A Letter From Our New Managing Director

Of all the things we’ve learned since our founding in 2010, here is the most important one: we have learned exactly what our role in the impact ecosystem is. So who are we, this ten-year-old Wharton Social Impact Initiative, and what does this new decade hold for us?

Sandi Hunt speaking at a podium in front of a blue screen showing Wharton's logo

Social impact is core to Wharton because it is core to business.

We are serious about impact, and we are doing the two things Wharton does best to advance it: delivering best-in-class learning opportunities and generating relevant research.

A bit more about our work:


Our Experiential Learning Programs:

This fall, I had a bittersweet experience. Our program team informed me that we would be turning away seven students for every one we admitted into our on-campus impact investing programs. They were thrilled with the cohort that they selected from across Penn and Wharton, including MBA students, medical students, undergraduates and doctoral students—and those students have, indeed, been magnificent! But that also meant that 149 awesome students who applied would not get this opportunity. This is how in-demand experiential learning in impact is at Wharton, and beyond. An impact portfolio construction competition we lead for students around the world saw participation double this year—to about 50 teams on 25+ campuses. Impact is not a nice-to-have for a business school anymore. Students are telling us what they want to see in their world, and in their education: impact. And I, for one, find great hope in seeing this priority and passion in these generations.

Our Research:

One of my favorite economists and authors, Emily Oster, said “The value of the data is not that it leads us all to the same choice, just that it introduces a concrete way to make that choice.” This is why our research matters. However you may approach impact—as your top priority, a consideration, your passion for a particular social improvement, a risk mitigation strategy—we believe you should have access to trustworthy data to inform your decisions. Our research is helping to improve decision making and to myth-bust at this growing intersection of business and impact. As fields like impact investing grow, we hear many powerful stories, and those stories are important. But the plural of anecdote is not data, and we’re proud to play the role of researcher—collecting and analyzing hard data—in this new impact ecosystem.

We have bold ambitions for the decade to come.

We want our programs to be bigger and better. We want to accept more of the eager students we currently turn away and give them even richer learning experiences. We want to put out more actionable, relevant research and tools on critical topics—climate, gender, race, health, impact measurement and more. We want to help Penn and Wharton be the greatest forces for good possible.

Lucky for us, we have an amazing team to make this happen*. We are privileged to be on this campus, counting so many great minds as our colleagues and friends. We are inspired by and grateful to the alumni and industry communities we work with every day. We are fired up by the passion of our students and the global need for business to help shape a better world. Last but not least, we are grateful for you: thank you for your time reading this and getting to know us a bit better. From engagement with students and industry practitioners to vital philanthropic contributions—we value partners like you. Tell us how you’d like to become more involved!

Happy 2020—let’s make this decade seriously impactful.

—Sandi M. Hunt

*I am especially grateful to Sherryl Kuhlman, whose very big shoes I step into after her leadership of WSII as Managing Director for our first decade. Thank you for everything, Sherryl.