Dining With Alumni Du Jour

What’s the hot dining trend at local restaurants in Philadelphia this year? Wharton alumni breaking bread with MBA students. Called the Wharton Power Dinner Series, the new program held 13 events during the fall and has plans for at least another 10 this spring.

More than 340 students have already participated, meeting alumni from such diverse firms as ESPN, Comcast, Godiva, Google, Guardian Capital Partners, NBC Universal and the Trump Organization. Some dinners involve one alumnus and 12 students (and a long waiting list), while other events feature a “speed dating” style of discussion among multiple alumni and as many as 30 students.

In December, Leah LaPlaca, WG’01, vice president of programming and acquisitions at ESPN, dined with about a dozen students.

“It was a nice way as an alumna to reconnect with the school and a nice way for students to interact with someone within a certain industry who came from Wharton—a friendly face,” LaPlaca says. “The questions were top notch, the students were very smart, and they knew a lot about the sports and media industries.”

One topic of particular interest was how ESPN was going to leverage the increasing use of technology, she says.

“It’s really about making sure we are able to feed content to any platform—Internet, mobile, TV, audio,” LaPlaca says. “Fans are consuming content anywhere, using the best available screen.”

Nimish Jain, a first-year MBA student who attended that dinner, enjoyed the “free-for-all” questioning that LaPlaca fielded about her time at Wharton, taking advantage of all that the School offers, navigating the recruiting process in the sports and media industries, and what it’s like to be a woman in her field.

“I thought it was great to have someone in a nontraditional field speak to us,” Jain says.

Dave Marberger, WG’00, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Godiva, enjoyed connecting with current MBAs in a “relaxed, less formal setting.” His dinner conversation spanned classroom questions, practical business and career advice, and inquiries from Godiva chocolate fans.

“The questions they asked me about the business were excellent and stretched my thinking,” Marberger recalls. “I left the dinner rejuvenated by the excitement of these MBAs,” he says, adding that he looks forward to doing it again.

The dinners are part of the overall Wharton Power Series developed by the Student and Young Alumni Engagement Initiative, and includes speaking engagements by alumni luminaries and virtual panels.

—By Katie Kuehner-Hebert

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