2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Vicky Partenope, Wharton School

Victoria (Vicky) Partenope

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, MBA for Executives (Philadelphia)

Age: 41

Hard-working, driven, unflappable, and ready for anything.”

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Family Members: Husband Steve, and children Isabella and Evan

Fun fact about yourself: I have the insane goal of running a marathon in every state, and I’m only 30% there. I have taken a little break while finishing up my Wharton MBA, but I plan to get back to it as soon as I graduate.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

BS, Finance, University of Maryland

BA, Economics, University of Maryland

MS, Finance, Loyola University of Maryland

Where are you currently working? I’m currently the organizational strategist for a large office within the U.S. Department of Defense.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: My favorite extracurricular activity is one that a few of my classmates and I started up: 6 at 6:00! We make it a point to get out and run each class weekend; often running from the Penn campus to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s not always 6 miles, and it’s not always at 6 am, but the branding stuck.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my growth beyond my limited-focus business skillset pre-business school. Before I started the program, I believed I would focus mostly on finance and management, but I worked hard to expand my scope into unfamiliar territory, and found that I have a strength for innovation and product I never would have anticipated previously.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have been so lucky in my line of work to be able to the see the impacts of my efforts on a day-to-day basis. Over the years, I have provided direct support to military units in the field, generated and provided information that influenced and drove U.S. government policy, led large organizations through difficult staffing and fiscal positions, and strategized and lobbied for long-term investments that will drive the direction of US international relationships for years to come. If I am proud of anything, it is of my ability to step into varied situations, assess and survey the circumstances, and drive toward the best course of action.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I wanted a challenging program that would give me the same academic experience as a traditional full time MBA. The Wharton MBA was my first and only choice, both because of its academic pedigree and its unmatched network.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In my work, we often specialize in a specific skillset and cloister ourselves with people of like skills and approaches. My WEMBA cohort was one of absolutely varied perspectives, personalities, and industries, and our energetic and enlightening class discussions shifted my approach with my peers, leaders, and subordinates at work. There is a lot to be learned from those who do not think like us, and that lesson was borne out for me at Wharton.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? As someone who has a tendency to try to do it all, I very quickly learned that there was absolutely no way I could do it all on my own. My husband definitely picked up a lot of the family slack, with me away every other weekend, and studying or working a lot during my time at home. I took a lot more leave than I usually do from work, and luckily my management was understanding, but it was still a balancing act. In terms of school, your classmates are your support system. We were placed in learning teams as soon as we started the program, and my learning team was the group that helped bring balance to my academic career. At any given point, one of us would have something going on that took up a lot of time and effort, and the team always rallied to pick up the slack and pull each other through.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I expected a program with the reputation for excellence that Wharton has to be cutthroat and hyper-competitive, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my classmates were all supportive and did not play to the stereotype in any way. In addition, all of the professors were invested in our success; they spent their time trying to make us better, not tear us down.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is difficult to pick just one, because my cohort is truly impressive, but I think I most admire Neha Kantamneni. She always makes brilliant contributions in class, is a consummate team player, is excelling in her career, and is an amazing wife and mother to boot.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I have a career and a life, and I did not want to put it all on hold to pursue my MBA; I wanted my MBA to be additive to what I already had. The Wharton EMBA fit the bill perfectly because it is the same MBA the full-time students receive in terms of credit hours, professors, and academic rigor, with the scheduling flexibility of an Executive MBA.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Being in WEMBA has shifted my long-term goals by widening the aperture on what I believe is possible. Initially, I pursued the Wharton MBA because I wanted to bolster my management skillset and home in on what I want to do moving forward. If anything, WEMBA has given me the skill and confidence to pursue avenues I never would have considered possible previously. I am currently mulling over a few ideas for businesses and platforms, and could easily see myself moving in the entrepreneurship direction.

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

“Above all else, Victoria is a realist. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff, which is an invaluable quality for someone juggling the many responsibilities of a Wharton MBA for Executives student. Vicky’s levelheadedness is influential on her classmates and really contributes to her natural penchant for strong leadership. If I were a WEMBA student, I would absolutely want Vicky on my study team. She leads by example, always handling the rigor of the Wharton MBA program with good humor and grace. Her teammates love her, and she’s very well-respected in the classroom by her peers.

Vicky is also incredibly smart. This may seem obvious, but there’s a difference between having a high IQ and being able to exhibit intelligence in all spheres. When she believes something needs to be addressed, she articulates the issue with confidence and diplomacy. Vicky is a boss, literally. She often takes the lead with classwork, offering up her time selflessly with no expectation of anything in return. She just gets the job done. It’s incredible to watch.

Victoria is all these things, and on top of it, a successful career woman and mother of two little kids. During the height of the pandemic, she and her husband operated on a 24/7 work schedule, taking turns working overnight to provide the best care for their children. As if life wasn’t hard enough during that time, adding school on top is pretty amazing. She’s got it going on, and still finds a way to remain unfathomably humble. I can’t think of a student more worthy of such an acknowledgement and she deserves every bit of it and more.”

Amy Myers
Class Manager

DON’T MISS: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2022

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