10 things discussed in the Dean Town Hall

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The Dean Town Hall, hosted by the WGA and the Wharton Journal, took place last Monday, Oct 17th for 90 minutes in 2401. Moderated by Abby Stewart, the President of the WGA, and Jeff Jose, the Digital Editor of the Wharton Journal, Dean Geoffery Garrett and Dean Howie Kaufold talked about various topics including the academics, diversity, and financial aids. We have summarized the topics discussed.

  1.  Academics – Curriculum change

Dean Howie

For the first-years, OIDD 611 is now a flex core course (used to be a fixed core). Based on conversation with students across 5 flex and fixed cores, OIDD Department decided to give greater flexibility to the students. We do take our fixed cores very seriously. We are branding you, all Wharton MBA grad to know certain stuff, and so we don’t make such adjustments easily. We’re giving you choices between OIDD 611 and one of the other courses. We’re also looking at new courses – many of you’re taking courses on R and statistics. We saw a lot of students interested in coding and there was an interest in statistics department to more train big data. So overall, it’s a combination of interest in department and what they’re offering, and demand expressed from you all.

  1.  Diversity & Inclusion in Wharton

Dean Garrett

We’ve all been forced to confront ourselves in the recent past. I’ll give two very personal example. The first one was when I was giving a speech in front of 60 women and I said “I don’t think I would be good at working in heels,” and women were offended. The second one was when I was reading about various topics on discrimination of Asian-American around the question, “where do you come from?” I always want to know where people come from and I want to know their story. In the first case, I tried to say positive things such as “empathy is hard and now I’m getting the sense of it,” and in the second case, I always press people to know where they come from but now I can see that both cases can be seen as stereotyping. I think the complexities of the whole implicit bias stereotyping world are something that we all have to be more and more aware of. Certainly Howie and Kembrel and I are thinking very hard about this.

I think our responsibility are 3 things: First to recruit the most promising student body, the second is to ensure that the culture on campus is full of respect and trust so you can all thrive and the third, the most distinctive role of business school is to have a leading diversity value proposition.

Dean Howie

We’re doing various things in grad division and MBA program. The Diversity Committee meets regularly to think about all these issues and what to do about them. We work with ROE(Return on Equity). We’ve also made significant changes in Diversity Workshop based on the feedback from the second-year students. We’re not perfect but I think we’re on track. In addition, we co-sponsor and fund programming and events that will enlighten people on diversity issue. We’re trying to provide more training along these lines such as pilot of Diversity workshop and seminars.

  1.  Transparency in Tuition and Financial Aid

Dean Garrett

We’ll be living in the world where the net real price of high education will go down over time because ability to pay is a massive issue for everyone.

The financial aid for MBAs is one of the highest priorities for me now because I know we’re behind most of our peers in financial aid, and we don’t want to be in a place where we say to you that we cost 20K more than our peers. We want you to make choices based on what’s best for you, and not what’s most affordable for you. But that’s enormous undertaking for our MBAs because the mind set of our donors is “why should we aid MBAs when they come from big jobs and go to big jobs after they graduate?” So I’m persuading them that we should consider the incredible opportunity costs that you’re all paying to be here. That’s the reality and won’t go away

Dean Howie

The question is what do you build in to the tuition and what do we keep separate. It’s totally understandable that you feel that you’re paying more than expected. But we want to be fair to people that don’t use additional services.

We’re trying to build something to give people on the way to the program – Financial aid group is working with admissions to create accessible spreadsheet that helps decide what is the incremental cost. Then you can have true sense of what it really costs to come here. The more clubs you join, the more dues you pay. What matters to you and what is the unified experience at Wharton? What’s the worthy investment here? How much travel should I expect? What treks should I participate in? What clubs will I join? We want you know what these all cost.

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  1.  Wharton Ranking Slipping

Dean Howie

I have mixed view of ranking, but the reality is they matter to people looking for our program, to current students, to our alums, and to us as staff members. We try to get much information about what ranking is reflecting about the quality of the program. We’d like to have dialogues with relative publications publishing the rankings, but they’re not always easy to have. We’re constantly looking at our own feedback, we put out weekly surveys, and end of the year surveys. We try to get a very accurate picture about what you’re happy about and what we need to work on. In many of these cases, the process of rankings is pretty arbitrary, but no apologies about it – our goal is to be at the top of all those rankings if we can.

Dean Garrett

Correlation is not causation, but it is true that HBS and GSB spend considerable more money at MBA level than we do and we suspect that’s true for Chicago Booth as well. We’ve talked about how important the financial aid is for the MBA program for you all and that’s a very big deal. The closer you are to the schools that you have more information, the less relevant the rankings are. We should just try to do the best job we can and it’ll work out in the rankings. I think it’s much harder to game at the top.

  1.  Entrepreneurship Development

Dean Garrett

“More” than the finance school doesn’t mean “not” the finance school. HBS is the Leadership school, Stanford is the Entrepreneurship school, and Wharton is the Finance school.  Relevantly sophisticated people who know a lot about b-schools even believe that to be true. I think so many elements in Wharton don’t get nearly as much credit as they should. Leadership in Wharton is best in classrd, but we haven’t marketed it well. I think entrepreneurship is a similar case – the programming built here for 20years is extraordinary and we got fantastic entrepreneurs out there in the world. People use the word “quant,” but I go with the word “analytics,” because in the Big Data era, being the analytic school is something that we should be very proud of.

Wharton is more than the finance school – making that coherent and not a mishmash is a branding challenge. I can see that in this world association game where it’s one concept per school, it’s a bit of a risk to be broader. But if you look at the scope of Wharton, it just is bigger than our peers. That means we can do things that they can’t do and I want everyone to be aware of that. It’s not easy to say you’re more than one thing because a single message works most easily, but I think that it would be unfair for the world to think that Wharton is just the finance school.

Dean Howie

I’ve been in Wharton for 30 years and I’m also a finance guy. This word “Analytics” is obviously a hot word now, and I think analytics is in Wharton’s DNA. Ever since I came, that was the word that people used to describe Wharton. That’s what differentiated Wharton. And I think it’s a perfect storm for us. I think we do walk the talk about analytics. We look at data and empirical testings – does entrepreneurship conflict with this analytic practice?

Analytics is essential skill to succeed as entrepreneurs. If you think the business will be successful in second or third stages, you can’t do that without reading the data and reading the market. So I think we’re in a very good position to successfully educate entrepreneurs.

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  1.  Professor Linneman’s Comment and School’s Action

Dean Howie

We are in total agreement that what was said was objectionable and inappropriate. The question is what action to take as a school. Regarding the school’s action against professor Linneman – “emeritus” is a unique title which means there is no connection to school, and he is not in our faculty group anymore. He is known as the Wharton professor because of our brand.  So there were no obvious steps to take. I’ve had conversation with GCC the Asia club, and the WAAAM, but we felt there would be no gain from publication of a letter taking a stand in that way. That’s the kind of thing that the outside media is looking for – a controversy.

It will be really helpful if you could let us know what’s being said in WeChat world and let us know what’s going on in Chinese media. I would never support derogatory comment about anybody in the world. However, I think the institutional issue is more complicated when somebody in essence is a retired form of professor of school.

That being said, people who are in distance, there are communication challenges, so I’d like to hear from you what you’re hearing in China and why you’re hearing negative things about the school based on this issue. We need to be rock solid as a school on where we stand, and we need to communicate that to everybody.

  1.  Physical Spaces in Huntsman

Dean Garrett

We seem to be out of space, and the indicator I have for that is the amount of time spent in my office trying to allocate 100 sqft, 200 sqft, which is enormous. We should do a good job of utilizing the space. I think that space challenges at Wharton is sufficiently serious right now, we have to think about new buildings – Huntsman is less than 15yrs old, and I got the statistics that I couldn’t believe the other days: more than 1000 students clock in and out after 7pm. The other reality about university is that if we turn the switch to build new buildings, it takes 3-4years. If we debt finance the building, we need to take out of our operation revenue. To be a 100% philanthropic building, we need to raise fundraising campaign and there are other issues regarding this. So we should think more creatively about better utilizing the space we’ve got. Having said all of this, new physical plant is the central thing in my radar. By the way, 2401 is the partial solution to our space problem.

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  1.  Climate Change and Business

Dean Garrett

As a political scientist, I think the climate change effect is going to be massive in the private sector. 10-15 years ago, people would have wondered why business and climate change go together, now they go together extremely well. We’re looking for a senior position for climate change expert in both public and private sector. Energy efficiency is enormous solution in business and business school can play a role there. There is a movement on campus and I do think having a champion matter a lot.

  1.  Values of Wharton

Dean Howie

Several years ago, we gathered students’ opinions of what those values should be. We can do a lot more to emphasize those. You can find the values in the Resource Guide, but I agree that we need to publish more. The values include intellectual curiosity, authenticity, and integrity.

  1.  Wharton’s KPI (Key Performance Measure)

Dean Garrett

We’re trying to put together Key Performance Indicators Dashboard for the school. Some of our board members said that there are expectations for the school and I should look into some factors more, and that’s something I’ve started doing. Wharton hasn’t been issuing annual report the way HBS and Stanford have been doing – I think we should be transparent and publish the annual reports to tell everyone what’s been going on at the school. So bear with us, it’ll take a little while but we hope we’ll have some form of measurable report of our performance in a short time.

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