The Wharton School has connected 241 MBA students with Wharton graduates during the virtual semester to encourage networking through the Wharton Alumni Welcome Program.
The pairings came as a pleasant surprise to the students who received emails notifying them of their matches in September and October, students said. Executive Director of Alumni Relations Shannon Connelly wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the program will have two more waves in November and spring semester to connect the rest of the approximately 1,500 MBA students.
“It is my hope that, by the end of the academic year, that all MBA students have been matched with a Wharton graduate," Connelly wrote. "We really hope that this program allows students to understand the scope of the Wharton alumni network, and how it is such a supportive, encouraging, and inspiring community for graduates around the world.”
Students who have been matched with at least one Wharton graduate said they were previously unaware of the program and pleased when alumni reached out to connect.
2004 Wharton MBA graduate Ryan Koch emailed first-year MBA student Maham Ejaz to virtually meet over Zoom in early September. Ejaz praised the program and said the pairing is especially beneficial to her, as she hopes to pursue a career in tech — which is Koch's field. Koch is director of strategy - financial services at firm management software company Intapp.
“We discussed our similar interests, travel, what his everyday life is like, so that helps me see what my future is actually going to look like," she said. "We talked about all his career transitions and his pre-MBA experience as well. He mentioned all things he loved about Wharton, some things he regretted doing, some things he regretted not doing.”
Ejaz added she plans to meet Koch in person soon in Philadelphia.
Similarly, first-year MBA student Heather Meads was both surprised and heartened when 1998 Wharton MBA graduate Deborah Moy and 2016 Wharton MBA graduate Michael Modon reached out to her, separately, via email. Meads appreciated the different expertise Modon and Moy can offer, as Modon's experience in entertainment aligns with her career interests while Moy provides a unique perspective in real estate and consulting.
“Meeting with [Moy] made me realize that it is beneficial to also connect with those who might not have the same background as you, because you can learn new things, so I really appreciated that angle," Meads said.
First-year MBA student Kushal Mirpury, who hails from India, also praised the program. He appreciated his pairing with an international Wharton graduate from India, which he described as "thoughtful" of The Wharton Alumni Welcome Program organizers. As someone who hopes to assume a senior-level position in the private equity and banking sector, Mirpury said the advice he is getting from 1986 Wharton MBA graduate Mandy Puri, whose career has taken her to "the highest levels" at investment management companies Merrill Lynch and BlackRock, according to Wharton, is invaluable.
"What is helpful is that [alumni] are able to tell us how their experience was in person and how they were able to make the best use of their time at Wharton," he said.
MBA students are automatically considered for the program and do not have to apply to participate. Wharton graduates can voluntarily sign up to participate in the program and subsequently connect with their student match over video call, phone, or email. The frequency and type of meetings between student and alumni matches up to their own discretion, according to the website.
The Wharton Alumni Welcome Program is a rebrand of the initial "Remote Together" initiative announced by Wharton in July to connect first and second-year MBAs in various cities to study together, prep for interviews, and socialize in "pods," which will also be connected to local alumni, Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Reilly wrote in an emailed statement to the DP.
The purpose of the rebranding was to reflect that the program would continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic when classes resume to normal, in-person operations, Reilly wrote.
Alumni who volunteered to participate in the program, like 1997 Wharton MBA graduate Laurel Cavalluzzo, also praised the opportunity to connect with current Wharton students. Cavalluzzo said she sees her involvement in the program as a way to give back to the school and lend any help she can give to students navigating the uncertain job market due to the pandemic.
Cavalluzzo matched with first-year Wharton MBA student Philip Wagley in early September and reached out to him via email and then LinkedIn. Cavalluzzo said she has had one Zoom call with Wagley and hopes to set up another call soon to learn more about how the pandemic has affected Wagley's career plans.
“I know that a big part of why this program was formed was to provide any type of support, resources that students otherwise wouldn’t have access to," Cavalluzzo said. "Hopefully it’s beneficial for them just to know that somebody is out there and to have a conversation with.”
Mirpury agreed, adding that it is difficult for MBA students to meet new people and network given the travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
“It’s helpful to have [Wharton] help us with meeting alumni from the industry who understand the situation we are in and want to help us achieve our career goals," Mirpury said.