By Yang (Sydney) Liu
Like many of my classmates, I wanted business school to be a transformative experience. Professionally, I hoped to expand my business knowledge and hone my managerial skills.
Personally, I hoped to build lasting relationships and expand my network. As I write this, my two years at Wharton are coming to an end, and I can honestly say that my experience have been transformative—just not in the way I expected. In helping to form what became known as the “P3 program,” I have gone through the most introspective period of my life.
P3 stands for “Purpose, Passion and Principles.” It is a student-led program that debuted in the fall of 2013 after almost a year in the making. I am privileged to be one of 10 Wharton students who led the effort to enhance the Wharton culture to focus more on personal exploration.
The program consists of nine small-group discussions held once a week. One student acts as the facilitator and helps to direct the conversation and foster an open and safe sharing environment for all.
Topics range from reflections on meaningful past life experiences, to the definition of success, to visions of our ideal future lives. The book Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success, written by G. Richard Shell (Thomas Gerrity Professor and chairperson of the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department) formed the foundation of our discussions this past year. We also leveraged chapters of other well-known leadership and success books, such as Practice Professor Stew Friedman’s Total Leadership and Bill George’s True North.
Word of mouth about P3 helped to bring more than 160 interested students to our spring 2014 program. Unfortunately, our limited number of facilitators only allowed us to accommodate fewer than half. But we are excited to welcome a new set of facilitators for the next school year, doubling our capacity to serve the Wharton community.
The P3 buzz is spreading outside of Wharton as well. Last semester, we piloted our program with the Penn Law School and the Wharton Undergraduate Program. Informal alumni groups have already formed in New York City. Some prospective students are hearing about P3 during admission interviews through Admission Fellows who have gone through the process. I am excited by the program’s energy and potential impact it could have on Wharton’s culture.
For me, P3 was an opportunity to slow down and block out the craziness. More importantly, for the first time in my life, my peers challenged me to verbalize what I truly value in my professional and personal lives, and reconcile my decisions and values. This critical examination forced me to be honest and authentic with myself—a vulnerable position that I, like many others, shy away from.
Having gone through the P3 process four times, I have gotten to know more than 20 new classmates through sharing our visions, fears, insecurities, triumphs and most vulnerable moments. No amount of Pub, club events, international treks or classroom discussions could allow me to replicate the type of bonds that we formed.
The experience has humbled me. Behind the stereotypical facade of bankers, consultants and business go-getters with impressive resumes and care-free lifestyles, I realized that each Wharton MBA student has a heartfelt story of overcoming personal adversity. This story is not easily shared with others, but it is what shaped our values, built our character and led us to Wharton. After hearing these real and undisguised stories of who they are and who they hope to be, I feel more impressed by my classmates than ever before.
I know that this realization will stay with me in the years to come, helping me to keep an open mind toward co-workers, clients and friends.
To be honest, P3 did not give me a clear answer to the big question of what meaningful work I should do in life. It is not meant to. It did teach me how to think about my life and career in the context of my values and fears. It helped me identify priorities and encouraged me to make life decisions true to my long-term values. I look forward to continuing this journey with what I learned at Wharton as my guide.
Yang (Sydney) Liu, G’14, WG’14, is a graduate of both the Wharton School and the Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies. Her area of interest is in international marketing and customer strategies. She will be joining Deloitte Consulting this fall.