Welcome to Life as a Wharton MBA

“Congratulations and Welcome to Wharton!” This was the refrain heard over and over as the senior administration greeted the Class of 2016 at the opening Welcome Ceremony of Pre-Term 2014 held in the Annenberg Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Following addresses from the Vice Dean, the Director of Admissions and the Student Body President, the Class was dismissed and loaded onto buses headed for Center City and the historic Bellevue Hotel to mix and mingle in the hotel’s grand ballroom.

The mornings of the following week of Pre-Term focused on Student Life community building exercises with each Cluster led by the Cluster Directors. Each Wharton Class is divided into four Clusters of about 200 people with whom you have the opportunity to meet that week and bond over the week’s activities including monthly Cluster Suppers, the Cluster Pep Rally, the Cluster Dance Off, and the Wharton Olympics, a day of competition that includes football, soccer, kickball, dodgeball and the always dramatic tug-of-war. Clusters met their Student Life Fellows on Friday of the first week and had the opportunity to gain advice on life outside of the classroom re: clubs, conferences and other extracurricular activities. The Olympics took place at Penn Park, a 25 acre venue of playing fields on campus and in various other sporting venues at Penn.

Student Life Fellows are chosen by Cluster each year. They advise first year students, hold summer seminars on getting ready for the Wharton experience, work with the Welcome Committee on the Welcome Weekends, host the Quarter 1 implement the SLF Pre-Term Weekend, and serve as an advisory board to the Office of Student Life.

The afternoons focused on presentations from the Office of Academic Affairs, The Career Management Office, the Leadership Office, an ethics case discussion and diversity training. The following week began with the Learning Team Retreat where learning teams were announced and students met their Leadership Fellows. Learning teams consist of six students who serve as a support system during the first semester. Next, Pre-Term moved into the “Big Idea,” where learning teams were given a prompt and asked to come up with a “Big Idea” solution. This event enables learning teams to work with each other before beginning the semester academically in Management 610.

Over the course of the first Quarter, each Cluster Director offered one-on-one consulting sessions to help each student in their respective cluster map their time at Wharton. Personal goals were discussed and appropriate activities to help reach those goals were planned. Students could also meet with their Student Life Fellows and Leadership Fellows one-on-one to get their perspectives as second years. The WGA Club fair was held at the first “Pub” where Wharton’s 103 Clubs recruited the new class to join. “Pub,” if you are not familiar, is a club that meets everything Thursday afternoon in Center City to begin the weekend with friends and “motivational beverages.” There are no classes on Fridays at Wharton so Thursday is the new Friday!

At the first Quarter Cluster Supper, Cluster Presidents and Cluster Councils were elected to lead each Cluster. Cluster Councils consist of students who focus on the Cluster in the areas of academics, leadership, social activities, spirit and student life. Each Cluster has a mascot, colors, and competes in the year-long series of Cluster Cup Events which include dancing, athletics and academics.

In addition to the rigorous academic schedule, Whartonites were able to squeeze in the traditional first year “Red and Blue Ball” on the “legendary” Moshulu, the world’s oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat built in 1904, anchored in the Delaware River. Everyone donned their finest Red, White and Blue attire to celebrate Penn and Wharton’s colors.

The first major social event of the year bringing both first and second years together was the Out4Biz (Wharton’s LGBT affinity club) sponsored “White Party” which draws over 1200 dressed entirely in white for a night of fun. That was quickly followed by “Walnut Walk” with revelers dressed in “business on top and party on bottom.” A pub crawl ensued through Center City, drawing much attention and many smiles.

Another big Out4Biz Quarter 1 event was “Rainbow Pub” in recognition of National Coming Out Day. Members and all of the more than 500 allies wear rainbow colored T-shirts to Pub and selected faculty, staff and student present an outrageous “Drag Show” for the student body. We have a saying about events like this: OAW. Only at Wharton!

Over the course of September, 200 hopefuls vied for one of 35 spots on the 2015 Wharton Welcome Committee. Interviews with the 2014 Welcome Committee resulted in 60 hopefuls being asked to the second round of auditions which consisted of a prepared speech to the current committee based on a prompt. This year’s prompt was “what is the most important decision you’ve had to make up to this point in your life and what were the outcomes.” The 2015 Welcome Committee was announced in late September and is already hard at work planning for the 2015 Winter Welcome Weekend (January 30 and 31).

Beginning October 10, academics again took central stage as the rigorous Quarter 1 finals period began. Five days with no classes to focus on studying for five final exams in a row. The Class of 2016 was on lock down for seven days prepping for the mostly quantitative testing.

Following the last exam and sponsored by the Student Life Fellows and the Office of Student Life, the “Quarter 1 Salute” welcomed the Class of 2016 to the Pub for a congratulatory toast and a line of high fives from the Student Life Fellows amid a chorus of way to go!