Why the Fellows Program?

Because the world needs principled leaders


The Idea

Everywhere MBA students look, they see opportunities—ideas to be seized, businesses to be built, organizations to be rebuilt. They also see a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, along with a dearth of strong, ethical leadership. The McGowan Fund sees the same things, and in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, we began nurturing aspiring leaders by providing tuition support, principled leadership development, and a growing, generational community of talented, like-minded leaders who count social impact as well as shareholder value in their decision making.

We do this because our namesake, William G. McGowan, fought monopoly and led with integrity. He changed the nation’s business landscape. His brainchild, MCI, flourished until he retired and successors took over. (The rest is felony history.) Curious? Read What Bill Would Do. 

We are so passionate about this idea that we ask Fellows to make a promise, and we make a promise to them.


The Details

1-year fellowship | 2nd-year MBA students chosen from 10 top-tier programs | Fellows chosen by their programs | Leadership training | Symposium | Social impact project | Highly connected alum community | Fellows’ Commitment and Our Promise

In 1968, William G. McGowan took on the project of his life: fighting the giant monopoly AT&T. It took nerve, but he was a long distance warrior.

Because the best leaders know their principles—and use them


The Idea

So often leadership skill is assumed, or it’s “taught” on a ropes course. And ethics? Often, it’s not taught at all. On their journey to ethical leadership, the McGowan Fellows start with self-exploration and then dive in together, using six abiding principles that operate in both calm times and VUCA times. They are:


Character & Integrity





The Fund does this in tribute to William G. McGowan, our namesake. Also—fun fact—our board leads the Fund this way. For anyone who worries about the quality of leadership today—the principles are worth a spin.


The Details

The Principles | What Bill Would Do | View Don’t Blame VUCA | View As Inequality Grows

J.D. Brannock ’13
University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
On how the Fellowship’s focus on principles complemented his MBA program—and stays with him in his work

Because training cultivates the best in the best of us


The Idea

Leadership can be taught well. So why not learn it? And learn it with an eye on personal goals, values, and longstanding concerns? Why not learn to make decisions that make ethical sense and don’t fall apart under examination? Why not have the tools to manage in a crisis?

The Fellows do this through a stretch experience, group sessions, materials, and one-on-one coaching. The coaches are alums who support Fellows in their decision-making as they encounter challenges in work and school; coaches offer skilled help thinking through issues and processes in real time.


The Details

Two national retreats | Monthly coaching, one-on-one | Sessions and materials designed by the Center for Creative Leadership | Fellows’ Commitment and Our Promise

Valerie Zhou ’20
MIT, Sloan School of Management
On the great coaching she got from Nicole Bell

More Videos


Eva Lieu ’13
University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School
On how coaching has made her a better leader

Nishit Jane ’19
University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School
On the Symposium experience