New Format for International Seminar, New Value?

“We would travel literally [only] two miles to visit a company, and it would take over an hour. It was mind-boggling,” says Brad Line about his Wharton International Seminar in Indonesia last September.

Transportation may have been unbelievably slow, but this nation of about 17,000 islands is urbanizing at breakneck speed, according to Line. As a result, he says, “you’ve got every infrastructure [and economic] problem you can possibly imagine” from energy to education to lifting people out of poverty.

It was a far cry from the image many Americans have of Indonesia: tropical white sand beaches and exotic animals like Komodo dragons. That side of Indonesia does exist, and Line got to see it as well. But Jakarta, where the group spent most of their time, was “about as major a city as you can get.”

Line, a second-year student in the Wharton MBA for Executives Program and an IT director for a financial firm, joined about 60 classmates who chose Indonesia for their week-long seminar. The trip’s aim was to study sustainability in an emerging economy.

Faculty who accompanied included Stephen Kobrin, Wharton’s William H. Wurster Professor Emeritus of Multinational Management, and Regina Abrami, senior fellow in management and director, Lauder Global Program.

“For some students, this was their first on-the-ground experience in an emerging market,” Kobrin says.

A new feature of the program this year was that East Coast and West Coast executive MBA students traveled together. Students from both campuses could choose from three seminars—Indonesia, Spain to study the leisure industry or South Africa to look at entrepreneurship in an emerging economy. (East Coasters could also visit San Francisco for an entrepreneurial/VC-focused trip.) Previously, Philadelphia students went one place, San Francisco students another.

This year’s students represented “a wide variety of industries,” according to Kobrin, including “someone who works in the White House, an orthopedic doctor, a global strategy consultant, a manufacturing marketer and a Moscow-based venture capitalist.”

Line enjoyed meeting West Coast students such as Judy Staley, co-founder of a solar energy company.

“It was great bouncing ideas off people like Judy who are experts in the solar industry, and seeing how that might apply to Indonesia,” he says.

Another highlight of the trip for Line was being invited to the palace of Dr. Boediono GRW79 for a Q&A with the vice president of Indonesia. Line also joined a small group that visited Tokopedia, the “eBay of Indonesia,” and its CEO, who discussed “what it’s taken for them to gain a foothold and ultimately start being successful.”

Carole Bernstein

Connect With Us: Read more of Prof. Kobrin’s insights from the Indonesia trip on the WEMBA Blog at: