The Wharton Latin American Student Association (WHALASA) is one of Wharton’s largest international student clubs. For the last 40 years WHALASA has hosted cultural events, parties, travel opportunities, and career resources for MBA students from Latin America.
To kick off the new school year and welcome a new group of MBA students into the club, WHALASA hosted a Welcome Weekend event in September. A group of 47 first and second-year students traveled to Hilltop Castle in Northeast Pennsylvania to get to know each other and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. We caught up with Oscar Leandro, WG’23 and WHALASA President, to learn more about the weekend’s events and the Latino community at Wharton.
MBA Admissions: What were some of the highlights from Latino Welcome Weekend?
Oscar: We wanted to make sure that it was a space for Latinos to feel like they could speak Spanish and Portuguese freely, they could ask questions freely, and easily fit in the community, that was our goal. For a lot of Latino students, it’s their first time living in the United States or traveling abroad, so it was very important for us to have this event early in the semester to start giving them a home away from home. We had icebreakers to mix groups together — the idea was to mix first years, second years, and partners together from different countries. As the weekend continued, those different groups were broken down and it became a much more cohesive community. The main goal was for the first years to know that they can ask second years for anything.
MBA Admissions: How did you find your own community at Wharton?
Oscar: I find the community at Wharton very inclusive. I think that Wharton is a super close-knit community; the learning teams and cohorts are very cohesive. We’re the biggest MBA school, there are so many people here, and it’s easy to be in your safe zone and not get out of that. But once you step out of your comfort zone and get to know other people from different backgrounds, different countries, different professional orientations, it’s a very welcoming community. It’s a very safe space where you can speak about your culture, and people want to listen.
Getting out of your comfort zone and seeing how hard everyone is hustling at Wharton makes you realize that this is the place to be. The more that you are outside of your comfort zone, the more you will find you’re belonging to Wharton. That is a very important thing to keep in mind. And that’s why we are very much a club that is open to everyone — we want everyone to come to our salsa classes, come to our tastings, come to our parties, come to our conferences, because that is a way that outsiders can engage with the Latino community as well.
MBA Admissions: How does the Latino community foster relationships with new students as they begin their Wharton experience?
Oscar: The first way we connect is through events. These are big, cultural parties to showcase Latino culture with lots of music and salsa dancing, like our upcoming Day of the Dead party.
We’re also working to better connect with [prospective] students while they are applying to Wharton. We’re identifying different colleges in Latin America to promote the Wharton MBA program. We want to hold info sessions for Latin American business schools and coffee chats throughout the application process.
We also plan smaller, intimate gatherings. We’re starting a book club this year and reading books from Latin American authors Gabriel García Márquez and Eduardo Barrios. We explore Latino Philly together, finding Latino-owned grocery stores, shopping and making meals together. It’s a way for everyone to showcase their different countries. There are no barriers between first year and second years, students and partners. The idea is that this is your community outside your country, and that you can reach out to anyone here.
The Wharton Latin American Student Association (WHALASA) celebrates Hispanic heritage at Wharton. Prospective students can connect via @WHALASA on Instagram.
— Abby Behrends*
*Abby is the Associate Director of Marketing and Communication, MBA Admissions
Posted: October 10, 2022