Dillon Patel — star of the reality TV show “Family Karma” — will matriculate into the Wharton MBA program in fall 2021.
Patel was awarded the Prism Fellowship, a full-tuition scholarship founded in 2020 for an incoming Wharton MBA student who has demonstrated outstanding membership and leadership in the LGBTQ community.
"Family Karma" — the first American reality television show with an all-Indian-American cast — follows the relationships of a number of Indian-American families in Miami and focuses specifically on a group of eight friends. Patel said the show, which began airing in 2020, focuses on interpersonal dynamics and the relationships between generations.
“I think a lot of folks — whether they’re immigrants, or come from tight-knit communities, or whatever else — really relate to the stories we tell on the show,” he said.
Patel, who identifies as queer, has also spent years participating in LGBTQ advocacy. He was a leader of an LGBTQ student organization at Duke University — where he completed his undergraduate education — and volunteered for and participated in the AIDS/LifeCycle bike ride to raise money to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Patel also helped establish a global LGBTQ mentorship program at Zendesk — a software company where he leads strategy and operations — and earned the company a spot on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2021 List of Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality. He noted that he was able to earn the spot on the list by advocating for trans-inclusive healthcare coverage, mental health coverage, and benefits for employees trying to start families through “less traditional means,” such as surrogacy or adoption.
He added that he chose Wharton because he wants to continue participating in the LGBTQ community.
“I really wanted to have, one, a city that was open and welcoming — and I think Philadelphia is perfect for that — and, two, an MBA class size that has the size and scale to have a vibrant queer community,” he said. “And I think Penn, being one of the larger [MBA] programs, had both of those things.”
Patel said he considered receiving an MBA because of the opportunities to explore career paths different from his previous work experience, adding that he will keep "an open mind” for career paths after completing the MBA program.
“I think some of Penn’s peer institutions just really decided what an MBA was hundreds of years ago and just kept doing that for many many years even as the world changed,” he said. “Penn, meanwhile, developed majors, created a campus in Silicon Valley, [and] developed different field activities. I think it truly is a modern MBA for the changing times in a way that I think its peer institutions haven’t done."