Romel Singleton, WG’24, Shares What it’s Like to be a Venture Fellow
In this Q&A story, Romel Singleton, WG’24, chair of the 2023-2024 Venture Fellows Selection Committee, detailed his remarkable experiences with the program, the lessons he’s learned along the way, and his hopes for future fellows.
Q: What is a Venture Fellow?
A: A Venture Fellow is a student leader and peer mentor. The program is designed to put students in ambiguous settings, doing something they’re not good at, so they understand their leadership style in a difficult situation.
The program sends you to some corner of the world. During winter 2023, we had a team in Antarctica and another in the Atacama Desert in Chile. I was in New Zealand, where I co-led tall ship sailing on a 70-foot boat. I stayed on that boat for nine days.
During the hiking ventures, we’re all carrying everything we have on our backs and sleeping in tents for a week. You explore how you interact with your peers and show up as a leader even when you’re not at your best. You become thoughtful about how this applies to the business world.
Q: Describe a favorite moment from your time in New Zealand.
A: One day as I was pulling down sails during sunset, I looked down and saw dolphins swimming in the wake. I looked up and saw beautiful islands in the distance. It just didn’t feel real. It felt like someone had orchestrated that moment. It was just a really amazing experience.
Q: Have you benefited from the Venture Fellows program?
Yes. A lot of thought goes into the program, to make sure Venture Fellows are prepared wherever we go. The trainings are super helpful in learning to manage disconnects in communication, leadership style, or conflict.
There’s a summer training program in August, where we hike and learn constructive ways to handle issues with different factors, such as time constraints and emotions. This helped me become a better facilitator and keep my eyes on what I’m trying to achieve in any situation.
Q: What’s some advice you’d give to a future Venture Fellow?
Be open minded and lean in. You’re doing yourself a great disservice as a Venture Fellow if you don’t take the time to really get to know faculty. Get honest feedback from McNulty Leadership Program staff members who have years of knowledge in organizational science and management.
Q: Tell us about some of the work you’ve been doing at Wharton that makes you the proudest.
I’m especially proud of the work I’m doing as Venture Fellow. As the chair of the selection committee, I’m leading the process of selecting the next group of students. I’ve taken a lot of ownership in that, because I care very much about the legacy of the program.
For instance, I’m working to balance out the group. Venture Fellows is very outdoorsy, so we’re bound to get a lot of applicants who grew up doing outdoorsy things. But this might imply certain things about your upbringing. So, I’ve put a lot of thought into how we can give everyone the equal opportunity to shine. I want to make sure everyone has fair representation, despite how the application might look. I’m proud of that and excited to see how it works out.
Outside of Venture Fellows, I’m proud to be a part of the African American MBA Association (AAMBAA). That’s home base. It’s a place at Wharton where I can go and be my authentic self. It’s actually one of the things that drove me to Wharton. I found authenticity in AAMBAA that I didn’t find at other schools.
I’m proud that I branch out and take advantage of all Wharton has to offer. At Wharton, you get to choose your own adventure. Try something new, see what it feels like, and grow. You don’t have to be good at everything.
Q. What are your hopes for the future of business?
I hope for more diverse leadership that empowers others to grow. I think the trend is already out there, with leaders investing in organizations and making sure, from the bottom to the top, people have the opportunity to grow.
If there is a way to have your company’s foundation rooted in internal development in a meaningful way, it allows people to feel like they’re part of the overall mission. Then, everything else follows from there. An effective leader produces more leaders.