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.”