Kofi Kankam, WG’04, joined WCNY in 2005, soon after graduating. He hopes it’s a trend that he will build-on. He recently reached out to many volunteers, and of course, many already know him for being warm-hearted and thoughtful. The Club looks forward to Kofi’s leadership!
In the context of your professional life and your wonderful family, becoming President of the Wharton Club of New York is a major commitment. It’s actually an act of generosity to the Club and Wharton community. Why are you taking this on?
It is a lot of work, but it’s a community that I am deeply rooted in. My first business partner and my groomsman and friends are Wharton alumni. When I came out of Wharton, I wasn’t married. Now, I’m married with kids. I got involved with the Club when I was in my 20s, and now, I’m in my 40s. I feel like I can relate to new alumni who want to grow with the community and contribute. And I can’t speak about wanting change unless I’m willing to get involved.
I also look forward to growing as a leader by working with tremendous people who have different backgrounds and viewpoints.
What are challenges that some alumni and graduates face? How do you see WCNY helping them meet those challenges?
We face the same challenges as the rest of the population. Employment, economic dislocation, not doing work they love to do and not progressing as quickly as they like. The challenges of balancing career, self-care and family.
From a human perspective, the challenge is — that great experience at school when we were immersed in an environment with tons of smart people — is hard to replicate. Alums remember that time when anything was possible. That ever-present sense of excitement and exchanging ideas. If the Club can provide that kind of vibrancy, everything can flow from that.
People want to invest when they have that sense of community. Based on their stage of life and personal and professional associations, we can build on that. If we can develop partnerships, then perhaps we will be less dependent on the Joseph Wharton Awards Dinner. Or grow both! All of that stems from relevance. Based on age and stage of life, we’ve got to be relevant. We’ll have more paid members and less dependence on companies.
Yes, beyond the Club, people have experienced a reduction in the sense of community. And there is more apprehension. So, if WCNY can serve as a model there…
The Club hosts different communities, and we have diversity in every way you can imagine. The Club tries to be apolitical, but bringing together people of different backgrounds and perspectives is not inconsequential. We have the ground game to engage people. We can be civil. It’s a great place to come together and find out what motivates each of us. Then you can say, “I don’t agree with him, but I have grown from that. I respect him.” I hope we can provide that environment.
What help do you need?
We have an amazing team. I have been calling them and getting to know them better. We do need more members to volunteer in areas that make sense for them. We don’t want it to be burdensome. Their work should help their own professional or personal growth.
I need people to get off the sidelines, people who care about the community, and who want to create the Club that they want to have. If they feel the Club is not doing a certain activity, then they should come forward and create that. We want more engagement that is relevant to their lives.
In your non-Wharton hours, what are you doing?
I serve as VP of Operations for TRANSFR, a virtual reality company, which trains people to find jobs. My wife is a marketing executive for the U.S. Tennis Association. We live in Westchester with our two kids, who are a joy.