In Conversation: Wharton Chief Advancement Officer Sam Lundquist
Following a year of global travels with Wharton Dean Erika James, Lundquist reflected on the expanding access to Wharton educational content; a world of change for students and alumni; and holding onto the School’s traditions while welcoming the future.
Wharton Impact: What are your takeaways from a year on the road with Dean Erika James? What were some of the highlights?
Sam Lundquist: Traveling as part of the Wharton Impact Tour has been my front-row seat for watching the dean make meaningful connections with the Wharton community. She has been so warmly received, and because her tour is ongoing, Erika is getting to show our stakeholders from all around the world how she is leading the School to bigger and better outcomes. When meeting Erika, our alumni are seeing firsthand how the dean is a passionate steward of Wharton traditions and the leader of its developing future.
A highlight of our extensive travel this year is to witness the level of discovery for Erika. The power of the global Wharton network originates from each individual who makes up the whole community. The Impact Tour has allowed her to reach beyond the computer screen and experience Wharton beyond Philadelphia and San Francisco in a much more personal way. The Wharton Global Forum in Singapore — with more than 750 alumni in attendance for two days of programming in March — put an exclamation point on a year of outreach and engagement.
WI: Talk about the Wharton alumni community. What are your thoughts on how the Wharton network is stronger following the challenges of the pandemic?
SL: We are living and working in a changed world, and I no longer expect our daily lives to go back to what we all knew before 2020. With that said, our alumni adapted incredibly well, and I saw the community come together in unexpected ways. Because Wharton has alumni from three degree programs—undergraduate, MBA, and PhD—we have a scale and depth of people that revealed itself across all sectors of business and the economy. We all achieved goals with flexibility, endurance, patience, and good fortune. There was no template for this experience in our modern lifetime, but the ability to pivot and respond to opportunity has become a new or enhanced skill.
WI: How is Wharton driving change for good in the world? The School is expanding its reach by bringing positive outcomes out of the classroom and applying them in society. What are some of the specifics?
SL: We are deeply committed to understanding how a market-based economic system can benefit everybody. Markets grow when more people are able to participate in them. It starts with preparing students to lead organizations in ways that foster inclusivity, which results in more workplace diversity and greater access to the ecosystem of growth — primarily financial capital, data analytics, and innovation. The School has always prepared its students to help grow the economy, which helps create jobs. But in a world where politics are so divisive, we celebrate education as a shared value that can help create stable societies. We have created programs that are available to everyone from high-school students to those who can only connect with Wharton online due to geographic or personal limitations. Access to Wharton educational content is, by design, inclusive and equitable, which is a true leadership position for the School.
WI: You’ve been connected to Wharton and Penn for more than 30 years. What keeps you fresh every day, and what gives you the energy to keep doing your job?
SL: Every day is different! I have helped build the pipelines for student enrollment and, likewise, for alumni volunteer leadership; it is a continuum. I get to see the amazing impact that Wharton alumni have on the world. Every student contributes uniquely to the collective Wharton experience. I enjoy seeing those educational and professional journeys in real time.
WI: What are some upcoming events?
SL: Reunion and Alumni Weekend will be held on campus in May, and there will be more opportunities to meet Dean Erika James at Wharton Impact Tour events this year and next. I’m thrilled to let readers know that the next Wharton Global Forum will be held in São Paulo, Brazil, in June 2024. You can see all upcoming events on the alumni calendar.