Vishrut Arya is interested in understanding, improving and preserving human well-being. He's particularly interested in learning what biology, evolution, psychology, and technology can tell us about human nature and the forces that shape our decisions, society, and, ultimately, well-being.
Vish received a bachelors from Penn in chemical & biomolecular engineering and a minor in economics. After graduation, he joined Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb as a research analyst where he investigated many cognitive biases within business and utilized the findings to make long-term investment decisions. Vish recently moved to San Francisco and currently works in a strategy and operations role at Google.
What makes ideas viral and products spread contagiously? Professor Jonah Berger studies social epidemics, or how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on and become popular as well as die out and become abandoned. He examines how individual decision making and social dynamics (e.g., social influence) between people generate collective outcomes such as social contagion and trends. His research has been published in top-tier academic journals including the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Popular accounts of his research have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Science, Sloan Management Review, and The Economist. Professor Berger's teaching interests include Contagious: How Products, Behaviors, and Ideas Catch On. He holds a PhD in Marketing from Stanford and a BA with distinction in Human Judgment and Decision Making from Stanford.
Neil Blumenthal loves helping people see. Determined to radically transform the eyewear industry, Neil and three friends launched Warby Parker. Warby Parker designs and sells vintage-inspired frames and prescription lenses for $95 whereas comparable quality glasses cost over $400. And, for every pair sold, a pair is given to someone in need.
Neil had been the Director of VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own business selling affordable eyeglasses to individuals living on less than $4 per day in South Asia, Africa and Latin America. He was responsible for developing VisionSpring's award-winning strategy (Fast Company Social Capitalist Award '08, '07 and '05) and expanding VisionSpring's global presence from one to 10 countries. In 2005, Neil was named a Fellow for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Robert F. Wagner School for Public Service. Prior to joining VisionSpring, he worked with the International Crisis Group and attended the Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution in The Hague, Netherlands. Neil received his BA from Tufts University and his MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where he was both a Social Enterprise Fellow and a Leadership Fellow. Neil and his wife Rachel live in NYC.
Peter S. Fader is the Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His expertise centers around the analysis of behavioral data to understand and forecast customer shopping/purchasing activities. He works with firms from a wide range of industries, such as consumer packaged goods, interactive media, financial services, retailing, and pharmaceuticals. Managerial applications focus on topics such as customer relationship management, lifetime value of the customer, and sales forecasting for new products. Much of his research highlights the consistent (but often surprising) behavioral patterns that exist across these industries and other seemingly different domains.
Many of these cross-industry experiences and observations are currently being channeled towards the development of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, a bold new research center that aims to revolutionize current thinking and managerial practices within the media/ entertainment/e-commerce industries.
Professor Fader believes that marketing should not be viewed as a "soft" discipline, and he frequently works with different companies and industry associations to improve managerial perspectives in this regard. His work has been published in (and he serves on the editorial boards of) a number of leading journals in marketing, statistics, and the management sciences. He has won many awards for his teaching and research accomplishments.
Jason Halpern is the founder and CEO of PowerFlower Solar, a seed stage solar technology company developing a portable, durable solar generator for farmers and the military. Jason's second company, Tangent Robotics, was recently formed to develop a novel spherical mechanical linkage with implications in robotics and prosthetics. Jason received undergraduate degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Management as well as a Masters degree in Integrated Product Design from the University of Pennsylvania. Jason is particularly interested in how to combine the insights of the fields of engineering, business, and design, in order to identify and solve meaningful problems.
Thor Halvorssen is a human rights advocate and film producer. He is president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF), an organization devoted to liberating political prisoners and to promoting tolerance and democracy in Latin America. Prior to HRF he was Executive Director and CEO of the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) from its founding until 2004. He is founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual global gathering described by The Economist as a "spectacular human-rights festival... on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Davos economic forum." He is the Patron of the Prague-based Children's Peace Movement; "On Own Feet." Halvorssen has lectured at universities across the world on matters of individual rights and his opinions and views have appeared in numerous venues including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, TIME, the Daily Telegraph, New York Post, and GQ, as well as television outlets such as Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Fox News, HBO, and MSNBC. He is a regular columnist for The Huffington Post. He founded the Moving Picture Institute in 2005 and has produced several films that focus on freedom and individual rights.
Michael Highland is an artist, designer, and yogi currently exploring the ways technology can be used to catalyze personal growth. He regularly speaks, writes, and sometimes makes films, about videogame culture and the underlying psychology of why people play. His last film, As Real as Your Life, which chronicled his own experiences as a game addict, was first screened at the 2006 TED Conference in Monterey, CA. Over the past four years he has worked in the US and Hong Kong as a game designer, specializing in the psychology of virtual experience. Today, he lives in Philadelphia, and is currently putting the final touches on his new studio's debut game, a Philly themed pixel art bike race adventure titled Hipster City Cycle. Michael graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008, where he earned a BSE in digital media design.
Rev. Charles Howard
The Reverend Charles (Chaz) L. Howard, PhD was appointed University Chaplain in June of 2008 after having served the university previously as Interim Chaplain (January-May 2008) and as Associate Chaplain (2005-2008). Prior to his return to Penn, his alma mater, he served in both hospital and hospice chaplaincies. He has also worked for Project H.O.M.E. (homeless service and advocacy agency in Philadelphia) and he co-founded the Greater Love Movement, a non-profit anti-poverty organization focused on the needs of the homeless.
He is the author of several articles and chapters as well as the editor of The Souls of Poor Folk (University Press of America, 2007), an essay collection and multimedia project raising awareness about poverty. He is also the past coordinator of CHORDS, a partnership connecting Penn, through the Chaplain's Office and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, with West Philadelphia schools, neighborhood organizations, and communities of faith. Rev. Howard also teaches in Penn's Programs for Awareness in Cultural Education (PACE), a partnership between the Graduate School of Education and Greenfield Intercultural Center, as well as in the College of Arts and Sciences and at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia.
As a Penn undergraduate, Rev. Howard served two terms as President of the United Minorities Council and was winner of The Bowl Award, chief of Sphinx Senior Honor Society, and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He has earned a PhD in Contemporary Theology from Lutheran Theological Seminary, an MDiv from Andover Newton Theological School and a BA from Penn, with a major in Urban Studies and a minor in African-American Studies.
Dr. Stella L. Volpe is a nutritionist and exercise physiologist who has built a program of research focusing on three interrelated areas that traverse the lifespan: 1) obesity and diabetes prevention via mineral supplementation, 2) weight management through diet, exercise and educational programs, and 3) environmental change leading to weight management. She is presently conducting a randomized controlled trial on the effect of magnesium supplementation on the prevention of the metabolic syndrome. Dr. Volpe has also become interested in studying the effects of the Human-Animal Interaction on weight loss and health in children and older adults. Prior to beginning her faculty appointment at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Dr. Volpe was on faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1994 to 2003. Dr. Volpe is both a Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM]), and a Registered Dietitian. She is a Fellow of the ACSM.