Prior to my election as Wharton Women President, I spent a lot of time contemplating the changes the position would bring to my life. I knew the job would result in more responsibilities and less free time, but I didn’t anticipate what would prove to be the biggest change of all.
No, this change was not a new sense of leadership, or of empowerment. Instead, it came in the form of an email I received in the first week of my tenure.
The subject line read, “Your Mailbox is Full.”
Since my sophomore year, I had spent countless hours carefully considering the decision to take on such a large role. I took into account whether I thought I would enjoy the position, whether I was the right person for the job and whether I was ready to take on such a significant commitment. What I didn’t realize was the number of emails I would receive from the many people interested in the work of Wharton Women.
At first I ignored the message—until a day later when I realized that my Blackberry had gone 24 hours without buzzing. How could this be? I re-read the message only to discover the fine print: My Wharton email account would be frozen until I deleted a large portion of my emails.
I admit, in an effort to keep track of everything happening in my life, I’d become an email hoarder. With over 5,000 emails currently in my inbox, it had become apparent that I had barely deleted a single message since my first day at Wharton. I decided if I was going to do this the right way, I had to start at the very beginning.
“Welcome to Wharton!”
“Welcome to Wharton!” was the first email I decided to tackle. Received the summer before my freshman year, the message was my first introduction not only to Wharton Women as an organization, but also to the community of the many helpful and incredible women behind its name.
The message was from Lisa Cuesta, W’10, who introduced herself as my Wharton Women Freshman Buddy. She had gone to high school about a half an hour away from me and offered to help with anything I might need in preparing for Wharton. Little did I know at the time that we would travel on the 2009 Wharton International Program to Argentina together, or that she would become one of my very closest friends.
The instant I saw this email I couldn’t help but smile. In December of my freshman year, after delving into the Freshmen Buddies program and attending many of the organization’s events, I decided to apply for the Vice President of Publications position on the Executive Board. I interviewed with the previous Executive Board, and with a little bit of humor and a lot of luck, I got the job. Almost immediately, I received an email from the incoming Vice President of Alumnae Relations, Lucy Obukowicz, W’10, welcoming me to the Board and assuring me she’d be there to help me along the way. Later that day, countless other members sent their congratulations.
“Maya Angelou Meet and Greet”
This one arrived more than a year later.
By this point, I had successfully served my term as Vice President of Publications and had loved (almost) every minute of it. I was then elected to the position of Vice President of University Relations, and had made the decision not to spend a semester abroad to enjoy these on-campus opportunities. Before I could rethink my decision, I was invited to a private reception with Maya Angelou, world-renowned author and keynote speaker of the 2009 Women’s Week. This experience was an unbelievable honor, and Dr. Angelou was one of the many accomplished women I began to meet through Wharton Women.
“Thanks and Praise”
The summer before my junior year, I was given the opportunity to host Hala Moddelmog, President and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Moddelmog embodies what every Wharton Women member strives to become.
In honor of her arrival, I created “PENN THINKS PINK,” a campus-wide campaign to raise money for Komen as well as increase awareness of breast cancer. We eventually raised over $3,500, and the experience allowed me to interact with student leaders across all areas of campus.
After her speech and an intimate dinner, Ms. Moddelmog sent me her “Thanks and Praise.” She wrote, “I appreciate the opportunity to have connected with Wharton Women and the other campus leaders.” Though she may have thanked me, I was the one who was grateful and honored to have had this meaningful experience.
“Dear WHARTON WOMEN PRESIDENT!!!!”
I received hundreds of emails this past December congratulating me on my election as President, but the most cherished one came from my friend Jiho Lee. I met Jiho in Seoul, South Korea while on my first Wharton International Program in May 2008. He was studying at Korea University Business School and later spent a semester abroad at Wharton during the fall of my sophomore year. It amazes me how within a mere two days, the news of my election had traveled around the world. Jiho, as well as many others whom I’ve met through Wharton, will surely be a friend for life.
“Your Mailbox is Full”
Finally, after a few hours reflecting on the past three years, I had successfully cleaned my inbox.
What I thought would be a mindless chore had actually become an enjoyable look back at my experiences with Wharton Women.
Just as I deleted my last email and a sense of relief came over me, my Blackberry buzzed. My account was definitely up and running again.
Lauren Fleischer, W’11, is President of Wharton Women.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7DdyYuvaSU&w=560&h=349]