The Lauder Magic Carpet Ride

Lauder graduate Davis Smith (in baby carriage) and his business partner, Kimball Thomas

Well before he entered Wharton, Davis Smith had proved himself an entrepreneur capable of going international. In 2004, armed with a fresh international studies degree from Brigham Young University, Smith, along with his cousin, launched, a company that contracted out pool table manufacturing to China and then sold the tables in the U.S.

The business turned into the largest distributor of pool tables in the U.S., Smith says, but he longed to try a new venture, to learn another language and insert himself into some other overlooked foreign niche and make his mark. He considered a number of MBA programs, including Kellogg, Harvard, and Booth. “I got a package [of information] about Lauder and couldn’t believe what I was reading,” Smith recalls. “You get an MBA but also an MA in international studies, and you have to speak a foreign language. I discovered my goal was to get into the Lauder program.”

Indeed, in just two years, Lauder program students earn an MBA from Wharton as well as an MA in international studies from the University of Pennsylvania. While other business schools have scrambled to inject globalization into their curricula over the last decade, the Lauder program has been quietly churning out small batches of grads ready to neatly drop themselves into the thick of international business for the last 30 years.  Alumni include Rosalind Copisarow, the social entrepreneur who created the first microfinance firm in Poland (Fundusz Mikro), and Anthony Davis, founder of Anchorage Capital Group.


“The Wharton Lauder program is the gold standard for international business education,” says Tara McKernan, an executive vice president based in New York and Amsterdam at the executive recruitment firm DHR International. “When I see that on someone’s CV, I know that person understands the global economy.”

Lauder students wend their way through 24 straight months of an academic and experiential itinerary of humanities, social science, language, and business classes, lab work, and two expanses of multi-country travel.

“I was excited it was a business program that really integrated foreign languages,” says Katherine Littlefield, a University of North Carolina grad who worked in marketing at DigitalGlobe in Singapore before entering the Lauder program. The school, she notes, stresses the importance of acquiring a working knowledge of a new language, not necessarily relying on one already learned. (As part of the admissions process, applicants take an oral proficiency test in a foreign language.) In other words, if you already speak English and Hindi, get ready to dive into Arabic.