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Enhancements to Wharton's MBA Program

December 21, 2010, Volume 57, No. 16

The faculty of the Wharton School voted earlier this month to approve a new design for its MBA program. The innovative design, a product of a multi-year study of the evolving role of business education, allows greater customization and offers MBA students flexibility. The design builds on Wharton’s strength of academic reputation and offers new opportunities for student self-analysis and self-understanding, which underlie effective leadership. The School also commits to a radically new vision of business education as a life-long “knowledge partnership” between Wharton and its graduates, offering tuition-free executive education training for new MBA graduates.

“The architecture of the curriculum addresses the needs of a new global generation through flexibility, rigor and innovation,” said Dr. Thomas S. Robertson, dean of the Wharton School. “Our research shows that this generation of business leaders wants greater control over educational choices, continued exposure to peers with deep, global experience and more opportunity in their academic experience to self-analyze and self-reflect. As part of the design, we are introducing a series of global modular courses that will be offered in eight countries this year.

“Combined with the appointment of Vice Deans in Global Initiatives, Social Impact, and Innovation, we intend to retain our leadership position in business education.”

Innovative design elements include:

Choices of pathways for fulfillment of required courses in six distinct content areas:

• Finance and the Global Economy

• Ethical and Legal Responsibility

• Managing the Global Enterprise

• Understanding and Serving Customers

• Corporate Reporting and Control

• Management of Operations, Innovation, Information, and Decisions under Uncertainty

Students will be able to customize learning by selecting a course pathway through these content areas based on their educational and career experience.

Strengthened teaching of the analytics for which Wharton is known:

Course content in microeconomics and statistics will be increased. This will assure that students have the tools needed to understand risk, markets, and the role of government when markets fail.

An integrated focus on ethical and legal responsibility in business:

This will allow Wharton to provide deeper and more challenging frameworks that will guide students’ managerial decisions upon returning to the work force.

An increased focus on communication:

By providing additional required professional training in communications, Wharton is responding to feedback that these skills are essential components to successful business leadership.

Wharton will provide new leadership development opportunities through learning simulation courses, a two-year coaching experience, and tools to offer self-analysis and self-reflection. This will encourage development of the personal skills that are crucial to exemplary leadership.

The new architecture allows greater flexibility for students to take advantage of Wharton’s unmatched breadth of student experience and faculty research. Wharton, which has campuses in Philadelphia and San Francisco, enrolls 1,600 students in its full-time MBA Program and 400 students in its MBA Program for Executives. Students are taught by 220 expert faculty members and 200 affiliated faculty across 11 academic departments. The School’s 25 research centers engage students in specific domains of knowledge. Faculty will have new latitude to design new course content quickly in response to an evolving global environment.

“Wharton’s new curriculum design offers our students a framework for success in a rapidly changing world,” said Dean Robertson. “The world’s 200 countries are more interconnected each year, technology and innovation are ever more paramount and the role of government has come to the forefront here and overseas. Business schools must equip the next generation of leaders with the knowledge, skills and perspective they need to meet the global economic, environmental, humanitarian and policy challenges of the future. The better able we are to achieve these goals, the more we can ensure that business schools are a force for good in the world.”

The new flexibility in Wharton’s curriculum goes hand-in-hand with its unprecedented promise to new MBA graduates to provide them with tuition-free executive education every seven years throughout their careers. “Changing careers and a changing world bring new problems and the need for new knowledge,” said Dr. G. Richard Shell, chair of the MBA Review Committee that created the new design. “Our world-class executive education capabilities place Wharton in the unique position of being able to offer every one of our new graduates a tuition-free experience providing specialized up-to-date executive education once every seven years through their working lives. With this unique commitment to lifelong learning, Wharton seeks to create a vibrant community of graduates who will return regularly to engage with faculty and fellow alumni. Our goal is that all of our alumni will remain at the forefront of business knowledge and practice throughout their careers.”

 The School’s leadership and faculty have developed this enhanced curricular design as part of their multi-year strategic planning process. Research on the future of business school education and Wharton’s strategic planning work included an exhaustive review process. Thousands of stakeholders were interviewed, including students, alumni, business leaders, recruiters, faculty, staff and Wharton board members.

Significant financial resources are being committed to assure the success of the enhanced curriculum, with a partial rollout in 2011 and full implementation in 2012. A faculty committee focused on innovation and review will be instituted to oversee the design of new courses, the menus of choices available to students, and the programmatic elements that will be introduced to enhance the total MBA student experience.


Almanac - December 21, 2010, Volume 57, No. 16