Wharton Stories

Wharton Dean Talks with Yicai at Davos about Growth Opportunities for China

Dean Geoffrey Garrett says electric vehicles could be the next big export industry for China and the country could be a leader in AI.

Click here to read this story in Chinese.

While attending the Davos 2018 World Economic Forum, Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett spoke about China’s focus on quality growth and future opportunities in artificial intelligence with Yicai Media Group, a leading financial news group based in Shanghai.

From Absolute Growth to Quality Growth

Garrett, the Reliance Professor of Management and Private Enterprise and Professor of Management, talked about the importance of the move from absolute growth to quality growth for China. “It was always the case as China became more of a middle-class country and more consumption-led, that the growth rate would slow down,” he said. “So 10 percent growth into the future was unattainable, but high-quality 5 percent growth should be sustainable for a long time in China.”

He mentioned China’s focus on the reduction of pollution as an example of that high-quality growth. “If China can reduce pollution in cities like Beijing, that will be incredibly important for the lives of Chinese citizens, but it will also position China to be world leader in the production of electric vehicles, which could be the next big export industry of China,” he said.

The notion that there should be a second reopening in China signals that the Chinese government realizes there is still a lot to be done, such as reducing the inefficiency in the state-owned sector and enhancing the competitiveness of private enterprises. “China has liberalized its investment rules, particularly in financial services, and the outbound investment will increasingly become one of the largest features of the global economy going forward,” Garrett said. “What China has done is incredible, but everyone in China realizes now that there’s another stage that needs to be reached.”

Dean Geoffrey Garrett speaking with Yicai Media Group, a leading financial news group based in Shanghai, at the Davos 2018 World Economic Forum.

China Positioned to Lead in Artificial Intelligence

On the topic of AI, Dean Garrett explained that the worry that “the robots are going to take all the jobs” is actually quite a Western concern. “AI is an incredible opportunity for China going forward because of the quality of your technical education, science, and engineering,” he said. “It really is going to be a data-science-led world in the next five to 10 years, and China is incredibly well placed.”

He suggested that China is positioned to do even better than the U.S. in AI. “I was in a (Davos) session today when somebody said this year that investment in AI in China was 30 times as big as in the U.S. — that’s an incredible number. “I haven’t been able to verify (that number), but it tells me that China is positioned actually to lead in AI, which would be a first.”

With Alipay and WeChat pay, China’s two dominant mobile payment platforms, the Dean said one could argue that the core technology was invented in the U.S. by PayPal and other players then scaled in China. “But in AI, China could be in front of the U.S., and that would be a remarkable development,” he said. “If I were a young person in China right now I’d be saying I want to invest in technical education because that’s where China can lead and that’s where my future could be really positive.”

View the full segment with Yicai about China’s Economic Outlook and Dean Garrett’s thoughts on the future of AI in China.

— Colleen Donnelly and Zoe Qiao

Posted: February 15, 2018

Wharton Stories

How a Loan Forgiveness Fund Is Helping These EMBA Grads Sustain Social Impact Careers

Image: Katherine St. Onge, WG’16, on an impact tour at a Denver organization that teaches construction skills to at-risk students
These EMBA grads are using Wharton skills to transform social impact organizations, and the Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund makes it possible.

Working for a not-for-profit organization, Jodi Reynhout, WG’16, was a bit apprehensive about the cost of Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives. It’s a common concern for students working in the social impact field, as financial sponsorship is usually not an option for employers.

However, the availability of resources like the Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund encouraged her to self sponsor. The year after graduation, Jodi, Vice President of Administration for Esperanza, a nonprofit committed to strengthening Hispanic communities through education, economic development, and advocacy, received a $10,000 award from the Bendheim Fund. Graduates can apply once a year during the five years after graduation, and many receive the award multiple years.

Katherine St. Onge, WG’16, Director of Syndications and Institutional Partnerships at Calvert Impact Capital, said that the Bendheim Fund was also a factor in her decision to come to Wharton’s EMBA Program. “Going back to school meant taking on a lot of debt and I didn’t expect to earn a private-sector salary. The Loan Forgiveness Fund helped me decide to come to Wharton and was something I hoped I could benefit from after graduation.”

Last year, Katherine received $15,000 from the Fund and is planning to re-apply for future years. “That basically covered one year of my loan payments, which is very significant. This award shows that Wharton values the change I’m trying to make in the world and alumni pursuing non-traditional financial career paths.”

How They Are Making a Difference

At Calvert, Katherine enables individuals and institutions to invest in organizations that create measurable social and environmental impacts. Her job involves raising capital from a variety of investors, ensuring Calvert’s loan portfolio is sufficiently capitalized, and structuring loan syndication transactions for high-impact organizations.

She points to an affordable housing development that provides wrap-around services like daycare and employment training as an example of the type of investment her organization makes. It also invests in small businesses, lenders and funds that make an impact through financing the deployment of solar panels to off-grid communities in Africa.

At Esperanza, Jodi is making a difference via leadership across a broad portfolio of programs and interventions designed to transform conditions of economic poverty in low-income communities.

Jodi came to Wharton to “address community economic development and poverty alleviation efforts with the level of sophistication they deserve in terms of business approaches. I knew that Wharton would provide the level of rigor I needed to take my own – and my company’s – critical analysis to the next level.”

She added: “Nonprofits need to learn how to incorporate the tools and methodologies of the business world in their approaches to solving social problems, wherever possible and appropriate. We need to learn how to develop more diverse and nontraditional revenue streams, invest money in smarter ways, better quantify our impact evaluation, and make decisions based on data.”

At Wharton, she gained that knowledge and more. “My horizons were broadened in terms of understanding the approaches to effective social impact, whether achieved through nonprofits or other means.”

Katherine also came to Wharton’s EMBA program to gain business knowledge. Having recently transitioned into the impact investing space, she wanted to learn “hard finance skills” to accelerate her career.

Katherine said it was “definitely worthwhile. Wharton fostered my interests in this space and I learned tangible skills that are directly related to my job in impact investing, especially in advanced finance classes like corporate valuation. Impact investing doesn’t have a roadmap so having a good understanding of how traditional markets work makes it easier to translate into the impact space.”

She adds that Wharton also offers extracurricular activities for students interested in social impact like the ability to help plan the Wharton Social Impact Conference. “The School is clearly a thought leader in this area, bringing industry leaders, faculty and students together – and providing financial support to graduates committed to making an impact.”


Wharton Stories

Why Wharton’s EMBA Program is Worth Commuting to from Asia

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you fly six or 16 hours. You will grow with every challenge and figure out how to make it work, so make sure to pursue the best education possible and don’t limit yourself because of geography.”

With one of the longer commutes to Wharton, EMBA student Donatas Grabliauskas WG’19 traveled from Singapore to San Francisco in his first year and is now commuting to campus from Tokyo, Japan. Despite the long miles and airfare, he says it’s all worth it to earn a Wharton MBA.

“I wanted to make sure that I would learn as much as possible in a rigorous program. I didn’t want a watered-down MBA. Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives offers the full MBA in an executive format,” he explains, adding that he also wanted access to both coasts in the U.S. “Wharton’s EMBA Program is very unique because you can get exposure to the innovation and technology worlds of Silicon Valley as well as the finance and consulting worlds on the East Coast.”

In addition, Donatas, who works for Johnson & Johnson as marketing director, appreciates Wharton’s connections to healthcare.

When Donatas began Wharton’s EMBA program, he was commuting from Singapore, which meant a 15 to 17-hour flight each way. While his commuting time from Tokyo to San Francisco is shorter and more direct, it is still a 10-hour flight in each direction.

“The most challenging aspect of the commute is dealing with jet lag, but I’ve adapted by living in between the time zones. In Asia, I try to get up very early and go to bed earlier, so that when I’m in San Francisco there is less of a difference,” he says.

The other challenge is the financial side, as Donatas is self-sponsored. He explains, “I look at this as an investment in my education, which always has the biggest return on investment. I believe that it is important to have a learning mindset to grow and progress.”

He adds that the commute is also worth it for several other reasons:

Access to Professors

“I was surprised by the accessibility of the faculty. I’ve reached out to quite a few professors outside of class to discuss ideas and challenges I had at work. Not only were they willing to engage with me, I’ve been able to implement their feedback and research insights, directly benefiting my work. It’s like having top experts as your sounding and consulting board.


“I’m impressed with my classmates’ diverse experiences and expertise on both coasts. Whatever question I have — whether it’s in finance, law, healthcare or technology — I have classmates who are experts in those areas. It is a powerful resource.”

Senior Leaders

“Business leaders often come to campus to give talks and engage with students. I would never have that level of access to top leaders, especially outside my own industry, in my day-to-day job.”


“It’s been very valuable to deepen my quantitative and analytical skills as well as have access to the latest research on topics such as leadership. My classes are helping me to become a better leader and employee because my knowledge and skills are growing.”

When Donatas talks to prospective students about his commute, he tells them, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you fly six or 16 hours. You will grow with every challenge and figure out how to make it work, so make sure to pursue the best education possible and don’t limit yourself because of geography.”

Posted: February 13, 2018

Wharton Stories

Five EMBA Parents Share Their Advice, Their Experience in the Program, and Their Child Care Solutions

Students and alumni share their approaches handling childcare, managing weekends away from home, and getting the most out of Wharton’s EMBA Program.
Parents in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives find different ways to balance work, school, and family. Students figure out what works best for them and their families, including how to handle childcare, how to manage weekends away from home, and how to get the most out of the EMBA program.
We talked to a few students and alumni about their experience finding this balance. So what’s their advice for those with families who are thinking about Wharton’s EMBA program?

Keep in Touch with Your Class Manager

Dr. Marie Laure Romney, WG’18, Assistant Medical Director of Emergency Medicine Department at Kings County Hospital Center, is a second-year student on the Philadelphia campus and calls Brooklyn, NY home. Marie had her third child during her first year at Wharton.

Childcare: Marie’s husband works full-time so the couple moved her mother from Chicago to their home in New York to help care for their children during school weekends. Despite having a very organized calendar at home, there are still times when things don’t work out as planned. In those instances, her husband steps in to “pick up the pieces.”

Marie Laure enjoying some down time with her son and her two daughters. The youngest was born during Marie’s first year at Wharton.

Experience: “After having the baby, my classmates were very supportive. It was amazing to see how much they cared. That is part of what makes the Wharton EMBA experience so unique – you build deep bonds that you wouldn’t have a chance to build if you were just going home every day after classes.”

Advice: “Stay in touch with the staff, who are there to help students. My class manager checked in frequently to see what I needed. She even arranged a larger hotel room for me to share with my mom and baby when I was nursing on school weekends. The staff feel like family who are concerned about me as a person and not just as a student.”

Create “Weekend” Time with Your Kids During the Week

Maggie John, WG’18, Senior Process Engineer at U.S. Oil and Refining, is a second-year student on the San Francisco campus. A single parent of two young children (ages 11 and 5), Maggie commutes from her home in Seattle.

Childcare: Her father moved in with her to watch her children on school weekends.

Maggie John with her children and father, who moved in to help watch the children during the EMBA program.

Experience: “Going back to school as a single parent was a significant concern. The entire family was embarking on this new journey and it was important for me to minimize the impact on my kids’ lives. But this was an important cause and I wanted my children to see me work towards my goals.”

Maggie says her classmates are a “tremendous source of support,” especially the four other single parents in her cohort. When working in teams, she makes a point to talk to members about her schedule limitations. “I always tell my team when there are certain parts of the day when I’m not available. Everyone has their own limitations and we are very supportive of each other.”

Advice: Maggie converted Tuesday evenings into “weekend time” to make up for time away at school. Instead of focusing on school, they do something fun like going out to dinner or to a park. She also recommends establishing limits. “I’ve become deliberate with my time. I am comfortable saying no to commitments outside my goal areas,” she explains.

The Keys to Making It Work are Planning and Communication

Based in the greater Philadelphia area, recent alumnus Nick Lupisella, WG’17, Associate Director, U.S. Biosimilars Immunology Engagement Strategy Lead at Merck, didn’t have a long commute to campus, but finding balance for school weekends was still a priority.

Nick was a father of one with another baby on the way when he started the program — but by the time he graduated, he and his wife had three kids under the age of 3.

Nick and his wife welcomed two boy to their family during his time in the EMBA program.

Childcare: When Nick was accepted into the program, he and his wife had conversations with their parents to let them know they may need extra support. “They have been a tremendous help and are always on-call to lend a hand,” he said.

Experience: “We have plenty of challenges like our kids getting sick, high-profile work projects – whatever life throws at you. Everyone comes into this program with high personal expectations and great work ethics, but we soon realize that other parts of our life do not stop and we need to figure out a routine while working together to succeed.”

Advice: “There are times when it is extremely challenging to find balance and you need to take a step back and try again. The keys to making it work are planning and communication. It’s very important to have your partner on board with this program as it is a big sacrifice for them too. You need to align expectations so you both understand the time commitment and the reward.”

Be Thoughtful about What You Can Do and What You Cannot Do

Askay and his wife with their little girl, who they welcomed during his first year in the EMBA program.

An engagement manager at ZS Associates in San Diego, Akshay Mehta, WG’18, is a second-year student at the San Francisco campus. He and his wife welcomed their first child during his second term in school.

Childcare: “My wife and I had a conversation around how we would manage having a baby while I am in the program and came up with a plan. I also tell her my schedule in advance so we can find times to connect. I don’t want her surprised by anything or to feel like she isn’t a priority.”

Experience: “Be transparent with your study team and let them know if something comes up at work or home and you need support. Then, in the next assignment, do more than your share. Everyone is busy and needs support from time to time. By being honest and proactive with your classmates, you build trust and they will provide that support.”

Advice: “It’s hard for ambitious people to say no, but lack of sleep takes a toll. You need to learn to create boundaries and be thoughtful about what you can and cannot do.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

Recent graduate Erin Talbot, WG’17, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Analytics at LightStream, SunTrust, now lives in San Diego, but commuted from Washington, D.C. as a student on the Philadelphia campus.

When she applied to Wharton, her son Jacob was 1 and she had her second son during the program.

Childcare: “I applied in Round 1 so that I would have more time to make arrangements if I was accepted. When I was admitted, we started making deliberate choices to make our routine more manageable. My husband decided to dial back his work, we moved into the [city] to cut down on commuting time, and we hired an au pair.”

When Erin applied to Wharton, her son Jacob was 1. She welcome her second son during the program, with lots of support from classmates.

Experience: “Of course I was concerned about how all of this would work, but I also was confident that it would be OK. As a parent, you’re already used to juggling a lot of commitments and concerns at once. You’ve learned how to manage busy times at work when your baby isn’t sleeping through the night and you’re exhausted. I knew that the EMBA program would be challenging and require a lot of time, but I already knew a lot about time management.”

Advice: “If you’re a new parent or thinking about expanding your family during your time at Wharton, I’d say go for it. Everyone at Wharton has some type of personal challenge he or she had to overcome to participate in the program. Being pregnant is just a more visible challenge. There were actually seven new moms in the class following mine. If you do decide to come to Wharton and grow your family, know your limits and be very honest about what you can and cannot do. You will need a good support system, and to delegate some things. But having a baby shouldn’t hold you back from doing this program.”

Posted: February 9, 2018

Wharton Stories

WCAI Analytics Accelerator Challenge Bridges the Gap Between Academia and Industry

In just one month, the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative delivered experiential learning opportunities to students and customized data solutions to businesses through the pilot Analytics Accelerator Challenge.

Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative’s mission has always been to bridge the gap between academia and industry. This Fall, Wharton Marketing Professors and WCAI Co-Directors Eric Bradlow and Raghu Iyengar wanted to find a way to engage more deeply with companies while giving students learning opportunities with real-world data and business contexts using a “learning by doing” approach. And they wanted to do it in one month.

The WCAI Analytics Accelerator Challenge emerged from this goal.

This pilot program invited organizations from all sectors — including non-profits and startups — to apply with a specific marketing analytics problem that could be solved with either data strategy, data collection, or data analysis.  After a one-month engagement, selected companies would have a data analytics solution developed by student teams, guided closely by Wharton faculty members. Given the constricting timeframe, the Initiative needed companies to be as specific as possible to ensure that when considering student applicants, they possess the appropriate skill sets and backgrounds that would match well with the selected data problems.

Though there was no monetary cost to apply to the challenge, WCAI required companies to have one point person committed to the project for approximately 10 hours a week for four weeks. This point person would also be required to travel to Philadelphia for the Analytics Accelerator Summit–an event designed to give student teams a stage to present their solutions in person.

Selected companies included Coqovins, Clientivity.com, Madison Reed, and URBN, Inc. (More information about their projects)

Once the companies and students were matched, WCAI assigned faculty and staff liaisons to each team. Though WCAI recommended student teams meet at a minimum once per week to discuss the project, everyone involved invested far more time to make the Accelerator a success. Faculty members not only attended weekly project meetings, they answered emails, made time for additional student meetings, helped their team with any technical aspects, and reviewed drafts of presentations. Meanwhile, WCAI staff provided additional project management support to students.

On the student side, groups divided responsibilities to help spread the heavy workload across the team – assigning each other roles such as client communication, project manager, or presenter. It was a big project to tackle, but the experience was worth it according to Bryan Lee,  WG’19, and the designated student project manager on Team Coqovins, “I know that, down the line, I would like to be in a position where I can be either an external or internal consultant helping companies really think about these problems like, ‘we have all this data, what can we do with it?’ and this experience with the Analytics Accelerator is really the perfect avenue to get real-life practice.”

Jon Allen, COO of Clientivity.com, lauds his student team by saying, “It wasn’t just weekly meetings. They were calling and texting me multiple times per week. There was one time, I remember, I took a conference call at 8:30 or 9:30 PM LA time, and the team was three hours ahead of me. They were dedicated to putting in a ton of hours. All of them were very professional.”

At the culminating Analytics Accelerator Summit on November 17, 2017, the student teams presented their solutions and findings in a private 90-minute meeting between company representatives, faculty members and students. Presentations included a thorough analysis of each company’s data problem, the proposed solutions and recommendations for next steps or further work. Students then handed over any cleaned data files, project reports, and usable code back to the companies.

Following student presentations, the Summit provided a complimentary afternoon of analytics content for a wider audience, intended to give attendees tools and resources to take their analytics practices to the next level. Programming included brief public versions of the student presentations; academic lightning talks from Wharton professors; and an industry-led panel discussion about how to be a data-driven business. The event ended with structured networking that allowed attendees to sign up for a timeslot with local vendors and other resources to discuss their data challenges.

The entire Analytics Accelerator Challenge and Summit have already proven to be a huge success for companies and students, and WCAI intends to improve upon the inaugural program for a second round next Fall.

This story was originally published by WCAI on January 24, 2018.

Posted: February 7, 2018

Wharton Stories

How One Wharton Week Celebrates Diversity and Opens Dialogue

Return on Equality Week is now One Wharton Week. Both a celebration and an examination of diversity at Wharton, the event will build community and dialogue with lectures, workshops, panels, and cultural events for MBA students from February 12 to 15.

“Given this is truly a partnership with the larger MBA community, students felt that One Wharton Week was more representative of the collaboration across student clubs,” said Jessica Guerrero, Co-Chair of the MBA Program Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee and Senior Associate Director for Diversity for MBA Admissions and Financial Aid.

The event was founded in 2015 as Diversity Week under the auspices of Return on Equality (RoE), then a brand-new coalition of clubs and now a student organization in its own right.  

“One Wharton Week has evolved in the three years since Return on Equality was founded but at its core, it’s still the greatest demonstration of how the Wharton community can come together and learn from each other,” said Simone Thomas, WG’18, co-president of ROE.  

Now a range of clubs comes together to put on programming, not just RoE. For example, this year One Wharton Week includes an event hosted with the Wharton Analytics Club to talk about bias in technology and algorithms and another with the Media & Entertainment Club to screen the movie Get Out, followed by small group dinners to foster discussion. (See full schedule of events.)

“We wanted this collaborative effort to express the deep commitment from all groups to diversity and inclusion work here at Wharton,” said Simone. “It’s not just ROE and we wanted the student body to understand that commitment.”

The Evolution of One Wharton Week

In 2017 Howie Kaufold, Vice Dean of the MBA Program, charged members of his Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Steering Committee to forge an active partnership with MBA students to collaborate and advise the MBA Program’s D&I Strategy. Student leaders from WGA, RoE, and members of the D&I Steering Committee formed the D&I Task Force, the ongoing partnership with the administration and students that sponsors One Wharton Week. The partnership between RoE, the administration, and the Wharton Graduate Association happened as a result of years of collaboration.

“This was a natural evolution in the commitment of each team in doing this work,” said Sue Kauffman DePuyt, Co-Chair of the MBA Program Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee and Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives and Communications for the Vice Dean’s Office.

For One Wharton Week, students typically do the vast majority of the programming with the support of the administration.

“This support comes in all forms,” said Jessica. “Dean Howie has a D&I Fund which helps to subsidize the cost of programming that supports the D&I Strategy. We help students secure speakers, promote the week, and even advise in some cases on content.”

#MeToo at One Wharton

The last event of the week is one of the most highly anticipated, as Wharton MBAs address the #MeToo phenomenon and issues of sexual assault and harassment that have emerged in recent months.

“ROE hasn’t yet talked about the #MeToo movement on campus so we’re planning to host a conversation on sexual assault but one that includes the often silenced male perspective,” said Simone. “We’re hoping to facilitate an open discussion in which we can understand the experience and thoughts from both genders and provide a platform for people to ask questions about a very uncomfortable and complicated topic.”

Simone said that the tense political climate impacted the campus last year, but the concerted efforts of students, organizations, and administrators has made a difference.

“This year, it feels like Wharton students have been more engaged with ROE and we believe that is in part because of the welcoming nature in which the club operates,” said Simone. “We want diverse perspectives in the room and really are trying to create an environment that feels that way.”

— Kelly Andrews

Posted: February 6, 2018

Wharton Stories

How to Talk with Your Employer about the Time Commitment You’ll Need for Wharton’s EMBA Program

Negotiations expert Wharton Prof. Peter Cappelli shares some tips about how to discuss this important topic with your employer.
Whether you are planning to ask your employer for financial support to attend Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives or you’re going to self-sponsor, you’ll still need to get your boss on board with the program’s schedule and time commitment. You’ll need every other Friday off as well as certain weeks throughout the two years.
Be prepared to present a strategic plan to demonstrate how your participation in the EMBA program will be feasible and beneficial to your company and your team. Detail how you plan to meet your work responsibilities while balancing your academic workload.
We asked Wharton Prof. Peter Cappelli, a negotiations expert and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, to share some tips about how to discuss this important topic with employers. Here’s his advice:

Remember That Flex Schedules Are Common

In most businesses now, employees are out of the office a lot. The idea that someone is not sitting at their desk in the office every other Friday is not unusual. Find out how extensive telecommuting already is in your organization as a way to start the conversation: a 2017 survey found that 43 percent of the U.S. workforce works at least some time remotely.

Getting your bosses to accept the fact that you will be out of the office is the first step toward the much harder issue of getting the organization to back off your work demands while you’re doing the program. It is probably more important to avoid unpredictable demands – “Jill, we want you to go to Spain for a couple of weeks” – than to cut back the overall amount of work.

That is unlikely to be something you will ever get in writing, and even if you do, the important understanding is still with your immediate supervisor. As many as two-thirds of U.S. workers report that they have some special arrangement with their supervisor that hasn’t necessarily been sanctioned by headquarters, so understandings on issues like this are very common.

Avoid Using Vacation Time

I would avoid suggesting to your bosses that you will use your vacation time to attend the program. You will certainly need time to catch your breath over the two years, and substituting the classroom for days off is bad for your health.

Make Sure It’s the Right Time

If you don’t have support from your supervisor, it’s not a good time to do the program. Even if don’t get a great (response) from your employer right now, it doesn’t mean you won’t a year from now.

Or if you don’t think you can back off work demands, then this probably isn’t the time to attend an executive MBA program. In my experience, students who get into academic trouble in the program do so because the demands of their day job make it impossible to do the classwork.

You might want to think about putting it off for a year or two. There are worse things than not going for a year or so.

You may find that some of Cappelli’s tips for negotiating financial sponsorship with your employer are also helpful in making the case for how your participation in this program will benefit your employer.
They are allowing you time away from the office so make sure they know the time you put into the program will be worth the value they’ll get out of it.

Posted: February 5, 2018

Wharton Stories

From Jamaica to Wharton: How This Undergrad Seized Upon Every Opportunity in His Path

Image: By Eric Sucar
“Lots of people don’t get these opportunities and I’m not going to waste mine, not for myself but for all those who don’t have these life-changing opportunities. I can have an impact or make a difference in someone’s life.”

If Dave Joseph, W’20, becomes prime minister of his native Jamaica one day, he will have achieved a long-time goal despite experiencing tragedy there. He says the island is a vital part of who he is and that it drives him to succeed.

“He dreams of working on Wall Street, then returning home to Jamaica to work in government or the private sector,” said friend McKayla Warwick, who met Dave at New Student Orientation when they were both University of Pennsylvania freshmen. “All of these aims are not only to reach personal goals but to give back to his family and his community.”

Dave lived with his family in the former Jamaican capital Spanish Town, in the parish of St. Catherine, until he was just 13 years old, a few years after his father was murdered. His mother then decided to relocate him and his sister first to Kansas City, Mo., with his grandfather and later to his grandmother’s West Philadelphia home.

When he and his family moved to the United States, he said he wasn’t going to, “waste the opportunity I was given.”

“It was really tough,” he said of his father’s death, “and to this day I still can’t wrap my head around it. I haven’t gotten any closure, but I used it to grow from.”

And grow, he has. He attended Philadelphia’s Lamberton High School and, when it was slated for closure, he joined protesters to advocate keeping it open. Dave moved on to Carver High School for Engineering and Science and during the summers attended Upward Bound and other mentorship programs for high school students at Penn.

“It was the first university that I ever stepped foot on,” Dave said.

A Summer Mentorship Program at the Law School gave him training and background on how the law works, but that wasn’t what drew him to apply to Penn.

“The next summer I took ‘Leadership in the Business World.’ That’s the program that sold Wharton to me. It was a very powerful moment for me when people told me I couldn’t get into Penn and I proved them wrong. I acknowledged that Penn was the place for me, and I got in by using the resources at my school, being proactive and doing everything I could to show that I was a strong applicant. All my hard work came to fruition.”

Paying It Forward

Other friends, mentors and professors all agree that Dave, a first-generation student, has what it takes to succeed.

“He’s the real deal,” said Dana M. Walker, his freshman writing seminar professor. “He’s a great, great person with an amazing work ethic, a student who helped everyone else in the room to do better.”

Taking “Leadership in the Business World” also introduced him to a fellow Jamaican, Justine Murray, W’18, who was a teaching assistant in the summer program.

“He came off as a very genuine person and he had a drive that made me want to see him succeed,” she said. “We connected because we are both Jamaican; it’s a small country.”

The two are now members of the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association and catch up at meetings, where Dawit Gebresellassie, W’18, who became a friend and mentor, is BWUA president.

“I’ve known Dave since his freshman year,” Dawit said, “and I oversee the work he and others do on the Howard E. Mitchell Memorial Conference we host every year.

“Dave is instrumental on the team developing the content of the conference and making sure it all is going logistically. He’s a good member of the team,” said Dawit. “I’ve seen him grow since freshman year. He’s always open to feedback and has become a mentor for others.”

Dawit said Dave is now a peer mentor doing a lot with freshmen.

“He’s developed into that leadership role, paying it forward.”

Dave, now a sophomore, is concentrating in finance and marketing at Wharton, impressing peers and faculty alike with his work ethic.

“Dave is one of the few leaders who can connect with everyone,” said Ernesto Rosales, W’19, who met Dave while serving as his cohort leader during Wharton Orientation. “I’ve seen him grow throughout his time at Penn, where he’s worked to make as much of an impact as he can all while maintaining his honest and kind self.

“I’ve also had the opportunity to see his leadership style and commitment in the Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club at Wharton,” said Ernesto, who added that Dave helped to create the club’s Finance Courses Panel, in which upperclassmen talk about their experiences in finance courses. “He created this event knowing that one of the biggest difficulties for students is not knowing what direction to take.

“Dave’s the type of person who not only makes you feel better if you’re down but also makes you try to be more like him,” Ernesto said. “He’s an amazing individual because of his optimism, humbleness and kindness.”

Laura Flippin, his Spanish professor, says one of Dave’s most notable aspects is his positive attitude.

“He consistently arrives to class with a smile and gives 100 percent, not only engaging wholeheartedly in the course material but also with his classmates through his enthusiasm and dedication. One day, when I walked into my classroom, Dave was even playing music in Spanish for his peers!”

When Dave was in Walker’s class, she said, “he took a lot of initiative for his own learning, always trying to make his writing better. He embraced everything about his education.”

His friend McKayla went further.

“His work ethic is such that, after everyone has gone to sleep, he is still up revising problem sets and grinding out applications for future endeavors. I often wonder where all of that drive comes from, but I recognize that pushing himself is how he achieves personal fulfillment.”

“That’s what gets me up in the morning,” Dave said. “Everything is a new challenge.”

“I’ve been fortunate, and I didn’t do these things on my own,” he said. “Lots of people don’t get these opportunities and I’m not going to waste mine, not for myself but for all those who don’t have these life-changing opportunities. I can have an impact or make a difference in someone’s life.”

Reflecting on His Journey to Wharton

Dave detailed many of these thoughts in an essay he wrote for the Better Make Room section of the website Medium, titled “Investing in Reflection.”

“I found out about this opportunity from a friend at Columbia,” he said. “They were looking for students to write their stories. I decided the most important thing I could share was how I made it up until now and encourage others to do so.

“It’s the first time I was published; it’s mostly dedicated to my mom and dad,” he said. “When my father was alive, he helped me become who I am today.”

His writing professor says that, though she did not help him with this article, she can see that “he applied to that piece what we’d been talking about” in his class assignments on scholarly works, opinion-editorials, and other assignments.

“He worked really hard and it shows in that piece,” Walker said.

But his is not a life that’s just about work, drive, and determination.

“Dave makes time for the people who are important to him,” McKayla said. “Every day I hear him talking to his mom in Patois or asking his little sister about school. He frequently checks in with his friends from in Jamaica, from secondary school here in Philly, and people who took classes with him during freshman year. I think he makes families wherever he goes.”

Family is what it all comes back to for Dave.

“My mom is very strong; I’m really proud that she stepped up to do the single-parent thing and really kept pushing us,” he said. “She always wanted the best for me and my younger sister.”

Dave puts as much effort into plans for the future as he does his daily routine.

“I hope to establish myself at a financial firm for some years. I want to go into law since its always been a dream, and then I plan to return home to Jamaica to help contribute to the development of infrastructure for my people.”

As McKayla summed it up: “Dave has revealed himself to be a mainstay, someone who dedicates himself to building lasting friendships that go beyond the surface.”

This story was adapted from an article by Julie McWilliams that originally appeared in Penn News


Wharton Stories

How Data Science Led This Undergrad to Business Analytics

M&T student Red Dimaano, W’18, E’18, on why he loves data science and how Prof. Pete Fader started him on a path into academic research.
There are over twenty Wharton concentrations, and one of the newest concentrations to be added to the list is business analytics: a path combining operations, information, and decisions with statistics. The blog of the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology talked with M&T senior Rafael “Red” Dimaano to find out more about this concentration and what led him to it.

1. What drew you to the business analytics concentration?

Being able to declare the concentration was honestly sheer luck! Earlier in my studies, I made a list of Wharton electives I wanted to take: most were quantitative and data-centric courses, fitting my interests in statistics and computer science. I didn’t put much thought into concentrations and decided I’d figure it out later. Then business analytics was announced as a concentration the summer after sophomore year and, upon looking at it, I realized every class I wanted to take was on the list of requirements. Boom! My concentration was born.

2. Why do you think business analytics was added as a concentration? What benefits does it afford to M&T and Penn students?

In my opinion, business analytics is one of the best concentrations Wharton is offering right now. Data has become increasingly important in the business world and its value cannot be understated. Personally, I see business analytics as a nice complement to my computer science major in terms of learning about data science. Though both curricula have many offerings in data science, the business analytics concentration has a stronger focus on statistics and optimization, while the computer science classes focus more on algorithms and technologies. I like having that double whammy of data from very different perspectives.

3. What opportunities do you see for your future with this concentration?

While the concentration is overall geared towards learning more about “data science,” I found the courses I took helped make that interest set more specific. In particular, taking MKTG/STAT 476 with Prof. Peter Fader has sparked my interest in research. After taking that class, I went into research with him on advanced statistical/decision models for data and decided that a Ph.D. might be the way to go after Penn.

4. What advice would you give to students trying to decide on an area of study or concentration?

Most people think of a concentration as a list of classes needed to get it done. I recommend doing the reverse: first list the classes you want to take, then slot them into the requirements. This method provides flexibility in designing your course of study by say, doing an individualized concentration or petitioning for certain classes to count for an existing one. Or, you might get lucky and a new concentration will come up that fits what you want exactly!

5. You said you started doing research with Prof. Fader after taking his class. How did you get there and what are you working on with him?

I got there through his class! It’s arguably one of the best classes I took at Penn. After the class ended, there was still so much more I wanted to learn. There aren’t other classes teaching similar material, so the only good option was to do research.

I’m currently working on the problem of estimating customer lifetime value for two-sided markets. Estimating customer lifetime value in single-seller situations is a well-studied problem we talked about a lot in 476. The two-sided market case is different since firms that run two-sided platforms may also be interested in how valuable their sellers are and the value of their interactions with certain buyers. We’re currently working on extending the current models for single sellers to this case.

Originally published by M&T for Life on December 20, 2017. 


Wharton Stories

Animal Testing That Is Kind, Not Cruel

The One Health Company founder Ben Lewis, WG’16, Wharton and Penn Vet alum, talks ethical animal testing with Karl Ulrich, Wharton Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

By Karl Ulrich, Wharton Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship & Innovation —

Imagine: animal testing that is as good for animals as it is for humans.

Most of us know that medical animal testing goes on, and we accept it as the bleak price we pay for the medical miracles that will hopefully save our parents, our children, ourselves, when a terrible disease takes hold. We know—or we should—that part of the process of testing drugs or therapies for human use involves making healthy animals sick, in order to test new treatments.

But what if there was another, better way?

Ben Lewis, WG’16, Wharton and Penn Vet alum and founder of The One Health Company, has found that better way.

Here’s his elevator pitch: “The One Health Company is changing the way that animal testing is done. We’re totally turning it on its head, from something that hurts animals to something that actually benefits animals. Rather than taking animals in the laboratory that are otherwise healthy, giving them a disease, and then testing on them, what we do is we work with pet parents whose dogs and cats are naturally sick, and we pair them into pharmaceutical trials in an effort to try to make them better. The best part is, we actually pay for everything, and these pets are being seen by the world’s best veterinarians. And it turns out that this data ends up saving pharma a tremendous amount of money on the back end.” Listen to Ben give his elevator pitch. 

Dog with bubble
The One Health Company wants to give pets cutting edge medical treatment–and get better testing results for human treatment as well.

Not only does The One Health Company offer more ethical animal testing, and give “pet parents” the chance to enroll their sick animals in clinical trials with cutting edge treatments—but the data from these tests is significantly better.

According to Ben, “The problem with the status quo of animal testing is that 92% of drugs that actually work in traditional animal models end up failing in people in late clinical stages. And that’s why the average cost of developing new drugs is about $2.6 billion. The primary reason for this 92% failure rate is actually just crappy animal models. It is really difficult to essentially make an animal sick that is otherwise healthy.”

With The One Health Company model, Ben explains, “what is really cool is we can bring that number down from like 92% into the mid-thirties, which is a tremendous, tremendous change from the status quo of the industry.”

Cutting edge treatment for pets. Better testing for humans. Less expensive drug development for Pharmaceutical companies. A three-way win.

And that $2.6 billion price tag for new drugs? “The NIH published a paper demonstrating that comparative trials, the ones that we run, save an average of $117 million per drug.”

The idea for The One Health Company came when Ben enrolled his own dog in a clinical trial. His dog had osteosarcoma, and was given a survival time of about three months. After participating in an immunotherapy trial, he lived three and a half years. Ben was intrigued by the model of using sick pets for clinical trials. He learned that it took the trial three years to find thirteen dogs to participate—basically the logistics were a nightmare. Pharmaceutical companies told Ben that they wished there were a company to organize pets for trials like this.

Here’s my takeaway: pay attention to the pain points —the places where people wish there was a better solution than what they’ve got now.

Pharmaceutical companies want better subjects for clinical trials, and to save money. Pet owners want the best possible care for their sick animals. Pretty much everyone prefers more humane animal testing. Ben and The One Health Company found a way to create a three-way win. That’s something any entrepreneur can be proud of.

This piece originally appeared on Forbes.
Launch Pad airs weekly on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Listen to more of Karl’s conversations with entrepreneurs on Launch Pad.

Posted: February 2, 2018

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