How can Wharton leverage its strengths as a research powerhouse and leadership training ground to benefit more people and answer more questions to advance the world?

That was the question I found myself asking time and again during the early listening tour in the beginning of my deanship. Upon hearing about the expertise of our faculty and accomplishments of our graduates, it became apparent that Wharton’s ability to deliver global impact is limitless. We need only to train our talents and attention on the most pressing topics to drive valuable and lasting change.

The Wharton Way is our philosophical North Star, guiding how Wharton drives greater influence and collective progress in the world.

It boldly declares our intention to focus our expertise on issues of critical importance to our students, our faculty, and our society at large. And it is our commitment to wielding our heft for the greater good of people around the globe.

Wharton is an institution full of potential and without equal. We’ve evolved from educating our first dozen undergraduate students in 1881, to providing the most expansive array of programs to learners ranging from pre-college to the C-suite. Over our 142 years, we earned our substantial reputation for the discovery and deployment of novel, evidence-based knowledge. And we’ve actively sought out interdisciplinary experts and partners to convene on — and provide answers to — timely, worldwide issues.

Simply put, our heritage of preeminence is what propels the Wharton Way — and our endless pursuit of excellence. 

With academic foci ranging from legal studies to finance, ethics to operations, and analytics to healthcare management, our faculty produces more research-backed solutions than any other business school. Technology has opened up new opportunities to expand access to a Wharton education. And our partners play a critical role in fueling our contributions, bringing perspectives that expand our thinking and outcomes. But I am challenging Wharton not to rest on the laurels of our innumerable successes.

“We must leverage our storied history to lead innovation in business education.”

We must disseminate Wharton insights beyond the academy and our campuses. New ideas and concepts emanating from our institution will have the biggest and most immediate impact in the real world. The Wharton Way is our pledge to ensure more people and organizations can access our scholarship to navigate day-to-day decisions.

We must leverage our storied history to lead innovation in business education. As we equip current and future decision-makers with the knowledge to affect policy, economies, and industry, we are also thinking about ways to reinvigorate traditional pedagogy. Innovation not only increases Wharton’s reach, but also evolves the very ethos of how we engage with our students. The Wharton Way takes our pioneering learning approach and promises continued progress for the next generation.

Finally, we must bridge the divides that hold us back from holistic progress. Whether real or manufactured, certain boundaries limit our ability to collaborate effectively on problems that affect us all. Wharton’s existence within the University of Pennsylvania and our many relationships mean we can activate the broader business community as partners on a quest for collective advancement. The Wharton Way illuminates our plan to expand collaborations with industry, nonprofits, and other academic institutions to further generate groundbreaking ideas.

Taken together, these foci bolster Joseph Wharton’s founding mission to advance society by creating wealth and economic opportunity for all people.

The Wharton Way directs our steps by highlighting the priorities we will pursue for maximum impact. We are confident this approach will empower more people to succeed — and lead — wherever they are on their educational and professional journeys.

No institution is better poised or committed to uncovering the insights that drive perpetual progress. I invite you to join us as we live out the Wharton Way in practice, together.


Erika James is Dean, Reliance Professor of Management and Private Enterprise, and Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This post was originally published on LinkedIn, where she was named an “influencer” for her insights in the business world. View the original post here. Follow Erika on Twitter