Part of the secret sauce of Wharton’s EMBA program is its team. Rhonda Frenkel’s official title is assistant to the vice dean and directors; however everyone refers to her as the “Mother Hen” of the Philadelphia office.
Q. What does your role involve?
I sit at the front desk and am one of the first points of contact in the EMBA office so people get to know me. When students arrive on Friday mornings from the airport or train station, they’ll often come to the office and have a quick cup of coffee before classes start. We’ll chat and I’ll ask to see pictures of their kids or about how their week went. I think of myself as a Mother Hen here. I really enjoy supporting them as they go from prospective students to EMBA students to alumni.
In addition to scheduling appointments for the vice dean and directors, I also talk to applicants and students to help answer questions. More recently, my role has evolved to include financial responsibilities so I pay the bills, do the purchase orders, make sure the teaching assistants get paid, etc.
Q. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years in the EMBA program?
The biggest change is probably with technology. In the “old” days, there were no computers or cell phones so we had to use typewriters and actual telephones. Applications were submitted by U.S. mail and couriers. We had a big conference room with papers spread across the table, and were constantly making copies of everything. GMAT scores had to be sent by mail. Everything took so much more time because we had to put our hands on everything. It was just a very different process. Now, everything is scanned and emailed. The admissions committee can read the applications from their own computers, but they still sit around a table (with laptops) to discuss each application.
The other big change is the size of the program. Over the years, we’ve grown quite a bit. Technology has made things easier, but it’s also more complex because we have more people to take care of and we still want to keep that human touch with the process. That said, our staff has grown too. We now have nine full- time people in Philadelphia, and we have our West Coast staff too!
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
The number one thing is the people. My wonderful coworkers, prospective students, current students, alums, faculty, teaching assistants, vendors, other Wharton and Penn colleagues, housekeepers – the list goes on. It’s a great group to work with.
Q. What tips do you give students in the program?
I tell them to take one day at a time whether it’s the school day, work day or family day, or all three at once. Also, I tell them to stop in and see Mother Hen Rhonda if they need support or a hug. I’m here for them – and they constantly brighten my days too!
Q. You’ve worked at Penn for 26 years. What brought you to the University?
When I was an undergraduate student at Temple University, a family friend worked at Penn and helped me get a summer job providing administrative support. I continued to work in the summers at Penn for different departments. There were no computers then, so it was a lot of typing!
After graduation, I intended to become a teacher, but there weren’t teaching jobs readily available so I worked in the full-time MBA Admissions Office in an administrative role. When a teaching job came up, I left, but not for long. I knew I wanted to return to Wharton so I soon rejoined the Admissions Office. I worked there for seven years until I had my first child in 1978. When my second child was in middle school in 1993, I came back to Wharton. I started in a temporary position in the EMBA Office processing applications, but when a receptionist position opened up, I applied and the rest is history. I’ve been here ever since.
Q. When you’re not at Wharton, what do you enjoy doing?
Most students know all about my grandkids. I really enjoy spending time with Maelyn, who is going to be 8, and Matthew, who is 11. I live with them and my son in a suburb of Philadelphia so I see them pretty much every day. My other son and his partner also live in the Philly suburbs. I lost my husband a few years back so to be able to spend this much time with my family is wonderful. A lot of parents and grandparents don’t have this luxury. My parents are both still in the Philadelphia area too. My mom is 89 and my dad is 91!
I also enjoy Phillies baseball and Eagles football. My granddaughter and I are big fans of Ryan Howard!