Wharton@Work

June 2020 | 

The GI Bill at Wharton: First-Rate Continuing Education

The GI Bill at Wharton: First-Rate Continuing Education

Over his 15 years of service to his country, former Navy SEAL and Special Operations Chief Sean Freitag earned a considerable amount of GI Bill benefits. In April he was happy to learn that he can now use those benefits to take programs at Wharton Executive Education.

In Pennsylvania, veterans were previously able to apply their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits only to traditional long-term, degree-granting programs such as an MBA. But thanks to a three-year effort mounted by Wharton Executive Education in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania registrar’s office, the state policy has changed.

Freitag, who earned his Wharton MBA in 2016 and is now a vice president at The Blackstone Group based in greater Philadelphia, says he’s particularly drawn to Wharton Executive Education to augment his financial acumen and further his career. He notes that Wharton Executive Education offers “very specific programs to refine your skill set for the job you’re currently working in.”

Another reason Wharton Executive Education is the perfect choice for Freitag is that like many veterans, he has both a full-time career and a busy family life — he is married with three children. Long-duration, time-intensive programs just aren’t feasible, or even desirable. Wharton Executive Education Associate Vice Dean Mike Malefakis notes, “Executive Education is ideally suited for veterans or busy professionals in general because [of the] modular format that allows for quickly updating skills… focusing on areas most needed to get that next job or promotion.”

Richard Shell, a Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics who teaches in several Wharton Executive Education programs, says the programs offer “just-in-time, actionable business knowledge that turbo-charges personal effectiveness and professional credibility.” Shell was glad to hear the news about the state policy change, commenting that now these men and women who have sacrificed for their country will have the best possible opportunities to continue their education.

Veteran Josephine Nguyen, MD, a deputy chief medical executive at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, would strongly encourage her military colleagues to attend. She says of her Wharton Executive Education experience, “Quite simply, it’s life-transforming. It allows you — and equips you with the tools — to become the best version of yourself.”

For Wharton Executive Education, having more veterans in the classroom yields advantages of its own. “They add a new dimension in terms of any program they join,” says Malefakis. He notes that groups of Green Berets have attended some of the negotiation programs, for example, and bring fresh perspectives and insights from outside the private sector that greatly enhance everyone’s learning.

Under the new Pennsylvania policy, veterans can use the GI Bill to pay for Wharton Executive Education programs including the General Management Program and Advanced Finance Program. Both are multi-course, which allows participants to customize their learning, and conclude with the awarding of Wharton alumni status. The GI Bill can also be applied to the Advanced Management Program, Executive Development Program, Certificate of Professional Development, and Leadership and Management Certificate Program, which is offered online.

The policy change is effective immediately, and veterans can begin using benefits for eligible Wharton Executive Education programs that have been transitioned to a virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freitag says he appreciates that veterans with GI benefits will now have the opportunity to pick and choose among applicable programs with a manageable time commitment. He calls the success of the policy change effort “a huge milestone for the University of Pennsylvania and for the veteran community, as vets will now be able to access Wharton’s top-tier educational programs funded by their hard-earned education benefits.”

Malefakis is looking forward to welcoming more former servicemen and women into Executive Education’s programs. “It makes me — and all of us in Executive Education — feel proud to do something to pay them back for their service.”