The Successful Transition and Empowerment Program’s emphasis on fostering connection and building four-year community helps it stand out from other pre-orientation programs.

Wharton’s Successful Transition and Empowerment Program (STEP), co-founded by Wharton Undergraduate Division academic advisors Dr. Ufuoma C. Abiola and Teran R. Tadal, is an award-winning, four-day pre-orientation and first-year readiness program that supports the success of underrepresented Wharton freshmen. STEP has the prestige of being Wharton’s first and only undergraduate pre-orientation program. Designed to cater to the diverse student population, the program introduces underrepresented Wharton freshmen to important Wharton and Penn resources and helps them build skills to effectively navigate college both academically and socially. STEP’s emphasis on building four-year community through ongoing monthly programming and robust mentoring distinguishes it from other pre-orientation programs.

Here are three ways Wharton’s unique pre-orientation program engages, educates, and empowers undergraduates throughout all four years.

STEP members gather together for the final community dinner of the 2017-18 year.

1. Monthly Community Dinners

STEP monthly dinners bring together students from all three years the program has been running. In addition to building community, each dinner is centered around an essential theme that enhances the Wharton experience. Wharton advisors, staff, and professionals facilitate the sessions. Past initiatives include time management and study strategies co-facilitated by the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, business research strategies conducted by staff from the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School, and the cover letter and resume writing process specifically for Wharton students led by Penn Career Services. These monthly dinners provide direct access to campus resources and are a great way for students to build relationships, enjoy good food, and continuously improve their toolkits.

A classroom with three large screens, food trays in the back row, and students watching two speakers.
STEP members listen to the Career Services presentation during the community dinner.

2. Business Site Visits

In spring of 2018, STEP traveled to New York for company visits with notable alumni. The trip consisted of a visit to Viacom, where students met with Scott M. Mills, W’90, President of BET Networks, and concluded with a meeting at Apax Partners LLP. The students had the opportunity to ask questions and interact directly with industry leaders, gaining insight into two very different fields.

3. Annual Business Etiquette Dinner at The Union League of Philadelphia

A highlight of the program is the annual dinner at the prestigious Union League. A professional etiquette instructor demonstrates the ins and outs of proper etiquette when dining at formal occasions. The event consists of an extensive walk-through of a business meal: from preparation before entering a room to what to do at the table and which conversations to avoid.

STEP members attend the annual etiquette dinner at The Union League.

In addition to winning the 2018 ACPA Outstanding Four-Year Institution Program/Initiative Award, STEP was featured at last semester’s joint meeting of the Student Life and Diversity Subcommittees of the University Trustees as a model for other undergraduate schools at Penn. With 70 freshmen and 16 upperclassmen Peer Mentors in its third year, STEP continues to expand, connecting more underrepresented Wharton freshmen to key campus resources and acting as a springboard for ongoing community building, ultimately setting more students on the path towards successful undergraduate careers.

A group of students wear business casual in front of a large fireplace, holding up a blue and red Wharton banner.

“Each day of STEP I saw myself learning more about the resources and the great university I’m a part of. I am grateful for the opportunity to receive mentorship and engage in the universally accepting community that STEP promotes,” said a past STEP participant.

— Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: March 8, 2019

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