Earning trust and support from your classmates – especially when you’ve just met them 2 months ago – is definitely not an easy thing. Last week, the presidents of the four clusters were announced after a very competitive election.
President of Cluster 1 is Abby Stewart, who grew up on the South-side of Chicago and loves hip hop. She switched gears from being a professional ballerina after a serious knee injury, and went to college at Princeton. After school, she worked as a military strategist before she sold her soul and went into management consulting. She can rap all the words to Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”… and will probably do so at the next karaoke night at Fuji Mountain.
Annie Ye is the president of Cluster 2. She has always been a bit of a nomad. Born in China, she’s lived in Chicago, Illinois, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Iowa. She graduated Harvard, and worked in media and entertainment in the data and technology space. Annie also did Chinese performance based martial arts (wushu) in college. She once performed in front of Jet Li during an event and had a group dinner with him afterwards.
Ben Allen, the president of Cluster 3, served in the Navy as a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer for 8 years. He has served aboard the USS CROMMELIN, a frigate, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Most recently, he finished his time in the Navy as the Flag Aide to the Commander of Special Operations Command, Pacific based in Hawaii. Ben has been on screen three times: LOST, ARMY WIVES and the most recent GODZILLA movie. In each case, he played a soldier.
Cluster 4’s president is Tanya Sen. She’s lived in five countries and most recently worked in Singapore. Three ways that she identifies herself: management consultant, musician, and linguaphile. Tanya once played ‘Danny Zuko’ in a school production of ‘Grease’.
Q. What is special about your cluster?
Abby: We’re called Cluster 1 for a reason – we’re the best! You know all those incredible people Dean Maryellen Lamb mentioned in her welcome speech? We’ve got ’em. A classically trained actress who performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre? Check. A record holder for the fastest marathon in full military gear? Check. SeventeenAgain? Check.
I am continually amazed with the people in C1 – accomplished, brilliant, enthusiastic, and ridiculously good looking – and I feel so grateful to be part of such a fantastic community. Plus, have you seen our dance moves? Ya’ll better watch your back at the Cluster Dance Off.
Annie: We have something that cannot be replicated and that is the group of amazing individuals that we have in our Cluster. Our Dragon Den has Dragons from all different backgrounds: a Special Forces vet, a tri-passport holder, the founder of China’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) show, a global investigative journalist, and more. But it’s the truly unique combination of background, personalities, and how they have internalized their experiences and grown as a result that makes them classmates I’m proud to call fellow Dragons. And what do you call a group of Dragons? Wharton, you better watch out!
Ben: I’m so proud to be a part of WG17 and Cluster 3. The energy and pride the cluster has is contagious. I think cluster 3 has already exhibited a work hard play hard mindset. We enjoy being with one another and I know I’m starting to see my cluster mates as a family, people I will be friends with for life. Family supports you in all you do, celebrates your achievements and successes and helps you if you stumble or need a boost.
Tanya: Katy Perry wrote a song about us, actually. Something about how we’re champions and you’re gonna hear us roar.
Q. What is your best moment in MBA so far?
Ben: The Tug of War to finish the Cluster Cup Olympics, hands down. Yes, victory is sweet but that’s not why it was my favorite moment. Standing on the field, surrounded by 860 cheering new friends, with the Philadelphia skyline on the horizon was powerful. I felt a sense of accomplishment for not only myself, but for everyone in a red, green, orange and yellow shirt. We all set out to join the Wharton MBA Class of 2017 the year before — and fortunately, everyone in that stadium succeeded at that goal. I felt like it was a celebration of the beginning of an incredible journey.
Tanya: The moment when my learning team came up with a big idea. We worked with Uri Minkoff to create tiger-striped “mouches” for this year’s C4 swag.
Abby: Cluster Olympics! There is nothing better than cheering on your Cluster while decked out in a lion onesie.
Annie: I would say that this is more about a collection of moments for me that may seem disjointed at first: awe in listening to my learning team members’ life journeys, co-choreographing the dance-off in Center City past midnight, karaoke at Fuji Mountain, playing cards at 3am in the morning, and shutting down Bru on my birthday. These moments are all special, intimate experiences that allowed me to become closer to my classmates, in different capacities. And they enabled us to move multiple levels deeper from strangers to acquaintances to friends to some of the people who I know will be central to my Wharton experience and for the rest of my life.
Q. What is your goal this year as the cluster president?
Annie: I remember finding out that I was in Cluster 2 Dragons and being so excited! We all were. Throughout pre-term we met each other and bonded over numerous events and activities. But we soon realized that we were seeing a lot of people from our own cohort and cluster. Maybe even a little too much. We wanted to spread our wings and leave the Cluster nest. Then school started and the floodgates opened and it just feels like problem set after deadline after paper after readings. Now, we were all flying clumsily, trying to keep ourselves afloat despite the turbulence as we scramble from one island to the next. My goal is to provide the central island that our Dragons can always fly back to, at any time whether it be for an emergency landing or as a restorative niche.
Abby: My goal is to give back to the people and place that have already given me so much. From a people perspective, this means giving each person an opportunity to have an impact on our Cluster, be it through organizing a salsa dancing event or a 60-second lecture. From a community perspective, giving back means partnering with a local charity or non-profit to help our Philly community.
Tanya: To foster a sense of family. To create an environment where we can connect over our commonalities and yet celebrate our differences. To enable conversations to turn into action.
Ben: My goal is to help enable a cluster council that provides support to the cluster, both personally, professionally and socially. Already, the pace of classes, clubs, career management and the social life have picked up tremendously. I don’t want the cluster opportunities and events to feel like an added burden, but would rather the cluster see these activities as an opportunity to strengthen the bonds between one another. I also want the cluster council to be supportive to all the partners and families of cluster 3 members. They are a part of our cluster 3 family and we want to help them enjoy the Wharton experience as well.
I also want to motivate the cluster to give back, whether it be to Wharton, to the Philadelphia community or to any cause or movement they support. We are all very blessed and fortunate to be here. Not a single one of us did this on our own and we have a strong team and set of resources at our disposal to truly make a difference in people’s lives. I’m looking forward to fostering any ideas the cluster has on where we can give back to the community.
Q. What is the best and the worst thing about Wharton?
Tanya: The best thing is being part of a community of action-oriented people. A diversity of interests / personalities / backgrounds – complemented by so much will to just take charge and make stuff happen …I think that’s what makes this place special.
The worst thing is that I hear Philly is about to get really, really, really cold. True to my tiger roots, I’m a tropical creature…
Ben: I think people are Wharton’s greatest strength. From the alumni, faculty, administrators, students, and support personnel — this school and community cannot be complete with one of those elements missing. I know we are all excited to join this network. People here yearn to make a positive impact on those around them – it’s been striking how helpful everyone is. You feel that everyone at Wharton wants you to learn both in and out of the classroom, stretch yourself to some limits and to take risks. It is truly a safe environment to explore.
I have not experienced a single negative aspect of Wharton since we started.
Annie: Other than the obvious which is ending time with my amazing fellow classmates (everyone is so friendly and down to earth!), I would say it is the fact that everything in is so student-driven. This culture empowers us to make sure we make the best of our experience here, no excuses! The sky is the limit (but not for Dragons)!
The worst are the below freezing classrooms. Dressing appropriately is hard – need to go sweater shopping!
Abby: Best: the people. Worst: homework. No one told me about the homework.