Posted by: Alison Damast on July 26, 2010
In a sharp reversal of traditional university administrator roles, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has tapped J.J. Cutler to run both the school’s MBA admissions and Financial Aid and Career Management office, the school announced today. Up until now, Cutler, a 1997 Wharton MBA grad, has been serving solely as the school’s dean of admissions, a role he assumed in January of 2009.
Cutler took up his new role in late May, shortly after Michelle Antonio, Wharton’s former career management director, left the school. Cutler, who comes from a corporate background and helped New-Jersey based Johnson & Johnson develop an MBA recruiting strategy, says he thought it would be helpful for both students and employers to have one person overseeing both offices. As admissions director, he found himself spending more and more time talking with students about their career options, as well as with employers interested in learning more about the incoming class. It seemed a natural step to “create more of a partnership” between the two offices, Cutler says.
“We said, ‘why not try this?’ This could be a win-win for both students and employers,” Cutler says. “I already know the class and have overseen them on the admissions side, so maybe I can help manage them all the way through.”
Students should be pleased with the new synergy between the admissions and career management offices, he says. Cutler is already familiar with the career background of the school's first and second-year student and expects to focus on bringing employers on campus that will be closely aligned with students' career goals, he says. "Students, I think, will get a little bit more continuity. We can think about how to put together the right resources in career management for them earlier, so it will be less of handoff or transition for them."
Since taking on his new role, Cutler has moved his desk to the career management office, where he expects to be spending the majority of his time over the school year. Ankar Kumar, a 2007 Wharton grad, has been promoted to the director of MBA admissions and will be overseeing the admissions office and the admission committee. The structure of the career services office is "still evolving," but will continue to have staff focused on both advising students and cultivating relationships with employers, Cutler says.
He expects that many business schools will be closely watching how Wharton succeeds in linking the two offices, he says. He plans to take a cautious approach. "One of the fears is we'll end up admitting people just for career reasons, so I think that's one of the things we need to be more concerned about," Cutler says. "Other than that, there's a lot of benefit to it and I wouldn't be surprised if others don't move in that direction."
Here's a video we did with Cutler in 2009 in which he talks about why an MBA applicant should choose Wharton: