The Power of the Guest Lecture

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One example of a business leader giving a guest lecture at Wharton: Stanley Druckenmiller (in chair on right), chairman and CEO of Duquesne Family Office, during the Howard Marks Lecture Series. (Howard Marks W67 is interviewing him.) Photo credit: Wharton Flickr.

Penn students are always being made aware of upcoming speaking events hosted by student clubs, professors and University administration. At Wharton, there are an overwhelming number of opportunities for students to learn from prominent individuals across a variety of fields. Many speakers are Penn alumni who love to return to campus, upon invitation, to enlighten the Penn community outside the classroom.

Attending speaking events enables students to broaden their knowledge about the world, especially in areas that they don’t cover in their courses. I’m primarily studying real estate, but I was very excited to hear a speaker who has been one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs. That event was student led.

The Wharton Management Club, for instance, has a Speakers & Events committee comprised of students who are responsible for inviting prominent individuals to campus and arranging all the logistics around the event. Most Wharton clubs have similar divisions, which enable students to gain experience in event planning and create value for the Penn community. The students involved in the event-planning process have an open door to develop long-term relationships with speakers.

When I read a course syllabus, I first take note of the schedule of speakers for the semester. As a real estate student, I have been fortunate to take courses in which the curriculum is itself largely designed around guest lectures. This structure is exciting for students, as speakers bring to life the many complex issues that might otherwise be taught solely from a textbook. The relationship between academia and the professional world is particularly strong at Wharton, and speaking events organized by professors are one way in which students benefit from this phenomenon.

As a junior recruiting for summer internships, I have found real estate-specific speaking events to be the best way to prepare for interviews and broaden my knowledge about the industry. In this sense, attending a speaking event is much like reading a news article, albeit interactive and live. As an auditory learner, I find speaking events to be an efficient and fun way to absorb information that might be presented more dryly in a traditional news article. For instance, a recent real estate speaker brought to life the considerations involved in developing apartment buildings for sale to institutional investors. In an interview later that week, I was able to demonstrate my understanding of an industry trend and allude to what I learned from attending the event.

Editor’s note: The original version of this article appeared on the Wharton Undergraduate Program’s Student Voices blog on Jan. 30, 2016.





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