By Robbie Shell
Yes, their test scores are terrific, but this year’s entering students have also raised money for a school in India, managed an orchestra and won an international math olympiad. Meet some members of W’02 and WG’00.
Interested in BMX racing? Ichthyology research? Medieval literature? Health care reform in Kenya? We know people who are, and they can be found among members of the undergraduate class of W’02 and the MBA class of WG’00. Statistics tell us that the 459 entering Wharton undergraduates had an average SAT score of 1426, that 38 percent are women and that they were chosen from an applicant pool of 3,855. The 765-member first-year MBA class had an average GMAT score of 678; 32 percent are international; and 30 percent say they want to major in finance, 20 percent in entrepreneurial management. Behind statistics like these are individuals who have brought with them an intriguing array of experiences and accomplishments, and above all, a focus on excellence. Meet some of the newer faces on campus.
Class of W’02
Pranav Gupta’s high school years were busy. Some highlights:
He was student director of In-site, an interactive online teen magazine run jointly by his high school — the Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology — and a Bergen County, N.J., newspaper called The Record. As director, he managed a team of 60 students from the Academy and 100 students from other schools, helped in the feature magazine’s weekly production and took part in a conference, attended by newspaper executives from around the country, on how to manage electronic media.
Under the auspices of his school’s biology department he conducted two ichthyology research projects. The first one — which studied the effects of sound on dopamine levels in the brains of fish and how that relates to Parkinson’s Disease — was reported on two years ago by the New York Times.
And last year he wrote a proposal — which eventually generated a donation of $4,800 — to establish a school for children working in the stone quarries of Harayana, a state in India. The money will be used to rent a school room, hire a teacher, provide food and give incentives to children who attend. Gupta, a native of India who moved with his family to the U.S. in 1984, visited a similar school last summer in New Delhi.
He is in the middle of his freshman year in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, has joined the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education (SCUE) and works part-time with the School of Arts and Sciences’ Workstation Services division. “Although I got a lot of satisfaction out of doing research in high school, the results can’t really be used for the immediate benefit of people,” he says, explaining his decision to attend Wharton. “You don’t see the effects of your research for years to come. In engineering and business, the knowledge you gain can be immediately applied to something useful.”
During his fourth grade year at the Haverford School in Haverford, Pa., Rick Wetmore produced a video of the school for the benefit of alumni who wanted to keep in touch. In sixth grade, he wrote an essay on videography as part of his audition to be a kid reporter on Kid Time News, a one-minute program that airs twice daily, six days a week, on local channel WB17.
His audition was successful, and he has been associated with Kid Time News ever since, either as a reporter, anchor or, as was the case last summer, producer.
“One of the more interesting stories I did was during middle school when I took a day off and went to Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park to report on the Batman roller coaster. The rest of my class went on a field trip to a landfill,” says Wetmore, who gets paid for his work by the hour.
He has also covered the Pennstar medical emergency helicopter service, a speech by President Clinton at Bryn Mawr College and a Philadelphia Flyers hockey event. “I interviewed [Flyers center] Rod Brind’Amour and met [Flyers captain] Eric Lindros,” notes Wetmore, who was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Episcopal Academy.
For his freshman year Management 100 course, Wetmore worked last semester with a mentoring project in southwest Philadelphia, using his experience with Kid Time News as a way to help publicize the program.
“I think the education offered at Wharton is probably the most practical education one can get,” he says. “A degree from here will allow me to work in a communications environment, whether it’s as a reporter, a producer or an analyst for the communications sector of an investment bank. I already have production tools. At Wharton, I want to learn business and management skills.”
Three years ago, 5,000 students from all over the world entered the International Soros Math Olympiad sponsored by investor George Soros. Andrey Golovicher was chosen to represent his native country of Belarus. He survived the first round and went on to round two in Moscow. He survived that, and went to Paris for the finals.
There 100 student finalists were given three hours to solve seven math problems, six of them calculus. Golovicher won first place.
“I was elated,” he says. “My father has a PhD in physics and from early childhood on I was encouraged to read scientific books. I find myself having a proclivity for math and science.” The prize was a two-week stay in Paris and $500.
Golovicher, who speaks French and Russian in addition to English, moved to Philadelphia three years ago from Belarus. His father works for a consulting firm and his mother is a doctor. He chose Wharton, he says, “because of its business tradition and great diversity.”
He enjoys the U.S. for a number of reasons. “You can just feel the freedom here,” Golovicher says. “Even right now, when people says things are improving in Belarus, it’s still a static country with political difficulties and business problems. America offers many more opportunities.”
The summer after his ninth grade year in high school in Woodbridge, Va., Michael O’Leary proposed that the county government build a BMX (bicycle motocross) track. His proposal would solve several problems at once. His parents wouldn’t have to continue driving 90 minutes to get him to the nearest track; the kids of Prince William County would have something to do, and O’Leary could compete in his favorite sport much closer to home.
BMX racing, for those who don’t know, takes place on a dirt track about 1,300 feet long. Competitors jump over hurdles, careen around berms and generally go as fast as possible for approximately 45 seconds, at which point the race is over. It can get pretty aggressive. “Most of the injuries are broken arms and legs. Fortunately nothing too serious has happened to me, just some stitches in one of my knees and a couple of concussions,” says O’Leary, who was U.S. national bike motocross champion, class 16 novice, in 1996.
So far, the track hasn’t been built, but the outlook is very promising. A parents group helped O’Leary and others raise $10,000 of the $20,000 needed for construction; many of the negotiations over government regulations and zoning requirements have been conducted, and the proposal was part of a bond referendum in November’s election. “The referendum passed, so it appears the county will work on constructing a track, hopefully by this summer,” says O’Leary, who served on the Prince William County Youth Advisory Council during his junior year.
His second passion, aside from biking, is information systems. He took three years of programming in high school and both his older siblings work in the field.
O’Leary also does dirt jumping, a biking sport that is “more oriented to tricks” than BMX racing. He enjoys it all. “I’ve made so many friends through biking,” says O’Leary, who was a high school debater in addition to his other activities. “I’ve visited places all over the country that have biking trails. It can be a very relaxing, uncompetitive atmosphere.”
Beverly Wee’s first big break came at age 14 when she was chosen for a supporting role in a Chinese drama on Singapore TV. “It was about a group of young people, all good tennis players. I was one of them,” she says.
Since then she has also been involved in the TV station’s English drama unit — landing a role last year in a sitcom called “Under One Roof” — and in theater productions. Wee appeared regularly in the Singapore Arts Festival and was part of a worldwide re-launch of the musical Grease, performed last April to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary.
“It was a lot of juggling — getting to rehearsals, keeping up my grades, being in the school choir for six years, doing some modeling, but I loved it all,” says Wee.
She also happened to love economics, which inspired her to apply to Wharton. “I’ve always been interested in business. Many of our family friends are involved in the banking industry, so I grew up in an environment where the table conversation would be about things like how the markets are doing.”
At Wharton, Wee has already done a fashion show for Asia Pacific Heritage Week, volunteered at the student credit union, joined a new student group focusing on management and the performing arts, and signed up for a study trip to Turkey under the auspices of the Awareness of International Markets (AIM) club. “I’m sure I’ll get involved in theater before I leave Penn,” she says.
Class of WG’00
In 1986, when Humphrey Wattanga and his family were living in Nairobi, his father lost his job as an accounts clerk. Wattanga’s parents moved to the countryside to take up farming, leaving Wattanga to live alone in a one-room apartment near his school. He was 12.
“There are no good schools in the countryside, no classrooms, no books,” he says, explaining his decision to remain in Nairobi. “In a place like Kenya, education is the only way out.” Wattanga was accepted into one of Kenya’s best high schools, achieved the country’s top score on an SAT-equivalent test and was hired after graduation to work in the accounts department of Unilever’s Nairobi office. It was the first time he had ever seen a computer.
Wattanga decided to attend medical school in Kenya, but dropped out in 1992 after student protests led the government to shut down college campuses across the country. He was accepted at Harvard, where he graduated in 1996 with a degree in biochemistry.
While at Harvard, Wattanga started a student group called maisha bora, Swahili for “better life.” “The main objective was to be a resource for students who are interested in improving health care systems, especially hospitals, and health care access in disadvantaged populations,” he says.
Although Wattanga wasn’t able to secure funding to continue the group, he is still set on a career in health care. He wants to use his skills, especially in information technology, to upgrade health services in developing areas.
This summer he plans to work in South Africa. “It is the most advanced country in Africa. If I can understand, and help solve, the difficulties in health care there, then I should be able to work effectively later on with smaller systems in other countries.”
Peter Allen’s route to Wharton was a somewhat circuitous one.
He graduated from Haverford College, majored in English and the classics, and earned a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Chicago, with a specialty in medieval literature.
He taught at Princeton from 1984 to 1986 and at Pomona College in Claremont, Ca., from 1986 to 1992. In 1992, he received tenure as an associate professor of French, comparative literature and media studies, and published a book called The Art of Love: Amatory Fiction from Ovid to the Romance of the Rose (University of Pennsylvania Press).
“I had become interested in the movie industry while I was in Los Angeles and thought I might want to do screen-writing,” he says. “But I wasn’t a true schmoozer. And I wanted to get back to the East Coast.”
Allen became less interested in academics and more interested in public policy and business issues, especially health care. He worked as a volunteer for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York and wrote a book entitled The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease from the Middle Ages to the Age of AIDS. Before his acceptance into the health care management program at Wharton, he spent a year as a scholar in residence at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia.
“My goal now is to go into management consulting,” he says. “It involves problem solving, analysis and dealing with people. I feel like those are the skills I can bring to the business world.”
It’s hard to tell which would be more physically taxing: taping 15 dance shows in two days for MTV or working on the trading floor for a year for UBS Securities.
Jackie Flores has done both, and learned from each. The UBS experience was especially instructive. “For a shy person to go onto the trading floor with a group of intimidating people was difficult,” says Flores, who graduated in 1994 with an economics degree from Columbia before joining UBS. “It was like getting hazed by a big fraternity. The experience toughened me up.”
She spent the next three years at ING Barings as an associate in their emerging markets fixed income sales group, with a focus on Latin America. Although Flores was born in New York City, her early childhood was spent in Ecuador and Argentina. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French and some Italian.
Flores began dancing at age 3, first ballet and then tap and jazz. She was taught by instructors from the Joffrey Ballet and took classes at the Broadway Dance Center, working on weekends to supplement her scholarship.
In the late 1980s she was chosen to be one of the regular dancers on a show called Club MTV. “The pay was measly. I did it more for the enjoyment of being on television,” Flores says. The first time Flores’ mother, who doesn’t get cable, saw her daughter on the air was during a visit to Mexico City. “We passed by a TV store and there I was, dancing on 30 sets.”
The show was cancelled in 1992 and Flores has clearly moved on. Although she is taking ballet classes at Penn and has signed up for the Wharton Follies, she is looking to a future in Latin America, either consulting or working with a multinational. “One thing I learned through dance is how important it is to have interests and a personal life outside of your profession,” she says. “It gives you perspective.”
At age 11, “I knew that I loved the sound of the French horn,” says John Bancroft.
It wasn’t just an infatuation. Bancroft graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with a BA in music in 1993, spent two summers working for the Pacific Music Festival in Japan, and moved back to Los Angeles (his hometown) after college to be the orchestra manager for the Disney Young Musicians Orchestra.
The Orchestra, which is composed of approximately 75 talented young musicians from all over the U.S., performs mainly on television. “They might have Dudley Moore as the emcee for the show, or maybe Itzhak Perlman giving a master class. It’s a wonderful combination of arts, education and the excellence of Disney,” Bancroft says.
He then moved on to the Colburn School of Performing Arts, a private, non-profit institution that offers musical education to predominantly pre-college age students. “When I arrived there, the school had suffered a devastating loss due to internal fraud, which meant that a lot of managerial control changes were being instituted,” Ban-croft says. “So I did many different jobs and received a lot of firsthand experience.”
Working for groups like Disney and the Pacific Music Festival “piqued my interest in business,” he adds. “I was able to see how powerful the results are if you have an excellent business model and put it to use in the arts and entertainment field.”
Bancroft’s goal one day is to run a large symphony orchestra, perhaps in Philadelphia, Cleveland or Los Angeles. “I may go into consulting for a while when I graduate but I will definitely come back to the arts,” he says. “I want to bring the best managerial skills possible into the non-profit sector.”