Going East: Wharton MBA Exec Classes Head to China for International Seminar

China is pretty hot these days, especially among Wharton’s MBA exec students. Beating out other locations like Korea, Turkey, Brazil, and India, the second-year classes at both the Philadelphia campus and Wharton | San Francisco voted to take their international seminar trips to China.  The week-long trips, which follow the core courses Competitive Strategy and Global Strategic Management, include corporate visits and a variety of social activities, and are often cited by students as a highlight of their Wharton experience.

Wharton | San Francisco, second-year student Mark He is helping to organize his class’ upcoming trip to Beijing and Shanghai. “What could be better than having our entire class – and many of our partners — travelling thousands of miles away and hanging out for a week getting to know each other better? This is the peak of our networking experience,” he says.

His class plans to kick off their company visits with meetings at Microsoft, COFCO, Baidu, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) China. The next day, students will visit Innovation Works and Walmart. Visits to companies such as Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Nike, Bayer, General Motors, Nokia, and real estate development group Shui On will round out the rest of the week.

“Many of the visits were set up through students’ professional contacts, and Wharton alumni were very effective too. In fact, the former president of the Wharton Seattle Alumni Club is now in China and he referred us to a lot of contacts,” says He.

On the social side, the group is planning a variety of dinners in both cities so students can pick and choose where they want to go each night. “It seems like the majority of spouses and partners are coming on the trip too so it will be great hanging out with everyone,” he says.

And like many of his classmates who are taking additional trips together to places like Korea and India before or after the seminar, He is planning a trip with his wife and several fellow students to his hometown of Hangzhou, China.

“For those of us who came from China originally, it’s great that we can contribute our personal network there. And for those who have never been before, to experience China this way and make these high-level connections during the company visits is great. This is a perspective you would never get as a regular tourist,” says He.

While the West Coast class will divide its time between Beijing and Shanghai, the East Coast class will spend the entire week in Shanghai, says second-year Philadelphia student Tim Power, who is helping to organize his class’ seminar. “We voted on Shanghai because you can’t avoid thinking and talking about China in our classes and in our jobs. It just keeps coming up so it wasn’t really a surprise that our class picked China as the location for our seminar,” he says.

Power, who is director of portfolio and asset strategy for Bristol-Myers Squibb, says that his class plans to meet with a diverse group of organizations ranging from the Shanghai Stock Exchange, Google and Pfizer to Geely Automotive, Dell and Huashan Hospital. “We’re starting the week out with a briefing from someone at the U.S. Consulate on what it’s like to do business in China and then we have a mix of professional service companies, healthcare, finance, automotive, and tech.”

On the social side, students can sign up to attend dinners throughout Shanghai each night. During their day off, they also can sign up for tours as well as attend the World Expo. And like the Wharton|San Francisco students, many are bringing their spouses or partners on the trip. “On our next Wharton weekend, we’re actually having a dinner for the partners to get to know each other better before we leave for China,” says Power, noting that many students are also planning side trips throughout Asia.

“We just finished the Global Strategy course and had a speaker from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies give a presentation on China so we’re all getting really excited about the trip. It will be a great way to learn more about business in China as well as to bond with our classmates,” says Power.

Stay tuned for updates on the international trips which run Sept. 27-Oct. 1 for Wharton | San Francisco students and Sept. 20-24 for Philadelphia students.