The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, is one of the top MBA programs in the world, so it comes as no surprise that the school’s finance and leadership programs are highly regarded.
Photo by John Carlano
“Wharton has invested heavily over the past decade in designing and delivering experiential programs that provide a context in which to test and learn leadership skills,” said Michael Useem, Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change at the Wharton School.
Useem talked to Uttara Choudhury in New York about how Wharton was one of the first business schools to offer loans to international students when the financial crisis struck in 2008. It has created one of the best loan programs for international students who don’t have a US co-signer.
A prolific author, Useem has written several books including The Inner Circle, Investor Capitalism, The Leadership Moment and co-authored The India Way which looks at how Indian business leaders have created unique business models and displayed remarkable corporate leadership.
Useem’s responses are informed by his colleagues Preston Cline, J.J Cutler, Jeff Klein and Ira Rubien.
Wharton has been for some time, the most international of the top-tier US business schools in terms of total percentage of students and in terms of countries represented. Does it still have a financial aid program for international students?
Wharton was one of the first business schools to offer loans to international students when the financial crisis decimated this market in late 2008. Because of our brand and student quality, we created one of the most favorable student loan programs available to international students who do not have a US co-signer. It is available to all non-US Wharton students, and the terms are Prime +3% with no origination fees, a 20-year repayment schedule, and no pre-payment penalties.
With tuition costs at top schools that are upwards of $80,000 and total costs that can be well over $160,000 including two years of forgone salary, can you explain why it's worth it for international students to invest in Wharton’s MBA program over more affordable, lesser-known options?
“Wharton was one of the first business schools to offer loans to international students who do not have a US co-signer.”
It is about quality and excellence. We have not survived to be the oldest business school in the world through complacency. We take the time to find people with great potential who also display an inherent curiosity to know more, to learn more. We find that students do not come to Wharton to get a certificate. They enroll because they know they are likely to lead major organizations, and in some cases, even countries. They come to be surrounded and challenged by people as motivated and talented as they are.
We encourage our students to think about the lifetime value of this investment in themselves. As in most industries, we are seeing a “flight to quality” where the brand of the school matters more than ever. For Wharton, it’s about our unique perspective on learning, our access to people and communities on a global basis, and our commitment to lifelong leadership development. Studies have confirmed that a Wharton MBA education has great financial value, especially in uncertain times with the need for globally-prepared leaders who can solve complex problems in uncertain times.
People often think of Wharton as a finance school. Is Wharton the right place to be if a person wants a career on Wall Street and do most of your graduates enter careers in finance or consulting?
“Studies have confirmed that a Wharton MBA education has great financial value, especially in uncertain times.”
With our exceptional depth and breadth of disciplines and opportunities, eleven academic departments and 85,000 alumni, Wharton is dedicated to educating future business leaders. Our students seek careers in a wide variety of industries and sectors, and the knowledge and skills they gain at the school prepare them to work across disciplines, industries, sectors, and continents. Certainly, Wharton MBAs and undergraduates have been and will continue to be recruited heavily by the financial services and consulting firms. Still, our commitment to analytic rigor, thoughtful analysis and lifelong learning helps ready students to succeed regardless of sector.
As the director of Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management you create and run many of the school’s innovative leadership experiences. Can you share how Wharton’s leadership programs are at the heart of MBA life?
Our students are very aware that the moment they graduate they will be facing a rapidly evolving and complex work environment. Academic knowledge, while critical to their development, will need to be applied immediately. Not only that, but if history is any indication, it is sure to be needed in moments of stress where the difference between a threat and an opportunity is ambiguous at best. As a result, our students don’t want to simply hear that they are capable, they want to prove it. Our leadership experiences provide them with an opportunity to try out new tactics and learn from their successes and failures.
The Leadership Program is at the heart of MBA life. The Wharton School has invested heavily over the past decade in designing and delivering experiential programs that provide a context in which to test and learn leadership skills. From visiting the battlefields of Gettysburg and Normandy to the glaciers of Patagonia and Ecuador; from the first year learning teams and individual coaching provided by Leadership Fellows help Wharton MBA students find new experiences that will develop and deepen their leadership skills.
Can you elaborate on how Wharton Leadership Ventures provides experiential learning opportunities for Wharton students, graduates and managers who have completed a Wharton executive education program?
“With our exceptional depth and breadth of disciplines and opportunities, eleven academic departments and 85,000 alumni, Wharton is dedicated to educating future business leaders.”
It is about providing an opportunity to engage in the moment, or more specifically, the leadership moment. Whether at the helm of a 50 foot sailboat engaged in a complex maneuver, or on a rope team at 16,000 feet, or chest deep in a swamp at the US Marine Corp officer candidate school, each of our students are given the opportunity to look deeper into their own potential and make a choice about who they seek to become.
In the more compact Executive Education format, Wharton Leadership Ventures condense the expeditionary experience of the venture into targeted exercises and initiatives that re-create the wilderness environment, the high performing team, and the experience of “thinking like a guide.” Wharton Executive Education programs such as “The Leadership Journey” and “Creating and Leading High Performing Teams” build on the foundational elements of Wharton’s programs and link academic research, personal narrative and experiential exercises.
Do all students that enroll at Wharton have to have five to six years work experience or do you all look favorably at younger applicants?
“The Wharton School has invested heavily over the past decade in designing and delivering experiential programs that provide a context to test and learn leadership skills.”
We have no maximum or minimum work experience requirement, but almost all of our students have some experience. The diversity and richness of these experiences contributes a great deal to the academic as well as the co-curricular environment.
We have seen a gradual decrease in the average age of applicants over the last few years and have seen more accomplished students who want to pursue the MBA degree at earlier stages in their lives. We have no ideal age, no targets and no quotas; we look at each applicant individually and within the broader context of the given year. The right time to apply to business school is a personal decision that varies for each applicant based on a variety of decision factors.