Not all Wharton MBA students know Kembrel Jones personally, but they all have his number.
“I give everyone my cell phone number,” Wharton’s deputy vice dean of student life said. That’s about 1,600 MBA students who have Wharton’s “Dean of Happiness” programmed into their phones.
Jones’ unofficial title was coined by the class of 2009 — the first he worked with at Wharton.
The nickname derived not only from Jones’ personal demeanor, but also from his dedication to student welfare.
Jones’ position is a deanship, and he focuses entirely on the student body — a position that did not exist before he arrived. Thus, it was mostly up to Jones himself to determine the focus of his position.
Broadly, he defined his job as “working with students on everything outside the classroom.” This covers responsibilities as big as organizing Wharton’s MBA Welcomes for newly admitted students, and as small as lending out a stapler to a student in need.
Perhaps what Jones is best known for is his unofficial role as a counselor to Wharton students. He describes this role as something that “just happened.”
“People learned that I cared about them,” he said.
Wharton MBA student John Roberts confirmed this. “You never get the feeling of the school not having your best interest in mind, because Kembrel has your best interests in mind,” he said.
Things didn’t always work this way, as students will attest.
“Before he came it was a completely different atmosphere,” Wharton MBA student Colin Brown said. “He definitely has boosted the morale.”
According to students, Jones’ visibility is what sets him apart from other administrators.
“He doesn’t just wait in his office for people to come talk to him,” Roberts said. “He’s out there, in the hallways, finding people and introducing himself.”
Jones is not bothered by his unofficial title, even if students mistake it for his official one as they have in the past.
A position like Jones’ does not exist at peer institutions, though Psychology graduate student Marie Forgeard, who also works at the Positive Psychology Center, thinks that the position is not a bad idea.
“There is research that indicates that happier students learn better,” she said. “Well being is something that should be fostered by institutions.”
Without a doubt, Jones has had a hand in producing happier students.
“Whenever I’m having a bad day, I just go into his office and he’s the happiest person I’ve ever met,” Wharton MBA student Jason Carter said. “It’s impossible to have a bad day around him.”Comments powered by Disqus
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