“What I most enjoyed about meeting Wharton students in my first formal visit to the School was the chance to learn first-hand about the focus on innovative teaching at Wharton, and how that has enhanced their experience inside the classroom and out of it. Dean James’ leadership through the Wharton Way builds on the legacy of the world’s premiere business school by advancing pedagogy to ensure the very best possible preparation for our next generation of business and civic leaders.” – Liz Magill, President of the University of Pennsylvania

When the University of Pennsylvania’s President Liz Magill visited Wharton’s base on Locust Walk, she met with students, Dean Erika H. James, and key Wharton staff and faculty to hear directly from the School’s community on how Wharton is shaping the future of business education. These conversations helped leadership understand the mission of the School and Wharton’s intentions to deliver on its commitment to the tenets of Dean James’ new strategic plan, the Wharton Way. 

One of the Wharton Way’s three lenses zeroes in on how the School innovates through pedagogy, which is why President Magill’s conversations with Wharton students focused primarily on the innovations in the classroom. Wharton Stories spoke with three attendees from that day with President Magill, and learned more about the innovative teaching methods they’ve enjoyed most throughout their time at Wharton thus far. 

Meet Abby Shaffer, W’23

Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, Abby Shaffer, W’23, just graduated after four fulfilling years at Wharton. Recently recruited as an Investment Analyst for J.P. Morgan Chase and headed to New York City post-graduation, Abby reflects on some of the classroom experiences she will never forget. 

For Abby, a favorite facet of her Wharton experience proved to be the excellent roster of speakers with whom she interacted both inside and out of the classroom over her four years at Wharton. They ranged from well-known behemoths of industry, like famed designer Stuart Weitzman; to other prolific leaders who continue to shape the varied realms of politics, finance, and more. Of all the exercises and guest lecturers her professors managed to weave into her class, Abby recalls special appreciation for a lesson in her Advanced Topics in Private Equity course with Wharton Senior Fellow and Lecturer David Bard

The course enabled Abby to connect with her intrinsic creativity by integrating the worlds of art and finance. A classically trained ballerina in high school, Abby once worried that by committing to a career in private equity, she might lose touch with the artistic side of her skill set. Instead, Professor Bard’s class taught Abby that there is value in both via his unit, “The Art of Finance,” where Abby and her classmates took long and deep looks at different works of art throughout history, and how developing a keen observational eye through the exploration of artwork can advance one’s career in finance as well. 

“I looked up on the screen and saw my favorite Carravagio painting, which is actually at a museum in Fort Worth where I’m from,” Abby said. “And the lesson was about how you can apply different understandings you notice in artwork to real life situations.” 

The course underscored that there’s hidden messages everywhere, and that one can glean insights from art history that can also be applied to work in the finance industry.

“There’s creativity in the questions I will be asking every day in my job post-Wharton, like: ‘what do you want to invest in? How are you going to diversify your portfolio?’ Every answer to those questions is going to look different depending on who you ask,” said Abby. “There’s an art to it, and that creative mindset is something I loved being able to get back into and will apply to my career in the future.” This powerful fusion of art and finance taught Abby to apply creative insights to her future career.

Nafisa Rawji, WG’23

Wharton’s world-class faculty continues to innovate the School’s cutting-edge curriculum to offer their students a more practical, real-world experience. Recent MBA graduate Nafisa Rawji, WG’23, shared her experience with some of the new teaching methods Wharton professors are implementing in their classrooms; including in Professor Ethan Mollick’s Entrepreneurship, Change, and Innovation course, Management 802, where each lecture, reading, and classroom simulation is designed with intentional integration that reinforces the coursework.

“Professor Mollick used a three-tiered reinforcement system in his class, where it felt as if I wasn’t so much just memorizing things to regurgitate, but really ingesting the material, seeing how it could work in different capacities and then applying our subsequent learnings in specific situations and simulations,” said Nafisa. She added that the simulations helped modernize and create relevancy in some of the principles that could be seen as archaic.

For example, Professor Mollick utilized Wharton Interactive’s The Saturn Parable in Nafisa’s class, which is a game-based pedagogical innovation that assigns students to represent different companies and countries seeking to harvest a rare mineral in space, with the premise that this “mineral” has the capacity to change the entire global economic structure. Each of Nafisa’s classmates played a specific role in the simulation, and their experiences were all singular and unique. The choices that they made affected their next pathway in the storyline. 

Nafisa explained that the choices that they made were often framed on whether or not to prioritize their own influence in group decisions, or if they were going to choose their personal priorities over the mission of the group.

“It helped me really engage and think about the different ways others approach a similar single situation,” Nafisa said. “[The Saturn Parable] kept the class very fun and refreshing.” This cutting-edge approach, tailored to each student’s unique role and choices, not only modernized the academic principles interwoven throughout Professor Mollick’s course, but also ignited an impassioned sense of engagement throughout Nafisa’s class. 

Meet Cesar Lainez, W’24

For Wharton rising senior Cesar Lainez, W’24, Wharton’s support of his burgeoning interests translated to a breadth of learning experiences that shaped the way Cesar not only views the world, but the way he views himself and his own professional potential. As an undergraduate Wharton student, Cesar selected a dual concentration of Marketing and Business Analytics; but Cesar also shared that his interest in the marketing portion of his dual concentration came later, once he really dove into the meat of Wharton’s immersive curriculum. 

As someone interested in pursuing a career in product design and entrepreneurship upon his Wharton graduation, Cesar realized that his passion for the marketing field began when he took Marketing 101 with Professor Barbara Kahn.

“I really enjoyed understanding what consumers want and need, and how companies market to those wants and needs. I noticed that this [marketing concentration] blended my passion for business analytics with that of developing a product,” said Cesar. “When I’m ready to launch my own thing, I won’t necessarily have to pay anyone to use those skills that would be necessary for [my product’s success], because I can now do them myself.”

But some of Cesar’s most impactful learnings at Wharton occurred not in the classroom, but off of campus, where Cesar applied what he learned from his professors to real-world experiences that happen and matter. One of his favorite examples of Wharton’s unique pedagogical innovations is when Cesar embarked on Wharton’s Leadership Compass program, an offshoot of the School’s venerated McNulty Leadership Program, which culminated in a leadership certificate issued by the McNulty Program itself. 

Cesar traveled through Pennsylvania’s wilderness with a group of his fellow Wharton peers, an excursion meant to challenge the students’ leadership skills in a different environment. From navigating a high-ropes course to paddling tandem kayaks around the expanse of a lake, Cesar reflected on his takeaways from that experience. 

“On the high-ropes course, for example, you have to build your communication with your team, even if you’re scared or intimidated. How do you get across safely while communicating with others? Or, when we went to the lake as our final challenge, we had to figure out how to navigate to different objectives on the lake, working with the person behind me to nail the right pace,” Cesar said. “Wharton really continues to not only provide hands-on opportunities in the classroom, but out of it, too. There’s just so many opportunities to learn here.”

Through Wharton’s immersive curriculum and real-world experiences, Cesar discovered not only his passion for marketing and his ability to blend business analytics with product development; but also that he’s embarked on a transformative journey, in which Wharton’s holistic approach to education provides abundant opportunities to grow, both inside and outside the classroom.

Grace Meredith

Posted: May 19, 2023

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