Graduation is a time of great joy and excitement—and some tears. Over the years, Wharton Social Impact Initiative has had the honor to work with so many students from across the University, and more than 80 of our social impact fellows graduated this year alone. We will miss them, and look forward to staying in touch and building the Penn/Wharton social impact network.
At Wharton, Graduation Weekend is even more festive because it coincides with Reunion Weekend, where we welcome back alums to campus for three days. As a member of the graduating class of 2001, this year was my 15-year reunion and I was excited to celebrate with friends and colleagues old and new.
The reunions are a mix of celebration, networking, and learning. Being a #WhartonGrad means having opportunities for continuous, lifelong learning, so the reunion schedule included multiple “master class” sessions hosted by Wharton faculty and alums.
I was delighted to moderate a panel on “Business Strategies for a Better World” with fellow alums Abigail Bach, G’86 WG’86, Dawn Hines, WG’91, and Bill Lenihan, WG’96.
Abigail works to support education in Africa as VP of Program Strategy at Edify. Dawn leads and founded Acentura, an impact investing fund focusing on building an agriculture ecosystem in Africa. And Bill leads Off Grid electric, a for-profit company bringing affordable solar energy and innovative financing to Africa. Despite differences in their business models and areas of focus, each pointed to the value that their Wharton training in finance, operations, strategy, and negotiations played in their work in social impact.
We were in a large classroom in Huntsman Hall, and the room was packed. Every seat was filled and attendees were sitting in the aisles and standing against the wall just to see what our guests had to say. The alumni panelists were wonderful, the discussion lively and engaging. I got to talk about the great work Wharton is doing in social impact, and we connected with so many passionate alumni who are delighted to see Wharton, and their former classmates, doing such great work.
When the WSII was created by retired Dean Tom Robertson in 2010, there was a sense that Wharton (and the world) needed a center dedicated to business strategies for a better world. Our success over the past six years is an indication that Wharton read the situation correctly.
Students, faculty, alums, staff, and our external partners—all are enthusiastic about the role that Wharton can play in bringing rigor, financial acuity, and a vast network to answer today’s most challenging business and social questions.
Social impact is a part of Wharton’s core values. And we’ve only just started. We can say the same about our alums, current students, and prospective students.
Editor’s Note: this article was originally posted on WSII’s site on May 25, 2016.