Celebrating 15 years of the INSEAD-Wharton Alliance

Denis Sop

The INSEAD-Wharton Alliance video discusses 15 years of successful collaboration: early days, innovations and future plans for the Alliance.

The INSEAD-Wharton MBA Alliance was formed in March 2001. At the time, some 15,147 km away (or 9,412 miles for my State-side friends), I was an eighteen-year-old seated in an amphitheatre at the University of Melbourne, Australia, probably during an intense lecture in English as a second language (having migrated from Croatia four years earlier)! Little did I know that one day I would find myself celebrating the Alliance’s fifteen-year anniversary here in Philadelphia.

I could never have imagined having the opportunity to study at these two wonderful institutions that are the forefront of developing global leaders, equipping us with the skills to not only enhance the profit and loss statement of a company’s financial statements, grow a business or resolve complex negotiations, but contribute to the social capital bottom-line of our world.

I remain humbled to have become part of their rich and diverse global communities that will extend far beyond my MBA experience.

At the end of my time here, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the INSEAD-Wharton MBA experience. I welcome any other questions you may have (please reach out) and look forward to meeting many of you during upcoming INSEAD and Wharton events (London; Melbourne) – some of whom I have already had the pleasure of meeting during Wharton’s Office of MBA Admissions informal coffee chat events in Melbourne.

Forming the missing piece of an already amazing puzzle


Alone, each School stands strong, with deep and broad academic and career development opportunities. United, the Wharton-INSEAD Alliance really provides an invaluable missing piece of a puzzle that can only be understood through its immersive experience. Just as at INSEAD, Wharton provided an additional layer of rich cultural, societal, and business perspectives through experiences in the student body, curricular opportunities and Wharton’s Leadership lectures. There are dozens of professional, international and culture clubs that Alliance students can partake in (myself in the fabulous Europa Club – future prospects take note!), as well as MBA conferences that offer additional opportunities for exchange of ideas, and professional and social engagement. I strongly advise never to sleep on Wharton and University of Pennsylvania resources!

Taking advantage of electives outside of the business school ‘bubble,’ as well as wider seminars, such as in law, psychology, or politics and public policy, was priceless and demonstrated the importance of ‘stepping out of business’ to give the necessary attention to other pillars in our lives. After all, business is not just about business – for business is the key to the doors that we haven’t opened yet, inspired by the key that lies beyond our state of mind, but in our heart.

Beyond an underlying motivation of immersion in the American culture, business and markets, these are just some of the reasons I decided to venture across the pond. Indeed, to develop as global leaders we ought to embrace diverse perspectives at every possible opportunity – the INSEAD-Wharton Alliance MBA was one that I could not pass by.

Sample of a ‘slightly’ packed weekly schedule, excluding classes – managing competing priorities is an unspoken skill developed during our MBA, both at INSEAD and Wharton

Wharton Calendar sample November

Community inclusion

Much like at INSEAD where diversity and inclusion are central to our being, it was pleasing to experience the essence of Wharton’s collaborative and cohesive spirit during International Week (similar to INSEADs year-long culturally immersive, student-led events showcasing their countries of origin). I was also surprised to learn that 54% of Wharton students are polyglots, speaking three or more languages; 61% of international students are board members of non-international clubs; and based on my experience with classmates and professors from day one, all students feel integrated within the broader community.

Our ‘Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition’ professor, Robert Chalfin, set time aside following our first lecture to welcome us to Wharton, invite us to dinner, and share some of his own carefully prepared personal tips in navigating Philadelphia. Another professor kindly extended a Thanksgiving dinner invite to his home. Not to mention my Wharton buddy who reached out on the day my transfer was approved! Wharton certainly felt like another home away from home.

Professor Robert Chalfin’s generous Philly insights

Professor Robert Chalfin’s tips

Wharton's Graduate Association Halloween Party (a must; and do wear a costume!)

Halloween party

Wharton in the Fall…long walks were never long enough!

Wharton in the Fall

City of Philadelphia, historical with a touch of modern


Career focus As INSEAD-Wharton Alliance MBA candidates, we are offered complete MBA career management resources and support from both schools during our period of study.

Career Services

As a transfer to Wharton is only possible during P4 or P5, I would encourage all INSEAD-Wharton Alliance MBA candidates to bear in mind that INSEAD’s primary recruiting activities take place in P4. This may conflict with those intending to recruit in Europe and Asia, however, those with an inclination to further their U.S. career prospects will find it valuable to explore opportunities provided by Wharton. Alternatively, those wishing to maintain their recruiting efforts at INSEAD during P4, may consider transferring to Wharton in P5. I would highly encourage all candidates to discuss their Wharton transfer with a member of INSEAD’s CDC team.

INSEAD-Wharton Alliance Application Process

Historically, an average of 30-35 students (P4 and P5 cumulative) are provided with the opportunity to partake in the Wharton Alliance program during P4 or P5. As demand is higher than the number of seats available, the School has a separate application process that involves a triple-tiered approach of motivation essays, P1 and P2 INSEAD GPA results, and points bid. Applications are submitted in P1, with preliminary decisions released in P2 – seats are then confirmed once P2 grades are finalised. Securing a seat is conditional upon maintaining an agreed GPA level during P3. I would also encourage anyone on the waitlist to remain patient as successful candidates’ motivations to study abroad may change post application.

People and Moments to Treasure

Overall, my INSEAD-Wharton experience was one I will cherish for a lifetime thanks to my fellow INSEAD and Wharton classmates, professors and MBA Management Teams.

To those embarking on their INSEAD journey, there are immense opportunities available to you, and I would urge you all to step out of your comfort zone as much as you can, continue to challenge yourselves and put your hand up for the ‘unknown,’ as those are the experiences that will shape you, as a professional, as an individual, for life.

Enrolling in a full-time MBA, with a significant opportunity cost and momentary career pause, motivated me to find a program (INSEAD) that would allow me to replicate my fast-paced, diverse and challenging international career in a similarly structured MBA environment. Maintaining the momentum of my decade-long career – one that served as a global training ground spanning a dozen functions over a handful of continents – was of utmost importance. I needed an immersive program that would allow me to continue to experience the world, and to gain a world of experience – the INSEAD-Wharton Alliance facilitated both.

And going forward, despite the end of my MBA experience, I am taking the necessary opportunity to step back and reflect on the importance of remaining in the ‘middle of things’ – a great article (not just for writers) that reminds us to continuously evaluate, course-correct, adapt, and learn, in order to become a better, wiser leader of ourselves, first and foremost, before leading others.

As I take off my lanyards, a final note of congratulations to my fellow INSEAD MBA December 2016 classmates. It is with a great sense of pride, privilege, purpose and responsibility that I continue into my tomorrows, along-side you in spirit. After an intense year of endless opportunity, we came together in Fontainebleau and Singapore, to realize our dream as one – bonded and boundless – and onwards, together, we will help shape and realize others' dreams. We are blessed to be living in a society of opportunity. The opportunity that we should embrace, further develop, and remember to extend to those less privileged.

Denis Sop

INSEAD-Wharton MBA Alliance Graduate (2016D)