Christina Ho, WG’20, says, “This program is designed to provide a supportive network. This is a place for everyone.”

Diversity brings different perspectives, influences, and values, which add to the learning experience for everyone. It’s also a cornerstone of Wharton’s EMBA program, where students learn as much from the faculty as they do from each other. LGBTQ students are an important part of this diverse community and their perspectives and viewpoints enrich the program experience. We asked several students and staff members to talk about what it’s like to be part of the Wharton community and speak to the environment for LGBTQ students.


Edward Wilson, WG’21

Currently
Brand Manager, Men’s, Nordstrom

Based In
Seattle, WA

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
Cornell University, BS Industrial and Labor Relations

My Background
“For me, diversity shows up in many different ways. I’m a black man and that presents itself immediately. And I’m gay and have a partner, which is something I choose to share. My awareness of this intersectionality broadened the lens of diversity and made Wharton attractive. Exploring a functional transition, I knew Wharton and a cohort with widely varied experiences would add another dimension for me and vice versa.”

Why Diversity is Important
“We are in this EMBA program to continue to grow as leaders. We will lead and manage increasingly diverse talent. Just look at the growing share of young people who identify as LGBTQ. That represents our future teams and colleagues. Having the ability to build trust, build empathy and connect with different people is critical.”

What It’s Like to Be LGBTQ at Wharton
“When I arrived on campus, I felt welcome. Being gay is not an issue at all. This is a very open and inclusive environment.”

Advice for Incoming LGBTQ Applicants
“Visit campus and talk to students and professors to increase your comfort level and see that your most authentic self deserves a seat at the table. If you’re this far along in your career, then you’ve probably tackled a lot of challenges. See how this community can help you expand what community means.”


Christina Ho, WG’20

Currently
Vice President Customer Service, Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc.

Based In
Spring Valley, NY

Wharton Campus
Philadelphia

Prior Education
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, BS Chemical Engineering; Columbia University, Master’s in Earth Resources Engineering

My Background
“I’m a career-long electric utility professional. I’ve worked in areas ranging from power plant engineering to control center operations to strategy, business planning, and customer relationship management. I’m also openly gay and am an executive sponsor of the LGBTQ employee resource group at my company. I’m excited to be a voice for this population and to celebrate this element of my background.”

Why I Came to Wharton
“When I came to Wharton for my interview, I talked to the admissions representative about the dimensions of diversity in this program. I was impressed with how the Admissions Committee actively thinks about creating diverse cohorts of highly qualified candidates from many different backgrounds so that students can learn from each other. I felt extremely comfortable coming to this program and found that it is far more diverse than I expected across a lot of dimensions like work backgrounds, gender, and ethnicities.”

Why Diversity is Important
“Top MBA programs are training the leaders of the economic engine of this country and across the globe. To have the strongest businesses possible, we need diversity not only at top levels but across organizations. This will create growth, value, jobs, and economic opportunity. It’s also helpful to see leaders who are open and visible to pave the way for others who come after us. I want to provide motivation, pride, and encouragement to those who may feel like they aren’t represented.”

What It’s Like to Be LGBTQ at Wharton
“Everyone is open and welcoming. During Pride Week, many students dressed up in rainbow colors. The environment reflects the type of people who are admitted. They are open, curious, and want to find similarities with each other and understand our differences.”

Advice for Incoming LGBTQ Applicants
“This program is designed to provide a supportive network. This is a place for everyone. Students care about each other as whole people and that includes all dimensions of diversity. It’s also a great environment to explore entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurship resources are powerful for people who want to create their own businesses and safe spaces where you can control your own destiny. It’s a great place to explore and grow the things that are important to you.”


Dr. Ibrahim (Pete) Hanna, WG’20

Currently
Chairman of Surgery at Grace Lifebridge Medical Center and SABA University

Based In
Baltimore, MD

Wharton Campus
Philadelphia

Prior Education
Damascus University, M.D. and Marshall University, General Surgical Residency Program

My Background
“I have always been a part of a minority one way or the other, but all along I’ve been blessed with having great people around me. I grew up in Damascus, Syria as a Christian minority and then I moved to the U.S. I am now a Syrian American and an openly gay surgeon.”

What It’s Like to Be LGBTQ at Wharton
“When I applied to this program, I was concerned about the culture. I called the admissions director and directly asked what it would be like. She assured me that it wouldn’t be an issue and immediately connected me with a current LGBTQ student, who shared his experiences at Wharton. He shared his personal journey and reassured me that it wouldn’t be an issue, and this has been my experience too. My classmates have been inclusive and welcoming. I don’t feel like I need to hide anything. They are among the best friends I could ever open up to or hope for. For Pride Week, my learning team and a few other classmates dressed up in different colors to form a rainbow. That was a great visible show of support. And as a member of the Student Advisory Council, I invited a friend, who is a professor at Harvard University and expert on diversity and inclusion, to be a guest speaker for my class. My classmates were very thrilled to hear about the topic. Everyone is excited to learn from each other and support each other in this program.”

Joining the Human Rights Campaign
“I’ve always wanted to become involved with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). During the EMBA program, I reached out to them and started engaging with board members. I co-chaired a few outreach events in Baltimore and now I’m on the steering committee for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. My Wharton education made a positive impact on this relationship and the speed by which it has grown. My classmates and the alumni community have been very supportive of my work with the HRC. I’m part of a Wharton LGBTQ alumni group, and last year we organized a table at the HRC’s national dinner in Washington, D.C. This year, 15 of my EMBA classmates attended the HRC’s Philadelphia dinner.”

Why Diversity is Important
“Diversity enriches the knowledge, experience and success of any business entity. Top MBA programs like Wharton are developing leaders in business and society, so it is important to have all types of diversity represented. That adds to the learning experience of everyone. I hope I’ve added to the experience of my classmates, and I know every single one of them has enriched my experience.”

Advice for Incoming LGBTQ Applicants
“Be open from day one. The Wharton experience is a very special one, and you should enjoy every second of it without any barriers or concerns. I’m very impressed with the magic of the Admissions Committee in creating cohorts. All of my classmates have been a positive influence on me. LGBTQ students should not worry about being openly LGBTQ. You’ll be welcomed in this supportive environment.”


Lauren Schmidt, WG’21

Currently
Research Analyst, Primarius Capital/Processa Pharmaceuticals

Based In
Boise, ID

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
Stanford University, BS Human Biology

My Background
“I’m openly gay and married my wife a few months into the program!”

What It’s Like to Be LGBTQ at Wharton
“Even though I have been openly gay for years, it is hard to not approach new situations and new people with some apprehension. Any concerns or discomfort I had going into the program was immediately dispelled after coming onto campus. I met an alum on my admissions visit who invited me to go surfing with her and her wife, the Admissions Committee told me about the inclusivity of the cohorts, and when I eventually started the program my classmates were warm and welcoming (and asked to see lots of wedding pictures!)”

Lauren and her wife Kaitlin on their wedding day, riding a tandem bike to the reception.

“The quality of the education is on par with the exceptional quality of the people you are surrounded by at Wharton. While I feel like I bring a unique perspective as an LGBT student, I feel as though I have learned so much more from the people I am surrounded by.”

Why Diversity is Important
“Diversity is important because it provides different perspectives and frameworks of thinking, and these new frameworks help us be more well rounded (and ultimately more successful) leaders. Having the ability to approach a situation or decision from several different vantage points is a massive competitive advantage from a business perspective, because it allows us to see around corners and anticipate what the world could look like in the short and long term. Exposure to new perspectives and frameworks of thinking also allows us to be better employees, employers, and global citizens.”

Advice for Incoming LGBTQ Applicants
“My advice would be similar to anyone else entering the Wharton program. Be yourself, and embrace your campus visit. Wharton is a place where people surprise and impress you, and if you are open to those exchanges you will have the opportunity to meet and learn from some incredible people.”


Kim Cowperthwaite

Currently
Associate Director/Class Manager, Wharton EMBA Program

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
University of San Francisco, BS Management

My Background
“I’m openly gay and have been married since 2014. I share that information on the MyWharton platform for incoming classes.”

How I Support LGBTQ Students
“As a class manager, I support my cohorts from orientation to graduation. I help develop schedules, plan menus, and plan social events. I also serve as an academic advisor, a shoulder to cry on, and a cheerleader. I support LGBTQ students in the same way that I support all students. As for events, the Pride Parade goes right by our building, so I invite everyone to watch the parade. I also highlight Pride Month in our cohort newsletter and encourage everyone to be proud of who they are and what they have accomplished.”

Why Diversity is Important at Wharton
“Our students are further along in their careers, so it’s less common to network outside of their areas. If you work in finance, you probably only talk to finance people. And you may only talk to a doctor when you need medical attention. In this program, you talk to people who do entirely different things and hear insights and perspectives from different fields. That contributes to an enriching learning environment. Diversity increases the value of everyone’s education. It also leads to making deep friendships with people you otherwise would not meet.”

Advice for LGBTQ Students
“It’s important to show up and be who you are and allow other people to be who they are. This program only gets better from people bringing their whole selves here. You’ll find a challenging academic program and an excited and friendly cohort of students.”


Amy Myers

Currently
Associate Director/Class Manager, Wharton EMBA Program

Wharton Campus
Philadelphia

Prior Education
Temple University, BBA Business

My Background
“I’m openly gay and married – and I assume everyone knows this.”

How I Support LGBTQ Students
“I support all students and their families in the same way. I’m the ‘go-to person’ for my cohorts. I help out with anything and everything from lodging, meals, and course selections to advice and logistical planning for family visits. When a student in a prior class and her wife adopted a daughter, and I supported her needs in the same way that I would for anyone. I also helped a student put together a list of LGBTQ students from past classes so that they could better network. I want students to know there is a community of supportive alumni out there. And I attended Peter Hanna’s Human Rights Campaign event along with other students and staff.”

What to Expect at Wharton
“This is an open and accepting community. It’s a safe place where people come from different religions, cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, etc.”

Advice for LGBTQ Students
“My advice is the same for all students. Be open to meeting different kinds of people than you, and don’t be afraid to be yourself. This is a very accepting environment.”

— By Meghan Laska

Posted: June 1, 2020

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