In the spring of 2021, using surveys and focus groups, Wharton undergraduate students sought to collectively define and vote on a set of community values that represent the qualities students believe Wharton should embody. . The Wharton Values Initiative has identified six core values: Ambition, Community, Diversity and Inclusion, Exploration, Integrity, and Positive Impact.
These six values will be used in an ongoing, interactive effort to create community among students and a deeper connection to Wharton. The values were announced at a community town hall in October 2021 and are embedded into all parts of the Wharton student experience.
“As a professor of business ethics, the focus on values is central to my thinking,” says Diana Robertson, Vice-Dean and Director of Wharton Undergraduate Division. “What is so impressive about the Wharton Values Initiative is that it is entirely student-focused. It is rewarding to see our students embrace their own individual values, but also to come together to develop a set of values for our Wharton undergraduate community. This set of values is meant to be a living document that is debated, discussed and ultimately lived by our students. »
These dynamic values are intended to be specific, but open to personal expression, and will be renewed or modified every three years from 2024.
“The University is an ever-changing landscape and so these values must also be a force in constant action so that they don’t stagnate behind what really matters to all of us as a community,” says Michael Lentskevich, a third-year student at Wharton and Member. of the Wharton Values Initiative team. “Every three years we will revamp focus groups, surveys and other methodologies to percolate and recrystallize what we, as the Wharton community, truly value. In this way, these values are not simply carved in stone from the ideals of the past, but an ever-present reminder of the things we all believe in.
Sunni Liu, a fourth-year student at Wharton and a member of the Wharton Values Initiative team, says the goal is to make a short-term impact by starting more conversations about what students want the Wharton community is and about what already makes it special, and also have a long-term impact by building and shaping the community and a nurturing and welcoming environment for undergraduates to thrive.
“In the short term, I think values can help forge new bonds between groups of students who have common values,” she says. “We also hope they can help students find communities that share their personal values, which they might otherwise have overlooked.” In the long term, we hope that the values can enable students to think about Wharton’s culture more explicitly and work to push it towards positive change. We hope that the values will one day be integrated into all facets of the Wharton student experience and become something that students will truly resonate with.
The Initiative defines the first value, ambition, as when students dedicate themselves fully to every endeavor while meeting challenges to achieve goals, both academically and beyond.
“Ambition can have an extremely negative connotation, but that’s not what we found when talking to students,” says Lentskevich. “Instead, we found that ambition was viewed as a force for good, driving students to come up with innovative solutions and not be afraid to challenge previously accepted norms when needed.”
The second value refers to a collaborative and mentoring community, where students can seek help from their peers while lending a helping hand to others, says Hunter Korn, a fourth-year Wharton and member of the Wharton Values team. Initiative.
“Wharton’s communities provide people with opportunities to learn, a sense of belonging, and purpose to our education,” says Korn. “Ensuring everyone has a place in the Wharton community is something many students value and strive for.”
The next value is diversity and inclusion, where students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds and perspectives are welcomed and treated with respect, care, and fairness.
“Diversity and inclusion mean more than statistics to us,” says Liu. “It means a constant journey of exploration through self-reflection and external discovery. It means understanding all the different perspectives of the community, empathizing with them, and seeing how your own experiences affect you. It also means respect and a commitment to accepting differences to achieve a better future.
The fourth value is exploration, in which students embrace research at all levels of their education, career, and interactions.
“Exploration is the foundation of a college experience, as students navigate what they want to do in life and what interests have been thrust upon them,” says Lentskevich. “For many, this is the first time that the power of parental influence has waned and they are left to create new horizons and build their own future.”
Integrity empowers students to act and lead with principles, bringing a sense of humility and honor to their academic, extracurricular, and professional lives.
“Integrity is basically trying to do the right thing and living in a way that reflects your values. Students learn to navigate new experiences in college, whether in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, or in social settings,” says Korn. “These experiences can lay the groundwork for how people meet challenges and stick to their morals beyond Wharton.”
The last value is positive impact. Here, students strive to be at the forefront of social change by working collaboratively and with compassion.
“Highlighting how caring Wharton students are, one of the values that was woven into people’s responses was that all their actions should have a positive impact on their immediate community and the world at large,” says Lentskevich. “It’s as much a value as a promise that reminds us of what to look for as we venture beyond the Penn bubble and try to leave our marks on the world.”
COVID has changed the dynamic on campus, and while the virus isn’t as scary as it once was, Lentskevich says he feels the atmosphere on campus hasn’t recovered yet, which which makes the values even more important.
“While Wharton has always been an extremely pre-professional environment, COVID has overstated the idea of the University simply being a stepping stone on people’s path to a career,” he says. “As people were sent home and forced to have a virtual semester, it seemed like the administration and the world accepted that the total tuition was just classes. While this is certainly a valid perspective in some cases, such a mindset can minimize the multifaceted student experience and, even worse, exacerbate widespread mental health issues. As such, values are more important than ever in providing students with the space to think about what really matters in life and the connections between us rather than just how to get the next internship. Especially as we strive to rebuild the community after COVID and point it to a better place, these values become paramount as a guide for students.
He is proud of how values support students when they return to campus.
“In general, I think the pandemic has really forced everyone to think about where they are in life and what they want out of it,” she says. “After returning to campus, I think students are more authentic and choose to spend time on the things that really matter to them. We hope that the values and conversations that emerge can help students on their journey to discovering and pursuing these meaningful activities, in addition to sparking a conversation about our school culture and how we would like to let that change. We hope that we can continue to start conversations not only about Wharton’s values, but also about our personal values and how they interact with each other. A key element of the values we established early on is that their definitions are never rigid – each student should be able to interpret a value based on their own experiences and agree/disagree on the alignment current school with her.
“It was great to see our student leaders working together to lead this student-wide initiative and to provide a set of values that strive to unite the undergraduate student community at Wharton,” said Lee Kramer. , director of Student Life, Wharton Undergraduate Division. “I look forward to seeing what other initiatives and programs that will incorporate these important values in the years to come.”