Since its launch in 2001, the Wharton | San Francisco MBA for Executives program has brought the world-class Philadelphia experience to working professionals in San Francisco. As it continues to cement its leading presence in the West Coast b-school landscape, the San Francisco program is attracting more and more students beyond the Bay Area.

The Class of 2015 boasts the highest number of Wharton | San Francisco executive MBA students from outside of Northern California than ever before, with the largest concentration by far hailing from Southern California. About 21 percent commute from Los Angeles, Orange County or San Diego, which equates to more than double the number of students in the first San Francisco MBA for Executives class.

The significance of this shift is more than just geographic. As Wharton | San Francisco Director of Admissions Katherine Lilygren notes, “L.A. is a very different economy than the Bay Area.”

While students from the Bay Area tend to come from large organizations within the technology, engineering and finance sectors, their peers from greater Los Angeles more often represent midsize companies within fields like entertainment, marketing and health care.

“What we find is that students from Southern California bring us a perspective on different industries and diversity that we really like,” Lilygren says.

That perspective gets shared. As the MBA students break into their first-year study groups, the School ensures that each subset represents a variety of industries and hometowns— fostering diversity, encouraging teamwork, and forging lasting professional and personal connections. It is largely this diversity of thought and experience that draws executives from Southern California.

“Many of the LA-based students who come to Wharton are looking for a program with strong entrepreneurial, finance and global offerings,” says Lilygren.

Competition from peer schools in Southern California is robust, but what gives Wharton the edge for prospective students is its international reputation and the breadth of the alumni network.

Amir Agam, WG’08, a managing director at FTI Consulting Inc. in Los Angeles and a board member of the Wharton Club of Southern California, was one of the pioneers from LA, drawn to the Bay Area by the School’s “unparalleled reputation and strong academics,” he says. “The overall value of the Wharton program, in terms of academics, reputation and approach, is stronger than any of the offerings in LA.”

What attracted current student Bilal Khan, the LA-based vice president and chief operating officer of New World Medical Inc.?“Wharton’s reputation for rigor and the fact that its executive program did not compromise the standard of its full-time MBA program,” Khan explains.

While a bi-monthly commute up the coast may seem daunting at first, most students find it becomes just another part of their routine. And with rapid advances in technology, such as the Wharton-Cisco Connected Classroom and other ever-evolving forms of online collaboration, it is safe to assume that Wharton’s network of Southern California alumni is set for even more rapid growth.

—Elizabeth Johnson