• September 2, 2015

In Charge From Before Enrollment to After Graduation

From Before Enrollment to After Graduation 1

Wharton School of the U. of Pennsylvania

J.J. Cutler, of the U. of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, wears multiple hats as deputy vice dean for M.B.A. admissions, financial aid, and career management.

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close From Before Enrollment to After Graduation 1

Wharton School of the U. of Pennsylvania

J.J. Cutler, of the U. of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, wears multiple hats as deputy vice dean for M.B.A. admissions, financial aid, and career management.

The admissions director who recruits students and the career-services officer who sends them off play important roles in any student's life. Now, for the first time at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, one person will wear both hats. J.J. Cutler, who received an M.B.A. from Wharton in 1997, is the new deputy vice dean for M.B.A. admissions, financial aid, and career management. It's the first time in the elite business school's 129 years that one person has all of those roles. Mr. Cutler, a former executive and part-time recruiter for Johnson & Johnson, talked with The Chronicle about his new job.

Q. Why merge the roles of admissions and career services?

A. In admissions you not only build a relationship with the students, you see trends in terms of the applicants and their interests. But the typical model in admissions is that you turn the class over to student services or the office of student life, and then you start recruiting for the following year. We thought it would be interesting for someone in admissions to have some continuity in the life cycle of the student experience. That way we get an early read on our students and can start to better build services for them in career management, even before they get here.

Q. How does this affect your relationship with recruiters?

A. In admissions you work with a lot of employers who want to send their employees to M.B.A. programs. We get to not only talk to employers about the class that's coming and the skills they're looking for, but also to get their feedback on how our graduates and interns are doing.

Q. How has the sluggish economy affected the career choices of your students, many of whom, historically, have pursued jobs in the financial sector?

A. Many of our students have used this as an opportunity to step back and really think about their goals and interests. People are being more flexible and introspective today. Financial services is still a very strong industry for us, and this year is certainly going to be better than last year. But we as a school have used this as an opportunity to broaden our relationships with employers in new industries like energy and clean tech, ... all kinds of industries that may not have been quote, unquote, traditional or typical, but are on the radar screen now.

Q. What changes are you seeing in the M.B.A. application pool?

A. One of the exciting challenges about this generation is that they're more accomplished much earlier in life. They apply earlier in their careers. They want to pursue dual and joint degrees like a J.D./M.B.A. and take language classes and get involved in all the clubs and learn about all the regions of the world. This is probably a function of multitasking and their comfort with new technology offerings. Their dreams and aspirations are much bigger and broader, and they see business schools as a platform to help them get to those dreams.


1. honore - August 02, 2010 at 08:39 am

Let's now all hope that "J.J." in his "visionary" approach to his 2-for-1 job will remember to incorporate a couple of seriously needed NEW dimensions into the admissions and career components of his MBA.

1. in Admissions, address issues of common sense, human decency, ethics, honesty, responsibility, accountability, morality and sense of community. Looking for a history of these personal dimensions in the applicants rather than what Fortune 500 company they worked for or what yacht regatta they've sailed in, would be a start

2. in Curriculum, incorporate course work that would require:
a) its students to address AND actually make a commitment to public service (at least for the duration of the program,
b) an inisde view of federal prisons that would include face to face interviews with for Wall St. wizards and genii now serving sentences for the destruction of other's lives through their MBA-inspired "best practices".

3. in Career Services, stipulate that their degrees will be revoked upon their first arrest for embezzlement, fraud, theft or the destruction of an entire country's economy.

2. eyeswideopen - August 02, 2010 at 11:44 am

I appreciated this article, but I would liked to have seen the questions remain on the main topic "Why is it a good idea to combine admissions and career services?". I currently oversee enrollment management at a small undergraduate college. Enrollment management is conducted across the country within different organizational structures and it seems that most of them are not intentional but organic, arising out of incremental changes that have to do with existing salary lines, the skills of those on hand, who happens to quit at an opportune time, and the level of understanding possessed by decision-makers.

This article seems to be about something intentional. So what is the reasoning, the expectations, the driving philosophy? How do you expect this to change the culture of the organization? Do you have a plan for creating the change in the campus culture? How will you know if this organizational change works?

3. shar3875 - August 02, 2010 at 01:32 pm

In MBA programs, placement rates are counted, and Admissions usually blames career services for not placing people, and Career Services usually blames admissions for recruiting "unplaceable" students, particularly international students. With this combo job, the only person he can blame is himself.

4. jaygatsby - August 02, 2010 at 02:47 pm

I'm confused. Didn't the Admissions Director ever talk to the Career Director about students and their career interests? Seriously, the typical model in an admissions should be one where the Director talks to the career office.

Maybe Admissions should also choose which classes the students should be taking(you know, to have some continuity in the life cycle of the student experience). He might want to look at the alumni office as there is crossover there, too!

I think Mr. Cutler must have really, really liked his mergers and acquisitions class!

5. josephofoley - August 02, 2010 at 06:14 pm

Years ago, I found myself briefly in charge of advising for students without majors as well as undergraduate admissions at a regional state university. While juggling both operations, I got an idea that may have been genuinely worthwhile or due to an excess of hubris. Why not create a comprehensive unit that recruited students, advised them until they selected majors, backstopped academic departments when they had doubts about their academic path and, finally, helped them prepare to move on to jobs or graduate school as they neared graduation?

The idea was to create continuity in service. I thought that the people who recruited a student might be well equiped to help guide her first steps at the university and to address problems arising from a possible mismatch between the student and her academic program. Such an office, "knowing" students so intimately, would probably do a good job of helping them choose appropriate postcollege paths. Basicly, I hoped to reify Alma Mater.

The appropriate VP thought it was a stupid idea, and it died on the spot. I still wonder if it might have made a positive contribution to student success.

6. honore - August 02, 2010 at 09:37 pm

joseph, it was an excellent idea...imagine providing a seamless array of academic advising, internship placement, career counseling, graduate school strategy development? Wow, why wouldn't we want to provide such a efficient and opportunity-rich student services model? We can only wonder what professional trajectory the VP followed out of his own mediocrity.

7. doubtingthomas - August 03, 2010 at 05:00 pm

I think the admissions office is getting way too much credit. J.J. made a good power move here--good on him, but it's also so very MBA of him.

You know, I'm not buying his reasoning. J.J. makes it seem as if Admissions should be running all facets of a student's educational life: selecting classes, career advisement, graduate school development--and yes, why not alumni relations. Here's the thing, Admissions doesn't know what it doesn't know--though they often think they do. As for being seamless (or opportunity-rich or efficient), one must assume that the Admissions office possesses some sort of wisdom that somehow eludes those running academic and career advisement.

Quite honestly, there should always be a continuity in service, that's not a new idea--that should be a way of life in student services offices across the country. That seamlessness comes from the offices working together, by communicating. If that's not already happening, you have bigger problems than what an Admissions guru can fix.

8. eileenl - August 04, 2010 at 04:48 pm

With regard to Honore's comment concerning a requirement that student's "make a commitment to public service". I presume the meaning here is a narrow construction of "public service" defined as work done in a the sphere of government or non-profit organizations. I have to ask, why the aforementioned types of activity should be deemed of greater moral value and even day to day importance than the myriad ways that people serve each other in what we call the private sector? Every day I am grateful for the services done on my behalf by shopkeepers, manufacturers, and all types of service providers. The people who run businesses in my city and also those who produce goods and services that reach me from afar, enhance my health and general welfare on a daily basis. If a student has interests and skills that qualify her for work in the "private sector" that will cause other people to benefit, why should we not strongly support and applaud her choices and goals?

9. chriskox - August 04, 2010 at 08:24 pm

The final QA, excepting the joint JD, seems as if they are really interested in continuing general studies. There are far cheaper places for that -- the local cc being one. Sorry, but I see this as yet another shameless waste of public and private resources.

10. honore - August 04, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Eileen, I listed "public service" for a couple of reasons.

1. MBA programs typically and exclusively include NOTHING about life beyond the corporate board room. And as such, is it any wonder we keep producing class after class of selfish, indifferent and greedy graduates focused on "getting their toys" regardless of who pays the price for them.

2. MBA programs as part of the broader H/E landscape have a responsibility to promote civility, culture and a sense of community that extends beyond our BMWs and gym memberships.

3. MBA programs have produced legions of "graduates" who have gone on to destroy the economies of many countries, not the least of which OUR OWN. Public service (it is my hope) would (perhaps) open a few of these students' eyes to world of others who do not share their MBA-soon-to-be-prosperous social and economic coordinates....what's that saying about walking a mile in another's shoes?

4. MBA programs do a good "job" (every pun intended) of producing strategic and organizational "wizards" and "strategist" who have gone on to serve themselves first, their companies second and far down the list a couple of token charities, typically DESPITE huge wealth accumulated.

5. It is time that we as society recognize that institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to encourage others to be bigger than themselves and to contribute to a greater good in whatever way they can and STILL get all the perks they want without damaging or destroying the lives of others.

Altruism, generosity, humanity and conscience are not yet completely gone from our society, but schools of business are very hard pressed to point to venues that encourage any of these human qualities.

I don't expect MBA, PhD, JD or any other educational program to turn heartless, indifferent individuals into Mother Teresa, but I think H/E has a responsibility to remember that it plays a pivotal role in the development of minds (and hearts) and we should do all we can to develop our society toward a fuller human experience.

11. hieronymous - August 05, 2010 at 02:40 pm

This is hardly a new concept for MBA programs, but because Wharton has decided to join the bandwagon it merits a Chronicle Q & A.

MBA programs are pretty much a closed loop system: admissions sells career opportunities to students and career services sells those who've been admitted to employers. That this just occurred to the Wharton administration is pretty shocking.

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