This fall, hundreds of Wharton MBA Program for Executives (WEMBA) alumni returned to Wharton’s San Francisco and Philadelphia campuses for their first in-person Alumni Reunion since 2019. These reunion events featured guest speakers, remarks from Dean Erika James, and opportunities for graduates to reconnect with their former classmates and professors. Adding to the excitement was the Wharton San Francisco 20th Anniversary Celebration, which took place over the Reunion weekend and marked two decades since the west coast campus first opened.
The Impact of the Alumni Network
Raj Bharti, WG’15, was thrilled to catch up with former classmates, faculty, and friends at the San Francisco Reunion. “It felt like we had never left,” he said. “We’re still those students at heart, having fun with one another.” A few years after graduating, Raj put his entrepreneurial skills to work and founded Lastmile Leaders, an Amazon logistics partner serving the Seattle region. “When I launched my company, a former WEMBA classmate invested in it without hesitation because he trusted me fully. He knew exactly what I had learned in the program and had faith that I would be successful in my venture. Another WEMBA classmate helped me review the legal contract with Amazon. I believe that I could call the people in my Wharton alumni inner circle in the middle of the night if I needed anything,” said Raj.
The power of the alumni network has reached beyond the scope of business to Raj’s personal life as well. “Recently, my son was preparing to apply to college, and he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study. Some of my Wharton alumni connections were more than happy to jump on the phone with him to talk through his options. They took time out of their day to explain to my son what a career in business, law, or medicine really looks like. We all have busy lives, but we’ll do anything to help out a fellow alum.”
San Francisco Alumni Reunion weekend was jam-packed with happy hours, dinners, career advising sessions, speaker events, and more. On the final day, Raj and his WG’15 classmates chartered a sailboat for a spectacular cruise around the San Francisco Bay. “It was a smaller group on the sailing trip, and we got to talking about the return on investment (ROI) of the program,” he said. “We came to the consensus that you cannot measure the ROI in dollars and cents. There are so many invaluable intangibles that can’t be counted for, so an Excel sheet can’t show them.”
Looking to the future, Raj envisions even more exciting Alumni Reunions with the addition of the Wharton MBA Program for Executive Global cohort students. “The Global cohort has huge potential,” said Raj. “I have confidence that this addition will contribute to a larger and more diverse alumni network with an even stronger global presence.”
At the Philadelphia Alumni Reunion, graduates attended a whirlwind of activities including golf outings, private art museum tours, and bowling parties. A highlight of the weekend was the Wharton Women Alumnae Happy Hour, an event organized by Stephanie Yee, C’08, WG’21, and Linda Habgood, WG’98.
Stephanie and Linda met in 2019 at an alumnae dinner organized by Cathy Molony, Director of Alumni Engagement for the Philadelphia and San Francisco cohorts. “We started brainstorming ways to bring WEMBA women together more regularly,” Stephanie explained. “And we decided to create a networking program that met virtually so we could include alumnae from all over the world. This was right before the pandemic, and before Zoom took over our lives! Our first Wharton Women meeting took place over Zoom just two days before the COVID-19 lockdown. Since then, we’ve met every month to discuss our professional journeys, hear from guest speakers, and strengthen our relationships with one another.”
The members of Wharton Women have maintained strong connections by bonding virtually over the past two years but were overjoyed to meet in person for the first time during Reunion weekend. “There was an incredible turnout of women across a variety of different classes,” said Linda. “For me, it was the first time I met many of the women in person! I was so pleased to see everyone “in real life” and feel the energy, enthusiasm, and camaraderie in the room.”
Because Stephanie attended Penn for her bachelor’s degree, she already understood the value of the Penn network. “What I didn’t realize was that the Wharton network really takes it to the next level,” she said. “Last year after graduating, I was looking for my next career move and switching both functions and industries. I was completely blown away by how many Wharton alumni replied to my cold e-mails requesting informational interviews with them. They were generous with their time and really wanted to help. Professionally, that was a complete game changer for me.”
Looking to the future, Linda and Stephanie are committed to making the Wharton Women Alumnae Happy Hour part of Alumni Reunion’s regularly scheduled programming on both campuses. They’re also exploring ways to reunite alumnae in person more often. “We’re talking about hosting another in-person Wharton Women networking opportunity in the spring,” Linda said. “Being able to come together in person and solidify the bonds we build every month virtually is incredibly impactful.”
Linda and Stephanie look forward to increasing the membership of Wharton Women and welcoming an even bigger turnout at future Reunions. “We encourage WEMBA women candidates and alumnae to join the Wharton Women LinkedIn group and stay updated on our upcoming events,” said Linda. “The more voices and unique perspectives we can add to the conversation, the better!”
— Kendra King
Posted: December 1, 2022