The World is Your Classroom
- by David Kramer
International Courses for Alumni Take Wharton Graduates Around the Globe
Though Julia Oberrotman WG16 just graduated last year, the prospect of taking a Global Modular Course (GMC) in Dubai with fellow Wharton alumni was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“I have always found the Middle East to be a fascinating part of the world,” she says. “So I jumped at the chance to visit Dubai and learn about current events in a region with global reach.”
Launched seven years ago, these whirlwind workshops offer students the chance to spend a few days during their summer or winter breaks immersed in a foreign business culture, learning through team-focused projects, site visits with area business and thought leaders, and by executives on the ground. This program is now expanding to offer these same learning experiences to Wharton alumni through GMC A+ (Global Modular Course for Alumni). Julia was part of a select group of alumni who attended “Finance in the Middle East and Africa” recently in Dubai—and following that course’s success, Wharton will launch the first official GMC A+ offering, “Argentina: A Country in Transition,” this May in Buenos Aires, exclusively for alumni.
GMC A+ is a natural progression of the Wharton School’s commitment to lifelong learning. “We wanted to offer alumni a truly unique, immersive experience in a region that is important in today’s business landscape,” says Lizann Rode, Executive Director of Alumni Relations. “The chance to travel with Wharton faculty who can provide cultural and academic context is a one-of-a-kind opportunity.”
For Sanjay Khanduri WG06, a frequent traveler to Dubai, a highlight was networking with Wharton grads in a region where he had plenty of business, but few business contacts. “I got to connect one-on-one with some key alumni and develop anchors in the region,” he says. “Further, having one of my favorite professors from Wharton as the anchor tipped the scales in my decision to join.”
From January 4-6, Oberrotman and Khanduri joined five other Wharton alumni, Associate Professor Bülent Gültekin, and teaching assistants Elizabeth Dahan, Ahmed Fikri, and Faisal Falaknaz for the program, hosted at the Center of Excellence and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. The course material explored political economy, financial markets, sovereign wealth funds and alternative investments, as well the burgeoning topic of Islamic finance—investigating such areas as Takaful and Sukuk, Sharia-based systems of branded insurance and structured bonds.
The group enjoyed conversations with government officials—including Abdulla BinTouq, acting Executive Director of Excellence and Pioneership Sector of the Prime Minister’s office, and Chirag V. Shah, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Excellence for the Dubai International Financial Center—and representatives from a variety of companies. For an academic perspective, Professor Michael J.T. McMillen, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, moderated “Islamic Finance: Theory and Structure of Instruments,” which further explored the nuances of doing business in this region.
But it wasn’t all about lectures and classes. Oberrotman quickly found herself enamored with both Dubai’s exotic charm and its unique take on doing business. “My impression was a city of modernity, innovation, flexibility and yet with respect for tradition and conservative values,” she says. “I found the people to be open-minded, embracing of ideas, learning and practices from around the globe, yet retaining a strong sense of values and identity.”
The attendees shared their time between the Center of Excellence of the Dubai International Financial Center and the headquarters of the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. In addition to lectures, readings and related coursework, the students were responsible for a project with real-world business application showcasing what they learned.
“Wharton is able to bring to the table thought leaders across every sector of society—from government, finance, business, law and media,” Oberrotman says. “Through the discussions and experiences of the immersive GMCs, you not only access the perspectives of influencers live, but you are brought in as an active participant face-to-face in a global conversation.”
The upcoming program in Buenos Aires aims to build on Dubai’s mission of delivering lifelong learning to the Wharton community. “Our hope for the future is to bring Wharton alumni to countries with both established and emerging economies to learn with faculty and business leaders,” Rode says. “Global education is a huge priority for Wharton, and we are able to deliver that to alumni like no one else.”
Buenos Aires GMC A+
“Argentina: A Country in Transition”
May 25-27, 2017
While some people associate Argentina with beef and political unrest, the country has recently enjoyed a social and commercial renaissance. Today, Argentina exports more creative services than meat products—and the country’s economy is booming with venture capital investments, entrepreneurship and countless business ventures.
Led by David Hsu, Richard A. Sapp Professor and Professor of Management, the course will feature a mix of onsite visits and experiential learning, along with some conceptual material presented with historical context to make the most impact. Attendees will interact with area government and business leaders, and explore how a vibrant and creative economy can still thrive in a turbulent social and political environment.
Registration opens February 20; click here to sign up.