I was particularly interested in attending the Wharton Economic Summit to see Austan Goolsbee, who was a keynote speaker. I worked with him for five years on President Obama’s campaign and in the White House where he was the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Now, he is a professor at the University of Chicago-Booth School of Business. It was a great opportunity to hear him speak, as well as participate in the other events throughout the day.
In addition to Austan Goolsbee’s talk, there was another keynote speech by Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of GE and several panel discussions on topics like healthcare, innovation, public policy, real estate and energy. Finance is a broad and complex area, so it was good to hear from so many different types of people to better understand the economic landscape.
One of the highlights was the panel discussion on energy, which included Janet Clark, WG’82, executive vice president and CFO of Marathon Oil Corp., and William Klesse, CEO and chairman of the board of Valero Energy Corp. It was fascinating to hear from leaders of multinational companies whose focus has typically been in places like the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, the Middle East and Africa. Now, they are dealing with supply chain and production issues in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and North and South Dakota.
Another highlight was the panel discussion on healthcare, which was moderated by Penn’s Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel and included panelists Alex Gorsky, WG’96, CEO of J&J, Gary Gottlieb, WG’85, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare, and Bob Kocher, partner at Venrock. They talked about the Affordable Care Act and how its implementation would impact businesses as well as how medical costs will affect innovation in the industry. It was interesting because some of this is speculative, as the Act hasn’t yet been fully implemented.
In addition to the talks, the event presented a unique opportunity to network with CFOs and CEOs of top companies. That type of experience is invaluable. People who work at those companies often don’t even get that kind of opportunity, so to be part of their discussions is very valuable.
That is part of the Wharton experience. You don’t just come here for the classes or to just listen to speakers. Being part of this community gives you tremendous access to business leaders. Not only are there Wharton alumni who come back and want to engage with students, there are a lot of people who didn’t go here, but are still connected to the Wharton community because of the business they are in now. Wharton provides an incredibly rigorous education, but another key component of it is the people you connect with both in the program and in the broader community.
Second-year Wharton EMBA student Reginald Love, a former aide to President Barack Obama and current entrepreneur in Washington, D.C., recently attended Wharton’s 2013 Economic Summit in New York City.