Wharton EMBA Alumna Uses Degree to Impact Education in Jamaica

Deika Morrison has a unique perspective about Wharton given that she earned a dual undergraduate degree in business and engineering from Wharton and Penn, and then earned a Wharton MBA through the executive program in Philadelphia. Now, the founder of several businesses and a charity in Jamaica, we asked her to talk about how her Wharton education has impacted her career.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994, I went home to Jamaica where I worked for the government before deciding in 2001 to get an MBA in order to transition to the private sector. Based on how much I loved my four years as an undergraduate at Wharton, I knew I wanted to come back here for my MBA.

My intention was to attend the full-time MBA program; however, I was called to serve as deputy finance minister and senator. Of course, I needed to be in Jamaica to serve those posts, but was always intending to earn a Wharton MBA degree. The opportunity arose when the prime minister retired, so I began making arrangements to move to Philadelphia.

At that point, I had more work experience than the average full-time MBA student and someone suggested that I explore Wharton’s EMBA program. It turned out to be a good fit, as I transitioned to the private sector in Jamaica while attending classes with other professionals at Wharton.

All of the classes were extremely valuable, but the Total Leadership course taught by Prof. Stewart Friedman made a particularly big impact on me. His class is focused on integrating the different aspects of our lives such as home, community, work and self. I’ve found that the things I’m drawn to in my career are very much in line with that philosophy.

After graduating in 2008, I began three new ventures, all of which integrate important parts of my life. I launched a family business with my parents and brother, Mdk Advisory and Consulting Ltd., and started a media company, Moonstone Blue Ltd., which publishes the Made in Jamaica Catalogue.

I also founded a charity called Do Good Jamaica, which allows me to follow my passion for helping children and education. I could have done this in my personal time on days off, but it’s very satisfying to get up every day and work on it because it’s integrated into my life as one of my jobs.

I decided to start the charity after having led a Guinness World Record project for the Rotary Clubs of Jamaica. Knowing the Jamaican libraries needed books, especially children’s books, we set out to break the record for the most books donated to charity in seven days. We broke the record with 657,061 books donated from all over the world, including the Penn alumni network.

I was inspired by the ability of more than 150 organizations and hundreds of thousands of people to work together successfully on one goal, and decided to form Do Good Jamaica as a virtual hub for civil society organizations to share information and work together.

Last year, I discovered that preschoolers in Jamaica didn’t have enough basic supplies like crayons. So through Do Good Jamaica, I started a project called Crayons Count to see if we could have preschool supplies donated, similar to the book donation drive.  I value the importance of early childhood education, so I knew it would be a worthwhile investment.

We received donations from many individuals, companies and charities. With substantial help from a major sponsor, the National Baking Company – whose chairman had attended Wharton executive education programs – we ultimately distributed learning kits for preschoolers at approximately 2,400 schools across Jamaica. It was really fun having very important meetings about things like crayons with big companies like Crayola.

My Wharton education really has made an impact on my career. An important thing you gain in the EMBA program is the confidence that you can use your training to accomplish your goals. After graduating, I knew I had the ability to do things — like setting a new world’s record for book donations and donating items such as crayons, paint, books, and paper to every preschooler in Jamaica – that would have seemed impossible before. Now, I don’t feel intimidated by aiming high.