When you think “entrepreneurship,” admit it—perhaps Stanford University comes to mind. Wharton, after all, is the “finance school.”

But Dean Geoffrey Garrett is eager to alter those associations, or at least augment them. He is quick to point out that Wharton ranks No. 2 when it comes to where Silicon Valley executives earned their degrees. Stanford doesn’t even hold the top spot, by the way. It’s Berkeley. Though Wharton is a top Finance Department—and certainly alumni populate top finance positions around the globe—Garrett sees the School as possessing strengths in data and analytics.

Garrett has reiterated to alumni a line he first shared with Wharton Magazine when I interviewed him during his first month in office: “What we’re seeing in the big data world is that the geeks are going to own the world.”

When you think innovation in education, specifically Internetbased education, Garrett wants you to think “Wharton” as well— particularly given the School’s pre-eminent position in delivering educational content through the massive online open course (MOOC) platform Coursera.

He covered this ground and then some during his opening remarks at the Philadelphia stop of the Wharton Global Conversations Tour. With six locations currently on the schedule, the tour is an opportunity for the dean to share his vision for Wharton face-to-face with alumni in their own proverbial backyards.

The first stop occurred in Hong Kong on Jan. 12. Philadelphia followed on Jan. 28, then New York on Feb. 19 and London on March 4. A stop in Miami followed on April 27, with San Francisco on May 5 and Boston on June 9. (For more details, visit http://whr.tn/global-conversations-tour.)

Watch the three-part video of the NYC Wharton Global Conversations Tour event, starting with Part 1 below:



For these initial visits on the tour, Garrett has opened up the stage to prominent local alumni, providing for a rich interactive experience for attendees (as well as for himself).

In the case of Philadelphia, F. William McNabb III WG83, CEO and chairman of the investment giant Vanguard, engaged in the back-and-forth, with the dean eliciting some kernels of McNabb’s wisdom on the topic of leadership. The gist of what McNabb shared is that recruiting and cultivating talent is central to his vision for an organization. In McNabb’s view, most companies fail because of lack of execution, not cogent strategy. At Vanguard, he looks for leaders with tremendous individual drive with the ability to perform at a high level in a team—people who can trust and be trusted, keep each other accountable and participate in open debate. The organization is driven by results (investment and otherwise) as much as by putting people in positions to succeed, and otherwise.

“You have to be willing to let people fail,” McNabb said. “That ability to fail is actually really important.”

Giving people that chance and then seeing them persist, learn and grow from those failures are great ways to spot leaders, in McNabb’s book.

Other alumni participants in the Global Conversations Tour have included Chang Sun G89 WG89, chairman of North Asia for Warburg Pincus Asia LLC; Gang Yu GRW90, co-founder and chairman of the e-commerce site Yihaodian; Mona Bijoor WG05, founder of JOOR; Marisa Drew WG82, managing director of Credit Suisse; and Tony Davis G97 WG97, co-founder of Anchorage Advisors.

By the way, while on the topic of associations, when you think of Philadelphia, do you think of “major alumni hub”? Garrett cemented that association during his presentation, too, citing how the city is home to 10,532 Wharton alumni.

—Matthew Brodsky