“I’ve seen students evolve and gain so much confidence throughout their two years with us. It’s more than just the coursework at Wharton; students gain a huge professional network, a group of lifelong friends, and exposure to many different types of industries and professionals.” – Jennifer Craig, Philadelphia Class Manager

Students in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives embrace the challenge of balancing coursework, personal responsibilities, and full-time jobs during the two-year program. Working hard behind the scenes are Wharton’s class managers, dedicated staff members who manage the program logistics so students can focus on their studies. From ordering textbooks and booking hotel reservations to arranging travel accommodations for Global Business Week, class managers ensure EMBA students stay organized and on track for graduation. We asked Jennifer Craig, one of Wharton’s class managers for the Philadelphia cohort, to share more about her role. 

What brought you to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives?

After college, I started working in hospitality services at the Steinberg Conference Center (SCC) on Penn’s campus. During my time managing the front desk, I got to know the Wharton EMBA students fairly well because they stayed at the SCC for their class weekends. The first and second-year students have alternating class weekends, so there was a class checking in every Friday. When one of the Philadelphia cohort class managers at the time was getting ready to retire, she encouraged me to apply for the class manager position. 

What does your role involve?

At EMBA, there are dedicated class managers responsible for each class in the San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Global cohorts. We manage all the logistics, from orientation week through graduation, so that the students can focus on their coursework while managing their full-time jobs. Class managers work with faculty and staff to create the course calendar, book hotel room reservations, order textbooks and course materials, help plan social and academic events, and handle day-to-day program operations. We also act as academic advisors to assist students with course selection, especially if they decide to pursue a major. Basically, we are their “go-to” person throughout their two years here.

Jenn and her first class, the “45s,” AKA the 45th class to graduate from Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives. (Image: Wharton MBA Program for Executives)

What are some of your fondest memories with Wharton EMBA students?

There are a lot! My first class was the 45th Wharton EMBA class, fondly called the 45s. COVID hit right before the start of their second year, so the first term of their second year was online. It was an adjustment for all of us, and we missed seeing each other in person every other week. When things started to open back up, we hosted a “Best of Weekend” to welcome students back to campus, packed with fun activities and events for faculty, staff, and students to reconnect.

Some of my favorite memories are the surprise baby showers the students threw for me before I had each of my daughters. It really did feel like a family event. I know they do the same thing for each other when someone in the program goes through a major milestone. They’re so generous and genuinely care. Not everyone can say they had over 100 people attend their first baby shower! It was really special.

Jennifer, center, smiles at the surprise baby shower thrown by her Wharton friends and family. (Image: Jennifer Craig)

How do you balance working full-time while raising a family?

Working full-time while raising a family can be hectic! I really empathize with our students, because many of them have children and are already balancing family and work when they come to WEMBA. Adding school on top of that is a unique challenge and it definitely puts things into perspective for me when I get overwhelmed in my daily life. As a parent, it’s incredible to watch my three daughters grow, develop their own personalities, and learn about the world. It’s also completely life-changing and can be difficult at times. It’s nice to be able to relate to our students on that level and understand what they may be going through at home in addition to their other responsibilities.

Can you tell us something about you that may surprise us?

I love to travel, but never got a chance to study abroad in college. After graduating, I completed my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification and got a job teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. I spent two years teaching schoolchildren how to read, write, and speak English and it was amazing how quickly they learned and mastered the language. That experience opened my eyes to understanding different cultures and ways of living, which I found fascinating. I went on to backpack for a month through Vietnam, Thailand, and Nepal with a fellow English teacher I met in Korea. Following that adventure, I completed a yoga teaching certification course in India. When my visa expired, I came back to the US and began my career at Penn.

Jenn and her fellow English teacher trekking through Asia.

What do you want prospective EMBA students to know about this program?

This program can be transformational. I’ve seen students evolve and gain so much confidence throughout their two years with us. It’s more than just the coursework at Wharton; students gain a huge professional network, a group of lifelong friends, and exposure to so many different types of industries and professionals. A lot of close friendships are formed during Orientation week. You’ll hear students telling each other they love each other as they leave campus to go back home after that first week of classes. I don’t know where else you find that kind of friendship at this stage in life and it’s amazing to watch the relationships deepen over the course of the program.

— Kendra King

Posted: December 5, 2023

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