“What better way to bond than having an adventure together,” said Ryan Morely, WG’21, whose highlight of the trip was summiting Windom Peak with his classmates Eric Peterson, WG’21 and Dan Simon, WG’21.

Building relationships is a significant part of the Wharton MBA Program for Executives, both in and out of the classroom. From Friday dinners and baseball games to running clubs and ski trips, students find ways to connect on deeper levels. When Ryan Morley’s, WG’21, family backpacking trip was canceled, he asked classmate Eric Peterson, WG’21, to join him on the hike. As an avid backpacker, Eric jumped on board — and then they opened up the invitation to classmates on both coasts. Their final hiking group included Ryan, Eric, their wives, and classmate Dan Simon, WG’21.

We asked Ryan, Eric, and Dan to tell us more about the hike, other bonding opportunities in the EMBA program, and how this adds value to their Wharton experience. Here is what they said:

Eric Peterson, WG’21

Partner & Co-founder of ARB Midstream

Based In
Denver, CO

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
Utah Valley University, BS in Finance

Coming to Wharton to Build a Network
The primary reason I decided to apply to Wharton was because of my co-founder, who is a Wharton EMBA alumnus. I saw the value of his education and how Wharton helps open doors. In the process of raising capital for our new venture, he was able to leverage the Wharton network to get meetings that we otherwise would not have been able to get.

Sharing an Adventure
When you hike, you are sharing a struggle toward a common goal that facilitates bonding. Everyone has their own physical limitations, so you have to help each other to move forward. You build a level of empathy, which is the base of a good relationship. Also, when you’re in the wilderness without cell phones, the rest of the world falls away. You are 100% present and that is a rare experience to share. Since we returned and posted photos of the hike, it’s lit a fire in our classmates who are eager for this kind of shared adventure. We’ve had many students already say they will join us on our next hike.

Bonding Over a Common Goal
Like the hike, this program is a shared struggle toward a common goal that brings everyone together. We share our struggles and empathize with each other. That comradery builds a special kind of bond. Outside of class, we have frequent social outings like dinners and activities. During family weekend, my wife came to campus and met my classmates, which makes this community feel more like an extended family. I also get together with Wharton students and alumni who live in Denver. People in the Wharton community are very open and willing to meet.

“Walking a Few Steps” to Make Friends
There is a strong sense of comradery here that I didn’t see when I visited other schools. At Wharton, everybody wants to be friends and genuinely wants to help each other succeed. I attribute this to the residency requirement. When we finish classes, we all walk together to the same hotel. On that walk, it’s only a matter of walking a few steps over and introducing myself to someone I don’t know yet. It’s very easy to get to know classmates because everyone is open to making connections and friendships. Joining this program has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, largely due to all of the amazing people I’ve met.

Eric Peterson, WG’21, eats lunch with the Wharton community in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Ryan Morley, WG’21

Director of Population Health, University of Utah Health

Based In
Salt Lake City, UT

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
Brigham Young University, BS in Accounting

The Residential Requirement
The residential requirement was a key part of why I chose Wharton because it provides a forum outside of class for students to build personal relationships. I didn’t want a commuter program where everyone goes home after class. I also didn’t want a watered-down MBA. This program is the full Wharton MBA and has been a perfect fit for me.

Climbing a Mountain Together
We opened up the hike to our classmates because we thought it would be a great way to get to know more people. What better way to bond than having an adventure together? The highlight of the hike was when we reached the top of the mountain. It was fulfilling to summit together as a group.

Running with Friends
I wanted to get to know San Francisco better and ran before classes on Saturday mornings, so I started a running club. It’s been a fun way to get to know my classmates and the city. We have a professor who joins us, too. Students also get together on Friday nights for activities. Recently, we went battle-axe throwing and we’re planning a yacht cruise and a ski trip. The commute also helps you bond with other classmates from your area. I usually fly to San Francisco with the other students from Salt Lake City and we study for exams together.

Meeting Families
Involving my family in the EMBA experience has been rewarding. My family came out for family weekend and we attended a baseball game with other Wharton families. They came to campus for breakfast and my kids got to see where I go every other weekend and meet my classmates. It’s common to see partners and children on campus during class weekends. It’s fun to meet the families as they come to campus and it deepens the connection with my classmates. 

The view from the trio’s trek to the top of Windom Peak.

Dan Simon, WG’21

Regional Vice President of Sales, IGT

Based In
Denver, CO

Wharton Campus
San Francisco

Prior Education
University of Kansas, BA in Political Science & Government

Expanding a Network
A big part of why I came to this program was the social aspect. I saw the network as equally important to the knowledge and skills I would gain in an EMBA program. I have a great network in my industry, but I came here to meet people who I otherwise would never meet in my own circles.

The Hike
I usually take a backpacking trip every summer, but I hadn’t done one this year because of school. When Eric suggested this hike, I immediately said yes. It’s a unique hike because you take an old steam train from Durango, CO, to the trailhead, and then it’s a seven-mile hike into the Chicago Basin – one of the most beautiful places in Colorado. I also wanted to get to know my classmates and their families better. Eric lives in Denver, and we commute together, but I had only chatted with Ryan a few times. During the trip, we summited 14,000-foot Windom Peak, which was an amazing experience. When you’re in class, you get to hear a little bit about someone’s professional life, but when you’re hiking in the backcountry and sitting around camp you learn so much more. It was a lot of fun and I would never have met this group of people without Wharton.

Other Ways Students Bond
I go to a rock-climbing gym in San Francisco with a classmate and go out with classmates on Friday nights for various activities.

A Shared Experience
After two weeks away, it’s always exciting to see your friends when you come to campus. You form a support group, and it becomes a fun and collaborative experience that you go through together.

The Chicago Basin sunrise during the hike.

Meghan Laska

Posted: November 26, 2019

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