I Like Wharton’s Curriculum Changes, But First I Have to Apply

Wharton recently announced changes to its curriculum, to be partially rolled out in the fall of 2011 and completed in the fall of 2012. It’s relevant to take a look, since any prospective applicants to Wharton (like me) should take note of what Wharton considers important to the future of its program.

It appears that Wharton wants to strengthen its general management reputation abroad and to get alumni more involved. Especially in the Great Recession era, it also doesn’t hurt that Wharton is emphasizing additional training on “ethical and legal responsibility in business.”

Some highlights for new and future students:

  • Course “pathways” will be selected within one of six “Content Areas” (i.e., students will be required to take classes in each of the six Content Areas, but may choose the classes they use to satisfy that requirement)
  • Starting in 2012, there will be four required courses in analytics and leadership (including microeconomics, statistics, and oral and written communication skills)
  • Expanded international curricular experiences, which have already been implemented in the fall of 2010 (i.e., this year, students can take classes in one of eight countries, including China, India and Brasil)
  • Required participation in a two-year leadership coaching program that will provide professional feedback coaching three or four times a year
  • More flexibility in selecting first year courses (currently, Wharton requires 10 semester-long classes in the first year)

It’s also worth noting what the six Content Areas are (as I would think that a prospective student would want to emphasize at least some of these areas in his or her application):

  • Finance and the Global Economy
  • Ethical and Legal Responsibility
  • Managing the Global Enterprise
  • Understanding and Serving Customers
  • Corporate Reporting and Control
  • Management of Operations, Innovation, Information, and Decisions under Uncertainty

I tend to view favorably any curriculum changes that allow students tailor their academic experience, especially at such a large school as Wharton, where students are likely interested in many different areas of business. Of course, the devil is in the details. For example, I wonder how flexible the “pathways” within each of the Content Areas will be. Wharton’s press release talks about customization based on a student’s “educational and career experience,” so that seems to continue Wharton’s practice of allowing class waivers.

In addition, another significant aspect of Wharton’s changes is that new alumni will be able to take an executive education course tuition-free every seven years going forward. That seems to indicate that you are out of luck if you graduated from Wharton in previous years.

In any case, this is worth thinking about as I write my essays to Wharton and consider which aspects of my life experiences I should emphasize. Based on Wharton’s press release prospective applicants should stress their experiences/abilities in the following areas: global, ethical, analytical and leadership/communication.

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