Having recently overseen the move of Wharton’s West Coast facility into the Hills Brother Building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, we asked COO of Wharton | San Francisco Bernadette Birt to tell us about the move and the new campus.
Q. Students experienced the new facility for the first time in early January. How have they reacted?
There have been a lot of ‘Wows!’ which are exactly what we want to hear. They are thrilled with the quality of the classroom experience, the number of group study rooms, and having places to connect with each other during the day. For example, we have an incredible dining space with stunning views of the San Francisco Bay where our students love to gather with their laptops and iPads to collaborate and relax as the sun sets.
Q. What is the new facility like?
We have the entire sixth floor of the building and the way the open space was designed makes you feel like you are weaving your way through the campus.
As for the space, it’s 30% larger with 37,000 square feet, and features digital, high-definition classrooms and group-study rooms. Our three tiered classrooms provide seating for groups of 75 or 160 students, and our 17 group study rooms utilize electronic whiteboard systems and walls of glass as marker boards. The new facility also was built with a focus on the environment. The vision and many decisions were made with an eye towards developing the space as a LEED Gold project.
Q. The classrooms and group study rooms all offer HD videoconferencing capabilities. Why is this so important?
We want our students to be able to work together whether they are down the hall, back at home or meeting with a GCP (Global Consulting Practicum) group across the globe. We also want them to be able to work with their peers in Philadelphia as well as connect with alumni and business leaders around the world for classes, projects, speakers or other events. The videoconferencing is very high quality. Distance falls away and you really feel like you’re in the same room with the other person.
Q. In addition to EMBA classes, how else is the facility being used?
We have several upcoming Executive Education open enrollment programs scheduled in this space as well as events such as Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs’ Awards dinner and regular scheduled entrepreneurial workshops. We’ll also continue our programming for students and alumni such as our executive lecture series and joint programming with various groups as well as women’s networking events. This is a great space and we want the entire Wharton community to enjoy the campus and all that it has to offer.
Q. How long did the move actually take?
We began demolition of the sixth floor of the new building last summer in order to renovate it for our purposes. This was a significant undertaking that involved removing concrete columns and replacing them with steel beams as well as building classrooms, group study rooms, a new kitchen and dining area and other spaces that were all outfitted with state-of-the-art technology. The speed and quality of that work was amazing, as we were able to start moving in on Dec. 12.
The actual move was managed with 150 crates, 200 boxes, lots of equipment plus countless trips between the buildings. Our IT staff moved much of the sensitive technology equipment themselves and their work was only beginning when the physical move was complete. Many staff members worked tirelessly through the holidays so we could start classes on January 2nd, and now with the finishing touches in place, the space looks and feels like we’ve been settled here for a long time.
Q. How can prospective students check out the new facility?
Prospective students are invited to join our Jan. 23 online reception where they can learn more about Wharton’s EMBA program on both coasts and take a virtual tour of the new facility in San Francisco. They also can click here to see additional photos of the new space. In addition, prospective students may contact the Wharton | San Francisco campus admissions team to schedule a class visit.