Wharton Impact Newsletter, Our community, your inbox.

March 2022 • Edition 7

In this edition, we honor Women’s History Month by highlighting accomplishments of women from the Wharton community. Read how Wharton women of today, and yesterday, are inspiring others; and how MBA Career Management supports the individual needs of alumnae. Also in this edition, celebrate Wharton students receiving fellowships.

Wharton Women: Breaking Ground Yesterday and Today

An archive photo from 1954 of Wharton’s first women students. Linda Garelik Leffert, W’58, is pictured second on the right. Photo credit: University Archives.
An archive photo from 1954 of Wharton’s first women students. Linda Garelik Leffert, W’58, is pictured second on the right. Photo credit: University Archives.

Established as the first collegiate business school in 1881, Wharton has consistently played a crucial role in transforming the study and application of business. In another first, Alma Katherine Ledig ED’26 WG’31 became the first woman to earn a Wharton MBA, 10 years after the first MBA class was enrolled in 1921. Ledig completed a 139-page thesis titled “Training of Salespeople for Ready-to-Wear Departments.”

Here are some additional milestones the School’s female MBA graduates and faculty have accomplished:

  • In 1947, Hettie Simmons Love WG’47 became the first African American woman to earn a Wharton MBA. While at Wharton, she was the only Black student and one of only two women in her class.
  • In 1948, Dorothy Swaine Thomas became Wharton’s first female professor, appointed as a research professor of sociology. Dr. Thomas often wrote about demography, population redistribution, and economic growth, and served as research director of Penn’s Population Studies Center for 11 years.
  • In 1954, Jean Andrus Crockett joined Wharton as an assistant professor of finance. She later became the first female department chair at Wharton, the first woman to lead the Penn Faculty Senate, and the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  • In July 2020, Erika H. James became the first woman to serve as Wharton’s dean. She is also the first person of color appointed dean in Wharton’s history.

Today, Wharton women are combining their strengths, leadership, and fellowship in an alumnae program known as Wharton Women’s Circles, founded in 2019 with a focus on cultivating meaningful connections.

“Over 600 alumnae have participated in the Women’s Circles program since it started,” said Shannon Connelly, executive director of alumni relations. “They appreciate making new friends from different backgrounds, having a sounding board for ideas, and talking about professional issues among a peer group of smart, high-achieving, generous Wharton women who help each other succeed.”

Learn More About Wharton Women’s Circles

Shaping the Wharton Alumnae Success Journey

MBA alumnae find support at each career step.
MBA alumnae find support at each career step.

Wharton supports the career needs of MBA alumnae at every stage. With a curated array of resources to help Wharton women achieve maximum career satisfaction, the School contributes bespoke direction and insight so its female graduates can excel in their chosen professions.

“We have a team of highly rated alumni career coaches with a passion for working with women at every career stage, across dozens of industries,” said Cara Costello, director of alumni services for Wharton MBA Career Management “We are excited to listen to each story, share best-in-class resources, and provide tactical advice to support short and long term career aspirations.”

For executive women, MBA Career Management offers specialized coaching on a range of career-progression topics. These topics include effectively leading teams, thriving in a difficult company culture, and negotiating compensation with confidence.

Alumnae who have made use of Wharton’s career management services say they were greeted with knowledgeable and accessible career coaches who outlined clear action steps, created road maps for career transitions, and developed constructive solutions.

Beyond executive-specific options, services offered by MBA Career Management include:

  • Support for alumnae as they look to re-enter the work force. Coaches in this area specialize in career assessments, résumé and LinkedIn development, job-search strategy, and other best practices for relaunching.
  • A comprehensive board of directors page, which includes information about an alumnae-specific board course through Executive Education, recommended board membership organizations for women, and specialized coaching to help women achieve long-term board goals.
  • Ways for women to connect with fellow alumnae, female MBA students, and the greater University, including searchable directories and specialized alumnae programs.

Wharton MBA Career Management is supported by The Wharton Fund, the School’s annual fund that supports the people, programs, and initiatives that ensure Wharton remains at the forefront of business education and thought leadership worldwide.


Learn More About MBA Career Management

Celebrating Wharton Fellowships

Wharton fellowships help create tomorrow's leaders.
Wharton fellowships help create tomorrow's leaders.

Susan Dong WG’22, Ariel Stern C’15 WG’22, and Elyse Wilkinson WG’22 each have a different Wharton story. Over the course of the last two years, their time at Wharton has been defined by incredibly diverse experiences – supporting them in their endeavors as emerging leaders within Wharton clubs and activities, and in building unique communities that have informed their aspirations and goals. However, they share one important thing in common: their Wharton fellowships.

Recently, Dong, Stern, and Wilkinson joined Wharton Dean Erika James, MBA Program Vice Dean Howie Kaufold, and MBA Program Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Reilly for the MBA Fellowship Celebration, acknowledging Wharton and Lauder Institute fellowship students and the donors who support them.

“The spirit of this event — thanking MBA fellowship and student-experience fund donors and beneficiaries — sustains us and is a reminder of the strength and impact of the Wharton network,” said Kaufold during the virtual event.

In addition to providing individual support, such generosity contributes to the School’s greater diversity by making a Wharton education more accessible. In fact, for the first time in the School’s 140-year history, the class of 2023 is comprised of more than 50 percent women, with female students accounting for nearly 52 percent of the class. That diversity creates value for the entire Wharton community, according to Dean James.

“I am very proud and excited to be part of a community that values all these different forms of diversity — in disciplines, fields of study, and demographics,” she said.

Fellowships remain a critical source of financial aid for many Wharton students, providing the means to pursue a world-class business education and, often, the flexibility to take advantage of extracurriculars and experiences that foster deeper connections with classmates, as proven by each of the event’s fellowship recipients.

“Not only did my fellowship alleviate a significant financial burden, it represented the support I had from these donors to go ‘all in’ without any limitations on my Wharton experience,” said Wilkinson.

Learn More About Wharton Fellowships