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Attendees at the Wharton Latin American Conference 2019. Photo: Gustavo Peña/AL DÍA News
Attendees at the Wharton Latin American Conference 2019. Photo: Gustavo Peña/AL DÍA News

WHALAC 2019 presents opportunities for meaningful growth for Latin American community

The annual conference prompts open discussions with the Latin American community on the region, while building stronger community and generating opportunities…

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In what has been a long tradition at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, clubs have often organized regional conferences.

Not having one for one of the more prominent populations both in the world, and at UPenn—the Latin American community—appeared unfair. In an effort to showcase Latin America, students leaders gathered together and started a new venture: the Wharton Latin American Conference (WHALAC).

“Here at Wharton, the sense of community is highly important and an event like this, uniting Spanish, Portuguese Speakers and people interested in Latin America, fulfills the purpose of building a strong Latino community like no other,” student leaders at The Wharton School, said.

For the past nine years, the annual Wharton Latin American Conference (WHALAC) has provided an avenue to promote open dialogues about the Latin American region’s challenges and opportunities within the global context, while building a stronger community and generating networking opportunities, as well.

“Business Opportunities to Make Latin America Thrive”

Each year, the conference has an overarching theme. This year’s conference was developed under the theme “Business Opportunities to Make Latin America Thrive” with the main conference slogan, “A Leap Forward.”

The students said they organized the event discussions with one question in mind: How can Latin America overcome its main challenges and become an example for other regions?

“Particularly in a post-crisis context, we believe that future business leaders need to understand what is the role they can play in the development of the region, by spurring innovation, transforming industries, creating ventures, and also establish new partnerships with the government,” the student leaders said.

The conference featured a variety of esteemed keynote speakers from many different industries and sectors. Some of the various topics discussed include accountability in political institutions, sustainable growth of multinational companies, challenges and opportunities brought by digitalization, renewables, healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and many more.

The goal for the conference is to spur discussions between the students and speakers that will extend well beyond the days of the conference.

The event also featured competitions aimed to connect young entrepreneurs to a powerful network of investors, mentors and venture capital professionals from leading funds investing in Latin America. Those connections can help aspiring entrepreneurs take the next step in their business venture.

“People are creating meaningful professional networks at WHALAC,” the students added. “Being part of this exchange may help students understand better how to contribute to their communities and what they would like to do in their careers.”

Looking Ahead

With each year that the conference takes place, the student leaders at Wharton look for more ways to grow and make it even more effective. The goal is for each session to inspire participants to consider alternative solutions and innovative paths in their careers.

With about half of the conference attendees graduating in the coming year and continuing their professional careers, there is a great opportunity for everyone to make a real impact.

This year, there was a more committed effort to expand the conference to the larger community—Latin American and Hispanic students from other business schools in Philadelphia and neighboring cities.

“We are very proud to have strengthened significantly the connection with other schools, but it’s constant work as the generations change every two years,” they said. “We are hoping that, one day, our conference will be a reference to most Latinos—students and professionals.”

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