June 2012 | 

The Wharton Fellows Program: Master Classes for Senior Executives

wharton fellows program

“You can’t meet today’s challenges with past experience alone,” notes Wharton marketing professor Jerry Wind. “You might be currently ahead of the competition, and have a solid strategic plan in place. But the pace of change isn’t on your side. External forces, whether market, environmental, or economic, can quickly conspire against you. Today, senior executives need to constantly challenge their assumptions, learn new best practices, and develop and test new ideas. They need to expand and build on their knowledge consistently. Lifelong learning is the only way to position yourself and your organization to meet current and future challenges.”

Wharton Executive Education developed the Wharton Fellows: Master Classes and Networking for Senior Executives program to provide ongoing learning opportunities that explore highly relevant, timely issues with a focus on transformational leadership. The unique “Master Classes,” which combine interactive classroom sessions with on-site “living case studies,” are taught by Wharton professors, academic partners, and senior executives and thought leaders from some of the world’s most successful, cutting-edge organizations. They are held at international destinations for three days of intense experiential learning.

Classroom sessions emphasize not only academic knowledge, but how that knowledge can be leveraged to benefit the organization. Wind, academic director of the Wharton Fellows program, notes, “When we study new business opportunities in India, for example, the Fellows conclude the session by writing an initial draft of their India strategy. Whether India is a market, a source of labor or materials, or a potential site for collaboration, you will understand how you can capture the opportunities.”

Program director David Heckman explains the living case study sessions: “Fellows meet with various organizations’ senior executives to discuss their management issues in real time. The senior executive team presents their strategy and shares their current challenges. A brief tour of the organization’s facilities provides the Fellows with an opportunity to directly observe the organization’s culture and operations. Then they conduct a breakout session to discuss observations and questions. To conclude the visit, the Fellows dialogue with the organization’s senior executive team about their ideas and suggestions.”

Heckman continues, “Master classes focus on various current global business themes and industry verticals, and the meeting location is chosen based on the topic. For example, when they studied Customer Centricity, they met with casino and hotel senior managers in Las Vegas. When the topic was Islamic Finance, they traveled to the financial district in Dubai; and when they studied the new policies shaping the U.S. Market, they met with senior government officials in Washington, DC. The program is committed to delivering the highest-level, most relevant learning experience possible, and it builds on other senior management executive education experiences, such as the Advanced Management Program and Executive Development Program.”

The Wharton Fellows current 2012-2013 schedule includes programs in Philadelphia (Innovative Growth Strategies), New Delhi (The India Dynamic: Market, Resource and Global Competitor), Silicon Valley (The Next Big Thing), and Cape Town and Nairobi (Discovering Africa).

Jerry Wind emphasizes that peer learning forms a key long-term benefit. “Throughout the Master Class sessions we provide quality time for peer-to-peer learning, networking, and informal interacting. Between quarterly classes, the Fellows community is virtual. Knowledge sharing among members of the community, conversations led by Wharton faculty, and preparatory sessions for upcoming master classes are key virtual components.

Wind adds, “The Fellows program is designed to help you understand and manage complex changes in the business environment. You get the latest concepts, theories, methods, and best-of-class examples. If you are concerned about how to lead and how to keep growing, you recognize that many of the best opportunities are now global. Commit to lifelong education, and get out there to see and study best-of-breed companies, become part of a senior learning network, and gain Wharton alumni status* to continue learning throughout your career.”

*Executives who are admitted into the Wharton Fellows Program and successfully complete 12 Master Classes are granted Wharton alumni status. Admission is limited to senior executives with more than 15 years of management experience. All candidates must submit an application for acceptance into the Fellows program prior to registering for any Master Classes.