The Wharton China Association (WCA) was one of the first clubs I got involved in when I started at Penn. During my freshman year, I was a member of the Professional Committee in charge of outreaching and event-planning. That spring semester, we hosted the first Wharton Emerging Leaders Forum-China Chapter (WELF-C). The event invited young Chinese or Chinese-American leaders and entrepreneurs from four sectors (technology, finance, social enterprise, and entertainment) to conduct panels and networking sessions with students from the greater Philadelphia area. It focused on those interested in career opportunities in China or pursuing careers as Chinese-Americans. The all-day event was hosted on March 18th, 2017 at Penn’s Jon M. Huntsman Hall.
Pulling Off Our Biggest Event Yet
The WCA is no stranger to hosting public events, from the annual Chinese New Year gala to bi-monthly panels discussing internship opportunities in China. But, WELF was our biggest event to date, with thirteen guest speakers and hundreds of attendees.
Our committee spent the fall semester coming up with ideas for various events throughout the day. Besides the four 90-minute panels focusing on career and professional advice, we also decided to host private networking sessions. These sessions paired up panelists with less than ten audience members to offer space for more personal conversations.
To make the events accessible to as many people as possible, we set ticket prices at less than $15 each. We were nervous about setting such a low price, but confident we could make it up in other ways. Fortunately, our idea resonated well within the Chinese-American community, and many of our potential speakers offered to travel to Philadelphia at their own expense. But, securing the speakers was only the first step.
Hosting an all-day forum with speakers and panelist flying from all over the country had many logistical challenges. But, our affiliation with Penn and Wharton gave us huge perks. The school provided us with lecture rooms and forum floor spaces inside Huntsman Hall free of charge. Accommodating speakers was a large expense, but through the school’s contract and referral, the nearby Sheraton hotel offered a discount for the rooms. Additionally, we were able to secure funding from the Wharton Council’s Club Funding and the University’s Asian American Studies Program. All of these elements added up, allowing us to lower the ticket price to just $10 per attendee.
The Big Day
Our opening keynote took place as planned on a lovely Saturday morning in March. There were a few hiccups throughout the day – technology trouble and a briefly missing speaker – but overall the panels went smoothly. Among our panel moderators were Prof. Z. John Zhang from Wharton’s marketing department, and M&T’s own Dr. Gad Allon.
During the day we saw social entrepreneur Jasmine Lau’s candid take on the unique career opportunities and challenges facing Asian-Americans today, and tech professional Jenny Guo laying out the prospects of Virtual Reality. Highlights also included when fashion stylist Leaf Greener mentioned James Franco’s obsession with cats during photo shoots with her, or moments of laughter from the crowd when Dr. Allon pressured his panel of entrepreneurs to share why they started their companies beyond altruism and “a drive to change the world.”
All in all, the experience of planning and attending WELF is one of the highlights of the first year at Penn. I thank my team and all the gracious participants for helping make it a great event. I certainly look forward to attending more events hosted by the WCA and other upcoming chapters of WELF next year!
Qi Linzhi is a computer science major and member of the Class of 2020. After graduation, he seeks to be involved in tech startups or design firms. His favorite things about the M&T Program are the Board events, tailored academic advising and, of course, the free printing.