Wharton MBA for Executive students travel the world to experience the intersection of classroom theory and real-world business in a different culture. During the week of Sept. 10 to 14, 2012, Wharton’s West Coast class ventured to Brazil, while their East Coast counterparts ventured to Turkey.
Second-year student Elizabeth Dahan, vice president at Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm in Washington, D.C., says that Turkey, at the intersection of Europe and Asia, “is a reflection of where we think the next big thing is happening, where the most interesting things in business are taking place.”
Because of her knowledge of the country and experience working with Turkish businesses, Dahan was responsible for coordinating the Istanbul itinerary for her 115 classmates.
At Wharton | San Francisco, students opted for two cities in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, says Jared Peterson, a vendor relationship manager at Apple Inc. in Cupertino, CA. The second-year student was the point person for his 90-some classmates in coordinating company visits.
“The idea,” says Peterson, “is to understand how the strategy for the country differs from other countries. … We tried to find companies that matched the interests of the students.”
That ranged from global multinationals to startups, private firms to public, partnerships to LLCs. Students were privy during the trips to the insights of a wide variety of industries and individuals—high-ranking senior executives, entrepreneurs, consultants and venture capitalists.
“It exposes students to businesses they are not familiar with,” says Diane Harvey.
Harvey, associate director in Philadelphia, and Juana Droessler, associate director at Wharton | San Francisco, oversee the planning and travel for the international seminar—in this case, Droessler for Brazil and Harvey for Turkey.
Many of the business leaders who opened their facilities or made themselves available to the students agreed to the sessions, Dahan says, in recognition of the Wharton name.
“Our name is that well respected that they will take the time to come and do that for us,” she says.
“What this course does is it serves as a way to investigate, almost in a laboratory setting, some of the ideas they talk about in the strategy class,” says Peggy Bishop Lane, vice dean of the MBA for Executives Program.
“Companies in emerging economies are playing with different strategies, making those interesting regions to study,” she adds.
And let’s not forget that MBA for Executives students often come from companies involved in sectors around the world.
“I think today’s business leaders need to have a global perspective when they are thinking about where they are going to get their revenues from,” says Dahan. “It’s in all these emerging economies where the opportunities lie.
”But over and above the strategy sessions and knowledge sharing was the bonding, Peterson says.
“The biggest highlight was just being able to spend that quality time out of class with our classmates,” he says. “I thought it was a lot of fun to be with classmates in a different setting, to get to know people, to have that non-classroom time to bond and have a great time.”
Students are required to submit a paper at the end of the seminar. Witold Henisz, Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management, oversaw the East trip; Jeff Dyer, adjunct professor of management, oversaw the West.
—By Anne Freedman