In 1881, Joseph Wharton, one of the founders of the Bethlehem Steel Company, approached the University of Pennsylvania with a somewhat rad-ical request: to create the world's first collegiate business school.
He had a notion to elevate the study of busi-ness from a trade into a rigorous profession, to start a school that would produce graduates who would become "pillars of the state, whether in private or in public life".
Wharton has come along way since then. To-day, it is one of the most competitive business schools in the world and stands at the pinnacle of business education.
"The thing I like about Wharton and Penn is that it's not self-satisfied," says Patrick Harker, who has been dean of Wharton since 2000 and a long-time faculty member. "We're at the top of our game, but there is no sense here of peo-ple letting up. It's a culture and an attitude."
In addition to a standard MBA, Wharton offers an undergraduate programme as well as executive and doctoral programmes. With 215 full-time professors–and another 200 part-time profes-sors–it boasts the largest faculty of any of the leading international business schools.
Like most other business schools, core classes in finance, marketing, management, and opera-tions take up the first year of Wharton's MBA programme. In the second year, students have a choice of 18 majors including healthcare manage-ment, real estate and multi-national management.
Students are also required to take at least nine elective courses–ranging from urban fiscal policy to private equity in emerging markets to en-trepreneurship and venture initiation.
Prof Harker says what differentiates Wharton's teaching from other schools is that it is not tied to a single pedagogy. Professors use a variety of methods, including lectures, cases, simulations and action learning.
"We want to focus more on learning and less on teaching," he says. "Our focus is along the lines of: What are the most important things students need to learn and what is the most ef-fective way for them to learn those things It's freeing; you break out of old ways of doing things."
That said, Wharton's curriculum stresses quan-titative reasoning, according to David Schmittlein, deputy dean: "At Wharton we are committed to a rigorous examination of real problems and a dedication and carefulness of getting the right answers."
He adds: "It can't just be the creative idea of the moment. It's a combination of critical and analytical thinking, coming up with an answer you can credibly defend based on logic and reasoning,not just based on your debating skills. "
- Jul 23 Mon 2007 12:50