The Cluster and Cohort system was designed with the hope that it takes a group of 860 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.

That process takes many hours and a lot of planning. Here’s how it happens:

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

1 MBA Class of 860 students
=
4 Clusters of 210
=
12 Cohorts of 72
=
144 Learning Teams of 5 to 6

Built from the Ground Up

This year, for the first time, it started at the Learning Team level. “We built from the ground up,” said Jess Segal, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the McNulty Leadership Program at Wharton. “If you diversify the Learning Teams enough, then you’ll end up with diverse Cohorts and Clusters.”

The MBA Program Office’s data coordinator took the first pass at creating the Learning Teams, using self-reported student data provided by Admissions — gender and ethnicity (if reported), country of citizenship, global region, industry, and proposed major.

Once the Program Office completed its queries and ran the data, Jess worked with them 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.

“If there were no system in place to create a community in smaller subsets, you could easily feel lost,” Jess said. “The Cluster and Cohort system was designed with the hope that it takes a group of 860 and allows it to feel like a smaller community.”

Posted: August 25, 2016

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