Diana Robertson, the new vice dean of the Wharton School, is building her vision for undergraduates around four words: purpose, agility, community, technology.
Robertson said she hopes Wharton undergraduates become more agile in their learning and can reflect more on their purpose during their time at Penn.
Wharton announced on May 22 that Robertson would serve as the new vice dean of Wharton undergraduate programs. A Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor, Robertson officially replaced Wharton Vice Dean Lori Rosenkopf on July 1. Robertson, who has been a professor at Wharton since 2007, focuses on business ethics and corporate social responsibility in her research.
Robertson encourages students to reflect more about their purpose while at Penn. She said the reflection should go beyond academics and career options, and should focus on who each student is as a person and what makes one happy.
“You can’t wake up one morning and say, 'Oh, I know what my purpose is,'” Robertson said. “It’s an iterative process. It takes time.”
Robertson added that students should balance their academic and professional life with their recreational life.
“Balance is a word I don’t hear students talk about very much,” Robertson said.
Another aspect Robertson focused on is for students to become more versatile in their skillsets.
“Agility is saying that you are willing to explore lots of different pathways,” Robertson said. “The world is changing so fast. As a school, we are preparing students for careers to work in firms and maybe even industries that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”
Wharton needs to offer students a set of skills so they can explore a wide variety of avenues in the future, Robertson said.
Robertson cited “Wharton 101: Business and You,” a course that all Wharton freshmen must take, as an example of developing an agile skillset. The course was designed to expose students to all 10 departments and 19 concentrations at Wharton. While many already know Wharton’s Finance Department, Robertson said the course introduces students to other departments, like Marketing, Accounting, Real Estate, Management, and Statistics, so that students can learn about other potential careers.
Robertson said one of her goals is building community and making the school a place where each student can have their voices heard and make a contribution.
During this year's New Student Orientation, Robertson said there was an increased focus on talking with freshmen, rather than a simple tour of buildings, in order to foster a closer community.
“I want students to feel proud to be at Wharton, to feel proud to be at Penn,” Robertson said. “And for every student to feel that they belong here — which is hard.”
As the world is changing rapidly, Robertson said the school should continue offering education on technology and analytics to prepare students with the technical skills they need in workplaces in the future.