It is inspiring to consider Wharton’s mission alongside present-day opportunities for the School. Joseph Wharton set out to advance society by creating economic opportunity for all when he established the world’s first collegiate business school in 1881. Since then, Wharton has created and disseminated business knowledge to a global audience ranging from pre-college students to senior executives. The School is now exceptionally well-positioned to seize the moment — to identify the role of business education in every facet of society, to carry out our founder’s mission, and to further activate the Wharton community in this quest.
The More Than Ever campaign exceeded its ambitious goals, bringing expanded support for student access, faculty excellence, and research and programs that will yield positive outcomes across the world. The Wharton alumni network is now more than 100,000 strong — opportunities for alumni to connect abound. The School has welcomed an incoming MBA class this fall that is a record 52 percent female students. They join their classmates in representing the diversity needed in tomorrow’s holistic leaders.
With thanks to donors for their generosity, with admiration for students and the promise they bring, with respect for the insights of faculty, and with the partnership of an incredible alumni community, I am delighted to take this letter as the opportune time to add a milestone by debuting the Wharton Way.
The Wharton Way is a road map for the future that honors the School’s mission. Think of it as a philosophy by which Wharton will step forward, and a plan for building momentum in serving as the world’s most trusted source of business knowledge and leadership development. The Wharton Way leverages the School’s unique strengths and recognizes the great responsibility that comes with leading business education into the future. It is rooted in four areas of opportunity:
1) Elevate the impact of business scholarship. Wharton will enhance the visibility of academic research with industry applications, balancing quantitative expertise with leadership and interpersonal development and creating the norm for scholarship that is in lockstep with societal trends. The School’s faculty — the largest, most diverse across disciplines, and most published — combined with platforms such as Knowledge@Wharton, Business Radio on SiriusXM, and research centers, will drive this forward.
2) Bridge academic divides through business. Collaboration across disciplines will grow critical thinking among students and spread innovative faculty ideas for the good of the world. Joint degree programs, immersive international experiences, student co-curricular leadership, and alumni across sectors will bring this to fruition.
3) Innovate in educational pedagogy. Bringing together non-degree business education and pre-college students with undergraduate, MBA, Executive MBA, and PhD students, Wharton adapts its content and methods for learners of all stages. The School’s entrepreneurial spirit, faculty dedication, student engagement, technology professionals, and alumni experts are among Wharton’s greatest assets.
4) Foster diverse and inclusive environments. Cultivating talent and nurturing new ideas hinges on a community of differing identities and points of view. Wharton students, faculty, staff, and alumni possess a shared strength through such differences. Enhancing Wharton’s diversity will empower equitable decision-making and positive outcomes within individuals and across communities.
I look forward to living out the Wharton Way in practice together. There are opportunities within the classroom, in the field, in the physical and virtual workplace, and in the minds and hearts of Wharton community members for such concepts to come to life. Thank you for being a part of this embodiment and extension of the School in creating opportunities for all.
Erika H. James is dean, Reliance Professor of Management and Private Enterprise, and professor of management at the Wharton School.
Published as “The Wharton Way” in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of Wharton Magazine.