whartonleadership

Experiential Learning: A Note from Undergrad

In Leadership, Undergraduate Students, Wharton on July 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm

At Wharton, leadership education for grads and undergrads is bottom up and participative.  The hallmark of leadership education at Wharton is experiential learning.  Experiential learning is central to Management 100, the undergraduate Leadership Ventures, our communication initiatives, and our summer business institutes for high school students.

I like to tell my undergrads enrolled in MGMT 100—the foundation leadership course taken by all in-coming students—that the course is “upside down, backwards, and high touch.”  The course is “upside down” because the project team experience is the primary text of the class.  Over the course of the year, Wharton undergrads nearly 70 field projects through MGMT 100.  In the fall, freshmen participate in community service projects, a good number supplied by the United Way; in the spring, upper level students work on consulting projects sponsored by Wharton’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  The field projects—whether community service or consulting—provide an excellent opportunity for students to develop their skills, participate in a high performance team, and contribute to the greater community.  MGMT 100 is upside down and “backwards” because students “take the test first and then study”—in other words, they go out into the world, meet with their clients, work on their projects, return to the classroom and reflect on what happened and what they would do the same or differently.  The course is upside down, backwards, and “high touch” because the students realize that relationships matter. They roll up their sleeves and complete a task, but they also build strong relationships with each other and their client.   

The undergraduate ventures and developmental workshops also provide a set of engaged, hands-on experiences for building the skills required for effective individual and team leadership.  The ventures and workshops are intended to help participants improve their ability to think strategically, communicate effectively, and act decisively. The workshops, such as Leading in Whitewater and Team Dynamics and Sailing, are one-day in length and are offered at no cost to Wharton undergraduates. Expeditionary ventures, including WLV at the University of Monterrey, Mexico and the Icelandic Trek, are one week or longer and are priced to cover lodging, guides, meals, and other local fees.

Undergrads have the opportunity to hone their communication skills through MGMT 100, the ventures, and also through communication workshops, sponsored by the Wharton Undergraduate Leadership Program.  In the fall of 2009, 137 students signed up for our voluntary public speaking and writing classes.  In the spring, about 100 students enrolled in 10 workshops.  On average, nearly eight out of 10 completed each workshop.  Demand for these voluntary and value-added workshops is high.

The Undergraduate Leadership Program extends its reach to talented high school students who participate in our intensive, summer business institutes during the month of July.  The LEAD program, for example, introduces minority high school students to key areas of business. First established at Wharton and reflecting a long-standing commitment to developing business leaders through business education, the LEAD program has become a nationwide initiative with programs at ten other universities. Leadership in the Business World (LBW) targets domestic and international rising high school seniors who also want an introduction to the many opportunities afforded by a broad undergraduate business education.  This summer, the Undergraduate Leadership Program is launching LBW West at the Wharton campus in San Francisco.  Students participating in LBW West will spend three of the four weeks in California before traveling as a group to Philadelphia. Their last week will be spent on Penn’s campus in Philadelphia with their LBW East counterparts.

In closing, let me join Jeff in inviting you to explore our new website and learn more about our programs.  We hope to see you—whether Wharton grad, undergrad, high school student, alum, or exec—in one of our courses or programs!

With best regards,

Anne M. Greenhalgh, Director

Undergraduate Leadership Program

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