Expedition Educate

A true leader knows how to succeed in every environment. At the Wharton School, leadership is a skill not only learned in classrooms and lecture halls, but through group projects, extracurricular activities, internships and even dogsledding.

In early January, a group of Wharton undergraduates experienced a new definition of the term “leadership,” along with alternate meanings of the words “mush,” “gee,” “woah” and “haw,” as they ventured into the forests of Quebec for a Wharton Leadership Venture. They challenged themselves in new, extreme environments: dogsledding, snowshoeing, sleeping in tipis and learning subarctic winter survival techniques.

Exposing students—many of whom don’t know one another at the outset—to new, extreme environments helps them come together as a team, says Chris Maxwell, senior associate director of the Wharton Leadership Program.

“Being whisked from the comforts of home, warmth and the holidays straight into the Jacques Cartier National Forest, just outside of Quebec City, and into a very cold and snowy, rustic environment, can be a true adaptive challenge,” he says.

To get a sense for yourself, view photos from the Winter Wilderness Leadership Venture in Quebec.

Wharton Leadership Ventures are not-for-credit experiences that focus on helping students enhance team leadership skills in various hands-on scenarios, such as whitewater rafting adventures, expeditions to Mount Everest and treks along the Appalachian Trail. Besides the environmental and physical challenges on the trips, students work with local businesses or not-for-profits to apply their academic knowledge and team skills to real-world business scenarios.

The participants of the Winter Wilderness Venture (photo by Dr. Chris Maxwell)

During the “Winter Wilderness” venture in Quebec, students worked with a local nonprofit that aims to expand opportunities for tourism. The client presented students with a set of challenges and issues faced by the organization, and, over the course of the trip, students worked in small groups to develop suggestions and strategies.

Past venture groups have consulted with a glacier rescue service in Iceland, a women’s artisanal candy collective in Mexico, a recycling program in Chile and the Bureau of Land Management in Utah.

“Each client and project becomes a built-in focus for teamwork and collaboration among the participants,” says Maxwell. “Add to that the participants are also learning new and challenging individual and team skills, like climbing, hiking, camping, ice climbing and glacier travel, and each venture becomes quite a learning experience—on many dimensions.”

Trips are available to students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students may participate in short three-day ventures or opt for longer opportunities. Learn more at the Wharton Leadership Ventures website.

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