Emmelene Lee, WG’13, has ventured far and wide in her quest for education.

An investment banker by trade with a focus on the domestic market, Lee decided to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to learn while travelling as a student in Wharton’s MBA for Executives program in Philadelphia. Through Wharton’s Global Modular Courses (GMCs), she studied finance in the Middle East and London, innovation in Israel, supply chain management in Japan and luxury branding in Milan.

“I wanted to find classes that brought in a global perspective but also exposed me to subject matter I would never come across,” she says.

Dean Thomas S. Robertson’s commitment to expanding the School’s global curriculum in part inspired the GMC program, which is open to full-time and executive MBA students and a limited number of undergraduates.

“In today’s highly interconnected world, business executives have to have the versatility and cultural sensitivity to remain effective in their jobs. The Global Modular Courses prepare our students for their careers by exposing them to leading business practices and innovations from across the world,” says Harbir Singh, Mack Professor of Management and vice dean of global initiatives.

Courses last several days and feature lectures and site visits. About half are hosted in collaboration with regional institutions, exposing participants to faculty and students with new perspectives. Beyond student benefits, other goals include exposing faculty to new disciplines and local trends and building relationships with universities worldwide.

The first GMC—Healthcare and Innovation in India—was hosted in winter 2010 in partnership with the Indian School of Business. Thirty-three Wharton students made the trip. After this initial success, the School launched a burgeoning roster, exploring topics like energy and infrastructure in Brazil, building markets in Africa and marketing in emerging economies.

This past school year, about 400 Wharton students and between 100 and 200 students from partner universities participated in 12 GMCs. Three new courses were introduced: Global Supply Chain Management in Japan, Technology and Entrepreneurship in India, and the aforementioned Luxury Branding and Retailing in Italy and Beyond.

Says David Bell, Wharton’s Xinmei Zhang and Yongge Dai Professor, of his course in Milan: “Certain things are very immersive— such as design and retail. You can read about it and discuss, but it’s different … to see people who are leading, producing, designing and working in the field.”

In Milan, Wharton students joined peers from Bocconi University to absorb the ins and outs of luxury branding. They examined how U.S. brands compete in international markets and saw firsthand how companies deal with day-do-day challenges.

“The GMC took advantage of the environment in a way that a typical Wharton class would not be able to,” says participant Katheryn Goldsmith, WG’13. “By engaging not just with professors and other students, but also with local experts and industry leaders, we were able to immerse ourselves in the world of Italian luxury branding, gaining an insider’s perspective.”

—By Susan McDonnell 

Editor’s note: For a firsthand account of the Global Modular Course in Milan, visit whr.tn/GMCMilan.