2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Edward Chen, Penn State (Smeal)

Edward Chen

Penn State University, Smeal College of Business

Age: 40

“A naturally curious person who enjoys learning and exploring new things.”

Hometown: North Wales, PA

Family Members: Stephanie (wife), Carina (daughter), Joshua (son), Riley (dog)

Fun fact about yourself: I love outdoor cooking and spend most of the warmer months smoking and grilling up food outside.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Pennsylvania – Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Where are you currently working? Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – Associate Director of Quality

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Spending time with my kids! My daughter is 3, and my son just recently turned 1. Hence, they take up most of my ‘downtime.’ It has been a delicate balance of being present for many firsts and trying to be a good student.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Just graduating in the top 20 percent of my class was an achievement. My classmates are all powerhouses in their fields and came with tons of experience. It was intimidating that first week of class to listen to the excellent responses people came up with so quickly. At the end of the day, I learned as much from them as I did from the lessons.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I won the Penn Medicine Helen McClelland Nurse Excellency Award for Research and Innovation. Bluntly, Penn is quite old and prestigious, so to have your name engraved into a plaque (which happens to be just outside of my office) is quite an achievement.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This one is tough because there were so many that I enjoyed. I would have to say Denny Gioia comes to mind first since I still consistently reference some of his teachings. Same with Al Vicere, who really brought together the idea of using reflection to help promote growth.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was looking to go back to school and struggled to figure out what program would be best. Fortunately, I have a great mentor, Jo Fante-Gallagher, who would always find the time to give me feedback and advice. So naturally, I asked her for her thoughts, and she gave me an excellent synopsis of what she thought I was missing to help move my career forward. She then brought up the idea of me getting an Executive MBA and that I should look at the Penn State Executive MBA program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? This is not the biggest lesson, but quite impactful for me and my career. Last spring, I took a Marketing Analytics Course taught by Andrew Petersen, and we needed to use the statistics software R. Now, at the time, I knew nothing about coding but was able to figure it out quite quickly. Apparently, at that time, I had mentioned that I was using R to great success in school to the person who is now my boss. In fact, during my interview for my current role, he brought it up as one of the reasons why he wanted to hire me.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My son just turned one, which also means he was born while I was in the program. Needless to say, I have more than just one story about trying to juggle work, family, and school. However, I want to take this opportunity to thank my classmates and teammates who helped me out during those first few weeks. They truly made it possible for me to be a dad, husband, employee, and student. I want to give a huge shout-out to Gene Turchetti, Joe Lombardi, Tracy Panella, Will Kapp, and Brittany Colligen. I only missed one class weekend and possibly several hundred hours of sleep, but I was assured that I would never fall behind.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it! It has been one of the most fantastic growth experiences, and I could not imagine doing any other program.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “It’ll be over before you know it…” which is absolutely 100 percent correct! I am amazed by the amount of work and learning that happened over the 18 months of the program, but everything just moved along swiftly. I credit this to my wife and her parents helping out at home and to my classmates for making it the best experience while in class.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I did not have the opportunity to be teammates with everyone in the program. I would have loved to interact with more classmates on a 1:1 basis and learn more about their industries.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I humbly and respectfully plead the fifth. In all seriousness, I found something admirable in almost every classmate. But if I had to choose, I was amazed by my classmates who were already established in their careers and still enriching themselves. For example, John Lee has his Ph.D. and is a VP for the Center for Breakthrough Medicine. Joe Lombardi is a board-certified Vascular Surgeon and is the Chief of Vascular Surgery at Cooper University Hospital. Tracy Panella already has a master’s degree and is a Senior Director at Johnson and Johnson. And of course, I was also impressed by Jordan Rowles, the youngest person in our class and the salutatorian. She was consistently on top of assignments and always had fantastic contributions to the class when she spoke.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I tried an online part-time program years ago. However, I found it very difficult to connect with my classmates and ultimately left that program. So, this time around, I wanted that in-person experience and the opportunity to network and make new friends.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I was a bedside nurse for many years before moving into my current career path. One of the reasons I moved was that I still had the opportunity to help people, despite not being in the clinical setting. So, my long-term professional goal is to have a role (hopefully well-compensated), where I feel connected to my coworkers, have the opportunity to work on things I am passionate about, and, most importantly, get to know that I am still helping people.

What made Ed such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Ed Chen was a fantastic member of the Smeal EMBA Class of 2022. Already a parent, Ed and his wife welcomed their second child into the world during the EMBA experience. Added to that, Ed works in healthcare and started the EMBA in the midst of a global pandemic, so he was faced with a work environment that was even more challenging than it would be normally. Even so, Ed was always a positive force in the classroom. His eyes might have looked tired from time-to-time, but they were always bright with ideas and curiosity. He was (and continues to be) a supporter and resource for his classmates and a smart, sharp and driven professional. It was my pleasure to work with Ed and his classmates throughout their journeys.”

Dr. Lou Gattis
Faculty Director
Penn State Smeal Executive MBA in Philadelphia


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