Contrary to what might be believed about student life in an executive MBA program, Wharton MBA for Executives students cite the friendships forged with classmates as one of the highlights of their Wharton experience. So how are students able to create such strong bonds?
Second-year EMBA student Courtney Graybill, a senior manufacturing facilitator at Merck & Co. in West Point, Pa., explains that, because the program has a residency component – students are required to stay over on Friday nights – there are many opportunities to hang out after classes. Activities are organized by both the Wharton EMBA staff and by students themselves. For example, the first weekend in January there was a casino-themed partners’ event, in addition to dinners and barbeques throughout the year. “We’ve also had bowling and karaoke nights. There is no better way to bond with classmates than to see them come together in karaoke!” she says.
Graybill says that the key to the closeness of the group is that “we’re all really, really busy people who are sharing the same experience. When we’re on campus, we spend all day in class, but when we get to spend informal time together like at dinner on Friday nights, we find that we all have the same common interests, goals, and drive – everyone in the program is excellent,” she says.
One of her favorite group events was the Friday night when most of the class attended a University of Pennsylvania basketball game together. “We had a huge group sitting together in the same section and it was the team’s first win of the year, so we thought we might be good luck for them,” recalls Graybill. On the West Coast, Wharton | San Francisco students have attended Giants baseball games with their families as a way of relaxing and getting to know each other better.
Another favorite event, she says, was the “Out and Back Run” along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to benefit ALS. “About 30 of us signed up and our class manager in the EMBA office arranged to have matching t-shirts made and even arranged transportation to take us to the event. So after sitting in class all day, we had a quarter of the class come out to run or walk the four miles together. That was a very cool bonding experience!” she says (see photo below), noting that for the more serious runners, a fellow classmate regularly organizes morning runs before Saturday classes.
Graybill says that new EMBA students at Wharton have no need to worry about making new friends, as it just happens naturally by participating in these types of social activities. “You can fall into a trap of having a busy life with your job and family and just wanting to crash after class on Friday nights, but it’s important to occasionally push yourself to go out and get to know your classmates. It’s an opportunity to get to know really interesting people on a deeper level than is possible during class breaks or lunches and you will learn fascinating things about them. I just found out that one of my classmates is an ironman athlete.”
She adds, “I encourage new students to make the effort because two years goes by really quickly and the friendships you form can last a lifetime.”