“Being at Wharton is actually a great time to start a family. It certainly takes a village – but you have so much support here. Wharton gave me more decision-making power and flexibility in becoming a mother than I would have ever imagined.” — Nancy Yuan, WG’24

Meet Nancy Yuan, WG’24 , who balanced pregnancy and childbirth during her first year at Wharton. Now expecting her second child after completing an MBA Major in Organizational Effectiveness and ESGB, Yuan is officially graduating and will serve a Leadership Rotation with the American Red Cross.

The following is Nancy’s firsthand experience navigating the Wharton MBA Program as a new mom, and the support she received from her Wharton community.

I came into my first year at Wharton pregnant and delivered my daughter right before winter break. I gave birth two days after my Management exam and that was, as you can imagine, a little crazy. Now, I’m pregnant with my second child and I’ll be delivering my son in a few weeks after graduation.

Nancy Yuan WG’24 (right) and her husband, Fangzhou (left). (Photo: Nancy Yuan)

At Wharton, we’re fortunate to be very close to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where I gave birth. It was extremely easy to have my OBGYN literally across the street so I could schedule appointments right before or after classes.

I must include that my husband and my family are extremely supportive. My husband has been phenomenal in understanding that Wharton is a special experience, as well as being a mother, and has been helpful in balancing the two. Before Wharton I was working in consulting at Bain and would be traveling four to five days per week. We knew we wanted children, but as two people with ambitious careers and learning objectives, we didn’t know when it would be a good time to start a family. When we started to think about it, we realized that the time I spent earning my MBA would also make a great time to have children. I have classes four days a week, but I can manage my schedule on my own terms. Having no classes on Fridays at Wharton also helps – where else are you going to get three-day weekends?

Support from the Wharton Community

I was worried about what people would think about me getting my MBA while pregnant. I assumed there was going to be a lot of travel and parties that I wouldn’t be able to partake in while pregnant, and I didn’t know how that was going to affect me socially. But in fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. The communal support has been lovely and overwhelming, and I think that just highlights that there really is a place for everyone here. My Wharton friends even threw me a baby shower during my first semester!

I found a huge sense of community through Moms@Wharton – it was really beneficial to connect with other ambitious mothers who are balancing school, family, their career and other commitments. They were so supportive and gave me advice on everything; from what pumps to buy for breastfeeding, to babysitting and organizing play dates, to reassuring me when I had “mommy guilt” for being away from my daughter during treks. I decided to lead Moms@Wharton in my second year to pay it forward.

We’re also fortunate to have hospital grade lactation suites on campus – they’re like the “Cadillac” of breast pumps. That alone makes me feel supported as a mother here.

Making time for Extra-Curriculars

I did both the Quantico Military Simulation and FDNY Firefighter Simulation while pregnant. I went on the Columbia GMC three months after giving birth and I was worried about participating while breastfeeding. The professors on that trip were extremely accommodating and let me excuse myself to pump as much as I needed. I really struggled with making the decision to participate in some of these larger ventures, but I want to have great stories to tell my children, and I know I’ll be a better role model for them if I don’t give up my hopes and dreams. I’m really grateful that Wharton still allowed me to have these opportunities.

Nancy during her Quantico Intensive. (Photo: Nancy Yuan)
Nancy on her trek to Antarctica. (Photo: Nancy Yuan)

On Wharton’s new Parent Policy and how current students made it happen

This initiative was in process before my time here, but through Moms@Wharton, we had a lot of meetings over the past year with Dean Erika James and other leaders at Wharton. It was a very collaborative process – they were able to help us understand what barriers and limitations were on the school side, and we were able to highlight our experiences as parents and bring to their attention the needs of students. When I was pregnant with my daughter, there was not a formal leave policy in place. I was lucky enough to give birth to her over winter break, and when I returned to campus I worked with professors on a one on one basis on my needs. I’m very grateful that Wharton has taken action on having a parental leave policy for students, because a lot of other schools don’t have one in place. My hope is that Wharton can be a leader in other innovative policies for parents.

Nancy at her Wharton baby shower. (Photo: Nancy Yuan)

Advice for MBA parents

Being at Wharton is actually a great time to start a family. It certainly takes a village – but you have so much support here. Wharton gave me more decision-making power and flexibility in becoming a mother than I would have ever imagined. I would almost consider parenthood a different “extracurricular” for students here because after speaking with more and more classmates about my experience, many of them expressed wishing they had planned this into their life sooner. Becoming a parent won’t hinder your career but will add to it. We’re all here to become business leaders, and together we can better understand the needs of parents having this shared experience during their MBA, and ultimately bring more empathy for parents into our careers.

— Nancy Yuan, WG’24

Posted: May 10, 2024

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