A Day in the Life of Dean Garrett


I am often asked what a normal dean-ly day looks like. I have three simple responses. First, my default when I get up in the morning is to put on a suit and tie; I have long thought this defines when a professor (as I was for 15 years) becomes a manager/administrator/leader (as I have been for the past 15 years). Second, I always try to spend some part of the day out in the air getting some exercise—walking our aging golden retriever, walking across the Walnut Street bridge to and from work, or working out in a hotel gym/pool when I am traveling.

My third response is that there is no ‘normal’ day as dean. There are really two kinds of days. I spend a little over half my time on campus; the other half is spent on the road, as near as New York, as far as Jakarta, and most points in between. Whether I’m ‘going to the world,’ as I like to say, or going to the office, the days are inevitably long. But I’m not complaining. The many people I work with are simply fantastic, not only in terms of furthering the Wharton agenda but also as just wonderful people—students, faculty, alumni alike. I love what I do, and I do every day as well as I can.

With that caveat, here is a representative day in Philly for me.

6:15am – Double-shot latte (or “flat white” as we say downunder), consumed while – slowly – walking our aging golden retriever, Max, around Rittenhouse Square and watching the locals practice bumper cars while they park.

7:30am – Walk to campus over the Schuylkill, early enough to beat the heat in summer but sufficiently cold in winter to prompt the Californian/Australian in me to wonder: does winter have any redeeming features?

8:00am – At the office, second lattes, shoes off, check emails and check in with my Chief of Staff, Emily Cieri, on what the day holds.

8:25am – Grab a piece of fruit, put on my tie and shoes, head over to the Steinberg Conference Center.

8:30am – Welcome plus remark on US-China relations to a senior group of Chinese executives in town for a week-long program at Wharton Executive Education.  

9:00am – Off to College Hall to meet with my boss, the Provost Vince Price, to talk about shared Wharton-Penn strategic priorities—innovation and entrepreneurship, data and analytics, online education, international strategy.

10:00am – Briefing from Wharton External Affairs about the upcoming Global Forum in Amsterdam and the meeting of our European advisory board of senior alumni that will precede it.

10:30am – Phone call with a senior Wharton alumnus following up on a recent meeting in Dallas about a potential major gift to the school.  

11:00am – Discussion with Deputy Dean Mike Gibbons and Vice Dean of Finance and Administration, Peter Degnan (Wharton’s CFO and COO) on a perennial challenge – space. Wharton is full, so the space jigsaw puzzle is complicated.

12:00pm – Sandwich with a group of MBA students for a lunch hour chat. I want to hear what is on people’s minds – the cost of school – and I respond as honestly as I can – financial aid is an incredibly high priority for me and the school.

1:30pm – Meeting with Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Karl Ulrich, who spends half his time at our San Francisco (SF) campus.  We don’t talk comparative weather and physical beauty, but how best to harness the incredible assets we have in Silicon Valley.

2:30pm – Fortified by espresso and dark chocolate, another meeting with Deputy Dean Mike Gibbons, this time with Senior Director Anita Henderson, to talk about faculty diversity. Today’s topic is family support: childcare and employment opportunities for partners and spouses of faculty.  

3:30pm – Time to do a little email, monitor my twitter account, and work on my latest LinkedIn post, this one on the politics and economics of trade in the US and Asia.

4:00pm – Meet and greet with Wharton Leadership Lecture Series guest speaker, Carol Sawdye, Vice Chairman and CFO of PwC, hosted on campus by Wharton Women in Business student group.

4:30pm – Present to Penn Trustees’ (the University’s governing board) Committee on Budget and Finance about Wharton academics, financials and strategic priorities.

6:00 pm – Attend reception for Trustees, great chance to connect with several prominent Wharton alumni.

7:00pm – Brisk walk home, and finally “beer o’clock” – Brooklyn Lager for me, Sancerre for my wife Sally who teaches philosophy and ethics at Penn – followed by to go Thai food from our local favorite.

8:30pm  – Sally and I watch a couple of BBC mysteries, John Oliver, or the latest Netflix series, with Max and our even older cat Khari very close by.

10:30pm – Read newspapers on my phone before lights out. Sleeping is rarely a problem for me.

So that’s my “a day in the life”. Not Lennon-McCartney. But nothing could be better for me.  

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