When Brian Davis, a first-year EMBA student, signed up for a six-hour tour of the Gettysburg battlefield, it wasn’t because he’s a history buff. Rather, the director of communications for Allegiant Travel Company in Las Vegas, NV saw it as an opportunity to learn more about leadership and spend the day with classmates.
“I’m still in awe at the opportunity to be here at Wharton and it’s such a short window that I want to say yes to any opportunity to learn that fits into my schedule,” says Davis, who recently spent a class weekend in Philadelphia with his fellow first-year classmates from Wharton | San Francisco. The Gettysburg tour was an optional Leadership Development Workshop offered to students from both coasts.
Joined by 80 other EMBA students at Gettysburg, Davis says that the tour was one of the highlights of his weekend in Pennsylvania. “At the end of the day, one of my classmates summed up the experience best when he pointed out how we were discussing what people 150 years ago cared enough about to risk their lives and how their decisions affected history. He raised the question of what people will say about our leadership decisions 150 years from now.”
Lee Leibowitz, a first-year MBA exec student in Philadelphia and national director of managed care at McKesson in Moorestown, N.J., agrees that it was an impactful trip. After watching the film Gettysburg on the bus ride from Philadelphia, the Wharton group observed a rare cavalry demonstration on the field and met up with a historian for a special guided tour.
“It was a combination of driving around on a bus to see places where various events happened and getting off the bus to go in-depth on certain key decisions or moments in the battle,” he says. “We even spent an hour up on Little Round Top and got to reenact a portion of Pickett’s Charge.”
In all locations, Prof. Michael Useem led discussions about how leaders in the battle made decisions with limited information, how their leadership styles differed, and the effectiveness of their strategies.
“We weren’t just fed information, but soaked it in,” says Davis. “To stand in the physical location where a decision was made that changed the course of history is so different from reading about it in a book. The lessons we talked about were very applicable to leaders today.”
Leibowitz adds that the trip also was a great opportunity to network with other classmates. “We had three hours on the bus to Gettysburg and then back to Philadelphia to hang out. Getting to know our counterparts from Wharton | San Francisco was a lot of fun.”