Who Are You? Recognizing and Building Your Affinities with Wharton
When you look at your connection with Wharton, what frames the picture you see? From how many different perspectives do you regard the totality of your Wharton experience and how it has shaped your life?
What was your academic major, the division of the School which you attended, your cohort or learning team? Who are the friends you made and kept – or would like to get back in touch with? What extracurricular activities were you involved in? Were you an international student or a member of a minority constituency? And since graduation, where have you lived, and in which professions have you been employed?
Through a myriad of opportunities, the alumni network reflects the many facets of the Wharton experience. Events like Alumni Weekend and the Follies reunion in New York City, or online services on WAVE wave.wharton.upenn.edu such as the alumni directory and the new Class Notes section enable people to better stay in touch. One of the greatest strengths of the alumni program has been the club network: in 30 cities and regions around the U.S., and in 42 other countries around the world, alumni gather for professional and personal networking.
There is also a growing trend to develop clubs that reflect other affinities that people feel to the School. There are groups organized for alumni by industry, academic programs, and minority constituencies, and several more are in the pipeline. While contact information for all of these groups is listed on the WAVE website and at the end of this article, the following is a profile of two of these affinity groups, which reflect the breadth of the interests with which these groups are engaged: one is the oldest ongoing affinity club, and the other is “the new kid on the block.”
Wharton Evening School Alumni Society
Once upon a time, when students attended classes in Logan Hall and trolley cars ran above ground through campus on Woodland Avenue, an organization was formed to recognize the achievements of a special group of Wharton alumni. In many cases, these individuals had received their Wharton degrees in the light of challenges that would have daunted many lesser men and women. The Wharton Evening School Alumni Society (WESAS) was formed to mark the special experience of those who had earned their degrees through a program that began almost at the very inception of Wharton itself (the School was founded in 1881; the Evening School began in 1904).
More than half a century later since the start of the alumni group, the Evening School Alumni Society represents the interests of over 5800 graduates, making theirs one of the largest alumni bases in the club network. While the majority of the graduates of the program live in the Philadelphia area, alumni of the program can be found on five continents. The Evening School Alumni Society reaches out to these graduates with a mix of social and educational programming, a newsletter, and an annual brunch which brings together alumni from across the decades and recognizes outstanding achievement among graduating seniors. This year’s event, held in June at La Terrasse, found newly-minted alumni from the class of ‘03 mixing with Wharton peers from as far back at the 1950s. While their Wharton experiences were quite different, they shared the mutual pride in achieving a Wharton degree while juggling full-time jobs, families, and in most cases, a severe lack of sleep.
Gary Lindauer, W’92, president of the Society, recently reflected on the future of the group: “We have always enjoyed the enthusiastic participation of our traditional Evening School alumni. But now, we are looking to expand our ranks by reaching out to the management and marketing certificate programs. In the years to come, their inclusion could be the new lifeblood of our organization.” Blending the traditions of the past with the present-day evening program ensures that the Society will continue recognizing the achievements of all its graduates.
Wharton Women’s Task Force
The Wharton Women’s Task Force was initially formed in 2001 by two students, Kiara Berglund, WG’02, and Andrea Remyn, WG’03, who were reviving the Wharton Women in Business Conference. As their work continued, they met with Wharton alumnae, student women’s groups, faculty and administrators, all of whom felt the need to come together to respond to the needs of all Wharton women. Although a very diverse group, they quickly discovered many common aspirations, interests and challenges in their careers and lives. As Wharton women, they are promoting and encouraging the leadership and success of each other and of a broader community of Wharton constituents.
Members of the Task Force came together on campus in November 2002 to meet one another, engage in goal setting, and discuss ways to communicate better with one another and with their fellow alumnae. Task Force members have participated in two management conferences sponsored by the Wharton Alumni Association to meet with other volunteer leaders and learn best-practices. The Task Force continues its close relationship with the student Wharton Women in Business Conference to leverage the participation of future alumnae in the network (the 2003 conference will be held on October 31 – see www.whartonwomen.org for details).
At a grassroots level, the Task Force did a survey which addressed the issues faced by alumnae; this effort received extremely positive and overwhelming response from 10% of the overall alumnae population. The Task Force is also actively engaged with the geographically-based alumni clubs around the world to leverage the strengths of these existing organizations and bring women together on the local level. For the last year, the Philadelphia alumni club has modeled such a partnership through their “Wharton Women’s Network.” The Philadelphia Network addresses the special interests of working women and promotes networking in a more intimate setting. Programs have included a work-life balance discussion, leadership skills development, and informal “coffeehouses” for alumnae.
Wharton is continuing to build affinity groups to help strengthen the relevancy of the School in the lives of its alumni. Leslie Arbuthnot, director of alumni affairs and annual giving, notes that the growing trend in these kinds of clubs is evidence of an increasing trend in alumni affinity to the School as a whole: “As we continue to develop the means by which alumni better connect to one another and the School, more and more graduates will want to come together based on how they see themselves and their relationship to Wharton. We welcome alumni ideas and energy in developing these programs.”
The following is a list of existing affinity groups and their contact information:
Gary Lindauer, W’92
Gretchen Mills WG’86
Private Equity Network
Dean E. Miller, WG’99
Women’s Task Force
Roz Courtney, WG’76
If you are interested in the possibility of starting an alumni affinity group, contact the Office of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving at email@example.com.