Global learning has been an important aspect of Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives since day one. That’s why the program requires students to participate in Global Business Week (GBW) in the beginning of their second year. “The world is getting smaller and smaller, so it’s critical to create a global mindset and global citizens,” explained Vice Dean Peggy Bishop Lane. Over the years, she has accompanied GBWs to China, South Africa, Argentina, Singapore, and Vietnam. We asked her to tell us more about GBW. Here is what she said:
How are the locations selected for GBW?
Each year, students in Philadelphia and San Francisco choose from four locations for GBW, which means each location will have a mix of East and West Coast EMBA students. We try to provide options on different continents and on different topics. This year, the choices included learning about finance and economic growth in China, marketing in Finland and Sweden, doing business in times of uncertainty in Argentina, and doing business in Africa in South Africa. I try to match up faculty expertise and areas of student interest. For example, David Erickson in the Finance Department pitched the idea of a finance-focused trip to China, and we knew that would be a popular option with students. Prof. Peter Fader suggested a trip focused on marketing to Finland and Sweden, which turned out to be our second most-popular trip after China. Once we finalize the locations, students rank their choices. Most students get their first- or second-choice location.
How is GBW structured?
We start with an introduction to the country in the form of a lecture or opening reception. During the week, we organize company visits, panel discussions, and speakers. The focus of the trip impacts the types of organizations we visit. Last year, the China trip focused on innovation and this year it focused on finance, so we visited different types of companies.
For example, in Shanghai we visited the Bank of Communications, which is a Wharton Executive Education client. As a state-owned enterprise, it has a uniquely Chinese culture and we were able to witness the importance of titles and formality. During our visit to Tencent — organized by a current EMBA student who works for Tencent in California — we learned about the company’s entry into the digital payment world with WePay. (See more about the week’s schedule in the sidebar.)
In the evenings, students get together and explore the city. The program organizes dinners on the first and last nights of the trip. While the program does not usually organize travel between cities, this year students on the Finland/Sweden trip traveled by overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm on a Viking Cruise ship and representatives from Viking spoke to the class about their marketing. Through our travel providers we have organized visits to wineries, local soccer games, and museums, depending on the location.
How does the Wharton network help facilitate GBW?
The network is very helpful. We identify Wharton alumni in the area who work at prominent companies or have a relevant background for the theme of the trip. In China, we reached out to a full-time MBA alumnus who works at Alibaba. He helped set up a company visit to Ant Financial, Alibaba’s fintech affiliate. Alumni also gave lectures in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
How is GBW different from a Global Modular Course?
The GBW is a requirement of the EMBA program and is just for EMBA students. All second-year students participate in GBW during the same week of the program, so it’s a shared experience. Global Modular Courses often follow a similar format, but they are not required and are open to students in the undergraduate, full-time MBA, and EMBA programs. Those run throughout the year and are optional.
Do you have a particularly memorable GBW?
Both Vietnam and Argentina stand out for me. Buenos Aires was fun and easy to get around. I could see living there! I also enjoyed Vietnam because the people were so friendly, and it was interesting to learn how women are dominant in business there. We did a great food tour of Ho Chi Minh City on motorbikes. That was a unique way to see the city. I would like to go back there.
— Meghan Laska
Posted: October 19, 2018