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Prizes at a charity softball tournament organized by a MGMT-100 team were awarded to participants who paid $100-$250 entry fees per team.

Credit: Patrick Hulce , Patrick Hulce, Patrick Hulce

Wharton School freshmen may have just finished their status reports for Management 100 — but for many, the origins of the class remain something of a mystery.

MGMT 100, entitled “Leadership and Communication in Groups,” is considered by many to be the cornerstone of the freshman Wharton curriculum.

The program was started almost 20 years ago under the leadership of the former Vice Dean and Director of the Wharton Undergraduate Division Janice Bellace. The idea for the course started with the Wharton Dean’s Advisory Board.

In 1993, the course was piloted as a non-credit requirement for incoming Wharton freshmen and was later developed into the credit-bearing, semester-long course it is now.

Today, each Wharton freshman class is split up into teams of approximately 10 students. At the beginning of the year, different not-for-profit business ventures are pitched to the classes and after ranking their top choices, each team is assigned a project. Students spend the semester putting together business plans, meeting with clients from the non-profits and executing the project and all that comes with it.

According to the program website, recent MGMT 100 project clients include the American Red Cross, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Girl Scouts of America.

Director of the Undergraduate Leadership Program at Wharton Anne Greenhalgh has taught and overseen the MGMT 100 program since its inception. When she began her work with the program, MGMT 100 used TAs — “team advisers,” not “teaching assistants” — who were MBA students as well as undergraduates.

Greenhalgh recalled that “the undergrads were more successful” as advisers. She attributed this to the power of peer-coaching — that the students and TAs could better identify with each other if they were both undergraduates.

“The TAs are required to take a course in facilitation, and MGMT 100 is their field work,” she said, adding that the TAs’ feedback is the backbone of the program.

Until recently, status reports by teams were evaluated by not only the TAs and the instructors, but also by outside consultants who do these sort of evaluations professionally.

Surveys taken by students at the conclusion of each semester showed that students consistently felt their TAs gave the most effective feedback, with instructors coming in second place and the professional consultants giving the least effective feedback. Greenhalgh said this was most likely due to the fact that TAs were not only aware of the goals of the course, but that they had also been through the process and therefore understood the best ways to help the students improve.

The program no longer brings in outside consultants to judge the reports. Greenhalgh clarified that though the TAs’ comments influence the grades of their students, the final grades are determined solely by the instructors.

Wharton senior and MGMT 100 Head TA Joe Tennant stressed that the quality of the TAs is central to the success of the program.

“They are some of the smartest, most hard working people I know,” he said. “They are the people that make it what it is.”

MGMT 100 TA and Wharton sophomore James Stine said, “my TA [freshman year] was a senior and she really became my freshman-year mentor … that is a big part of why I became a TA, to be that kind of person for someone else. It’s a great way to give back to Wharton.”

“The TAs are one of the secret sauces of the class,” Greenhalgh added.

The stress of the program is on teamwork — how one should work in groups and how they should see themselves within a group. “It is a constant process of action, then reflection, action, then reflection,” Greenhalgh said

Students must not only fulfill the project but “manage their relationships … it matters that they hit the bar but it also matters that they establish relationships with their client and group members,” she added.

Tennant further emphasized the value of group work. “Those skills you learn are important at Wharton and beyond … [they are], in the long run, much more important than what you learn in a classroom.”

That’s not to say, however, that teamwork isn’t a component in Wharton classes. “[MGMT 100] is unusual, but not idiosyncratic with the rest of Wharton and I am tempted to say the rest of Penn … Wharton values theory as well as practice from the entry into the curriculum to the exit,” Greenhalgh said.

“Not only do you work in a team, but you also reflect how you work in a team,” said Stine, noting the difference between MGMT 100 and the group components of other Wharton courses. He added, “The reason that MGMT 100 is hands-on is not just that you are doing tangible work for these non-profits, which is remarkable in itself, but the fact that [students] are living and breathing group dynamics.”

But as much as MGMT 100 is celebrated and “definitely a selling point for Wharton,” Stine said the course is still incredibly daunting to freshmen for many reasons. Incoming freshmen “are not really sure what the class is really about and the bulk of the class is outside of lecture,” he said. “There is no traditional test or anything that they are really used to.”

Wharton freshman Srikar Reddy was less than excited about taking the course. “I had heard people having trouble with their teams and the content of the class being useless,” he wrote in an email. However, “I do not think that is the case whatsoever anymore,” Reddy continued. “Working with the team has been very fulfilling, and I can call each one of my team members a close friend now.”

“The course provides a learning opportunity for me,” Greenhalgh said. “The course is so alive, it is renewed each year … the lifelike qualities [of the course] are wonderful and potentially maddening. It is really does test the students’ resiliency.”

As the semester draws to a close, some see long-term benefits of the course. “The class is meant to analyze team dynamics; it focuses on things such as what factors make a team work optimally in different situations,” Reddy wrote. “MGMT 100 is unique in the fact that we are actually able to apply the skills we learn in class into an actual project … I believe this experience has been invaluable.”

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