Global Modular Course in Abu Dhabi Focuses on Finance in the Middle East and North Africa

Professor Nihat Bulent Gultekin teaches finance at Wharton and is the academic director of the Wharton MENA Center@CERT in Abu Dhabi. Having recently returned from teaching a Global Modular Course for Wharton EMBA students in Abu Dhabi, we asked him to talk about delivering a high-impact educational experience in a three-day format, thousands of miles from campus.

The goal of the Global Modular Course in Abu Dhabi, “Finance in the Middle East & North Africa,” was to bring students, academics and industry experts together to study financial markets, practice and institutions in this region. The course focused on areas such as current challenges, the political economy, financial markets, sovereign wealth funds, Islamic finance and alternative investments.

This year, we had 45 students participate. They mostly came from the Wharton EMBA and full-time MBA programs. We had several alumni in the region join us for lectures and networking events as well.

We packed a lot into the three-day course, bringing in as many experts as possible to lecture and conduct case discussions. For example, some of our guest speakers included the chief economist of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, representatives from the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, the editor-in-chief of The National, the CEO and MD of the Dubai Financial Market (Dubai Bourse), the intellectual architect of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the CEO of Saudi’s Amwal Al-Khaleej, and the vice president of EFG Hermes in Egypt. We also did some site visits to the DIFC and the Burj Khalifa, where we discussed Dubai’s real estate market.

My goal was for students to come away from the course with an understanding of how financial structures have commonalities and differences around the world. EMBA students are or will be managers for global organizations so they have to think globally, and the only way to do that is to gain broader exposure to global issues. The Global Modular Courses go beyond lectures and case studies to really expose students to global thinking.

Going to a country and interacting with experts is one of the most interesting and impactful aspects of the global modular courses. With such distances, you get far better insights into a region when you are there and talking to the people who really know the issues. It’s more like a clinical course.

A lot of work and effort went into preparing this three-day course in Abu Dhabi and it was very gratifying to see how impactful it was for students. It also was a lot of fun to enjoy cultural aspects of the country, including one of the world’s biggest fireworks celebrations on New Year’s Eve in Dubai.

For more information on Wharton’s Global Modular Courses, click here.