How Wharton’s Prism Fellowship Transformed My MBA Journey | TopMBA.com

How Wharton’s Prism Fellowship Transformed My MBA Journey

By Niamh O

Updated February 24, 2021 Updated February 24, 2021

The Prism Fellowship will be offered annually to just one outstanding MBA student who is both a member of and demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Colan Wang was the first recipient of the award.

The Wharton School prides itself on its tradition of supporting student diversity programs – ensuring a more diverse and inclusive environment.

In 2020, Erika James was appointed as the dean of the business school – the first woman and person of color to obtain the role in the school’s 140-year history.

Wharton also announced the launch of a brand-new scholarship, The Prism Fellowship, to be awarded to an outstanding MBA student who is both a member of and demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Prism Fellowship covers the full cost of tuition for Wharton’s two-year, full-time MBA program. Prism Fellows are selected by the Wharton Fellowship Committee based on their leadership qualities, community impact and personal essays submitted with their MBA program application.

Colan Wang, Class of 2022, was the first recipient of the inaugural Prism Fellowship.

TopMBA caught up with Colan to find out how he’s finding the first year of his MBA, and what the Prism Fellowship has meant to him.

The Wharton MBA so far

Colan says he has found the MBA exhilarating – and praises the number of events available at Wharton, making choosing how to spend your time a fun challenge.

He said: “Over the last few months, I did a career trek with fintech companies from across the US, had virtual lunches with my professors, and cooked meatballs with [food writer] Alison Roman over Zoom.”

But Colan says one of the highlights from his first semester was speaking with prospective students at the LGBTQ+ Visit Day last October. He said: “I remember coming to Wharton for LGBTQ+ Visit Day back in 2018 and falling in love with the community and campus, so I felt like I was coming full circle by continuing that tradition.”

An inclusive environment

One major selling point of earning an MBA is the multitude of clubs and societies available at business school for things students are passionate about.

Colan is a member of Out4Biz, Wharton’s LGBTQ+ club, he said: “Out4Biz is one of the largest clubs on campus and the best part of Out4Biz is how diverse our community is.

“No matter how you identify or what your interests are, you will find your home here. Some of our most engaged members are allies who want to help create a more inclusive business school.”

There’s been an obvious push for change across business schools, business landscapes, and working environments in recent years. The increased desire for inclusion and diversity, open channels of dialogue and discussion, and a change of the times have all been welcomed with open arms by members of the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

He said: “I know I'm biased, but I think Wharton has the best LGBTQ+ community of any school.

“I have to give credit to the Co-Presidents of Out4Biz, who have worked tirelessly to emphasize the intersectionality of our community by hosting joint events with other clubs on campus and supporting Black-owned businesses in Philadelphia.

“Wharton also maintains a Diversity & Inclusion Fund, which supports student programming around issues of diversity and inclusion.”

And although Colan thinks incredible progress has been made over the last decade for the LGBTQ+ community at business schools, he thinks there is always more that can be done to ensure everyone in the LGBTQ+ community feels supported.

He said: “Wharton hosted the LGBTQ+ Visit Day virtually this year due to the pandemic. Although it was disappointing that we couldn't show prospective students around the campus, one silver lining was that we were able to reach students from around the world who otherwise might not have attended.

“One attendee messaged me during the event saying they would keep their video off because they weren't out to their family. Going forward, I'd like all of us to continue building online and offline spaces for everyone to participate in.”

The importance of scholarships like the Prism Fellowship

The Prism Fellowship was created by Jeffrey Schoenfeld, WG ’84, partner at Brown Brothers Harriman.

Schoenfeld said: “As one of very few ‘out’ MBA students entering Wharton in 1982, I truly marvel today at how far LGBTQ+ recognition and integration have become embraced by the broader business community.

“I am also mighty proud that Wharton has emerged as a leader in building the most diverse class among leading US business schools, and feel privileged to support LGBTQ+ student leaders through their MBA journey.”

Implementing more scholarships like the Prism Fellowship gives hope and reassurance to members of the LGBTQ+ community, demonstrating that who they are, and what they achieve matters.

Colan says that through Out4Biz, he’s been able to speak with prospective and admitted students from around the world, including countries where LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination and significant legal barriers.

He said: “To them, the Prism Fellowship symbolizes the personal and professional opportunities that Wharton offers and the chance to bring their full authentic selves. The fellowship shows the LGBTQ+ community that Wharton celebrates their identities and values their experiences.”

Since earning the Prism Fellowship, Colan has been in contact with Schoenfeld via letters. He said: “The pandemic makes it a little more challenging, but I'm hoping to meet him soon and tell him about my experiences so far. I would also love to learn more about his time at Wharton and hear how business schools have evolved.”

Was Wharton the right fit?

In short, the answer is yes – Colan says he’s having the time of his life at Wharton.

He said: “When I was admitted to Wharton, a member of Out4Biz called me and said, ‘Congratulations - I'm jealous that you get to spend the next two years at Wharton because I wish I could experience it all over again’.

“I've only been here seven months, but I know what he means. There is an indescribable energy at Wharton because everyone wants to make the most of their time here and I feel so blessed to be part of this class.”

But what does the future hold for Colan? He says if he’d been asked that question last summer, he could have given a detailed year-by-year roadmap of his career post-MBA. But his experiences at Wharton have opened his eyes to endless possibilities.

He said: “Coming to Wharton and seeing all the different ways we can find meaning and success has made me more open to exploring different paths. I worked in financial services before business school and I want to make banking more accessible for underserved communities, but what shape that takes is still up in in the air.”

This article was originally published in February 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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