Record Year for Admissions

The number of applicants for 750 places in Wharton’s MBA program jumped 27 percent this year, from 5,019 in 1994 to 6,354 in 1995.

The record increase reflects a number of factors, says Samuel T. Lundquist, director of Graduate Admissions. Business Week’s ranking of Wharton as the number one graduate program in the country no doubt had an influence, as did the development of the new curriculum and Wharton’s higher international profile.

“More faculty have spent time overseas teaching and conducting research than in past years, and the admissions office itself has increased its recruiting activities both in the U.S. and internationally,” says Lundquist. His department visited 12 countries this year — with an emphasis on South America and Asia — as compared to eight countries previously.

The number of women applicants increased 24 percent this year over last, and also grew as a percentage of the pool: They totaled 28 percent of the applicants this year compared to 26.5 percent last year. International applications rose 18.5 percent, with the greatest growth coming from China and India.

Projections indicate that this year’s yield — the number of students who accept Wharton — will set a record at approximately 70 percent. In addition, average GMAT and GPA scores are at an all-time high.

“Students tell us on their applications that their number one source of information about the School is alumni they know,” says Lundquist, who was recently elected chairman of the board of trustees for the Graduate Management Admissions Council, a professional association whose goal is to promote graduate management education. “It’s the network. Alumni seem to endorse the School very strongly, which has a direct influence on admissions.”

On the undergraduate level, applicants to the class of 1999 totaled 2,301, as compared to 2,048 the previous year. Early admission candidates numbered 345, compared to 294 in 1994.

Wharton Is First, Again

Wharton has ranked #1 in the first survey of undergraduate business programs conducted by a major business publication.

The survey, in which Wharton tied for first place with the University of California at Berkeley, was conducted by U.S. News & World Report as part of its “Best Colleges” issue. The results were announced in September.

Wharton also ranked in the top five in 8 of 10 academic departments, including #1 rankings in finance, marketing and real estate. The School ranked in the top five in entrepreneurship, international business, general management, accounting and quantitative analysis.

The survey comes on the heels of last year’s #1 ranking of Wharton’s MBA program by Business Week.

How Companies Compete in Emerging Technology-Based Industries

What happens when an emerging technology comes along that promises to create a whole new industry, much the way advances in recombinant DNA research spawned genetic testing and CT scans revolutionized medical diagnostic imaging?

The answer to that question lies at the heart of a new research program at Wharton that will look at how established firms as well as start-ups compete in emerging technology-based industries.

The focus of the program is on technologies that actually “create new industries, new strategies, new economic opportunities and in many cases new companies,” says George Day, director of Wharton’s Huntsman Center for Global Competition and Innovation and a director of the new program.

“But we will also be looking at the experience of established companies trying to capitalize on emerging technologies. These companies face a huge amount of ambiguity in terms of defining what the market is, who their competitors are, what customers want and so forth. They are used to working with reasonably mature technologies in well-defined industries. It’s a whole new ballgame.”

Although the program has not targeted a definitive list of industries to research, suggested choices so far include wireless data communications, biotherapeutics, digital imaging, opto-electronics, superconductors, software reengineering and advanced materials — all created over the past two decades by technological breakthroughs.

“The opportunities presented by these technologies are rarely clear,” says William F. Hamilton, director of Wharton’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, and another emerging technologies program participant. “Different methods for evaluating potential are needed as are different organizational schemes, financing mechanisms and alliances … It gets down to the fact that you can’t organize a hot, fast-moving and unpredictable business the same way you organized an established, traditional one.”

Besides its focus on a new “subfield” of management and technology, the program is unique in its attempt to coordinate related faculty research that is either underway or already completed. In addition to Day, who is also the Geoffrey T. Boisi Professor of Marketing, and Hamilton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Management and Technology, the core group guiding the new program includes Harbir Singh, associate professor of management, whose research looks at corporate growth through acquisition and alliances; Jitendra Singh, professor of management and an authority on organizational evolution and change; Sidney Winter, Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management, who has made significant contributions to understanding how industries evolve, and Adam Fein, a PhD student studying marketing and distribution patterns.

“We are creating an environment where people from other departments can come together and look at the same topic from different perspectives,” says Day.

In addition to telecommunications and CT scanners, examples of new industries that have emerged in the aftermath of a major technological innovation could include: ball-point pens (from fountain pens), computerized word processors (from mechanical and electrical typewriters), digital handheld calculators (from electromechanical calculators), microwave ovens (from gas/electric ovens) and transistors (from vacuum tubes).

Michael Tomczyk, managing director of the new research partnership — formally called “Competing in Emerging Technologies” — offers an explanation and an example to illustrate the program’s scope. First, assume that an emerging technology-based industry is the result of a three-step process. It starts with a scientific advance or breakthrough, followed by technological implementation, which leads to commercial application (market opportunity).

In that scenario, Tomczyk says, there is a “point in time when the technology is clearly ready to be marketed. Now assume your company will be impacted by this new technology. You have to decide how to react. If you’re an established firm, do you start investing now so that you will be ready when the commercial breakthrough comes? Do you wait until the new technology starts affecting your industry and there are clearcut lines of commercial development evolving? Do you start your own internal research effort, or hire someone externally to do that? Do you buy or partner with a company that has effectively developed the research but needs an established player to attack the market? Or do you wait and license the technology after it’s fully commercialized, hoping you haven’t been superseded by the competition, and then sell the licensed technology to your market?

“Both new and existing companies need to decide how to cope with these new trends, changes, demands, challenges, opportunities and threats,” says Tomczyk. ”Established firms in particular often have trouble coping with this process: timing their market entry, adapting new management practices, identifying the core competencies required to operate in the new environment, and deciding when and how to enter the new market. Successful companies are often surprised to discover that business practices that made them a leader five years ago are suddenly a disadvantage.”

A key word is “speed.” In emerging technology-based industries, says Hamilton, who has done extensive studies of the biotechnology industry, “decisions have to be made much faster. You don’t have the time for long extensive assessments. Virtually every dimension of activity is different.”

Biotechnology itself is an interesting field to study, says Day, because it starts with a broad base of theoretical research and extends in a variety of directions that are themselves creating narrower industries, such as biotherapeutics, as well as biotechnology products for both veterinary and agricultural uses.

The program will help coordinate and support the activities of Wharton faculty in the fields of international management, marketing, economics and operations. Corporate sponsors from several different industries are being invited to help guide the research, participate in industry discussion forums and plan special workshops/symposia to be hosted by Wharton. The program is part of the Huntsman Center for Global Competition and Innovation.

Education Update for South African Leaders

Thirty members of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) are set to attend a two-week executive education session at Wharton in January. The session is aimed at teaching high-level members of the relatively young Johannesburg-based South African government how to manage and lead effectively.

“It is important that South Africans be empowered with knowledge and skills in all fields, including management,” notes M.C. Ramaphosa, secretary general of the ANC, in a letter to Wharton. The program, to run January 15-27, will “enhance our leadership capabilities so that the knowledge gained can be mobilized toward reconstructing and developing [our country],” he adds.

Wharton’s involvement comes at a time when South African President Nelson Mandela is trying to encourage the global business community to once again invest in South Africa. Part of his effort includes assuring investors that the government has a pool of skilled and sophisticated managers ready to provide assistance to outside firms.

The program is scheduled to include such courses as “The Role of the Central Bank,” “Understanding Financial Markets,” “Commodity Markets,” “Towards Privatization,” “Job Creation and Measuring Productivity,” “Entrepreneurship and Creating Change,” and “Attracting Foreign Investment in South Africa.”

15 New Faculty Join Wharton

Stephen Hoch, an expert in the field of consumer decision making, retail strategy tactics, and the decision processes of marketing managers, has joined Wharton’s Marketing Department.

Hoch, who has a PhD from Northwestern University, an MBA from UCLA and a BA from Stanford, was most recently the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Marketing and Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago’s graduate school of business.

“Hoch is one of the field’s most highly regarded scholars,” notes Professor David Schmittlein, chairperson of the Marketing Department. “He has won numerous awards, including the Alpha Kappa Psi Award for the best paper in the Journal of Marketing, both in 1989 and 1994.” He is best known for one particular paper in which he demonstrates that a once popular discounting practice by grocery store retailers is not profitable relative to the alternatives.

Hoch joins 14 other new faculty at the School. They include:

Finance: Roger Edelen, assistant professor (PhD candidate, University of Rochester); Urban Jermann, assistant professor (PhD, University of Geneva); David Musto, assistant professor (PhD candidate, University of Chicago), and Nicholas Souleles, assistant professor (PhD candidate, MIT).

Legal Studies: Alan Strudler, assistant professor (PhD in philosophy and JD from University of Arizona, Tucson).

Management: Geoffrey Garrett, associate professor without tenure (PhD, Duke); Anne Marie Knott, assistant professor (PhD, UCLA graduate school of management); Gabriel Szulanski, assistant professor (PhD, INSEAD); Mary Tripsas, assistant professor (PhD candidate, MIT); Michael Useem, professor (transfer from the Department of Sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences).

Operations and Information Management: David Croson, assistant professor (PhD candidate, Harvard University); David Ellison, assistant professor (PhD candidate, Harvard University); Noah Gans, assistant professor (PhD candidate, Columbia University Graduate School of Business) and Karl Ulrich, associate professor without tenure (MIT).

It’s Here

A book entitled Redesigning the Firm — researched, written and edited by Wharton professors and bound together with a forward by Wharton Dean Thomas P. Gerrity — is now available in bookstores.

Published by Oxford University Press, the book addresses the question of how firms can compete effectively in a changing business environment.

The project dates back to 1992 when Edward Bowman, Reginald H. Jones Professor of Corporate Management, and Bruce Kogut, professor of management, challenged 17 other Wharton professors to work across disciplines in an attempt to study how organizations can restructure themselves to become more flexible, more innovative, more global and ultimately more successful. Bowman and Kogut are currently co-directors of the Reginald H. Jones Center for Management Policy, Strategy and Organization.

Through their own research, and with the input of senior executives from major corporations, the authors look at such topics as the organization of the global multinational firm, corporate governance, the ways in which firms can adapt to changing markets, the importance of partnerships and alliances, the efficient use of suppliers, and the benefits of improved operations management.

“Faculty members from diverse departments were commissioned to work as teams to examine key areas of organizational transformation,” writes Gerrity in the book’s forward, noting that the interdisciplinary approach to solving business problems is reflected in Wharton’s curriculum. “Each chapter is a synthesis of more than one perspective.”