2017 Best EMBAs: Lori Wong, Wharton (San Francisco)

Lori Wong

The Wharton School

“Global explorer, curious and driven.”  

Age: OIder than I look!

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Family Members: Husband, parents, 5 sisters and 1 brother and 19 nieces and nephews



Fun fact about yourself: I share an office with the famous pharaoh, King Tut! (during the months when I’m working in Egypt on a project with the Ministry of Antiquities to conserve Tutankhamen’s tomb. His mummy is in the tomb).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Wellesley College (BA), Courtauld Institute of Art (MA) in London.

Where are you currently working?) Getty Conservation Institute, a part of the J. Paul Getty Trust that focuses on the conservation of cultural heritage sites around the world. I serve as a Project Specialist.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I’m Coordinator for Murals, Stone and Rock Art Working Group of the International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation 

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of my accomplishments with the Global Consulting Practicum first as a student consultant and then as a TA. Through this program, I was able to develop innovative strategies for nonprofits and deep dive into industries other than my own.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Implementing a holistic conservation framework in China for conserving cultural heritage sites—best illustrated through our work to preserve the Mogao Grottoes, a World Heritage Site and Buddhist cave temple site along the former Silk Road. Known as the China Principles, these conservation guidelines are now used throughout China.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Fader for illustrating that the skills of poets and quants play equally important roles in a successful MBA career.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? I designed an independent study course in the marketing department that assesses the economic potential of tourism at cultural sites in southern Africa and develops marketing strategies for promoting them. This research project speaks directly to my reasons for pursuing an MBA.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Coming from an arts and humanities background and having worked in the non-profit world, I purposely selected a program known for its academic rigor.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I loved being immersed in an intellectually stimulating environment and being continually challenged with alternative perspectives that opened my mind and changed my thinking. The process of discovery in seeming unrelated fields to my own became increasingly relevant as courses unfolded.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Juggling international travel and the MBA has been one of the biggest challenges. As my work demands spending weeks at a time in Asia and Africa, commuting to school on a fortnightly basis was alone a challenge, as it meant breaking up work time abroad. Many of the conference calls for team projects had to align with time zones on the opposite side of the world, from places with unreliable internet access and amid a work schedule that often had me underground in a pharaonic tomb or in a Buddhist painted cave much of the workday.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program? Be authentic and original. Demonstrate how the MBA will revolutionize your thinking and your approaches and ways of working.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I was often told, “Your mind won’t be as quick and agile as when you were in your 20s…” While I was daunted by such thoughts before beginning the MBA, this has proven to be false. Another adage, “with age comes wisdom” has served me well!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not having the time to do more and to take advantage of all of the opportunities made available!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m continually amazed by so many of my classmates, particularly those who have emerged from adversity and have proven what hard work, grit and determination can do for you.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized the changing landscape of non-profits required new ways of thinking and approaches to problem solving.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still limited in the way I work, ignorant to greater possibilities and not maximizing the potential to do everything in my power to protect heritage sites.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? Nature Conservancy. They’ve shown me the importance of thinking innovatively and creatively, while expanding public-private partnerships to solve problems that fulfill their mission in a rapidly changing world.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? It would be to make a difference in the world. I work in cultural heritage, but want to have my impact expand beyond this to make a difference in people’s lives.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mom. She was a hardcore environmentalist who supported me through my MBA and taught me determination and to leave the world a better place.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would prefer the focus not to be on me, but rather to impart the legacy of giving back

Favorite book: Tough question…how about which book am I reading next? This would be Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom that I bought during our Global Business Week in South Africa.

Favorite movie or television show: Really? I haven’t had time for television or films in the past two years!

Favorite vacation spot: I’m an explorer and love to see and experience different places. I just returned from a conference on ancient rock art in Namibia—seeing paintings made by artists 6,000 years ago was inspiring.

Hobbies? Looking forward to taking up hobbies once I graduate! 

What made Lori such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Lori is one of our “Poets” and the impact of her thinking benefitted every student and all of our team!  Lori came to us with an eye on preserving artistic artifacts at World Heritage sites around the globe and she shares her passion, knowledge and respect for cultures around the world.  Earning her MBA from the Wharton School gives Lori the ability to have an informed voice in leading projects, to implement bold new change and to raise the awareness of the need to respect the history and culture of those who walked the earth before us.

Lori did not look for the spotlight in her class and instead focused a light on the important work that she and the Getty are involved in.  Her focus on social impact and leaving the world a better place came through in every paper, project, global course and talk she was involved in.  I’m so proud that she is a Wharton alumna!”

Bernadette (Bernie) Birt

Executive Director of the MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco


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