Women up, but applicants down, and Wharton's top MBA recruiter is out

Ankur Kumar, Wharton's former director of MBA admissions and financial aid. (Photo still from YouTube)

Ankur Kumar, head of admissions and financial aid at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school, a woman credited with boosting the number of female MBA candidates, is stepping down "to pursue a new endeavor," the school told staff, five days after the Wall St. Journal ran this story noting total Wharton MBA applications have been dropping on her watch, as applicants to rivals Harvard and Stanford rose.

Kumar defended her record, arguing Wharton's applicants might be fewer, but they were higher quality. But the Journal quoted others speculating the drop reflected Wharton's historic identification with Wall Street and finance, and its comparatively weaker ties to high tech companies, where today's top B-school grads want to be. (Implying that Penn's busy but smallish engineering school, and practical-minded Drexel next door, aren't as alluring or as Wharton-tied as MIT and other top software crucibles are to Wharton's rivals?)

In an Oct. 2 letter to colleagues, Wharton dean Tom Robertson and vice dean Howie Kaufold didn't mention the WSJ story: "Dear Colleagues, We are writing to inform you that Ankur Kumar C'00, W'00, WG'07, who has served as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid for the past four years, has decided to leave her current position to pursue a new endeavor...

"Under Ankur’s leadership, the MBA program reached record breaking enrollment of women, with an unprecedented five years in a row of 40% or more women in the class. In addition, the entrepreneurial community grew triple fold. Under Ankur, MBA Admissions also emerged as an innovator in evaluation, with the successful launch of the Team Based Discussion as part of the admissions process last year.

"Ankur’s last day will be Friday, October 4. We are excited for Ankur and wish her continued success in her career. The Admissions team will continue its work under the guidance of Maryellen Lamb, Deputy Vice Dean of MBA Admissions, Financial Aid and Career Management... Maryellen's combination of successful leadership of the MBA Career Management Office, and significant work experience in the corporate arena, ideally positions her to guide both offices...

"We look forward to witnessing the exciting road ahead for MBA Admissions under Maryellen’s leadership."