The Wharton School has made several curriculum changes for the incoming class, among them reducing the foreign language requirement from four semesters to two.
This change will only affect students entering Wharton in the fall of 2017 or later, not students currently enrolled.
Scott Romeika, Wharton’s director of academic affairs and advising, explained that the school’s decision to reduce the foreign language requirement acted as an attempt to modernize the curriculum.
“Some of it is timing, but also just the opportunity to put out a cutting-edge 21st century business education,” he said.
He mentioned that many other top business schools were swapping out the language requirement for more in-depth business or leadership course opportunities.
“It’s to acknowledge the role that technology, innovation [and] analytics is playing in the world,” he added.
While Undergraduate Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures Julia Verkholantsev recognizes that Wharton can make decisions independently, she said she wishes there had been more communication with the College of Arts and Sciences and the language faculty. She added that she thinks people should have tremendous educational exposure to at least one other language, regardless of field of study.
“In this international climate,” she said, “you would think that learning a foreign language... is extremely important.”
Verkholantsev also thinks that Wharton’s action could potentially limit students.
“It means that students who want to ... improve their language skills won’t be able to do that because with this requirement, they will have to focus on something else.”
Romeika sees the situation as offering students more options, not fewer. While he views general education requirements as important, he also said he believes curriculum changes are necessary to provide students with the best business school education.
Executive Director of Language Instruction for the School of Arts and Sciences Christina Frei said she understands that Wharton’s curriculum change is meant to improve the undergraduate business school experience for students. Nevertheless, she sees the reduction in language exposure as a pity.
“It’s a shame not to have a longer period of time to be exposed to language and culture because both of them are very much connected at Penn,” she said.
“It’s not only about a language requirement,” she added. “Within that you also learn a lot about the cultures.”
Frei believes that since Wharton is a school with an aim to produce future leaders, it is important for leaders, in what can be a divided society, to be knowledgeable about other languages and cultures.
“If you’re in the business of training future leaders of the United States and also globally, I think it’s a responsibility ... to really make sure that there is a solid understanding of different cultural practices, products and perspectives.”