Admissions Director Q&A: Wharton’s Frank DeVecchis
Way back in February, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School named a new director of MBA admissions. Aside from an immediate flurry of coverage here and elsewhere about this Wharton “insider” Frank DeVecchis stepping in, little else has been heard since. What gives?
As was reported then, DeVecchis does know Wharton intimately. He worked in the Wharton MBA Program Office for more than five years before heading over to admissions. In charge of operations and daily management of the MBA program, he advised more than 800 students, implemented the school’s innovative Course Match registration program and rolled out a new three-week orientation for incoming students.
Since joining MBA admissions earlier this year, he’s been a hard man to get a hold of. He works closely with existing Deputy Vice Dean of Wharton MBA Admissions, Financial Aid and Career Services Maryellen Reilly Lamb to oversee the entire application process, from recruitment through matriculation.
“These past few months have been a blur (and the next few don’t look much slower),” he shared when we finally managed to catch him last week. Before jetting off again to Asia this week, he was kind enough to make time to answer our questions. We’re glad we caught him!
As you work on your Wharton applications, we think you’ll be glad we caught him, too. In the interview that follows, he shares some of the unique perspectives he brings to admissions from his time in the Program Office, his excitement about an increased focus on innovation and entrepreneurship under Wharton’s new dean and why his team was so happy with last year’s essay that they decided to keep it exactly the same this year.
With Wharton’s Round 1 deadline still a few weeks off—September 29th—there’s still time to catch DeVecchis and other members of this team at recruiting events taking place around the globe. Click here for a full list of upcoming events. You can also catch a virtual MBA Admissions Information Session later today, from 4 to 5 p.m. (EST).
Clear Admit: What have you found most rewarding about your shift from the Program Office to Admissions? Most challenging?
Frank DeVecchis: There is something about being there from the beginning—when everything is new and everyone is in self-discovery and exploration mode. In my new role, I see candidates from day one, learning about their goals, aspirations, where they want to go and what they want to become, and learning how Wharton can be part of the journey.
Once they are admitted and become students, it is great to see our colleagues in academics, leadership, student life and career management take over and continue helping individuals grow and prepare to be extraordinary leaders. No two students or their pathways are the same. It’s amazing see how all the puzzle pieces fit together.
The most challenging thing: jetlag. In three months I’ve been to London, Dubai, LA, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Denver and Tokyo.
CA: What unique insights do you bring to your new role as a result of other work you’ve done at Wharton over the years (advising students, planning orientation, implementing Course Match, etc.)?
FD: I have a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of every candidate and student. Over the past few years, I have worked with students, faculty and staff to continue to develop a program that reflects and celebrates individuality and personalization. One of Wharton’s greatest strengths is its diverse community—in professional background, experience, culture, etc. and I strive to continue this tradition. Also, I can’t help but see everyone as a potential student in our classroom; considering what they will bring to and get from that setting and thinking about how their personal experiences will inform their learning and enrich the academic experiences of their classmates.
CA: When your new role was announced earlier this spring, your responsibilities were reported to include helping to develop strategic recruiting plans for Wharton’s global applicant pool. What does that look like?
FD: Wharton is committed to building classes that mirror the diverse business community our students will lead. To do this, recruitment cannot follow a one-size-fits-all model. We strive to continually innovate how we connect and develop relationships with candidates by utilizing new communications methods and strategies and technology. We bring a bit of the Wharton experience to every interaction, whether in person or virtual, allowing candidates to have a first-hand and personal understanding of what we have to offer.
CA: What one thing are you most excited about at Wharton in the coming year?
FD: I am really excited and energized by Dean Garrett’s dedication to innovation at Wharton. Just a few weeks ago Professor Karl Ulrich was named Vice Dean for Entrepreneurship and Innovation with his oversight extending to our San Francisco campus. In recent years Professor Ulrich’s team led Wharton’s efforts in online education, business radio, lifelong learning and our hugely popular semester in San Francisco. He’s also a practicing entrepreneur. I can’t wait to see where the dean and Professor Ulrich take us next.
CA: What is one thing about the Wharton MBA program that you wish applicants knew more about? Any misconceptions you’d like to correct?
FD: Two years at Wharton is an incredibly comprehensive experience. Yes, Wharton will empower you by teaching you invaluable professional and leadership skills, but you’ll also grow as an individual. Our entire community—from faculty, to staff, to classmates—serves as teachers, mentors and friends here to push and support you. You’ll meet people from all over the globe, be given the ability to see the world through new viewpoints and create lifelong bonds.
Wharton is a remarkably collaborative and supportive environment. For example, leading up to the Focused Recruiting Period (a dedicated week of recruiting for first years) you’ll find students spread about campus and our space in Center City working together on interview prep. In many cases these students will be meeting with the same companies in just a few hours, but at Wharton we are committed to helping each other succeed.
CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)? Where does the Team-Based Discussion fit in?
FD: We conduct a holistic review of each application. After we have considered each file we invite a subset of applicants to participate in the Team Based Discussion (TBD). The TBD is meant to model the collaborative environment of which I spoke in an attempt to draw out those characteristics that we believe contribute to the success of the individual and the class as a whole. An applicant’s performance in the TBD is considered as an element of the overall application (as is an essay or letter of recommendation) when we make our final decision.
CA: Are there changes ahead in the application process? You decided to stick with last year’s essay question for the impending application season? What led to that decision?
FD: It is monumentally important to us to hear about candidates’ goals and aspirations and for them to reflect on how they believe Wharton can be part of their journey. Getting accepted to Wharton means you are becoming part of a community—one that seeks to provide an enriching and stimulating atmosphere for everyone to grow in and succeed; an atmosphere that extends far beyond graduation. We want to know not only who and what you want to become, both personally and professionally, but also to gain insight as to whether Wharton is right for you and how you can contribute to the strength of our community.
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