Dean Garrett joined Wharton in June 2014 and, early this year, embarked on the Global Conversations Tour, which came to New York City on February 10, and concludes in Boston this June.
Dean Garrett clearly appreciated being in New York: “There is no doubt that New York area alumni are an amazing asset for the school. You do us proud, very proud, every day. I travel to New York City frequently to meet with many of you and I always look forward to those conversations which range from the latest trends on Wall Street, to new startups in the region, to the ever changing Manhattan skyline. I am always so impressed by the energy and expertise of our New York alums, the innovation you bring to your careers and the industry, and the commitment you have to Wharton.
If you are at Wharton, then you want to spend a lot of time in New York — because it is the center of finance. Every day, I go to my office and see ‘1881 — First Business School in the World’ etched in stone. It says the ‘Wharton Business School of Finance,’ but then it says ‘… and Commerce.’ Commerce is an old word, with new meanings that we can explore.”
In his New York conversation, his on-stage partners were Silas K. F. Chou, PAR’14, President and CEO of Novel Enterprises Limited, and Mona Bijoor, WG’05, Founder and CEO of JOOR. Silas’ company purchased Tommy Hilfiger for $25 million in 1989, and sold it eight years later for $2 billion. Silas was also an early investor in the fashion house Michael Kors. He owned more than half of the company when it went public in 2011, and sold its stake last year. Mona’s company, JOOR, serves thousands of fashion brands and over 90,000 retailers. To catch the lively insights
and humor of these conversations on video, please visit the WCNY Magazine website, https://readwny.com.
Dean Garrett asked Silas how his family, went from being one of the quintessential clothing makers in China, to owning international fashion brands? Silas: “I didn’t go to college. I wanted to go into business with my father – that was about 40 years ago, when the fashion world in the US, started designer brands for the middle-class market. I told my father that I wanted to make ours the biggest apparel factory in the world, and control my destiny — by manufacturing for brand names. We were lucky to get in with Ralph Lauren. Then we had the chance to buy Tommy Hilfiger.”
The Dean asked Mona: “It strikes me that the combination of immigration and innovation, drove the US miracle in the 20th century, and can continue to do so in the 21st century! So tell me Mona, what does America mean to you?”
Mona: “I’m American, but have Indian values. My parents came in the 1960s when America brought in highly skilled labor to the US. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, among physicians and engineers, who were so grateful to be here. They wanted to stay in America, and send their kids to the best schools, to Wharton!
Today it has become difficult for educated immigrants to stay in America. I hope the H1-B Visa legislation is passed, because that heyday of the 1960s needs to happen again.”
Editor: “I reached out to the Dean, about his approach to the tour.” His response: “A piece of advice that I have always subscribed to is to meet as many people as you can, as soon as you can.” After almost twelve months in this role, and meeting literally thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni from around the world, I can say two things. Wharton is incredibly good
at an extraordinary range of things and the Wharton community is unbelievably engaged and invested in our success. The Global Conversations Tour has been useful for me to meet as many people as I can, and it has been my real pleasure getting to chat with people like Silas Chou or Mona Bijoor about the state of their businesses, the world in general and the relevance of their
All these conversations have not only helped me get to know alumni, but also to see the strengths of the institution and the opportunities to grow. Wharton has a preeminent position in the world of finance. But the school is so much more. What makes Wharton great as a whole is our rigorous focus across the board on data and on analytics. This is going to be more important than ever before in a big data world. The division between leaders and analysts will erode, as leaders will make better decisions based on the ability to analyze big data.
We tend not to get as much attention or credit as we should for all the innovation and entrepreneurship at Wharton – it is in our DNA. I’d like to turbo charge innovation among students, not only the ideas and products themselves that may or may not succeed, but also the mindset of innovation that will stay with our students forever. A lot of entrepreneurship occurs in New York in
finance with Wharton alumni creating hedge funds and private equity firms.
Technology and globalization, the same two forces affecting business are equally important at a business school like Wharton. We are a major player in online education for two major reasons. We want learners all around the world to be able to get a taste of Wharton. We want to experiment in online pedagogy in ways that will help us improve tech-enabled education on campus. We
have a fantastic facility in San Francisco. Our alumni network in Silicon Valley is extraordinary, and I don’t think the world knows that, so it’s part of my job to tell people that.
Our student body is global. So is our faculty; and so is our curriculum. But in the 21st century, while the world will continue to come to the US, America will need to go to the world too, which is why we opened the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing in March, have partnerships with INSEAD, in France and helped found business schools in India, Singapore and Thailand. It’s not
enough to say we are global, we must be global.
Reflections on the tour Takashi Yoshizaki, WG’10, of www.artbeat.net commented: “It is reinvigorating to get connected with fellow Wharton alumni and learn how they impact society. The
Global Conversations tour event in New York showed the future of our Wharton community. I’m grateful to the Dean who conceived the tour and made it happen.
Sapna Shah, W’93, C’93, of www.redgiraffeadvisors.com. “I do angel investing in fashion tech and retail startups. I found lessons for many of the startups I work with, in Mona Bijoor’s insights on how she built her startup Joor to solve a pain point for her customers.”