Find out what’s new at Wharton’s Global EMBA program [Show Summary]
Wharton’s first-ever online Global MBA Program for Executives is here and Dean Peggy Bishop Lane is diving into everything this exciting program has to offer for students across the globe.
Interview with Peggy Bishop Lane, Vice Dean of the Wharton MBA Program for Executives [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 490th episode of Admissions Straight Talk, Accepted’s podcast. Thanks for tuning in. Before I dive into today’s interview, I want to invite you to download Ace the EMBA: Expert Advice for the Rising Executive. This free guide will complement today’s podcast and give you suggestions on how to choose the right Executive MBA program, differentiate yourself from your competition in a positive way, and present yourself effectively as a future business leader who will bring credit to any program lucky enough to have you. Download Ace the EMBA at accepted.com/aceemba.
It gives me great pleasure to have, for the first time on Admissions Straight Talk, Peggy Bishop Lane, the Vice Dean of the Wharton MBA Program for Executives. Dean Bishop Lane earned her PhD in Accounting from Northwestern University. She started her professorial career at NYU Stern and then moved to Wharton in 1997. She has been the Vice Dean for the MBA Program for Executives and an Adjunct Professor of Accounting since 2012.
To start, can you give an overview of the Wharton Global Executive MBA program, focusing on its more distinctive elements? [2:14]
Absolutely. I think the main thing to know is that we intend for this global cohort to look very much like our existing Philadelphia and San Francisco cohorts. It’s going to be the same curriculum with essentially the same faculty and the same admissions requirements. I hope that it’s actually more similar to what people already know about our program than it is different.
Of course, what’s unique is that you don’t have to be in-person every other weekend as you do in Philadelphia and San Francisco. What we’ve created is a remote opportunity to do our program. With that said, it’s very important to us that it’s not fully remote because we know how important an in-person experience can be to the student experience.
The truly unique part for us is the residential factor here, and we’ve got six different residential weeks that we’ve incorporated into the program. The first two are purposely very close together because we want the students to create some relationships and then solidify them very shortly after. Right now, our Philadelphia and San Francisco cohorts start together in Philadelphia and we’re going to start our Global cohort with them. So all three groups will start at the same time for about a week in Philadelphia, and our Global cohort will stay on a little bit longer to give them that opportunity to really get to know each other well. Then about three months later, we’ll bring them back together in San Francisco. They’ll get to see that campus and feel the connection to our group out in San Francisco for about a week as well. The third week to cap off their first year together will probably be in some location outside of the United State, but it’s still to be determined. Then we’ll have three more residential weeks in the second year so that they can keep those bonds really alive.
Are the last three residential weeks intended to be in Philadelphia, San Francisco, or somewhere else? [4:29]
The first one will be another one where they get to interact with our Philadelphia and San Francisco students. We just finished what’s called our Global Business Week, where we send our affiliates in San Francisco students to their choice of four different locations. We split them up, we mix them together, and we’re going to add a fifth location and then bring the global cohort into that. They’ll do that in September of their second year. Then they’ll close out that term somewhere outside the United States and then finish the program with a capstone experience in Philadelphia. They start here in Philly, and they end in Philly.
Are the residential weeks always one week long? [5:19]
They won’t always be a week. The first one is a little bit longer than a week. Some of the others will be more like five days.
The idea is that the program should be very similar to the programs in Philadelphia and San Francisco, except that a much greater portion of it is offered online. What makes it global? [5:40]
That’s a great question. It’s a number of things, really.
First of all, we are hoping to attract a more global set of students. In fact, that’s really how this idea came to be. We had some questions in our admissions process during the pandemic from students who lived outside of the United States, and they asked us, “Do you think you’re going to remain online?” And we said, “Oh, no, we aren’t.” And then we thought, “Actually, that’s not a terrible idea,” especially as we learned that online education can really be done quite effectively.
Over the next 18 months or so, we really solidified that idea and our hope is to attract students who can’t come to the United States every other weekend. We think that the student body will be more globally located. We actually have quite a great global representation in the current program, but most of the people are living and working in the United States. So we expect that to be different.
The other thing that we expect to be different is, because of the global audience, we expect the faculty to add a little bit more global content that’s a little less US-centric than it might otherwise be.
The last element of this is that we’re going to require them to do a little bit more global coursework. They’ll have some more opportunities to do those global experiences than our current Philadelphia and San Francisco students do.
How many students do you think are going to be in the program? Do you hope it’ll grow later on? [7:33]
I think our plan for the first couple of years is to have the cohort be around 60 to 70 students. I think that’s a really good class size. Then, as we get better at this and learn what works and what doesn’t, we can expand it a little bit further. We’re looking to maybe move that up to 90 to 100 students in the near term. If it’s wildly successful, we could potentially double that but I don’t think we ever really want to get much bigger than our 120 or so students in the current Philadelphia class. I think that size is as much as we’d want to do. We’re not looking to have one thousand students enroll in this program.
How do you incorporate interactivity into the program, given it’s mostly delivered online? [9:04]
That really is the key to this. What we don’t want to do is have somebody just sit on the screen and talk to the students for three hours. That would not be success.
What’s great, and maybe the big difference between now and 15 years ago, is the technology that we have available to us. We learned during the pandemic that in an instant, we could easily become talking heads. That was pretty easy to do. Then, over the next few months, as professors got comfortable with that technology and our IT folks learned what’s possible, we expanded on that. That was in a very short period of time. Now we’ve had years to figure out how to do that even better. Where we’re spending our time right now is looking at the different technology that we can use that brings the classroom alive so that you’re not just a talking head. I think that is absolutely paramount, by the way, not just in the classroom either, but outside of the classroom.
In a way, I feel like the classroom part is actually the easier part of developing this program because I’ve seen some of the technology even in my own experience as an accounting professor. Teaching in that first fall of 2020, every week I learned something new that was fun and brought the class alive. Now that I’m back in the classroom, I actually miss some of those online techniques.
Can you give some examples of how you engage students in an online classroom? [11:08]
It’s easy to raise your hand. What’s really interesting about online learning from my perspective, is that people who are somewhat introverted may not want to raise their hand in the classroom, but it’s much easier to do so online. You could raise your hand, you could simply put a thumbs up, you could put a heart, you could put a question mark. There are all kinds of emojis that you can use now in the online classroom that you can’t do in an in-person classroom. That’s a very simple example.
Another one that I love is pretty simple but it’s breaking out into groups. Weirdly, you can break out into groups more easily online than you can in person. If you think about our tiered u-shaped classrooms, breaking out into a group is somewhat awkward, and it’s loud, and you can hear the other group. That’s not true at all in an online group session. Those are the most basic of things.
There are a lot of other ways that we’re looking at now to use technologies that are even better and more innovative than what I just described.
The other thing that we’re considering, and this will depend a lot on where the students that we admit are actually living, but we’re also considering whether we can do some things regionally. One of the challenges that we’re going to face is time zones. If we have a speaker presenting at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time in the United States, that may or may not be conducive to somebody else living somewhere else in the world. We’re considering whether we can do some regional things online or even in person if we have a significant group of people somewhere in the world. Those are some of the other things that we’re looking at in terms of that interactivity that you mentioned.
What about the 25% of the program that’s going to be in person? What do you see happening during those times when students are together? [13:31]
That really should look a lot like what we do now with our in-person program. They’ll be in class for six to eight hours a day. They’ll have lunchtime speakers or career sessions and in the evenings, leadership activities that we run through our McNulty Leadership Group.
The other thing that’s important about those residential sessions is the time that we don’t schedule. I think it’s very important for students to be able to relax together, whether it’s over a meal, or at a local pub, or playing soccer together. Those are the things where bonds can really get created and students actually talk about the things that they learned in class that day or the speaker that they had. It’s a really wonderful bonding experience. We don’t want to get in the way of that, which is the thing they won’t have when they’re online. We want to make sure that we create that space for them too.
Will the Philadelphia and San Francisco cohorts ever work or have projects with the Global cohort? [15:11]
That’s a great question. Not necessarily until they do our Global Business Week course, which is the required international experience that they have. We do intend to mix all three cohorts together in that. Depending on how the particular professor runs the course, they may have projects together in that sense.
The other thing that could happen is, in the second year, we are going to allow some movement between the cohorts, which is what we do right now with our Philadelphia and San Francisco cohorts. If somebody wants to come from San Francisco to Philadelphia for a semester to take courses, or even just one course, they can do that. I suspect it will be harder for the Global cohort folks to come to Philly or San Francisco. That’s why they’re doing the Global cohort. But who knows what could happen in someone’s life over two years? That might be feasible.
The other thing we do expect to happen is our students in Philly and San Francisco will want to do a course with the Global cohort. We are going to have that opportunity but it will be limited because, again, we don’t want to have a thousand people in the class, but we do want it to be an opportunity for our students.
Where do most of the Executive MBAs go after they finish the degree? [16:43]
It’s almost an impossible question to answer because they are so varied in where they’re coming in from and what they want to do. They’re at all different stages of their careers and in so many different industries and different functions. A lot of them are taking that next step within their current company. Maybe they’re going from a functional position to a management position. That is relatively common. But we also see people completely changing industries and functions. We’re all for that as well.
One of the things I love seeing is people will get the entrepreneurial bug while they’re here. They had no intention of coming here and starting their own business, but they’re talking to classmates, they’re hearing from faculty, they’re hearing from alumni, and they get an idea, or they talk to a classmate who has an idea, and then they realize, “Oh, I can add to that idea.” And the next thing we know, they’re starting a business together. I would say those are really the three major pathways that, and we see it all the time from all different angles.
Wharton has been a pioneer in Executive MBA education, is there something that people don’t realize about the Wharton Executive MBA programs? [18:24]
I think it might still be a myth although I hope it isn’t, but I’ll address it. It’s not a competitive program. I know a lot of people think Wharton is competitive and cutthroat, but that’s not at all how this program functions. The people who come into this program are really happy to be here and in so much admiration of what their classmates have already accomplished that it becomes a very close-knit community. We see students helping each other like in the classroom – if they have an expertise and their classmate is struggling, they help them out. Or even on a project and they take on a bigger part of the load because somebody else is swamped at work or they just had a baby. Those are the things that happen in their lives, and it’s really heartwarming to see them rally behind each other on a regular basis. I hope the myth is not still out there, but just in case it is, I want to put that one to rest.
Wharton requires either the GMAT, the GRE, or the Executive Assessment if someone has at least eight years of experience. How should applicants decide which test to take? [19:47]
That’s a great question. I don’t know if my answer is going to be that helpful to people, but I think they should take whichever tests make them the most comfortable. What we’re trying to get at with a test is the foundation for what you know. If someone is very nervous when they’re taking the test, then that’s not going to let them really show us what they know. Whatever test makes them feel more comfortable, if they can feel comfortable taking a standardized test, then that’s the one they should take. We’re not going to weigh one test more strongly than another test.
The Executive MBA program has two required essays and one optional essay. What do you hope to learn from the essay and the written materials in the application? [21:10]
The first essay is probably the most foundational. That is just to help us understand why you want to do this. What’s your goal, and how is a Wharton Executive MBA going to help you do that? The reason shouldn’t prove something to us. There are so many different great answers to that question. We want the candidate to just be themselves with us. Tell us how you really feel, what you’ve really thought, and, I think most importantly, show us that you have thought about it. What do you want to do with the knowledge that you’re getting and this network that you’re acquiring? How is it going to help you professionally and in your personal goals? That’s what we’re trying to learn from that first essay.
The second essay is much more specific. It’s about diversity of thought and voice. That one’s important because we want to signal that this is a very important aspect of someone’s contribution to the program and what they learn here and take out of the program. If that’s important to us, we want to make sure that the candidate has thought about that. How have they experienced this importance, this value of bringing a different voice into business and into a conversation? How have they experienced that in their life, either through their own personal experience or something that they’ve witnessed in their job that will help them to think about that process at school and then, more importantly, after they graduate?
There’s a third optional essay, and it really genuinely is optional. I think a lot of candidates think, “Oh, but I better fill out that third essay.” But you really only have to fill it out if you have something else you really need to tell us. Those first two essays and everything else in the application will get us the information that we need to assess candidates. But if there’s something else, some extenuating circumstance, something dramatic that happened in your life that explains more of what you’re talking about in the rest of your application, that’s when you use that optional essay.
If one is lucky enough to be invited to interview, what is the interview like? [23:51]
I’ve heard our students say that the interview was a lot of fun and very much a conversation. That’s what we want. We want candidates to be themselves, round out their application, and tell us a little bit more about the details. Let us put more of your personality and character behind what we see on a piece of paper. At the same time, we also want to make sure that we’re answering candidates’ questions. We want to make sure they have all the information so that they can make great decisions as well.
What would you say to applicants who want to apply to the Global Executive MBA program for its first cohort but are worried about the possibility of recession? [24:39]
Anytime you’re advancing your education, I think you’re preparing yourself for the future. I would say that’s going to be true as well in a recessionary environment. You’re investing in yourself, and two years from the time you start the program you’re going to be in a better off position to handle anything that your company or the economy will throw at you. I would say recession or not, investing in yourself is always a good move. Timing-wise, I think you have to look at your company and be speaking with the folks in your company about what is the right time. But I would say, from an overall perspective, preparing yourself for the next big thing is always going to be a good move.
If you were a potential applicant thinking ahead to a 2023 or 2024 application, what is the one thing that you would be doing now to prepare yourself to apply? [26:01]
I would say this is true if you’re applying now, but you’d have more time to do it if you’re applying a year from now. The most important thing is to talk to the people who support you. This is much more crucial in an Executive MBA environment, than it is in a full-time MBA environment because you’re working at the same time and you really need the support of your employer and the people that you work with. That includes your peers and your direct reports as well. I think having conversations with people is really important.
The same goes for one’s family. You need their support too. Speak with your partner and your children, if they’re of an appropriate age so that they know why you’re studying at night and doing homework with them instead of helping them with their homework. Those are really important conversations to have well in advance of applying.
I think that’s the most important thing but if you’re giving me a second one, then I would also say, especially for Executive MBA candidates, is to prepare for standardized tests. It’s been a long time for some of these people since they took a test. In business, we’re up, we’re down, we’re on the phone, we’re always on the move. Even just sitting down to study is a skill that might be a little bit rusty. However that preparation falls out, any kind of preparation is better than none for whatever test you’re taking. I think it’s a bad idea to go into a standardized test cold. I think it’s really good even to just use the prep material that the test designer gives you but it could go all the way to taking a test prep class. Anything that just gets the rust off of a person who may have not taken a test in ten years.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [28:33]
If you had asked, “What does a typical Wharton Executive MBA student look like?” I would’ve said there isn’t one.
I think that’s really important for people to hear because they sometimes think that we are looking for a type, and we’re not. There are so many different types of individuals who can be successful in this program and really take the knowledge run with it. I don’t ever want someone to think that they couldn’t possibly be considered. We hear that from a lot of really great candidates, some of whom get pushed into applying by someone in their life and then they tell us later they weren’t even going to apply because they didn’t ever think they could get into Wharton. We’re looking for all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds, both in terms of academics, career trajectory, where you grew up, all of that. We love diversity in all kinds of forms, and I think that’s how we get it.
Where can listeners and potential applicants learn more about the Wharton Global EMBA program? [31:25]
You can find us on the Wharton website at executivemba.wharton.upenn.edu.
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