When Marla Driscoll, WG’01, was an EMBA student, not only was she commuting to Philadelphia from Houston, but she had two young kids and was on track to become a partner at Accenture. She didn’t have any time left in her schedule for activities outside of home, school, and work. And there was certainly not time to think about Wharton alumni clubs.
Fast forward in time. Marla made partner at Accenture soon after graduating and later left to become an independent consultant. She is active in the Wharton Alumni Club of Houston, and has even served on the club’s board.
A number of Wharton EMBA alumni are now members of the Houston club and have helped to increase the club’s activity in recent years. The Houston club has a structured event schedule and includes outreach to accepted applicants, as part of its activities.
Many Wharton alumni in Houston work in the energy industry, but there also are people working in areas like finance, real estate development, and high tech. To bring everyone together, the club holds a lot of networking activities including a monthly speaker series and a monthly "deal flow" lunch for alumni involved in buying and selling companies and real estate.
Driscoll first got involved with the club when Wharton alumnus Jon M. Huntsman spoke at a monthly networking lunch. "I met some of the club members and they told me about all the activities offered. I thought this is great because they have top notch speakers and I would get to meet a whole lot of different people. In fact, my involvement with the club and with the board led to a great project. One of my fellow board members is a VP at a Houston-based oil and gas company, and she invited me to bid on a process redesign project. My proposal was selected over two other firms, and I worked with two teams and the executive committee over the course of a year."
In addition to the lunches, there are also Wharton faculty lectures, as well as plenty of social activities including wine tastings, sports events, and parties. To broaden the networking opportunities, some events are open to alumni from other schools such as the University of Chicago and Columbia. The MBA Council of Houston, which brings together Houston-based alumni clubs from 15 different business schools, co-sponsors a few events as well.
Now a former board member, Driscoll says that, even if you live far from Philadelphia or San Francisco, the best way to stay plugged into the Wharton community is to join a Wharton alumni club. "That is the easiest way to get hooked into other people locally and learn about what is happening at the school. Even if you are focused on your career and your family, the idea is to get plugged in to enlarge your network to the extent you can," she says.