  • Wharton Doctoral Partners & Families is a student-run online resource created to communicate the resources at Penn and Philadelphia to partners and families. Its mission is to empower members to transition and settle into their new lives.


Wharton Stories

This Real Estate MBA Wants to Create Better Affordable Housing

Integrating business knowledge with a liberal arts mindset is helping Dan Ping He, WG’19, towards her goal of enhancing community development through real estate.

Dan Ping He, WG’19, had no prior business background when she arrived at her dream real estate school to get an MBA. As an undergrad, she had studied urban sociology and American cultural studies with the intention of working in community development. “My liberal arts background equipped me well for a successful career in that field,” she said. “I loved traveling and walking around major cities, observing how people interacted with real estate and memorizing architectural works.”

Examining how real estate transformed communities offered a fascinating intellectual challenge for Dan Ping. She brought that passion to Wharton, now with the goal of developing better, more stable communities in which affordable housing can be a part of the overall real estate fabric.

“I chose to pursue an MBA at Wharton because I wanted to round out my liberal arts critical thinking with data-driven and quantitative analytical skills,” she said. Recently, through the Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center career fair, she landed a summer internship at Pennrose Properties to help the company submit a Federal Home Loan Bank Application. In the second week, she saw her nontraditional background work hand in hand with her budding finance skills.

“The CEO sprang an impromptu financial analysis assignment regarding the newly formed Opportunity Zone tax deferral program. My entire team and I had scrambled to complete the project in time to present to his long-time business partners. As we walked into the meeting room, the first thing he did was gesture out the window and ask, “Who is the architect of that building across the street?’ I responded, ‘Louis Kahn.’ He responded in turn, ‘I’m impressed that you know your architects.’”

Dan Ping He, WG'19, and two men smiling, wearing hard hats and suits, with a view of the city in the background far below.
Dan Ping (left) on a property tour at a construction site during her internship.

Widening Scopes

Post-college, Dan Ping led nonprofit and government community development projects, supporting her hometown residents in financial counseling, neighborhood waterfront resiliency initiatives, and their paid sick leave rights. Her desire to make in impact in affordable housing grew over time, not only through collaborating with affordable housing developers as a professional, but also because she had experienced the benefits of stable, low-income housing herself.

“I was born and raised in New York City, and I lived all my life in public housing until I was a working professional,” she said. “I’ve gotten to witness and experience first-hand how rapidly a city can change, and how many stakeholders can feel they fit differently inside or outside of that change.”

It was a “natural progression” for Dan Ping to move from nonprofit community development to for-profit real estate. “I’m from a field of work where stable housing can do so much for entire communities — and also entire retail and business communities,” she explained. “It all works together.”

She’s currently in “sponge mode,” trying to absorb as much as she can. Her favorite class so far has been Real Estate Investments with Assistant Prof. Benjamin Keys, which was as formative as it was illuminating. On the more qualitative side, she’s taken urban planning courses at the Design School, including Progressive Development with Prof. John D. Landis. Someday, she’d like to tap into Wharton’s global network and explore international social housing.

Serving the Community

As a first-generation college and graduate student, Dan Ping is keenly aware of how simple foundations can impact individuals and greater communities. For eight years, she volunteered and assisted with managing New York’s Chinatown Youth Initiatives. At Wharton, she’s a Diversity Admissions Fellow and a member of Return on Equality, the school’s student initiative for diversity and inclusion.

Dan Ping and a group of MBAs outside on a sunny day in exercise gear, standing in front of a row of bushes on campus.
Dan Ping (far right) gathered Cluster 2 MBAs for a run at the annual Wharton 5K.

She believes that “people matter, at all levels, when it comes to real estate.”

“I think, historically, people living in low-income or affordable housing have felt their voices were unheard or unimportant, or that they should just be grateful to have housing at all. But we’re at a place now politically, socially, and culturally, where not just public agencies care about what residents say, but for-profit developers also care about what low- or moderate-income residents have to say.”

Building and sustaining real estate projects will always require capital, but Dan Ping knows gaining new perspectives will help her find the middle ground.

“I was never satisfied that it was just the role of the city or the role of the nonprofit to make affordable housing,” she said. “I think there’s a balance between how to best serve people’s interests and business interests.”

— Gloria Yuen

Posted: November 5, 2018

Wharton Stories

New Wharton Research Defines What Makes Companies Good Employers for Women

Katherine Klein (Wharton Social Impact Vice Dean), Shoshana Schwartz (Wharton doctoral student), and Sandi M. Hunt (Wharton Social Impact Senior Director) tackle the deceptively simple question, “What makes companies good employers for women?”, in a way that has not been done before.

Lean in. #MeToo. Women on boards. Gender lens investing.

In a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons, a growing number of advocates, employees, business leaders, and investors are seeking an answer to the question: What does it mean to be a good employer for women?

In Wharton Social Impact Initiative’s newest report, “Four for Women: A Framework for Evaluating Companies’ Impact on the Women They Employ,” Vice Dean Katherine Klein, Wharton doctoral candidate Shoshana Schwartz, and WSII Senior Director Sandi M. Hunt tackle this question head on.

Moving beyond speculation and hunches, Klein and her colleagues dig into the academic research literature on women and work to identify the workplace outcomes that matter most for women.

In a report that is at once rigorously evidence-based, highly practical, and aspirational, Klein and her colleagues integrate the findings of hundreds of studies to document the barriers, biases, and limitations that too many women continue to experience at work.

Good employers for women, they show, knock down these barriers, biases, and limitations to create companies that really work for women – companies where women are well-represented at every level and in every unit of the company; companies where women are paid fairly and well; companies where women experience health and safety – not stress and harassment; companies where women are happy to work.

Representation. Pay. Health. Satisfaction. These are the workplace outcomes that matter most for women. 

Four for Women framework identifying what makes a company a good employer for women

Klein and her colleagues’ framework – Four for Women – promises to change the conversation about what it means to be a good employer for women. Highlighting critical outcomes for women – and possible metrics to use to assess these outcomes – they set a new standard for employer excellence. And it is about employer excellence (not just excellence for women) because companies that are good for women are good for men, too. It’s not a zero sum game.

Few companies today achieve the standards of Four for Women. This report is designed to inform and inspire business leaders, investors, and employees to work to move the needle on the outcomes that matter most for women. Four for Women doesn’t offer a roadmap, but a destination. It says to companies: Here’s what it looks like to be a good employer for women. If you’re convinced by the evidence and inspired by the framework, measure what matters and work to achieve the four outcomes that really matter for women at work: representation, pay, health, and satisfaction.

Read the full report below.

Posted: November 1, 2018

Wharton Stories

Six Ways This Pharmaceutical Executive Built Connections in Wharton’s EMBA Program

Image: Laura Rivera at the Great Wall of China during Global Business Week
While classroom and applied learning are key parts of Wharton’s EMBA program, Laura Rivera, WG’18, found the network to be just as valuable.

Named a “Best and Brightest” EMBA student in 2018 by Poets & Quants, Laura Rivera, WG’18, came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives to accelerate her career in finance and business development at Johnson & Johnson. “I’ve worked at J&J for 12 years and had no intention of leaving because I love my job. This program was a way to get more external experience and exposure to different perspectives,” she said.

She also had support from her company, where there is a strong Wharton EMBA alumni network, including J&J’s CEO Alex Gorsky, WG’96. “When you get a Wharton MBA, you aren’t just getting the best MBA in the world. You’re also getting instant connections to anyone you could ever want to work with in your entire life through the Wharton network,” Laura said. “This is a big investment, but the payoff is huge. The knowledge and network will benefit you for the rest of your life.”

Here are six aspects of Wharton’s EMBA program that Laura said helped her connect with classmates and build her network throughout the program:

1. Learning Teams

“The structure of the program allows for bonds to form quickly and deeply. We start out with a full week together, working in small learning teams that become our Wharton nuclear family. You take the same first-year classes with your learning team, so you work on projects and assignments together.”

2. Collaborative Mindset

“Wharton selects people who are smart and interesting – people who are willing to share what they know and help others. EMBA students are interested in building relationships. We’re all here to make friends and connections rather than competing over grades or jobs.”

3. Social Events

“The program organizes group meals and special events, but we also have a social chair in each class who coordinates additional gatherings. Those range from happy hours and dinners in the city to charity events and museum tours. We try to connect with other groups like past EMBA classes and full-time MBA students too. When the East Coast class spent a week at the San Francisco campus, we joined our West Coast classmates for a trip to Napa before the class began. We’ve also done trips to the Poconos and Jazz Fest in New Orleans.”

4. Residential Learning Environment

“All Wharton EMBA students stay over on Friday night at the hotel, creating a different environment than if we commuted home after class. If I had gone home every Friday night, I would have switched mental modes to be a mom, which would have distracted me from my focus on school. At Wharton, you are a full-time EMBA student for 48 hours, which let me stay in that zone and spend a lot more time with classmates.”

5. Morning Meetups

“Staying over at the hotel allows us to meet up early on Saturday mornings. Sometimes that means continuing group assignments or meeting with a professor or TA. Other times, we would meet a trainer for a morning workout or a group run. Students find ways to pack in every minute of every day at Wharton so that we don’t miss out on time together.”

6. Immersive International Courses

“There are many opportunities to take global classes, which are eye-opening learning experiences, but also focused time to bond with EMBA classmates and other Wharton students. I went to South Africa for Global Business Week and Beijing for a Global Modular Course on marketing to Chinese consumers.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted: October 29, 2018

Wharton Stories

7 Takeaways from Project Sage 2.0, the Global Scan of Gender Lens Private Equity, VC, and Private Debt Funds

Forthcoming gender lens investing report by Wharton Social Impact’s Sandi Hunt and Sherryl Kuhlman and gender lens investing expert and alumna Suzanne Biegel, W’84, shows key findings on the current state of the field.

How can capital improve the lives of women? Gender lens investing – investing to generate financial returns and a positive impact on women – is an investing trend that is continuing to grow. But exactly how big is this trend, and how fast is it growing? You may have seen information about new funds and promising investments. We collect data to quantify this growth.

As of early 2017, there was no one, complete collection of private equity, venture capital, and private debt vehicles with a gender lens. So, in collaboration with gender lens investing expert and Wharton alumna Suzanne Biegel, Wharton Social Impact researched and published Project Sage – a landscape analysis of structured private equity, venture capital, and private debt vehicles with a gender lens – in October 2017.

Our forthcoming Project Sage 2.0 is a follow-up landscape survey one year later to assess the growth and trends in this space from 2017 to 2018.

We are pleased to share select findings of Project Sage 2.0 below, in advance of an official release of the full report in November. The numbers below reflect data collected between May and July 2018.

1. The number of funds is growing.

Project Sage 2.0 in 2018 identified 87 total funds deploying capital with a gender lens, up from 58 in 2017’s initial Project Sage report. Furthermore, in the 2017 Project Sage, 19 funds launched that same year. Of the 87 total funds included in the most recent scan, 27 were launched in 2018. The rate of launch is thus increasing.

2. And as a result, the number of companies invested in is growing.

The total number of companies invested in by respondents in the first Project Sage was 524; respondents in Project Sage 2.0 in reported that they invested in 828 companies.

3. They are still predominantly first-time funds.

Over two thirds — 69% — of funds were first-time funds, which are first funds from a given team with this thematic. (The venture partners may not be first-time fund managers but this is their first fund together with this focus or under this name.)

4. Geographic diversity is increasing.

North America was again the region of greatest targeted investment, with 40% of funds including North America as one of their targeted investment areas. This demonstrates an increase in the diversity of targeted investment geography from Project Sage 1.0 only one year ago, when approximately 80% of reported investments were U.S.-focused.

5. Total capital raised has cleared $2.2B.

Total raised, among those firms who allowed us to publish funds raised, was approximately $2,246,502,000.

6. Gender lens investing is still broadly defined.

When we gave funds six options for how they defined gender lens investing, and asked them to select all that apply, approximately 50% of funds included all five of the following classifications in their definition of gender lens investing, suggesting that this is still a very broad definition. Fifteen percent of funds also selected “other.”

  • Advancing women in finance: more women fund managers, on investment committees (ICs), etc.
  • Advancing women in corporate/enterprise leadership: C-suite positions, boards, etc.
  • Advancing products and services that improve the lives of women.
  • Advancing companies that treat female employees well.
  • Advancing companies that improve the lives of women in their ecosystem (supply chain members, etc.)

7. Women continue to play important roles in these funds and investment committees, and women are significantly represented as limited partners (LPs.)

  • On average, the percent of female venture partners in the fund was 72%.
  • On average, the percent of the investment committee that was female was 69%.
  • On average, the percent of female limited partners in the fund was 54%.

“Project Sage 2.0 shows that the volume – and rate – of capital being deployed with gender lens investing strategies is increasing. It also suggests that the specific impact on women being targeted by firms’ gender lens investing remains very broad,” remarked WSII Senior Director Sandi Hunt.

“The diversity of strategies, actors, and geographies in Project Sage 2.0 is so exciting to see. The market is clearly evolving, and the ability for investors with different priorities to deploy capital into these vehicles is getting sharper and sharper. Even better are the stories behind the funds, how they are investing, the types of companies and entrepreneurs they are backing,” says WSII Senior Gender Lens Investing Adviser Suzanne Biegel.

Stay tuned for the full Project Sage 2.0 report, coming this November.
Learn more about the last Project Sage report.

— Sandra Maro Hunt, Suzanne Biegel, Sherryl Kuhlman


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