The Cluster and Cohort system was designed with the hope that it takes a group of 864 and allows it to feel like a smaller community.

Each Wharton MBA class is divided into four Clusters, each with its own support system, culture, community, and mascot.

So how does Wharton decide who’s a Lion, Dragon, Tiger or Bee?

Cluster Image

Hint: A sorting hat was not involved.

At Wharton, magic isn’t part of the equation — naturally, the decision is data-based.

The goal is to make each Cluster as diverse as the class itself, connecting students with varied skill sets, leadership styles, and personal and professional backgrounds.

“If there were no system in place to create a community in smaller subsets, you could easily feel lost,” said Jess Segal, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the McNulty Leadership Program at Wharton. “The Cluster and Cohort system was designed with the hope that it takes a group of more than 860 and allows it to feel like a smaller community.”

Built from the Ground Up

Historically, Wharton used a top-down approach, starting with the Clusters, then building the Cohorts, and finally Learning Teams:

1 MBA Class of 864 students
=
4 Clusters of 216
=
12 Cohorts of 72
=
144 Learning Teams of 5 to 6

Now they use a slightly different approach. After an initial high-level sort to ensure the overall Clusters are diverse, they build from the ground up — starting with the individual Learning Teams.

“We know students bring a wide array of experiences, talent, and knowledge to Wharton,” said Jérémie Allard, Assistant Director of Academic Operations – Data. “When you bring together people from various backgrounds and interests and countries, you’re going to get rich experiences and connections you might not otherwise get.”

During an intensive three-day process, Jérémie combs through self-reported data for each student provided by Admissions: gender and ethnicity (if reported), country of citizenship, global region, industry, and proposed major. “I get to see the personal side of data — where people come from, where they’ve gone in their careers, where they hope to go next,” he said.

After he completes the queries and runs the data, Jérémie works to maximize the diversity on each Learning Team. This gives students the opportunity to broaden their perspective and deepen their experience on an intimate team of five to six classmates they’ll get to know and work with closely over their first year.

“Wharton MBA students don’t just learn from the professors, they learn from each other,” Jérémie said. “When I walk by the group study rooms in Huntsman Hall, I’m looking at these teams that I created and I get to see them in action. It’s really exciting and rewarding to be part of that process.”

— Colleen Donnelly

Posted: August 9, 2018

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