For the first time ever, a group of 56 second-year MBA students will have the opportunity to “study abroad” for a semester.
The Wharton School recently launched a pilot program in conjunction with its new San Francisco campus, which opened in January. Through the program, a select group of students will be able to study at the school’s West Coast location in the fall semester.
The program is designed to give students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the entrepreneurial and technology-rich environment of the Silicon Valley.
This semester’s application process consisted of questions asking applicants to describe their career goals and explain how a semester in San Francisco would help them grow. In addition, students needed to demonstrate a strong academic record.
Wharton Vice Dean of Innovation Karl Ulrich noted some of the benefits of implementing a semester in San Francisco for second-year MBA students.
“We are blending classroom instruction with extracurricular activities and various kinds of engagement with the regional economy to hopefully create a powerful and cohesive educational experience,” he said.
In order to develop the curriculum for the San Francisco semester, Wharton took students’ career and course interests into consideration.
“We have a curriculum that is fairly tightly integrated in terms of focus and linking the content of the course to the region in some ways,” he said. “Based on the affinity of the students, we ended up with a curriculum very much focused on entrepreneurship and technology, which are also the main strengths of the Bay Area.”
According to Ulrich, each course has a particular focus, with some featuring guest speakers from San Francisco to talk about their professional experiences. Facility tours are also part of the curriculum, such as a tour of Tesla Motors in Fremont, Calif., scheduled for November.
Second-year MBA student Rajeev Jeyakumar, one of the participants in this program, highlighted the semester’s conduciveness to rising entrepreneurs.
“To see the ecosystem and the entrepreneurial culture of the Bay Area is invaluable, even if you are not going to stay there,” he said.
Jeyakumar, who plans to launch his own company in the future, also described the helpful and friendly atmosphere of the program.
“I’ve already met people who are willing to help me out, investors who are willing to give me advice,” he said. “Accelerating the development process for startups is just going to be amazing.”
For Katherine Howell, another second-year MBA student in the program, the opportunity to cultivate relationships in the West Coast was an appealing aspect of the program.
“It helps us develop more because we are surrounded by people who are thinking the same ideas so we can feed off of and learn from each other,” she said. “Being surrounded by the same people and working in the same areas is an experience that I definitely had to take advantage of.”
Jacob Samuelson added that the opportunity to work for companies based in the Silicon Valley will give students a unique first-hand perspective.
“I’m going to work with an education technology company I worked with last summer that is based out here,” Samuelson, another second-year MBA student, said. “Students will be able to do really interesting projects or internships for companies, and being able to work and apply what you are learning in school right away is exciting.”
Although the program is in its early stages, Ulrich noted two potential plans for future expansion.
“We may do an undergraduate version that would meet in the spring … and take the same model to other parts of the world,” he said.