In Charge From Before Enrollment to After Graduation

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.
August 01, 2010

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.