On Saturday, August 31, 1996, the new millennium arrived on our doorstep — quite literally! Penn’s undergraduate Class of 2000, including more than 400 Wharton first-year students, converged on campus with fanfare befitting their status as our brightest and most talented class ever.

That Wharton is the choice of the nation’s best undergraduate students is a wonderful endorsement of our program. This year alone we saw a 20 percent increase in the number of applicants, and a 30-point rise in the average SAT score of this pool. Each year, our students come off the blocks ready and eager for a rigorous academic experience that will prepare them for business leadership in the next century.

We are unique in the Ivy League in offering undergraduate business degrees. In fact, most of our peers in the top and second tiers of business schools do not have an undergraduate division. What really sets us apart, however, is our unfailing commitment to innovation across the board. Our defining mission of redefining leadership for the next century has enabled us to develop programs at every level of business education that set the standard in the field.

Our mission also demands constant renewal. In 1992, the Undergraduate Division undertook a thorough assessment and retooling of its offerings to ensure that our program focuses most effectively on five major emphases:

– depth and rigor in skill-based teaching in the traditional business functions and cross-disciplinary expansion
– personal leadership skills
– new areas of knowledge, including information and communication technology
– globalization
– practical application

The demands of our academic program in no way diminish the wonderfully energetic contributions of Wharton undergraduates to the Wharton and Penn communities. They play key roles in student government and club activities, on student-faculty-administrative committees, in the Greek system and on athletic teams. I am particularly proud of the service they give to our West Philadelphia neighbors in a variety of volunteer efforts.

And even in a very tight job market, Wharton seniors are interviewed by an average of 22 firms and receive an average of three offers. A survey of alumni five years after graduation indicates that fewer than a third go on to pursue an MBA, while 40 percent continue in their careers without any graduate degree. Our program prepares them to compete successfully as they enter and as they advance in their careers.

The roster of Wharton undergraduate alumni includes accomplished leaders in virtually every industry, in multinational corporations and entrepreneurial ventures, and in economic and public policy-making positions in nations around the globe. Likewise, they remain involved with the Wharton and Penn community after graduation, serving on advisory boards at the School and University levels, delivering lectures on campus, generously supporting activities through personal and corporate gifts, recruiting, and mentoring current students.

The promise of Wharton’s Class of 2000 is, I believe, still greater. Under the very able leadership of Vice Dean Richard Herring (profiled on pages 18-21) and our world-class faculty, our undergraduate division will continue to advance into new areas to keep pace with the interests of our students and the demands of global business and management. I know you will enjoy watching — and being a part of — this unfolding future.

Thomas P. Gerrity