Wharton students and alumni have been innovating and disrupting old ways of doing things since, well, the School’s founding in 1881, so it makes sense that the administration can shake things up when it wants to. In this case, we refer to the new Class Marshals program, which replaced the old class gifts for the MBA Class of 2015.
Traditionally, graduating MBA classes would field two class gift chairs to organize their classmates, as well as decide what and how much to give to the School.Starting in the fall of 2014, the team at the Wharton Fund launched a new way: Class Marshals. They approached the class gift committee chairs, Rayan Taleb and Daniel Leclerc (both WG15), about the new program, as well as Kembrel Jones, deputy vice dean of student life at Wharton. Next step was to recruit the Marshals from among committed second years, such as Jackie Wong WG15.
“I do these kinds of things because I drank the Kool-Aid already,” says Wong, who not only served as a first-ever Class Marshal but also as Cluster 2 president and executive vice president of student affairs for the Wharton Graduate Association.
Part of the reason Wong “drank the Kool-Aid” and believes in the total value of Wharton is because of what he learned as a Class Marshal. He came to understand what it means to be an alumnus. Part of that is the lifelong relationship with the School and with the 93,000 worldwide members of the alumni network. Part of that is alumni’s role in paying it forward, or as he puts it, “setting the table” for current students.
“We couldn’t be here otherwise,” he says.
Another reason for his buy-in: Wong sought a “transformational experience” at Wharton, and he got one. No where else, for instance, would he have met his classmates. “You’d never be exposed to great talent anywhere else … and then spend your life with them,” he says.
The job of Wong and the other 17 Class Marshals was to spread this message to their fellow classmates. At first, they approached peers with the facts: why it’s important to give back. In the last few weeks of school, says Wong, they leveraged social media and nostalgia—images and stories of all they’ve shared together in the past two years.
“It made them reflect on what’s happened, and hopefully that influenced them to give,” says Wong.
This year’s Class Marshals succeeded in such a fashion that the Class of 2016’s Marshals are already recruited (24 picked from up to 50 candidates) and working toward their class gift and helping their classmates understand what it means to be Wharton alumni.
Yes, self-disruption at Wharton. That makes sense from the school that was an educational innovation from the start.