Wharton’s Impressive New West Coast Digs

by John A. Byrne on

Wharton's new West Coast campus is no longer in stealth mode but has prominent signage on the Embarcadero in San Francisco

But it is the Executive MBA classes that remain the flagship program of the West Coast campus. Although there are no immediate plans to double the number of EMBA students here, roughly 70% of the applicants to the program are considered fully qualified to attend. Yet, Wharton’s EMBA acceptance rate is about 44%, making the program one of the most selective in the world. At a cost of $173,940, it’s also the most expensive MBA program in the world.

Because Harvard and Stanford do not offer an Executive MBA, however, Wharton has pretty much become the gold standard in the business. Unlike many executive programs, it’s as close to a full-time MBA program as possible, with 51 program weekends over a span of 24 months. The actual number of contact hours comes to 700, a third more than most other rival EMBA programs and more than double the new University of Michigan EMBA program in Los Angeles. The Wharton program allows students to pick among 35 electives as well when most rival programs offer little more than four to six. The GMAT test is required for application and the average GMAT score is 700, highest of any EMBA program in the world.

The $173,940 price tag includes meals in the dining room operated by Guckenheimer Enterprises, which serves food locally sourced within a 100-mile radius of San Francisco. The price also includes Friday night stays at the nearby Meridian Hotel, about eight blocks away from the new campus, for EMBA students who attend class every other Friday and Saturday. Currently, some students are commuting from Hawaii, Texas, Arizona, and Washington. Typically, faculty fly in from Philadelphia late Thursday night and stay at the same hotel as students through Sunday morning.

If anything, Wharton’s students here couldn’t be happier with their new digs. “My first reaction when I came here is that alright, this is legit,” says Suncheth Bhat, a second-year EMBA student who works at PG&E as chief of staff to the chief financial officer.  “For ten years, Wharton has been a bit under the radar out here. They’ve talked about having a bigger presence and becoming better known. This has surpassed all my expectations.”

Even though Bhat, 29, was at the ideal age for a full-time MBA program, he decided on the EMBA route because he didn’t want to quit his job, which at the time was in renewable energy for PG&E. “I had just started the position and it was a space I was interested in and passionate about,” says Bhat, who got his undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA. “I was hesitant about removing myself for two years from a business that was growing and changing so fast. Being in this program allowed me the best of two worlds.”

Among other things, Bhat helped to organize a global immersion trip to Brazil for his EMBA class. The weeklong excursion to San Paulo and Rio last September led to visits with some two dozen companies in the country. But before the class went, Bhat had to sell the idea to his classmates who also voted on whether to go to China or Turkey.

“The program has been very challenging,” he says. “Wharton does a good job advertising how rigorous it is, but you don’t fully comprehend it until you actually go through it.”

As part of an elective global consulting practicum, Bhat worked with a team of MBA students from IE Business School in Spain. He helped two solar companies in Spain craft a strategy for entering the U.S. market. The project allowed him to spend a week in Spain and required a presentation to executives in San Francisco.

Like Bhat, Joanne Medvitz is another second-year EMBA student here who could just as easily have been in a full-time program as well. But Medvitz, 30, had just launched a startup company called Pop Outerwear with her husband while still holding down a full-time job at PG&E. “To step away from those two things for two years didn’t make a lot of sense in terms of the opportunity costs,” she says. “But one thing I didn’t want to sacrifice was class camaraderie. When I came to Wharton, the students were so close-knit and really got along with each other.”

Medvitz, who has undergraduate and master’s degrees in material science from UCLA, says the program has more than met her expectations. “It has been two of the best years of my life,” she says. Medvitz has been able to immediately apply financial and marketing knowledge learned in class to their business and believes the MBA will serve her well in the future. “I won’t always run our financial statements, but I will always be able to understand them because of the solid foundation in finance I’ve gotten here. And if we get big enough to do acquisitions, I can go to the table in a more informed way.”

DON’T MISS: WHARTON TOPS OUR 2012 RANKING OF THE TOP EMBA PROGRAMS or WHARTON PLANS MORE EXEC ED IN SAN FRANCISCO

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  • Birchtree

    @ John Byrne

    As usual I think the P&Q site has fostered a great conversation here…so thank you. Also, I agree with your comments above strongly but I do recognize all situations and needs vary.

    Thanks

  • Ramses

    John,

    Thank you for your kind advice. I heard extraordinary things about the PLD that’s why I was wondering. People tell me its more executive-ish than an MBA and more MBA-ish than their executive programs so it falls somewhere in between. I was also thinking about getting hardcore skills from Stern and PRM as well. I will not get sponsorship sadly so I have to see which route is value for money. I was also considering Columbia’s EMBA- is it more reputable than MIT’s?

  • tsiro

    Gentlemen,

    I have an EMBA from a top 3 US School. For 1 year now it has been very hard for me to find a job. I have invested for this myself and have been very dissapointed so far. I would like to make the following observations:

    1) As far as connections are concerned, most of them are busy executives which tend to dissapear after the end of the program. This is because they are very busy, have their families and lifes already. I am not saying all of them do but most of them do so. Post graduation networking is far more robust after an MBA program vs an EMBA one.

    2) I read above that a + IRR is realized only after 7 years. I tend to agree with this – the programs are excessively expensive to justify. If you graduate at age of 40 and you wait 7+ years to get a decent IRR – ie by age of at least 47+ … then you get the point.

    3) This is also very important: Most EMBAs have selection criteria which are 40-50% (we are talking about top programs). What does this say to me? ” If you have the money you get in” thats all. You practically buy the insanelly expensive program to satisfy your needs, ego, etc, instead of earning it, as is the case for a pure MBA degree. Lets face it I agree with some comments above that an EMBA is NOT an MBA. People know the selection criteria, and people know that you had $ and the time to invest.

    4) The story is completely different if you get sponsored for it by your company. This shows that you are aa star and that the company is investing in you. This is a very important distinction.

    After the experience I ve had, if I were to go back and reset my decision I would only consider that MS Sloan at Stanford and possibly the EMBA at Wharton. Everything else I would put in the same basket (this excludes Harvard which has a highly selective executive program and certainly depends if you wish to have an EMBA tag or not on your resume).

  • Birchtree

    @ tsiro

    Thanks for sharing this information. Sorry to hear that your experience has not been positive.

    Do you think that your experience is representative broadly of the EMBA degree experience or as much related to weekend economy?

    One thing I feel strongly about is that EMBA graduates from top programs, which you are, are not likely competing for the same jobs as their traditional MBA counterparts.

    I would guess you had roughly between 12 and 15 years +/- of management/leadership experience prior to your EMBA program. Whereas, a traditional MBA participant likely has between 2 and 6 years +/- of work experience. Given these facts it is less than likely that the EMBA grad and MBA grad would compete for the same job.

    it is inherently more challenging to find high executive level positions as they are more scarce than the mid level with much upside positions that a newly minted MBA my go after following their respective internships.

    Add to this equation a very challenging economic and hiring environment and I think the picture can look tough.

    I just think the comparison between the traditional MBA and EMBA is really tough aside from the awarding of the same degree.

    Best wishes

  • tsiro

    I think so many people have followed the same EMBA path- so they have been flooding the market. Particularly those who did not get into a top tier 15-20 MBA in their 20s or 30s and who want to get a 2nd chance to put the name on their CV in lates 30s early 40s. This has created oversupply though. On top of it, the environment is very rough, I must say. Being in investment banking you must demonstrate hardcore skills on top off all. So some of suggestions mentioned above including FRM, PRM and CFA, I consider to have enormous value. In this highly competitive work environment I have started seeing people with many qualifications on top of their MBAs. Surprisingly, I have even started seeing HBS MBAs with FRM, PRM and CFA tags after their name. Some top MSc programs facilitate faster track through substantial exemptions, providing an interesting combo (not aware of any EMBA programs that offer that) in addition to their MBA degrees.

  • tsiro

    I would like to add that while you may not have to compete with new MBAs, you have to compete with old MBAs though who have the same yrs of experience as you. The incremental boost post MBA quality and purely $ wise is much more prevalent vs the boost post EMBA. This means that on average, a Wharton MBA has had better career trajectory vs a Wharton EMBA just because the MBA has started very early his/her top notch career. Quality wise, educations is the same, I can even say that probably the EMBA programs may have the very best B-School professors having to tackle with demanding experienced students. But career wise, MBAs had a better career experience than EMBAs from the same school given the same years work experience just because of the initial boost to highly competitive careers.

  • Birchtree

    @ tsiro

    Great information and perspective! I also think that MBAs in general seem to be more of a commodity than in the past, as many have had the desire to pursue them in whatever format best suits their particulars. Whether tradational 2 year or in the executive format, which is why I believe going to the best program one can is so important.

    As for competing with old MBAs, I think your point is well made and well taken, but in my own conversations/research with several firms and hiring professionals, I found a repeated theme – what would potentially contribute more meaninfully to a hiring company; a MBA from a top school from 10-15 years ago or a new EMBA from a top tier school today. On balance the two are likely comparable, but the new EMBA may offer more current and fresh perspectives/theories than the older version, and that “could” be a competitive advantage to work off of…

    Just thoughts…

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Tsiro,

    I’d be interested in hearing how helpful or not your school’s career management staff has been in your job search. Most top EMBA programs have at least a dedicated staffer or two and some executive coaches who can offer advice and counsel.

  • PL

    John,

    I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts and analysis on why HBS and Stanford are not creating EMBA degrees. Is it because they have sufficient revenue/endowments or to preserve the “value” of their full-time MBA degrees?

    Also, curious why those two programs are also not eager in expanding their reach into other cities?

  • Paul

    John,

    I would very interested to hear your analysis or speculations on why HBS and Stanford are not so eager in establishing degree awarding EMBA programs.

    Also, do you think campus site expansion is an advantage for Wharton and Booth or does it dilute their focus? When I visited Booth I get the impression that rarely would full-time MBA students want to spend another semester overseas at Singapore/London just because so much is being offered at the Harper Center.

    I am curious about these “strategic directions” as the decisions were supposedly made with the input of the best strategy teachers in business.

    Thanks!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Paul,

    The stated reason is they don’t want to dilute the value of their two-year, full-time programs. For years, they would divert execs into their exec education course catalog, specifically the multi-week general management program (at HBS, this is the AMP for Advanced Management Program). I believe, however, that some schools and their leadership tend to be more commercial than academic and saw that they have a valuable brand that should be extended. So these schools, which include Wharton, Northwestern and Duke, had leaders who wanted to seize market opportunities and thought of their schools less as academic places and more like businesses. If some other brands had similar leadership, you would have seen a lot more EMBA development. For example, Yale should have had an EMBA program in New York City and Dartmouth should have had one in Boston. Why? Because they would have been huges successes in markets where there are a lot of Yale and Dartmouth undergrads.

  • bob

    Referring to Johns question:

    Well from the perspective of the school, in order to be more efficient, you need standardization. A top tier school generally has a lot of homogeneity in its applicant profile : 3-5 yrs work xp; top GMATs; perhaps pre MBA job at GS, MS, same firms, same undergrad profiles, top grades, etc and you can segregate these people’s profiles easily distinguishable groups making it far easier and efficient for business schools to support them career wise. In contrast, in an EMBA, while you have high achievers, the work experience, background, age, etc does not have such homogeneous characteristics compared to a typical MBA group from the same school, therefore making it far less cost effective and harder for the school’s career office to adapt fast to your specific needs/requirements. You need more tailor made “consulting” and assistance. Therefore, while many EMBA schools do have some kind of career officer, the support you get is not close to what one would get in an MBA program, not only because of the aforementioned constraints, but also due to the fact that most of them assume that you are employed already. The support therefore, has more passive characteristics- all schools place emphasis on their MBA students because its their MBA program which drives the school’s reputation and therefore its demand for other programs including the EMBA. At the executive level, I know that the very best career resources can be found at HBS, even when compared to EMBA graduates from other schools, and this applies to the support provided for the PLD, GMP and AMP graduates.

    Birchtree,

    You have a point there in terms of refreshing your education but the 15 yr old MBAs do not sleep at night. How they refresh their knowledge: they get more specialized degrees; they get ( as aptly mentioned above) certifications; they go to top tier executive programs. The difference here is the initial boost. If when you start you have a boost of 10k miles vs 2k miles, then the solid beginning plays a catalytic role in your career trajectory. It is harder to change your trajectory after 15 years of work experience which on average, could be 5, 10, 15% inferior had you started more strong.

  • Birchtree

    @ Bob,

    Great and thoughtful points. And I do very much appreciate the value of specialized designations/certifications (CFA etc) but as you’ve read from my other posts, I disagree that HBS’s Certificate Programs (PLD, AMP, GMP) are automatically a superior proposition to prospective executives than a top tier EMBA. (and I know they are excellent-no dispute). I believe if you already have an MBA from the past than sure, why pursue an EMBA now and have a second MBA. In this case, which is common, than absolutely one the outstanding HBS Certificate Programs would be a great potential choice. However, there are many executives, who never went for an MBA Degree in their early career days potentially for a multitude of reasons, and who have achieved tremendous success and whose fellow peers/colleagues believe they are on track to lead their companies or another company in the future – and to these individuals, I and many others, believe and Executive MBA Degree would be an excellent option to consider in addition to the aforementioned HBS Certificate programs.

    There are no absolutes in this world. There is a reason Wharton, Chicago Columbia, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell and many other great business schools have grown their EMBA offerings and that people are pursuing them – because they have been found to add value. Sure they make money for the schools in question and sure the students that attend the programs have by and large been satisfied with their ROI. It is a product that serves a need.
    HBS began offering the AMP program back in 1945 (I believe). They have continued and expanded Into many many other programs-why? I know-For the same reasons. They have a ready and willing market of participants that they provide a valuable product to-and they also make a lot of money doing and plan on making a lot more with the new building construction.
    I just go back again to my repeated point -there is no one Best executive education option, there are many outstanding choices and folks just need to find and identify the one that works/fits best with them and their companies and/or goals.
    Thanks

  • bob

    Birchtree,

    It appears that you jump to the issue directed to John’s question with regard to career resources in which I could give my opinion, and not to the MBA vs EMBA issue directed to you.

    Anyway, having performed substantial research on the issue (because I believe, we are all on the same basket) I can tell you the market perception on program marketability with high degree of confidence:

    Ranking perception:

    1) MBA from top tier 10-15 US Business Schools >~ 2) EMBA from top 2-3 B-Schools > 3) HBS AMP, GMP, PLDA (PLDA= HBS Alumni) > 4) Top 10 EMBA > 5) all the rest. Note: HBS + CFA or PRM or FRM > Top tier 10 US MBAs (not better than top tier 5 MBAs htough)

  • Birchtree

    @ Bob,

    Thanks for the feedback again! Sorry if I jumped – just find the topic and your insights interesting.

    I (and many others including Many sponsoring firms) have performed similar research and simply come to a different conclusion – again does not mean conclusively one or the other is right – and I like hearing the opinions.

    That is what makes this World more interesting and the demand for all of these choices is strong and their are great options out there. I do not believe and clearly as noted in this forum and others that this is a definitive topic. Everyone is an expert that has looked into it with the effort that you and I might have or our respective firms and all have drawn conclusions that they are highly confident about – including both of us.

    Great points and I appreciate your points.

  • bob

    Birchtree,

    You are absolutely right everyone has his/her own objectives and as you say there are great options out there. The world has become so competitive though that you are always in this race to keep up your competitiveness whether you are an MBA, EMBA, CFA, etc. You cannot imagine how many MBAs, EMBAs and CFAs I ve met who complain and who always look at what they miss vis a vis others instead of being thankful to what they have.

  • Birchtree

    Agreed! Thanks again.

  • bob
  • Paul

    John,

    Thanks for sharing your view and analysis!

  • Birchtree

    @ bob

    Very interesting perspectives on that chain. Thanks!

  • Aiden

    @ Somer

    Where we’re you able to find or determne the admissions acceptance stats for the PLD?

  • Rmagnus

    Paul,

    I know something about Booth’s EMBA program in Singapore as I know more than 10 people who did the program over the past 10 years.  Booth’s EMBA program is one of the easiest programs to get into.  As a result, the quality of participants is kinda questionable. My friends complain of having classmates that cannot hold a serious conversation in English and you can bet not everyone pulls his/her own weight at team assignments becos simply not everyone has the communication skills to do so.  Booth professors are so concerned that EMBA students would fail the exams that they drop less than subtle hints during review sessions, including solving problem sets that somehow find their way into exams.  In the words of one of my slacker friends, Booth EMBA is a great program to compete with losers.  No wonder he topped the class.  How’s that for a pyrrhic victory?  I’m not surprised Booth full-timers don’t want to spend time with their EMBA bozo counterparts. It’s clear that the Booth EMBA programs are diluting Booth’s brand.

  • Heath Benton

    Very true. Plus it depends on the area you want to move into. For example, I have seen many co-workers who had analyst and associate positions at my real estate private equity company (one of the top in the world) get their MSc in Real Estate Finance & Investment from NYU (pay 100% by the firm) and then 1 month post grad they are bumped to Vice President and in some case President. There is more than one solution if you look for it.

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